Five new releases at the box office looked bad facing off against Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ this weekend, as none of them could hold a candle against the religious über-grossing film. In its seventh powerful weekend, Jesus rose from fifth spot to 1st in an amazing coup at the North American weekend box office.
Christ Crushes The Alamo
John Hamann's Weekend Wrap Up
April 11, 2004
First things first: No one, absolutely no one, saw this coming. Sure, we at BOP have been throwing around the idea that the Easter weekend was going to be helpful for the total gross of The Passion of the Christ; however, this weekend it increased heavily on last weekend’s $10.6 million gross. Over the Easter weekend, TPOC grossed an amazing $17.1 million, an increase over last weekend of 61%, which is unseen in recent history. This number could come up significantly when actual numbers are counted tomorrow. As Mumpower & Hollis reported yesterday, the Friday gross was $6.6 million, so the $17.1 million weekend take gives the film a weekend multiplier of only 2.6. I would think Easter Sunday sales for The Passion are going to be much higher than that multiplier allows, so the weekend may be bumped up to $20 million tomorrow.
Oddly enough, The Passion of the Christ actually dropped venues heading into the weekend, lowering its count from 3,408 to 3,203 after gaining venues the previous weekend. Considering the girth of the release and the amount of time that has passed since its debut, The Passion had a powerful venue average of $5,334. The R-rated epic hadn’t seen a weekend gross this high since week four of its run when it grossed $19.4 million; the following weekend it dipped 35% to $12.6 million. It was no secret that churches and religious groups were hyping the film for Easter weekend, but it was generally believed folks that had already seen The Passion wouldn’t be back (its trend at the box office had assigned it blockbuster status, but not Titanic status – the epitome of repeat business) and the amount of new patrons coming out would be limited by weekend seven. That obviously wasn’t the case. The only film to see this kind of bounce this late is the biggest grossing film of all time. Titanic had a nice bounce in weekend nine with a 43% increase, jumping from $23 million to $32.9 million as the romantic epic ran into Valentine’s Day. While this all rings as similar, remember Titanic’s production budget was $200 million, with the Passion’s production budget about one-ninth of that, coming in at about $25 million.
Now after seven weekends of prime release, it looks like The Passion of the Christ will have no problem reaching $400 million by the time first-run sales are through. The Passion now sits at $354.9 million, narrowly missing the $357.1 million Jurassic Park grossed to sit seventh on the all-time list. Even with a sure-to-be huge drop next weekend, the Mel Gibson film should pass Jurassic Park and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in the next frame to pull it into the top six. Remember, Newmarket is only taking a 11.5% domestic distribution fee, with the rest going to Mel and Icon Productions. Maybe Pixar should look at Newmarket as a distributor for its films.
Easter weekend last year had a similar look to what we are facing this year. Easter Sunday fell on April 20, 2003, and Anger Management finished on top in its second weekend, down 41%. Its $25 million dwarfed three major openers (Holes, Malibu’s Most Wanted, and Bulletproof Monk), with two smaller films (Chasing Papi, A Mighty Wind) also pulling at the pantlegs of the debuting films. This Easter weekend we have two big returning films in The Passion of the Christ and Hellboy and four major new releases: The Alamo, Girl Next Door, Ella Enchanted and The Whole Ten Yards. Johnson Family Vacation was the smaller pant puller this weekend, debuting on just under 1,300 screens. What last year didn’t have was four releases from the previous weekend to deal with. Too many films and not enough top ten slots are going to mean a short shelf life for a couple of unlucky films this weekend.
Second spot and in much less dynamic holdover fashion is Hellboy, which at best managed to finish above the new releases this weekend. Where it succeeded in ranking, it failed in its percentage hold from last weekend. Sony’s comic book hero finished second with $11.1 million but dropped a horrendous 52% compared to its $23.2 million finish last weekend. The drop compares similarly to Spawn, which dropped 55% in its second weekend, going from $19.7 million to $8.9 million. With its $65 million budget, Hellboy’s main value appears to be in its sequel potential, as its current gross sits at $41.1 million.
