After a weekend where the largest release, Collateral, skewed quite adult, movie distributors were faced with a puzzling issue this weekend. How would they handle opening weekend Olympic coverage? In the end, the answer settled upon was to skew very, very young in the hopes that kids would pressure their parents into leaving the Opening Ceremony and Logan Tom’s volleyball games long enough to catch films about aliens, princesses and cartoon heroes. The decision was on the whole successful as all three new entries performed better than expected.
Alien vs. Predator vs. Princess
vs. Anime vs. Olympics
Weekend Wrap-Up for August 13-15, 2004
By David Mumpower
August 15, 2004
The 2004 Summer Olympics began Friday, leaving studios scrambling to decide how their releases would be impacted by the opening ceremonies. Fox faced the most troubling issue as they had the most expensive of three new releases. Alien vs. Predator combines two successful franchises in a single action picture showdown. Putting such a tentpole release into theaters the weekend of the Olympics was viewed by many as a gambit, but greater risks also mean greater rewards.
AVP exploded into theaters Friday with an estimated $17.2 million, a truly spectacular number for a film with no star power. Alas, it couldn’t maintain that heat throughout the weekend, falling $4.3 million on Saturday with an estimated $12.9 million. Over the three day frame, AVP earned an estimated $38.3 million, a great total. The fact that it managed only a 2.22 internal multiplier for Friday-Sunday is quite troubling, though. Even factoring in that it’s standard box office behavior for a movie with such tremendous opening day anticipation to see a decline on day two, this is hard to spin positively. Saturday sales were only 75% of Friday’s income. The estimate would indicate only $8.2 million more on Sunday, demonstrating that even the numbers gurus at Fox are skeptical about AVP’s ability to keep herding audiences into theaters.
The two questions, then, are how strong is this performance and where does Alien vs. Predator go from here? With regards to the former question, Alien vs. Predator is estimated to have exceeded the opening weekend of Freddy vs. Jason. That release from almost exactly a year ago earned $36.4 million. While it’s possible that once we know ticket price inflation for 2004, the totals will wind up being identical, for now all we can say with certainty is that AVP’s number is bigger. Considering what a pleasant surprise FVJ was, matching and exceeding that amount is impressive. This does dovetail into the second question, though. Freddy vs. Jason went on to earn $82.2 million in domestic receipts. At this point, Alien vs. Predator is not a certainty to even equal that number despite its opening weekend show of strength. Critical reception for the film was poisonous, as AVP managed to please only five out of the 43 critics at RottenTomatoes who were able to review the film. This is unsurprising considering that there were not preview screenings for critics, generally a danger sign of a weak product. What’s more of a concern is that early audience reactions have not been any better. AVP is showing all of the early warning signs of being a one weekend wonder. Were it not a summer release benefiting from summer weekday numbers (at least for a couple of weeks), I would not consider the movie likely to even cross $75 million. As it stands, we’ll have to wait until next Saturday to know exactly how indicative the internal multiplier is of a flagging product vs. a staggering opening day pace that simply couldn’t be maintained over a weekend.
The 2004 stories chronicling Disney’s struggles have begun to take on a life of their own. It’s somehow most appropriate that the studio’s first summer release to qualify as an unmitigated success is an old school production that would have made Walt Disney proud. The genteel G-rated The Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement earned roughly $14.2 million in its first two days of release, so its weekend success was assured. The only question was to what degree the Anne Hathaway/Julie Andrews film would flourish. The original title had managed a stellar $22.8 million in its opening frame on its way to $108.2 million domestic. The hope was always there for Disney that the sequel would outperform this total in five days, even if it’s not reasonable to think that the follow-up can match the original in total domestic receipts. Equalling the Friday-to-Sunday performance of the original combined with the extra income accrued from the early release on Wednesday goes a long way in securing the success of this title. Saying Disney needed this is only marginally more of an understatement than saying Tara Reid likes alcohol and football players.
Finishing third this weekend is apparently enough to make Tom Cruise go gray. He shouldn’t be that bummed, though. Collateral’s $16.0 million indicates a drop of only 35% from last weekend’s $24.7 million. In Summer 2004, this number is what passes for a strong holdover. Collateral has a running total of $52.4 million, putting it well ahead of Cruise’s last release, The Last Samurai. That production had earned $46.9 million after ten days. The only difference in box office between the two is, of course, the summer weekdays. Their weekend totals are eerily similar as The Last Samurai managed $24.2 million initially, then declined 42% to $14.1 million.. The Michael Mann film affords Cruise one of the best-reviewed films of his career, so even if the box office isn’t outpacing The Last Samurai by much, it’s a success. That judgment will grow even more emphatic if Cruise does wind up attaining end-of-year awards recognition for his head-turning role. Meanwhile, Jamie Foxx looks poised to leverage his striking performance here into Oscar bait with the upcoming October release of Ray, the Ray Charles biopic with tremendous buzz. All parties involved have to be pleased with how Collateral is playing out.
Jason Bourne might not remember who he is, where he came from or why he is capable of such behavior, but he has to feel special about the adoration his films receive from movie-goers. Fourth place entrant The Bourne Supremacy garnered another $8.3 million in receipts this weekend, bringing its current domestic box office total to $139.4 million. The rarest of rare sequel that outperforms its predecessor, Supremacy is now a full 14.5% over the original’s $121.7 million. It fell only 42% from last weekend, indicating it’s not anywhere done yet either. The Bourne sequel is one of the few unqualified hits of the summer campaign.
