Robots No Ice Age for Fox at the Box Office
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for March 11-13, 2005
By John Hamann
March 13, 2005

Look, I found a character from the next Star Wars film!

Monday Update

Things got worse for Robots, and somehow better for Hostage after estimates came out on Monday.

Robots' estimate of $36.5 million was reduced to $36.0 million today, more bad news for a studio that already was somewhat disappointed in the opening number. Hostage on the other hand did something hardly ever seen. Its estimate moved up from $9.8 million to $10.2 million. Studios are notorious for estimating films at $10.2m that turn out to be $9.8m, but that's not the case with Hostage, the Bruce Willis action flick from Miramax.

The column below has not been updated, but the chart at the bottom is.

There wasn’t much question as to which of the films in release would be king over this March weekend. Fox Animation’s Robots was destined for top spot, but the question remained whether the latest Blue Sky offering would equal that of their last, the extremely successful Ice Age. Also up for discussion is the frail Hostage with Bruce Willis, as Miramax winds down their association with the Disney conglomerate. Lastly, The Passion Recut hit theatres again this weekend, this time with no heat whatsoever.

The number one film this weekend is Fox Animation’s Robots. It got off to a great start, but may be sullied by unfair comparisons to the studio’s last hit, Ice Age. Robots did the expected this weekend. The animated film opened to a quite large $36.5 million this weekend from a very wide 3,776 venues (the widest March release ever). It had a venue average of $9,666, which is lower than many expected, but still a knock out of the park. Some analysts may get down on the opening weekend performance of Robots, but they shouldn’t, as the film has a lot of things going for it. First off, word-of-mouth is good. Of the 112 reviews counted at RottenTomatoes, 73 were positive, leading to a fresh rating of 65%. Disney’s CG Dinosaur had a similar rating, and went on to earn about $138 million after opening to $39 million. That’s an open-to-total multiplier of about 3.55, so if Robots performed similarly it would finish with about $129.6 million domestically. Shark Tale was only 34% fresh, but still had an open to total multiplier of 3.38, which would put Robots at $123.3 million. Lastly, Ice Age had an open-to-total multiplier of 3.8, and while I don’t think Robots will play as well as Ice Age, a 3.65 would have it finish with $133.2 million. Don’t forget, Ice Age grossed more overseas than it did domestically ($176 million domestic vs $200 million), so this wholly Fox-owned product is absolutely not a disappointment. Robots cost the studio $75 million to make, a sum the studio will easily see returned from home video and TV sales. While this is a number four-type finish behind the likes of Pixar, DreamWorks and Disney, Robots will still be a very lucrative investment for the studio. The best news for Fox? Robots is nowhere close to their Titan A.E. non-success; that film opened to about $9 million and finished with $23 million.

Second spot goes to a film that some will say is the reason Robots didn’t finish higher. The Pacifier is the number two film this weekend, earning a still-powerful $18.1 million. The Vin Diesel comedy dropped a decent 41% this weekend and pulled a not-bad venue average of $5,704 from 3,166 sites (35 more than last weekend). While I don’t subscribe to the competition theory that holdovers can hurt openers, The Pacifier did come out of nowhere, and is the exact same draw, rating and demographic as Robots. If there is a difference, it’s only a million or two, and sold-out Robots shows may have helped The Pacifier to keep the drop below 50% this weekend. The Pacifier cost Buena Vista $56 million to make, and has now earned $54.4 million, on its way to at least $80 million. Who’d have thunk it?

Third spot goes to last weekend’s number two film, which is notably not the other opener, Hostage. Be Cool is our number two film, as the Get Shorty sequel pulled in $10.3 million this weekend, down a painful 56% from the previous frame. Front-loaded and critically reviled, the $55-65 million production should still make out okay after international sales and home video are counted, but still way back of where MGM might have hoped. Be Cool currently sits at $38.4 million, and will have to work to make it to $65 million.

Fourth place does go to our other opener, Hostage, but it only managed to stay ahead of the five-week-old Hitch by a million or so. In a field without a straight-action movie, Hostage grossed only $9.8 million from 2,123 venues this weekend, and while not Hudson Hawk, it is not a figure Bruce Willis should be happy with. Hostage cost Miramax $65 million to make, a number too high in comparison with this debut. Cellular, with Kim Basinger and Jason Statham, opened to $10.1 million on 2,123 venues and grossed $32 million domestically, but only cost New Line $25 million to make. Hostage will be a mirror image of Mercury Rising, the forgettable 1998 actioner with Bruce Willis. That film cost $60 million, opened to $10 million and finished with $33 million. In 1998, Willis’ career was bailed out with Armageddon and The Sixth Sense in 1999; will it be Sin City this time around?

Hitch is fifth, as the romantic comedy winds it way out of the top spots at the box office. Hitch finished with $8.7 million this weekend, down a slim 28% from last weekend. The $70 million Will Smith film has now grossed $149.8 million, and should see at least $170 million on the domestic front for Sony.

It was a tight race for sixth, and Oscar winner Million Dollar Baby comes out on top. The Clint Eastwood boxing pic earned another $5.1 million this weekend, down an Oscar-friendly 38%. The WB release has now earned $84 million versus a budget of only $30 million.

The bottom dropped out for Diary of a Mad Black Woman this weekend, as the audience for the Lions Gate release plummeted compared to the previous frame. Diary earned $5 million, down a large 55%. Lions Gate wasn’t able to add enough screens to keep this one going (it lost 98 this weekend, dropping to 1,605). Still, the little $5.4 million upstart film has now grossed $44.1 million, and looks to gross ten times its production budget by the end of its run.

Constantine drops to eighth this weekend, and certainly won’t recoup its high production cost, at least on the domestic front. The Keanu Reeves starrer grossed a low $3.7 million this weekend, off 40% from the last frame. The $100 million Warner Bros/Village Roadshow release has now earned only $66.3 million domestic, but should equal that with overseas business.

Ninth goes to Man of the House, Tommy Lee Jones's ill-fated babysitting picture that has no reason to still be in the top ten. Man grossed $1.8 million this weekend, down 49% from a weekend ago. The total now for the $40 million pic is a sad $16.6 million.

Tenth is Cursed, and only holds onto a top ten spot this weekend because the field is so weak. Cursed grossed $1.6 million, down a massive 60% from last weekend. The Wes Craven miss has now grossed $17.8 million against a production budget of about $40 million.

Overall, box office was down compared to last year, when The Passion of the Christ was rolling through March. The re-release this weekend (aka Mel gets greedy) couldn’t draw flies, as it grossed less than $250,000 from 954 venues. Box office this year grossed about $100 million, which is right on target with last year’s $101 million.