This weekend marks the approximate halfway point of the summer movie season and it's peaking right at the middle. From the moment it laid claim to this spot, Spider-Man 2 has been the unquestioned anchor of this summer and looks set to break multiple records.
Weekend Forecast for July 2-4, 2004
By Reagen Sulewski
June 30, 2004
It comes by its big dog status honestly, as the original is still the all-time record holder for opening weekend after two years, and not for want of challengers (though it's certainly not unprecedented; The Lost World held the title for about four years). It also proved to be the rare summer blockbuster with legs, becoming the fourth highest grossing film of all-time (later falling to fifth after a re-release of E.T.). One of the big three of popular superheroes (including Superman and Batman), it's also in the ranks of superheroes that have had films about them done well.
With all the major players back in place including leads Tobey Maguire (though he was briefly replaced with Jake Gyllenhaal early on) and Kirsten Dunst as well as director Sam Raimi, hopes are naturally high for the sequel. Freed from the chains of the origin story, Raimi is finally able to develop the storylines and characters without waiting for the audience to catch up. Much in the same way that X2 was a more confident film than X-Men, expect the Spider-Man sequel to be a more accomplished movie.
We're also free of the biggest sticking point for a lot of people in the first go-around, the Green Goblin costume, which many thought looked too much like a Halloween mask (for the record, it didn't bother me much, but then I have a life). The villain is one Dr. Otto Octavius, a.k.a. Doctor Octopus. He wasn't particularly handled well on the Saturday morning cartoon (based on that appearance, the early "dream" casting call back in the '80s was for Roy Orbison, of all people). Again they've gone with a "real" actor for the heavy, the highly regarded Alfred Molina (incidentally, this is not his first time playing a cartoon villain on the big screen, though I'm sure he'd probably rather forget about Dudley Do-Right). It's not like he's a draw, but a big name actor is often a distraction in cases like this anyway.
Another beef that does not appear to be as big an issue this time is the CGI. While the fact that we're talking about complaints about physically impossible actions not looking realistic should not go unnoticed, improvements in technology are always welcomed. Spidey looks more fluid, more natural, and the Doc Ock looks perfect. The film has gotten reviews that any film would kill for, let alone a comic book movie, currently at a stunning 96% at Rotten Tomatoes. By nearly every account, Raimi has managed to improve on the already excellent original.
Naturally, the hopes are that the box office would do the same. As far as the opening weekend goes, it'll be difficult, simply for the reason that there's very little upwards room to move. Ticket prices are up about 6-10% in the last two years and it's debuting in about 500 more venues, which is about all the help it gets. Pulling the opening weekend back will be the Wednesday opening date, taking away the die-hards, although we also need to take into account the July 4th weekend. With the 4th falling on a Sunday (and not inconsequentially, Canada Day falling on the Thursday), it'll be a net positive effect as opposed to the slight negative effect it can have on box office totals if it falls on a Friday or Saturday (barbeques and fireworks trump the movies, as you might expect).
The record day now sits at $44.8 million with the record non-weekend day belonging to The Matrix Reloaded at $42.5 million for its opening day. With midnight showings mandatory for theaters showing the film, watch for both of these numbers to be surpassed from Wednesday figures at approximately $49 million, with the margin of error leaving room for our first $50 million day. Thursday will be down to a "mere" $29 million and the weekend proper should produce a $111 million total, for very close to $200 million in five days. It's difficult to get too outlandish with the potential of the film.
While all of this is going on, it's important to not forget the poor little film that will play also-ran to Spider-Man. On the other hand, since Fahrenheit 9/11 is a record breaker in its own right, let's not feel too sorry for it. Earning more in one weekend than any other documentary had earned in its entire run, Michael Moore has blown the curve for all the other documentarians. If I were him, I'd expect a cool reception at the next convention from Errol Morris and Joe Berlinger.
Even if it becomes just a historical footnote, it's always going to be significant as the first documentary to take the weekend chart. At just under $24 million for its first weekend, it lived up to every expectation and surpassed them. With a per screen average of about $27,000, it ranks with the highest figures for wide releases of all time and represents virtual sell outs. This is further backed up by the virtually zero drop from Saturday to Sunday. Initially, the drop from Friday to Saturday might have looked troubling, but with the full perspective of the weekend behind us, we can see that initial demand was extremely heavy for the first night, but sellouts kept theaters full through the rest of the time frame.
Approximately doubling its number of venues this weekend, Fahrenheit 9/11 is poised on the edge of becoming a phenomenon. Combined with the near universal praise of the film, the sky could be the limit for its potential. For the time being, it should hold steady or even have a slight increase this weekend, at or around the $24 million mark.
With the absence of a strong opener last weekend, holdovers took the opportunity to shine, with seven films in total placing over $10 million. White Chicks took its half-joke premise about as far as humanly tolerable and may blissfully fall like Paris Hilton's respectability. Dodgeball continues to have some spring and looks to easily be able to break the century mark. The Notebook was the other big surprise of the weekend, earning about $13.5 million. It has the right tools to become a buzz hit and as the only straight-ahead romance in wide release right now, serves as pretty effective counter-programming. With a little luck, it could stay above $10 million in its second weekend. The Terminal hasn't quite departed yet, falling just 30%, a performance that's practically The Sixth Sense these days. While it's not likely to go on Steven Spielberg's mantle of Box Office Champions, it's not as finished as the mediocre $19 million it started with might have implied.
Either on Wednesday or Thursday, Shrek 2 will shatter the record for fastest $400 million gross. In either just 43 or 44 days, it does so three full weeks ahead of the current record holders, Spider-Man and Titanic. While Spider-Man was at almost the end of its run at that point, Shrek the second still has several weeks left to earn (Titanic, as we all remember, had many many many many weeks to go at the $400 million mark). While it has no chance of catching Titanic or even beating the fastest to $500 million mark, it may get to the $450 million mark, within spitting distance of Star Wars.
Check back later this week for full screencounts.