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Secretariat Won’t Beat Seabiscuit At Box Office

Friday, 8 Oct 2010 | 12:08 PM ET

We all get the question: If there were one sporting event that you could have been at, what would it be? For me, that’s the easiest question in the world. The 1973 Belmont to watch Secretariat winby an amazing 31 lengths. In my mind, that’s still the most amazing sporting achievement of all time.

If I were there, I’m not sure I would have cried, as some did. But I definitely would have gotten chills. I get chills just by watching the clip today.

As part of my obsession for this moment and the horse, I’ve read everything about the horse as well as his main competitor, Sham, who — if he weren't born in the wrong year — likely would have won the Triple Crown.

Secretariat
Walt Disney Pictures
Secretariat

So how will themovie Secretariat - The Impossible True Story, which debuts today in 2,500 theatres across the country, do?

Part of me says it will do really well because everyone knows the story. And the other part of me says, it won’t do as well because everyone knows the story.

I think when you do a real story in Hollywood, there’s more of a magical something to the real story that you’ve never heard before.

Not everything is equal of course, but I think that’s why The Rookie, the story of high school teacher Jim Morris who went on to make the major leagues, did an inflation adjusted $93.1 million. It’s why Remember the Titansdid an inflation adjusted $148.4 million. No one had heard of T.C. Williams High School and coach Herman Boone. And although "The Blind Side” was a bestseller, the reason it grossed $255 million is because of the people who didn’t read about the story of Michael Oher.

Finally, how about the story of Seabiscuit, which was pretty much lost in time until Laura Hillenbrand wrote about the horse that beat War Admiral? That movie did an inflation adjusted $143.6 million, an amazing success.

To me, real stories that people know already don’t work as well. Disney which is behind the Secretariat film, found that out when Miracle, the story of the 1980 US Ice Hockey team, made an inflation adjusted $74.3 million. Warner Brothers found that out with We Are Marshall, the familiar story of the Marshall football team that died in a plane crash and how the school responded. The movie did an inflation adjusted $47.8 million.

It’s not an absolute. It’s of course about acting and script and competition in the theatres at the time. But I think the Secretariat movie’s greatest weakness — and I haven’t seen it yet —is that so many people know about the story that they won’t feel the need to see the movie about it.

That’s why I think the movie will do about $70 million at the box office, which will make it half as successful as Seabiscuit.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com
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