Weekend Wrap-Up for November 21-25, 2007
Enchanted Saves Box Office From Disaster
By John Hamann
November 25, 2007

Are you Chip or Dale?

The box office blahs could have been much worse over the long Thanksgiving weekend, but Disney's Enchanted, a mix of live action and animation, has given the extremely slow November box office a big time pulse. It took four new releases - the aforementioned Enchanted, Screen Gems' This Christmas, Fox's Hitman, MGM's The Mist, and Warner Bros.' August Rush - to breathe some life into a troubled box office. With the top 12 films failing to combine to earn $100 million over the last two weekends, we had a long way to go to beat last year's three-day tally of $147 million. Did the box office serve up a Thanksgiving surprise, or was it another turkey weekend? Read on to find out.

The number one film of the weekend is Enchanted, Disney's latest Thanksgiving flick aimed at families. After quietly picking up steam heading toward release, Enchanted earned a breakout gross of $35.3 million over the three-day, Friday-to-Sunday portion of the weekend. Since opening Wednesday, Enchanted has earned an electric $50 million. Released to a huge venue count of 3,730, Enchanted earned a venue average of $9,472 over the three-day set. Disney has to be thrilled with this result. The studio hadn't offered a new release over Turkey weekend since 2003, when Eddie Murphy's Haunted Mansion disappointed with a three-day opening of $24.3 million; Haunted Mansion ended up as a big miss over the holiday season, earning $75 million domestic against a $90 million budget. Disney had been burned in 2002 as well, with Treasure Planet - that one opened to an ugly $12 million over the holiday frame, and finished with less than $40 million, against a $140 million budget. Disney had owned Thanksgiving previously, as some of the studio's early projects with the upstart Pixar had debuted over the long weekend (Toy Story 2, $57.4 million opening, A Bug's Life $32.8 million opening) and 101 Dalmatians debuted to $45.1 million in 1996. Enchanted is a return to form for the studio, and it's somewhat ironic that a film based around and includes old-school animation was the movie to do it, as Treasure Planet was a big reason Disney shifted direction in terms of style of animation.

Reviews, demographic target and timing made Enchanted a hit. The nation's reviewers were thrilled with Enchanted, with only six critics out of a possible 90 not liking Enchanted at RottenTomatoes. That's a 93% fresh rating, which will give this one legs to Christmas with ease, and will make the cash register ring for a long time at movie theaters. Disney aimed this directly at teenage girls much like The Princess Diaries 1+2 (combined domestic box office, about $200 million). After this demo ignored Mr. Magorium last weekend, Disney ramped up the advertising, and have had a huge launch for their Thanksgiving enterprise. While budget data isn't available, I would imagine that costs aren't over the top with Enchanted. The film stars Amy Adams, who is probably best known for her role in the quirky Junebug, and stars alongside Patrick Dempsey of Grey's Anatomy fame - two low budget actors who wouldn't put a budget sky high. I bet this one cost somewhere between $50 and $75 million, and ends up earning $200 million domestic.

Finishing a surprise second this weekend is This Christmas, an urban holiday comedy that was released to a very small amount of theaters at only 1,802 venues. It had a very strong opening over three days of $18.6 million, and a fantastic five-day effort of $27.1 million. This is another flick that cashed in on an available demographic over the long weekend, as Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married had just finished up after opening to $21.3 million about five weekends ago. Screen Gems is having a fairly good year, after solid openings in 2007 for Stomp the Yard ($21.8 million opening), The Messengers ($14.7 million opening), Resident Evil: Extinction ($23.7 million opening) and now This Christmas. I would be surprised if This Christmas lasted in the top 12 until Christmas, but this is a very good start, and a big surprise over opening weekend nonetheless.

