Weekend Wrap-Up
Extinction Saves Box Office From Disaster
By John Hamann
September 23, 2007

Man's best undead friend.

It was another September weekend with little to get excited about, unless you are a Resident Evil junkie or the type that doesn't mind a lame date movie. Studios continued to roll out their less than great titles, and overall box office continued on par with last year's than stellar releases. Good news came in the form of Eastern Promises and Across the Universe, as the more cerebral fare had a chance to make the top ten against some weak and forgettable also-rans.

The number one film of the weekend is Resident Evil: Extinction (we can only hope) as Sony and Screen Gems enjoy one more kick at the can with the only video game franchise to work since Angelina Jolie's Tomb Raider series. Resident Evil: Extinction started what will be a very short run with an opening take of $24.0 million from 2,828 venues this weekend, giving it a venue average of $8,487. Compared to the last Resident Evil film, Apocalypse, the studio might be a little disappointed with the opening weekend. The second film in the series opened to $23 million in September 2004, so there was no bounce in box office for the opening of the third film. The Resident Evil franchise is known for a fairly strong opening frame, but then followed by nasty percentage drops in the weekends to come (the second Resident Evil flick dropped 62% in its second frame). The good news for the production partners and Screen Gems is that these films are cheap to make (this one came in at $45 million, according to IMDb) and tend to double the opening weekend before moving on to be popular on DVD. Using this logic, Resident Evil: Extinction should recoup its budget domestically. Even better news is that overseas grosses usually trump domestic grosses, so between foreign revenue and DVD sales and rentals, this Resident Evil incarnation should be seen as a win, whether I like it or not. This one was held back from critics (surprise!) but RottenTomatoes still found 22 reviewers to vote, and six have liked it so far, giving it a 27% fresh rating, but I think we can expect that number to drop as more reviews come in. Look for Resident Evil: Extinction to fold up shop next weekend with a very large drop, and finish its domestic run with about $45 million.

Our second place film, Good Luck Chuck, surprises somewhat with a gross over $10 million this weekend. How Dane Cook got this turd to open to $14 million is a mystery to me, but maybe there are more Jessica Alba fans out there than I expected. As mentioned above, Good Luck Chuck earned $14.0 million over its opening frame from only 2,612 venues, giving it a decent venue average of $5,360. Dane Cook has now made two smart choices appearing in films with a hot co-star like Jessica Simpson and now Jessica Alba. Jessica Simpson helped Cook find an $11.4 million opening in the brutal Employee of the Month, released in October of last year. Critics hammered Good Luck Chuck, with only 2 of 63 critics giving it a thumbs up. That's a 3% fresh rating, which means the Resident Evil sequel is most likely more entertaining than this one.

Finishing third is last weekend's number one film, The Brave One. The Jodie Foster revenge flick earned $7.4million in its second frame, and was off a disappointing 45%, after having a lower than expected opening weekend. The Brave One failed to have any impact on North American audiences, and looks to be heading for a short run. This is large step away from some of Foster's recent hits like Flightplan and The Inside Man, which both earned about $90 million at the domestic box office. Look for The Brave One to finish with about $40 million.

Finishing fourth is 3:10 to Yuma, the other Lionsgate release in the top ten. After a 36% drop last weekend from its $14 million opening, Yuma has a better hold this weekend, earning $6.4 million and falling 29%. Since its debut, 3:10 to Yuma has shown some strong staying power, though it will be looking at some serious competition from Brad Pitt's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford in Weeks to come. When compared to its $50 million budget, 3:10 to Yuma's overall total of $37.9 million is looking pretty good when you consider that Russell Crowe should be able to sell some tickets in overseas markets. Look for Yuma to settle somewhere between $45 and $50 million.

Eastern Promises, the latest film from director David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen, went wide to 1,404 venues, and had a fair weekend gross of $5.7 million. The story of the Russian mob that co-stars Naomi Watts had a stellar limited release last weekend on 15 screens – it had a venue average of over $36,000 – but that fell to an average of $4,093 this weekend, suggesting that this one might have been better off with a smaller platform expansion. Eastern Promises received excellent reviews (88% fresh at RottenTomatoes), but may have problems turning those reviews into box office success. So far, the $50 million production has earned $6.5 million, but could still earn as much as $30 million at the domestic box office.

Sydney White, the new teen flick with Amanda Bynes, opens in a coma with a poor $5.3 million. The Universal release got started at 2,102 venues this weekend and had an appalling opening weekend venue average of $2,530. This one would have been better off being released on the Disney Channel, and sticking with the working title, Sydney White and the Seven Dorks.

Finishing seventh is Mr. Woodcock, last weekend's third place finisher. The Billy Bob Thornton/Stifler comedy earned $5 million in its second weekend, dropping 45%. Can someone tell me why Susan Sarandon is in this garbage? So far, Mr. Woodcock has earned $15.7 million.

Eighth and ninth go to our beloved summer holdovers, Superbad and The Bourne Ultimatum. Superbad celebrates its sixth weekend in the top ten with a gross this weekend of $3.1 million. That's a drop of 40%, and fourth consecutive in the 30-40% range. It has a total so far of $116.1 million, and while it won't reach Knocked Up's stunning $149 million total, let's remember that Superbad doubled its production budget in its first five days of release, and by the end of next weekend, the comedy will have earned more at the domestic box office than big name comedies like Blades of Glory ($118 million finish) and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry ($118.7 million finish). Congratulations to Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen, who now has four $100 million hits on his resume.

The Bourne Ultimatum earns another $2.8 million, as Jason Bourne and company spend their eighth consecutive weekend in the top ten. Ultimatum dropped 33% compared to last weekend. This version of Bourne, propelled by stellar reviews and even better word-of-mouth, has outclassed its predecessor by $45 million, earning $220.2 million so far. The budget came in at a high $130 million, but foreign sales have already equalled that total, and the domestic take had to be better than what Universal was hoping for. The Bourne Ultimatum should finish with about $225 million in domestic ticket sales, and should be considered one of the big successes of the summer.

Finishing tenth is Dragon Wars, last week's little movie that no one knew about until commercials started airing two weeks in advance of its theatrical release. Typical of a fanboy film like this one, Dragon Wars dropped a heavy 53% on its way to $2.5 million over the weekend. Its running total of $8.5 million is better than anyone should have hoped for.

The Beatles salute Across the Universe enjoyed another solid weekend in limited release as it earned $2.1 million from 276 venues. That gives it a second weekend venue average of $7,428 – maybe slightly lower than what Focus Features was looking for.

Overall, box office was slightly down versus last year, when the top 12 films earned about $82.3 million. This year, the top ten films at the box office pulled in $80.6 million, a tiny decline of 2%. Next weekend we get an odd assortment of choices in Feast of Love, The Game Plan and The Kingdom, so check back next weekend to see who can take down the second weekend of Resident Evil: Extinction.