To put it kindly, the last year has not been nice to the folks at Buena Vista. It’s been a full year since the Disney-based distributor released a $100 million hit with Freaky Friday, a film no one believed would reach that mark. The last year has also brought on some ugly misses, so all eyes were on M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. Would the opening weekend for The Village come close to the $60.1 million open that the director’s Signs had two years ago this weekend?
Night’s Village Brings Box Office Light to Disney
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for July 30 - August 1, 2004
By John Hamann
August 1, 2004
The number one film of the weekend is M. Night Shyamalan’s latest spook-fest The Village. The much-marketed film grossed a decent $50.8 million over the July 30th - August 1st weekend, trouncing expectations but failing to beat the opening weekend gross of Night’s last film, Signs. Released at 3,730 venues (the fifth widest release ever), The Village pulled an excellent venue average of $13,622; however, it was less than last weekend’s number one film The Bourne Supremacy, which had an opening weekend average of $16,594. The film cost Touchstone Pictures (another division of Disney) and partners $70 million to make, so this is going to be a big hit for distributor Buena Vista with or without legs. Those legs may be in question. Reviews weren’t great for The Village, as only 48 out of a possible 106 critics liked the film enough to give it a positive rating, resulting in only a 45% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes. That’s much worse than the 78% fresh rating for Signs, and the 85% given to The Sixth Sense. Both of these films had great legs – The Sixth Sense opened to $26.7 million and ended up grossing $293.5 million. Signs opened to $60.1 million and finished with $228 million. Legs aren’t going to be as good on The Village; the opening night number was $20.4 million, so the weekend multiplier comes in at an ugly 2.5 – expect a large percentage drop for the Shyamalan film next weekend.
For Buena Vista, The Village – legs or not – is a much needed hit for the Disney based company. The distributor has seen some ugly misses this year. They include The Alamo (budget $110 million, total gross $22.4 million), Home on the Range (budget $100 million, total gross $49.9 million), Around the World in 80 Days (budget $110 million, total gross $22.9 million), and King Arthur (budget $120 million, total gross $48.2 million). Things are looking up now for the studio with the release of The Village, which will be followed by The Princess Diaries 2 in two weeks. Buena Vista also has Pixar’s The Incredibles set for release in November, so finally some heat may come off Michael Eisner and the brass at Disney.
Second spot this weekend goes to The Bourne Supremacy, Matt Damon’s second effort in the Robert Ludlum franchise. In its second weekend, Bourne grossed $23.4 million from 3,180 venues and pulled a venue average of $7,365. The drop was nasty at 55%; however, the total now for the $75 million film sits at $98.1 million, with the $100 million mark set to be blown in the next couple of days. The Bourne Supremacy will be without a doubt Universal’s biggest hit of Summer 2004 – they are going to need every cent as Thunderbirds crashed and burned hard this weekend.
Paramount’s The Manchurian Candidate, starring one of Hollywood’s safest bets, Denzel Washington, finds itself in third. The Manchurian Candidate got off to an okay start, pulling in $20.2 million from 2,867 venues. The political thriller had a venue average of $7,045. For Denzel Washington, that’s right on target with his usual $15-$20 million opening weekend range, and like usual with Denzel, good legs should follow. TMC had the best reviews of the weekend, fielding 90 positive reviews out of a possible 109 at RT, good for a very fresh rating of 83% at the review compilation Web site. Paramount is desperate for legs on this one, as they spent $80 million on this production, and the film is only the studio’s second film to open over $10 million in 2004.
With four openers this weekend, I, Robot’s fourth place finish is a definite sign that the other two openers really failed to engage an audience this weekend. I, Robot continued its severe downward trend this weekend as it grossed $10.1 million and dropped a nasty 54% in its third weekend. After opening strongly with $52.2 million, I, Robot fell 58% in its second weekend and now 54% in its third. The Will Smith actioner has now grossed $114.7 million against a budget of $120 million. It should end up with around $140-150 million.
Spider-Man 2 takes the fifth place spot in its fifth weekend on the chart. The Sony sequel swung into another $8.5 million this weekend. The comic book movie fell 43% this frame but brought its total gross up to $344.3 million. The weekend’s take moved it above The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King to reach the top ten domestic box office hits of all time. Spidey 2 should finish with about $375 million.
Sixth goes to Catwoman, last weekend’s number three film. Catwoman grossed $6.1 million in its second weekend, down a whopping 64% from the previous frame. This is going to be an expensive miss for Warner Bros. The film had a production budget of $100 million and has so far grossed $29.4 million. It will be very lucky to gross of half of the production budget back domestically.
We have to go all the way to seventh spot to get to another of our four openers, but it isn't the $75 million Thunderbirds. Seventh place instead goes to Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, a film I would have thought would do much better than it did in its debut frame. Harold and Kumar pulled in only $5.2 million this weekend, albeit from a low venue count of only 2,135 – the film ended up with a venue average of $2,412. The New Line stoner flick had a lot of things going for it, like a good marketing campaign, and surprisingly, reviews that were nothing short of excellent. Of the 92 reviews counted at RottenTomatoes, 66 were positive, leading to a 72% fresh rating, a number that even the original American Pie (61% fresh) couldn’t reach. I think New Line found out too late that Dude, Where’s My Car? director Danny Leiner actually served up a good film and the studio was unable to capitalize on it. Made for only $9 million, the H&K gross will be a good entry for the New Line summer movie, but not close to what it could have done.
A Cinderella Story finishes in eighth this weekend, but still holds decently considering its awful reviews. The Hilary Duff feature grossed $4.7 million this weekend, dropping a fair 40%. The $19 million WB release has now grossed $40.1 million domestically.
Ninth is Will Ferrell’s Anchorman, still over-the- top in its fourth weekend. The DreamWorks comedy took in $3.1 million this weekend and now has a total of $78.1 million.
The Michael Moore film Farenheit 9/11 just manages to hang onto to a top ten spot this weekend. F9/11 grossed $3.1 million in its sixth weekend, and now has a stunning total of $109.4 million.
Our fourth opener, Thunderbirds, failed to make the top ten this weekend, despite costing Universal about $75 million to make and millions more to market. The film grossed $2.7 million from 2,057 venues, good for 12th spot on the chart. Thunderbirds quickly becomes the biggest movie disaster of the summer, taking the heat off Around the World in 80 Days.
In limited release this weekend, Zach Braff of Scrubs has a film called Garden State. Also starring Natalie Portman, the film with the great trailer grossed $185,000 from nine screens this weekend, good for a venue average of $20,555. Look for Garden State to climb the chart in the weeks to come.
Overall this weekend, the box office continued its hot streak. Top ten estimates this weekend came in at $135 million, well ahead of the $127.3 million brought in last year.