After dropping all the way down to fourth on Wednesday, Beowulf climbs back into the action over the weekend, earning $16.2 million. Out to 3,218 venues, Beowulf had a three-day venue average of $5,047 and drops 41% compared to last weekend. There was no doubt that Beowulf was going to hold well on IMAX 3-D and other 3-D capable cinemas, but the question was how it would hold in the rest of the continent's theaters. Paramount and partners can only be feeling okay about this effort, as Beowulf cost $150 million to make, and has now earned $56.4 million.

Opening in fourth this weekend is Fox's violent video game adaptation, Hitman, which looks like it could have been originally shot in a European language. Opening on 2,401 venues, Hitman earned $13 million over three days and $21 million over five. It had a three-day venue average of $5,303. The marketing here was slick, but the writing is already on the wall for Hitman, as it slipped from a $4.5 million Wednesday to a $3.5 million Thursday, the biggest Wednesday-to-Thursday drop in the top ten. Not surprisingly, this one was only 11% fresh with critics at RT, but users at the site gave it a 72% fresh rating so far. That could give this $70 million effort some life on DVD, but probably won't save it from a quit exit from the top ten.

Fifth spot goes to Bee Movie, as Jerry Seinfeld's...well, Bee movie, falls from second place last weekend to fifth place this weekend. Pushed slightly by competition from Enchanted and to a small degree August Rush, Bee Movie earned $12 million this weekend from 3,507 venues. So far, the $150 million Paramount production has earned $112.1 million, as Bee Movie crossed the $100 million mark on Thursday, its 21st day of release.

Fred Claus ends the long weekend as our number six flick, but sees a good hold compared to last weekend thanks to the holiday frame. Fred Claus earned $10.7 million over the three-day portion of the weekend, off only 10% from the previous frame. Unfortunately for Warner Bros., this uptick isn't going to save Fred, but will keep Santa's brother busy for at least another weekend. So far, Fred Claus has earned an okay $53.1 million.

August Rush, the sugary sweet fantasy from distributor Warner Bros. finishes seventh this weekend, as too many people saw Robin Williams' name in the credits and decided not to go. August Rush earned a soft $9.4 million over the three-day portion of the weekend, and $13.3 million over the five-day frame. This is a small, independent, $30 million effort, and the subject matter may propel this feature toward its production figure, but it won't make much more. Rush was only 39% fresh at RottenTomatoes, so word-of-mouth outside of grandmothers might be tough to find.

Finishing eighth is American Gangster, last weekend's third place finisher. The Denzel Washington opus earned $9.2 million in its fourth weekend, and was off 28% from the weekend previous. American Gangster has now earned $115.8 million.

Ninth spot goes to The Mist, Frank Darabont's take on the fantastic Stephen King novella. The Mist failed to enchant moviegoers, as the horror thriller took in $9.1 million over the three-day weekend and $13 million over the five-day session. Out to 2,423 venues, The Mist had a venue average of $3,740. With competition for males coming from Beowulf, Hitman, American Gangster and No Country For Old Men, The Mist had a tough row to hoe before it even got started. Surprisingly, The Mist does have some decent reviews to work with, as the flick came in at 69% fresh with 65 out of a possible 99 reviews to the good side. Usually, though, if it doesn't work in the first weekend, it's not going to work. The Mist is from Darabont's Darkwood Productions and the dead Dimension Films, and is distributed by MGM and Miramax. Considering the leads of the film, I can't imagine the cost here was overwhelming, so this may end up as a push for the production companies and distributors.

No Country For Old Men, the new thriller from Joel and Ethan Coen finishes in tenth place as it expands to 860 venues. No Country earned $8.1 million and had a venue average of $9,433. So far, this Coen Brothers effort has earned $16.6 million.

Overall, there is good news for the studios. Thanks mostly to Enchanted and This Christmas, the top 12 at the box office were able to earn $153 million. Last year, over the same frame, the top 12 brought in $146.6 million, about 4% less than this year. Studios and exhibitors should enjoy it while it lasts, as there is only one new opener next weekend, Awake with Jessica Alba and Hayden Christensen.