Two new films, National Treasure and SpongeBob SquarePants, and the expansion of Bridget Jones took on The Incredibles and The Polar Express this weekend in a race to the top. Bridget and the Tom Hanks Christmas movie were already off the potential champ list, leaving a three-way battle for the top spot. The real winner this weekend is exhibitors, as box office totals grew to an excellent pre-Thanksgiving finish and easily trumped last year’s figures.
Treasure Tops Hot Box Office
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for November 19-21, 2004
By John Hamann
November 21, 2004
The number one film this weekend is Jerry Bruckheimer’s National Treasure, ending The Incredibles two-week run in the top spot. National Treasure grossed a decent $35.3 million this weekend from 3,017 venues, the lowest theatre count in the top five films in release. It had an average of $11,699. In the film, Nicolas Cage plays Benjamin Franklin Gates and with the performance, Cage has his best opening to date, beating Gone in 60 Seconds’ $25.3 million start. Cage looks to have his first $100 million hit since Gone in 60, and could be looking at a string of hits not seen in his career since the consecutive triumvirate of The Rock, Con Air and Face/Off. National Treasure’s Jerry Bruckheimer produced two of those films, so Cage has made a smart move working his way back to the top with Hollywood’s hottest producer. Cage’s next films include The Weather Man, from director Gore Verbinski, Lord of War from Andrew Niccol, and finally the upcoming Ghost Rider, playing Johnny Blaze. For distributor Disney, National Treasure and Ladder 49 have officially ended a long non-Pixar losing streak.
Pulling up in second spot this weekend is another new film, SpongeBob SquarePants from Paramount and Nickelodeon Films. It was a close race, but SpongeBob had to work against The Incredibles and The Polar Express and was forced to settle for second. SpongeBob grossed an excellent $33.5 million from 3,212 venues and had an average of $10,429. Much like Disney and Pixar, Nickelodeon has worked with Paramount in the past, giving it some decent totals from the Rugrats films for its animation department. With the $33.5 million opening for SpongeBob, Rugrats seem like a distant memory, as the best opening for a Nickolodeon film was the $27.3 million take The Rugrats Movie found in November 1998. Only a handful of Paramount films have beaten that score since then, and certainly none of them animated. SpongeBob is the biggest opening for Paramount of any kind since the original Tomb Raider, which opened to $47.7 million in June of 2001. With the success over opening weekend for SpongeBob, the studio may have a new franchise to work with, despite being made with the dreaded traditional 2-D animation. According to sources, SpongeBob cost only $30 million to make, so even if SpongeBob’s audience is limited to its TV audience, this is going to be a huge hit for both Nickelodeon and Paramount.
Third spot goes to The Incredibles, which moves down two spots after finishing in top spot the last two weekends. This weekend, the Pixar film grossed a still excellent $26.8 million, dropping 47%. We all knew that The Incredibles was going to drop-off somewhat heavily this weekend, the question was how much. Finding Nemo dropped 39% in its third weekend against the opening of Rugrats Go Wild! and Monsters, Inc. dropped 50% against the debut of the Harry Potter franchise. After three weekends, the Monsters, Inc. total stood at $156.3 million and Nemo’s take had hit $191.5 million, so Disney and Pixar have to be happy with The Incredibles' current total of $177.8 million. Logic would tell us that The Incredibles should finish well ahead of Monsters’ $255.9 million and somewhat short of Nemo’s $339.7 million. With the long weekend approaching and new animated competition now slowing, look for an increase on this weekend’s total in next weekend’s Thanksgiving frame.
Fourth is The Polar Express, and with the drop this weekend, concern has to be growing in the WB and Playtone camps. The Polar Express grossed $15.2 million this weekend, down a larger-than-expected 35% from the previous frame. The total for the Tom Hanks extravaganza now sits at $51 million and the best news for the distributor and production companies is that Christmas is approaching. Next weekend, there should be a slight increase in this weekend’s totals, and the potential of softer drops in the weekends leading up to the big holiday. I’m sticking to my belief that this film will be a Christmas staple for years to come, so there is money to be made here, but maybe not until Christmas 2005, as the budget for this one came in at around $170 million.
Coming in fifth this weekend is the $70 million Bridget Jones sequel, Edge of Reason, which is going to be the big disappointment in the November schedule. Bridget added 1,920 venues to its count this weekend, bringing her total up to 2,450, but the expansion didn’t help the film with the horrid reviews. Bridget grossed $10.1 million, up 16% from last weekend – a lower increase than what the studio was looking for. The Edge of Reason had a dull venue average of $4,124 and will most likely be DOA before November is out. Its current total sits at $21.6 million.
New Line’s After the Sunset drops to sixth as the heist film couldn’t compete with Bruckheimer’s National Treasure. After the Sunset grossed $5.3 million, dropping a large 53%. The Pierce Brosnan film has now grossed $19.3 million against a production budget of $60 million.
Seventh spot goes to Ray, Universal’s biopic about the blind singer. In its fourth weekend of release, Ray grossed $4.6 million, down an unfortunate 46%. The good news is that the Universal pick-up from Crusader Entertainment has now grossed $59.2 million versus its $40 million production budget. Look for Ray to finish with about $80 million in box office receipts.
Horror films were dismissed this weekend, as Seed of Chucky, Saw and The Grudge all had big drop-offs. The Grudge did the best, dropping 46%. The Sarah Michelle Gellar film grossed $3.8 million and now has an excellent total of $104.4 million. Seed of Chucky took the ninth spot in the top ten, dropping a huge 64%, grossing $3.1 million. This franchise is probably finished now, as Chucky has a two-weekend gross of only $13.4 million. Saw finished tenth, dropping 53%, pulling in a gross of $3 million. The good news for Saw and distributor Lions Gate is that the film has now grossed $50.5 million against a production budget of only $1.3 million.
Overall this weekend, the box office remained white hot, as 2004 figures trumped those from 2003. The top ten this weekend grossed about $141 million, well ahead of the $123 million from this time last year.