The box office began to settle down somewhat this weekend, but costs for new movies continued to be large. Three films opened this weekend, and they had a combined production cost of $280 million, with another $150 million coming from marketing expenses. With two big holdovers, would the box office pie grow to include everyone?
Potter Limbos to Box Office Top
Weekend Wrap-Up for June 11-13, 2004
By John Hamann
June 13, 2004
Heading into the weekend, we knew that six films were looking at grossing more than $10 million. New entries included the $120 million The Chronicles of Riddick, the Pitch Black sequel from Universal and starring Vin Diesel. Paramount released the much talked about and expensive The Stepford Wives, and Fox churned out Garfield: The Movie to unsuspecting patrons. These, along with the latest Harry Potter and Shrek films, all vied for box office supremacy. Potter was a lock for the top spot, but it was anyone’s ball game for the next five spots on the chart.
The number one film at the box office this weekend is again Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; however, the weekend percentage drop is larger anyone expected. Potter 3 grossed $35.1 million this weekend, down a large 63% compared to its $93.7 million open. This weekend’s big fall was telegraphed last weekend through the film’s terribly low internal multiplier of 2.2. In their respective second weekends, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone dropped 36%, and Chamber of Secrets dropped 52%, so the trend is starting to show itself. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban may have the highest opening weekend of the Potter series, but at this point I think it’s a safe bet that the final tally for Azkaban will be the lowest of the three. After two weekends, Potter 3 has grossed $158.1 million; Potter 1 was at $187 million, Potter 2 was at $148.4 million. Look for Potter 3 to really start to lose that race next weekend.
In second this weekend is The Chronicles of Riddick. It’s been two years since Vin Diesel had a hit film with xXx, and Riddick opened well below the $44.5 million that film found. The Chronicles of Riddick opened to $24.6 million this weekend from 2,759 venues, the lowest amount of screens of the three openers. Riddick suffered from massive front-loading and advanced-ticket blues, as its numbers dwindled as the weekend continued The film opened on Friday to $9.9 million and had a sad weekend multiplier of 2.5. Universal spent $120 million on this one and the opening weekend isn’t a great sign for a project so expensive. With five films grossing more than $20 million this weekend, screens were tight and I think Riddick felt that pinch. Reviews for the sequel didn’t help. Of the 101 reviews counted at RottenTomatoes, only 25 were positive, leading to a 25% fresh rating. Why Universal decided to spend $100 million more on production than the original mystifies me, as Pitch Black cost only $23 million and was a much better film. The studio also seemed to make a choice not to market the film as a sequel to Pitch Black despite the cult following of that film. After years of successful advertising of Universal’s summer films, the marketing department has dropped the ball now on back-to-back huge releases. They let Van Helsing get away a few weeks ago, and now have a disappointing number for Riddick. Next up for the studio is Two Brothers, Jean-Jacques Annaud's new film about two young tigers. Maybe something a little more down to earth will serve Universal well.
Shrek 2 finds itself in third place. The big green ogre that could showed some legs despite losing 288 venues. The DreamWorks film grossed $24 million, dropping a decent 37%. That tally brings its remarkable gross up to $354 million, easily passing Finding Nemo’s $339.7 million. Shrek 2 is now the highest grossing animated film ever, and it took only 28 days to accomplish that feat. Shrek 2 should have no problem reaching $400 million, which would put it in sixth on the biggest domestic grossers of all time list. Shrek 2 should also pass The Passion of the Christ next weekend to become the biggest grosser of 2004, a record it will only hold for about three or four weekends before Spidey 2 comes along.
Fourth spot this weekend is Paramount’s The Stepford Wives, another film to review brutally but still open above $20 million. The Frank Oz film grossed $22.2 million, the director’s biggest opening to date. Usually Frank Oz films have decent legs, but I doubt it on this one. Stepford finished with a 31% fresh rating at RT, much like its opener brethren (if you’re still playing along at home, the three films combined had 207 rotten reviews versus 68 good ones – ain’t summer grand?). Something pretty surprising is going to have to happen here if the film plans on reaching its $90 million budget in domestic ticket sales.
Inexplicably, fifth place goes to Garfield: The Movie, from 20th Century Fox. That darn cat somehow grossed $21.7 million from 3,094 venues, despite looking terrible and rotten reviews - the film was a dreadful 14% fresh at RottenTomatoes. I can’t believe Bill Murray said yes to this one and am disappointed he will have it on his resume (put this one into the pile with Larger Than Life). Garfield cost Fox $70 million (and hopefully cost Jennifer Love Hewitt her career) and should finish below its production budget if the 2.7 weekend multiplier is any indication.
Sixth this weekend goes to The Day After Tomorrow, the other Fox film grossing more than $10 million from Friday-to-Sunday. The disaster film took in another $14.6 million, down 48% from last weekend. The film now has a domestic tally of $153.2 million, well above the $125 million production cost – so much for the Dennis Quaid curse.
Raising Helen takes seventh spot. The Kate Hudson flick grossed $3.8 million, down 42% from last weekend. Buena Vista has now tallied $31.4 million from Garry Marshall’s latest, a far cry from what Runaway Bride and The Princess Diaries did.
Eighth goes to Troy, WB’s under-whelming Greek epic. The Brad Pitt stretch dropped a better 42% this weekend, grossing $3.5 million. The film now has a domestic total of $125.7 million.
The surprise this weekend is Saved! in ninth spot this weekend. The United Artists film took in $2.6 million from only 589 venues this weekend, giving the small comedy a venue average of $4,329, the seventh best in the top ten. The film now has a total of $3.7 million versus a production budget of only $5 million.
Finally, in tenth is Paramount’s Mean Girls, which manages to hold onto a top ten spot. Mean Girls grossed $1.5 million, down 49% from the previous frame. The comedy crossed the $80 million mark on Friday and now has a total of $81.3 million.
Overall this weekend, box office totals were very close compared to the previous year’s totals. The top ten estimates for the June 11th - 13th weekend came in at $153.4 million, which compares evenly with last year’s $154.6 million top ten take.