The box office continued its downward spiral this weekend, but was saved from extreme disparity by a sharply marketed but poorly reviewed thriller. Sony’s The Forgotten and Fox’s First Daughter hit screens this weekend, along with gem Shaun of the Dead from Rogue Pictures. Unfortunately, the wrong team won this weekend, as The Forgotten whooped the competition.
Box Office Lost, But Not Forgotten
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for September 24-26, 2004
By John Hamann
September 26, 2004
September has certainly been soft at the box office in 2004, as business hasn’t lifted since the normally slow Labor Day weekend. We’ve seen some soft openers in the ninth month, and when a strong debut does rear its head, it’s quickly lopped off the next weekend by a huge second weekend drop. Nothing has dug in, and nothing has broken out. Over the same frame last year, four films grossed more than $8 million; this year, only one. Next weekend’s release of Shark Tale is set to be huge; there is absolutely zero competition for the film in the 15-and-under demo, the box office is at its lowest point in a year, and exhibitors are hungry for something that works. Also opening the same weekend is Ladder 49, which will also be stronger due to the extreme lack of choices at the box office. I hope we can put this September behind us and forget it forever.
Speaking of forgetting things, Revolution Studios’ The Forgotten is the number one film at the box office and the only thing selling any real number of tickets. The Forgotten grossed a powerful $22 million from 3,104 venues. The Julianne Moore film had a venue average of $7,087. Schedulers at Sony should be congratulated for the opening weekend success of this film. After Sky Captain failed to kick last weekend, the door opened extra wide for this thriller, and a strong TV marketing campaign in the week leading up to release knocked this one out of the park. That’s where the good news ends for The Forgotten. Critics trashed director Joseph Ruben’s new thriller at RottenTomatoes; it received 62 negative reviews out of a possible 97, which gives it a rotten rating of 36%. The ‘cream of the crop’ at RT liked the film even less, with that percentage sitting at 26%. Moviegoers for the second straight weekend ignored critics, as last weekend they ignored raves about Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The Forgotten may be a distant memory by next weekend, but this weekend the thriller put Sony over $1 billion for their box office year.
The film in second spot finished well back of the leader, as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow has officially crashed and burned. Sky Captain grossed a weak $6.7 million over the September 24th - 26th frame from 3,170 venues, the most in the top ten. Sky Captain fell out of the sky this weekend, dropping a wicked 57%, a drop so high that it seals the fate of the technology-rich feature. With the coming onslaught of Shark Tale and Ladder 49, Sky Captain will be lucky to make $40 million at the domestic box office. Put that against a production budget of $70 million, and a p&a budget in the tens of millions as well.
Mr. 3000 manages to hang on to third spot at the box office this weekend, as the Bernie Mac comedy had the best hold in the top eight (which isn’t saying much this weekend). Mr. 3000 grossed $5 million this weekend from 2,736 venues, and hand an average of $1,827. With its production budget of $30 million, the Buena Vista film is going to be a slight miss for the studio, but won’t rock the boat either way. Mr. 3000 has a current gross after 10 days of $15.4 million.
The Katie Holmes flick First Daughter didn’t get off to a great start this weekend, as it ends up in fourth spot this weekend at the box office. The Fox filler film grossed $4 million this weekend from 2,259 theatres, and had a venue average of $1,770. The low screen count showed how much faith the studio had in this one. Chasing Liberty was the other ‘first daughter’ concept released to theatres in the last year – it grossed about $12 million, and this version of the same thing should finish with about the same amount.
Tied for fourth this weekend is Resident Evil: Apocalypse, as the horror sequel continues its slide into obscurity. Sony’s other film in the top ten grossed $4 million in its third weekend, dropping a nasty 54%. Last weekend the horror film fell 62% after opening decently at $23 million. All of a sudden, the $45 million film doesn’t look as good on paper as it did a few weeks ago, as its total after three weekends sits at only $43.4 million.
Sixth is Cellular, the Kim Basinger film that was probably hurt the most by Julianne Moore’s The Forgotten. Cellular grossed $3.7 million this weekend, and fell 46% versus last weekend’s gross of $6.8 million and drop of only 33%. The best news for New Line is that Cellular was cheap to make at $25 million, as so far has grossed $25.1 million.
Wimbledon is the number seven movie this weekend, and had a dramatic drop much like Sky Captain. The Kirsten Dunst love and tennis movie grossed $3.4 million this weekend 2,039 venues. It dropped an alarming 53%, and had a venue average of $1,660. Wimbledon, with a production budget of $31 million, has now grossed $12.2 million after 10 days. It opened in the UK this weekend, but numbers aren’t available yet.
Destined to be a word-of-mouth success, Shaun of the Dead opened in eighth this weekend. The British romantic comedy with zombies continued its platform release this weekend, moving its venue count up to 607. Shaun took in $3.3 million this weekend, pulling in the second best venue average in the top ten this weekend at $5,367. I saw Shaun of the Dead on Wednesday of last week, and the crowd I was with absolutely loved it. If there’s a film in the top ten you should get to, it definitely is Shaun of the Dead.
At ninth is Without a Paddle, which has been one of the lone bright spots this September, probably since it opened in August. After a series of very low drops from week to week, Without a Paddle has been a word-of-mouth success over the opening month of high schools and universities. In its fifth weekend, WaP grossed another $2.4 million, down 35% compared to last weekend. The $19 million Paramount hit (and one of their very few over the last year) has now taken in $53.5 million stateside.
In tenth is Hero, Miramax’s Jet Li epic. Hero grossed $2.3 million this weekend, its fifth on the chart, and dropped a decent 20%. Hero now has a total gross of $49.2 million.
Overall this weekend, box office continues to disappoint. Movie theaters have been in the doldrums all month, but look to escape the pattern next weekend. The top ten this weekend only grossed about $57 million, well back of a year ago totals.