History repeated itself a bit this weekend as Yu-Gi-Oh! earned a solid $9.4 million over its debut frame. Like Pokemon before it, Yu-Gi-Oh! was a successful cartoon that had been presumed to be past its prime by the time the theatrical release entered theaters. Also, like Pokemon before it, Yu-Gi-Oh! baited its impressionable young target audience into theaters using the allure of a set of four different cards produced especially for the opening weekend movie-goers. And, like Pokemon before it, the tactic worked as $4.5 million worth of kids followed the mystical pied piper into theaters on Friday in exchange for those special edition cards. All they had to do first was cry crocodile tears until their parents had no choice but to relent and allow their children to see the film. The numbers declined significantly on Saturday, creating a lousy internal multiplier of 2.09. That's to be expected for a dying franchise, so the Friday success outweighs the rest of the weekend's dramatic flameout.
Like Pokemon before it, Yu-Gi-Oh!’s box office life cycle is shorter than William Hung's music career. The movie has accomplished the impossible at Rotten Tomatoes. All 38 critics who have reviewed the film disliked it. That's right, Yu-Gi-Oh! has the rarest of rare 0% score on the Tomatometer. Combining the critical reception and the Friday-to-Saturday decline of an estimated 40%, it's already almost done. So, a significant portion of its final receipts are already in the coffers. That is, the production's money is largely in the bank until Yu-Gi-Oh! is released on video and then we’re talking big time cha-ching. The moral of the story here is obvious. Kids will go see anything as like as you tell them that a special collector’s edition commemorative playing card is included in the deal. I hope the producers of Benji: Off the Leash! and Super Babies: Baby Geniuses 2 are paying attention.
Citizens continue to flee The Village in record numbers. Already holding the most dramatic second weekend plunge in a summer of notable second weekend plunges, M. Night Shyamalan’s film tumbles another 57% on top of the prior 67.6%. Its box office holdover performance is roughly equivalent to that of soap in a shower of running water. The Village looks to be empty in another two weeks. My counterpart, John Hamann, mayhap too busy considering his wedding plans to extrapolate the film’s performance accurately, said in this column last week that The Village could still earn $140-$150 million. The claim was outlandish at the time and it’s now proven to be little more than a pipe dream. The Village has almost crossed the $100 million barrier with a running total of $99.7 million, but it looks to be nailed in a box office coffin now. Barring a miracle, the film won’t even cross the $125 million threshold. Relative to its estimated negative cost of $94 million, The Village is a success for Disney, but it’s clearly not the hit it could have been had audiences been a bit more fond of the production.
Little Black Book, the cloying “romantic comedy” that is neither romantic nor funny, finished in seventh place this weekend. Its weekend total of $3.7 million indicates depreciation of 48% from its first frame. For a film of this genre catering to this target demographic, that’s a noteworthy drop. The situation is even grimmer once we factor in that the decline is off an already modest opening weekend number of $7.1 million. Little Black Book is a bomb, pure and simple. An estimated negative cost of $52 million countered against receipts in the $20 million range demonstrates that even smallish productions can still be a financial bloodbath.
The Manchurian Candidate, the topical and timely re-make of the 1962 Frank Sinatra classic, continues to perform beneath expectations. The $80 million production pulled in another $6.0 million this weekend, bringing its running tally to $48.0 million. Well received by critics, Candidate has been unable to strike a chord with audiences. Perhaps they are too politicked out during this campaign season. This is a shame, because The Manchurian Candidate is unquestionably Denzel Washington’s most interesting performance since Training Day. Falling another 43% this weekend, The Manchurian Candidate is likely to be out of the top ten for good in another two weeks.
I, Robot continues to add ones and zeroes to its box office tally. This weekend’s estimated $3.6 million brings the Will Smith film’s running total to $133.7 million. That’s a number right in line with last summer’s Bad Boys II, which accrued $138.4 million. I, Robot still has some life in it, so it should easily surpass that total. It will not, however, approach Men in Black II’s final domestic receipts of $190.4 million. For all the talk of the Fresh Prince’s struggles, his last three films have averaged over $150 million in box office receipts. Of course, the key here is that the budgets for those three films have also averaged $125 million, so the real money is being made in the ancillary markets.
Spider-Man 2 fell three spots to tenth place this weekend with an estimated $3.4 million. While the second film is not going to match the original in terms of total domestic receipts, it is going to wind up surprisingly close. Spider-Man earned $403.7 million while the sequel currently rests at $360.9 million. Even more impressively, the two Spidey films have combined worldwide receipts of right at $1.5 billion. Sam Raimi is just about able to buy that island fortress he has always dreamed of.
Box office for the top 12 this week totals $121.8 million, up 24.4% from last weekend’s tally of $97.9 million. The key factor in the performance spike is that the two openers last weekend, Collateral and Little Black Book, managed only $31.8 million in receipts. That’s a number that Alien vs. Predator surpassed on its own. The three openers this weekend had a combined estimated total of $70.6 million, an improvement of almost $39 million. The $15 million decline across the rest of the top 12 was offset by the additional capital of the openers.
Next weekend sees the release of three new products. None of them is poised to light up the box office, though. Benji, the lovable pooch, returns from a 17-year sabbatical to attempt to win our hearts anew. Seth Green continues to break the hearts of his fan base as he headlines Without a Paddle along with his Scooby-Doo 2 co-star, Matthew Lillard. The other new release is the forever-in-production Exorcist: The Beginning. The original film shoot went so poorly that the entirety of the footage was trashed and a complete re-shoot was done using a new, hopefully more competent director, Renny Harlin. All three films serve to remind us that we are reaching the point on the movie schedule where distributors are ready to clean out their remaining inventory. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a back-to-school sale. Everything must go!