Almost as odd as the low estimate for The Passion, tied for third is The Johnson Family Vacation, Cedric the Entertainer’s new urban comedy. The Fox Searchlight release grossed $9.2 million over the three-day portion of the weekend, so with its recorded Friday gross of $3.2 million, the film had a higher weekend multiplier than The Passion at 2.91. Unless Good Friday was The Passion’s biggest day (which it very well might have been) something is seems not right here. Regardless, The Johnson Family Vacation has grossed a decent $11.6 million since its release on Wednesday. Critics reviled this flick (which makes the multiplier even harder to believe) with 66 critics weighing in and only five giving a thumbs up (that’s 8% fresh for those still playing at home). Let’s just say the box office this weekend was odd at best.
Tied for third and even more trouble for Michael Eisner is The Alamo, which he may remember for a long time to come. The expensive and memorably delayed historical epic grossed only $9.2 million from 2,609 venues. That’s a very soft average of $3,526 for the film with the $95 million budget, a co-production between Imagine Entertainment and Touchstone Pictures, a division of Disney. The Alamo is going to be an eighth or ninth place finisher next weekend and a memory before it hits $30 million. Combining this miss with Home on the Range, these two titles are going to cause headlines and headaches for Michael Eisner and the Disney brass. With this disaster, expect big spin on the Home on the Range gross and hold.
Close behind in fifth is last weekend’s second place finisher, Walking Tall with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Walking Tall held decently against the bevy of openers in a busy marketplace. The MGM pic pulled in $8.3 million in its second weekend, dropping 47%. The remake now has a gross of $28.8 million versus a production budget of about $45 million, so this becomes another film in the top ten that started okay, but is going to have to pick up its feet in the next two weeks if it wants to avoid being a miss for the studio.
Landing in sixth and really showing the weakness of the other three openers is Disney’s Home on the Range, which went out to pasture last weekend. The hold for the animated feature was a poor 41% this weekend, grossing $8.2 million. Easter 2002 was much better for Disney, over the March 28th weekend Piglet’s Big Movie fell only 19% in its second weekend before falling off the face of the earth in the next frame (43% drop). The $100 million Home on the Range currently has $27.5 million in the kitty, and I don’t expect it to take more than $40 million domestically. Like everything Disney, home video and ancillaries should save it from complete disaster, but the press on this one is going to hurt corporately.
Despite a void for PG-rated features, seventh goes to Scooby Doo 2. The sequel grossed $8 million this weekend, dropping 46% in its third weekend. The "film" has now grossed $64.8 million, and congratulations should go to WB for a smart release on this one, as they got more out of this dog than I ever expected.
Eighth is the opener that should have had all the promise. The Whole Ten Yards was a sequel with Bruce Willis and Mathew Perry, but WB failed to make the marketing (and the film) remotely funny, and it looks like they will pay for it. The Whole Ten Yards grossed only $6.7 million this weekend from 2,654 venues, the most screens given an opener this weekend. The production cost for Ten Yards was $30 million, and looks to be another big miss for Elie Samaha and Franchise Pictures. This film will be forgotten faster that you can say Analyze That, which was also an unneeded WB sequel release.
In ninth and despite its ranking we have one of the more successful films at the box office this weekend, but one that will still most likely end up a disappointment. Ella Enchanted grossed $6.1 million this weekend from only 1,931 venues, giving the Miramax title a comparably decent venue average of $3,163. The production cost on this one was about $35 million, so it's going to need a sign of decent legs next weekend if it hopes to recoup its production budget stateside.
Pulling up in tenth is Fox’s The Girl Next Door, which got off to a much rougher than expected start. Despite a large amount of marketing, The R-rated Girl Next Door failed to drive older audiences to the box office, and had to settle with a weekend take of $6 million. Production values are most likely quite low on this one, but I doubt the weekend gross will pay for a third of the marketing budget.
Overall, box office cooled off somewhat, as it had been hot since The Passion of the Christ debuted in theatres almost two months ago. Simply put, the hot streak is over. The total for the top ten estimates for this Easter Weekend came in at $89.9 million, slightly ahead of last year’s Easter take of $85.7 million but way off the previous year’s holiday gross of 109.3 million.