Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven and Dark Castle’s House of Wax opened on Friday, both hoping to break out over this early weekend in May. Each film had the opportunity; one was a very expensive historical epic, and the other a teen-star horror movie remake that was following a trend of $25 million openings. With all sorts of things in these films’ asset bags, questions must be asked as to this latest failure at the box office.
Kingdom of Woe at the Summer Box Office
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for May 6-8, 2005
By John Hamann
May 8, 2005
Before we get into this column, let’s sort out what we’re comparing the May 6 - 8, 2005 to in terms of historical relevancy. In terms of comparing weekends, usually we just pick the closest date and compare totals. If we did that with last year, we would compare this weekend with the May 7 - 9, 2004 weekend when Van Helsing opened to $51.8 million, which itself was somewhat of a disappointment. However, if we count weekends into the year, this weekend would be number 18 of 2005, which we would compare with April 30th - May 2nd of last year. That weekend, Lindsey Lohan opened Mean Girls to $24.4 million, surprising many people. There’s not a lot of good news at the box office this weekend. Comparing it to the Van Helsing weekend is a devastation; putting it alongside the Mean Girls weekend is still nasty, but not nearly as bad. The top ten for 2004’s Weekend 18 at the box office totaled about $83 million; over the Van Helsing weekend, the top ten drew just shy of $100 million. This year’s top ten total was $74.5 million. Not so good.
The number one film at the box office this weekend is Kingdom of Heaven, Ridley Scott’s epic Crusades tale from Fox. If execs were looking for opening weekend numbers like Troy’s $46.9 million or Gladiator’s $34.8 million, they were extremely disappointed this morning. Kingdom of Heaven grossed a slow $20 million this weekend from 3216 screens, 278 more than Gladiator, but 195 less than Troy. It had a lackluster venue average of $6,218, and given the wide release, Fox is in some trouble on this one, as Kingdom carries a negative cost of $130 million. It’s not a surprise – tracking was right on target, so at least execs knew what was coming. Summer movie marketing is not breaking through early this year, as we had two films open this weekend that could have behaved like summer openers, and for some reason did not (much like last weekend). I think you really have to look at the marketing, as it is getting extremely tired. In addition, Orlando Bloom is not a leading man, and a strange choice to topline a $130 million dollar blockbuster. Also, reviews for Kingdom weren’t great, meaning they create any decent buzz leading up to release. Of the 134 reviews at RottenTomatoes, only 56 were positive, leading to a 42% rotten rating. It wasn’t all bad, the average out of ten from the more serious critics was a 6/10, which in these days of really bad movies, most moviegoers will take a 6. The good news for Fox is that this should play extremely well in international markets and on DVD, and make a nickel somewhere down the line – but in terms of summer openings, this one is well down the list.
House of Wax is second this weekend, and the only prize it wins is being the zillionth teen-horror flick released this year. House of Wax opened to an absolutely blah $12.2 million this weekend from an ultra wide 3,111 venues. It had a sad sack venue average of $3,923. The production cost on this one is $40 million, making the opening a number Dark Castle, WB, Village Roadshow and the rest of them can probably handle, but is still a large disappointment because of the summer release date. Did moviegoers not want to see Paris Hilton get offed? Maybe. The marketing for this one was also lame, and the target demo may have got carded on the way in to this R-rated flick. Other Dark Castle flicks did better than House of Wax, and didn’t have the benefit of this release date. Gothika probably had the best opening date out of the four other Dark Castle films. It opened November 21, 2003 and grossed $19.3 million over its debut frame. Other titles from the low budget horror studio include House on Haunted Hill ($16 million opening), Ghost Ship ($11.5 million opening), and Thir13en Ghosts ($15.2 million opening). All of these are moderately budgeted horror flicks, so no one loses a whole bunch of money. However, much like Kingdom of Heaven, this has to be considered another big disappointment.
Third spot, as expected, goes to last weekend’s number one film, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, although the news isn’t nearly as good this weekend. Hitchhiker’s grossed $9.1 million, down a large 57% compared to the previous frame. A big drop was expected this weekend, but not this big. Thoughts were that the decent reviews for this one might propel it past its fanbase, but that clearly wasn’t the case. Hitchhiker now sits with $35.1 million, as it slowly approaches its $45 million budget figure. The good news for Disney is that every fan of the book that came out opening weekend will most likely buy the DVD, and these days, that’s where the money is.
Fourth spot is the only bright one at the box office this weekend. The smaller film Crash broke through somewhat, grossing $9.1 million from 1,864 venues. It had a decent venue average of $4,881 without a lot of marketing or fanfare. This weekend, the summer movies failed in summer, and the non-summer movie found success. Crash is from Lions Gate and stars Sandra Bullock and Don Cheadle amongst others, and was written and directed by Canadian Paul Haggis, who wrote and produced Clint’s Million Dollar Baby. TheStreet.com called Crash’s break-even point $12 million, so Lions Gate is on its way to another decent hit, following on the heels of the $50 million, out-of-nowhere success of Diary of a Mad Black Woman.
The Interpreter lands in fifth this weekend, and is still pulling strongly in the adult demographic despite the openings of Kingdom of Heaven and Crash. The Sean Penn/Nicole Kidman thriller grossed $7.5 million this weekend, down 46%. So far, the $80 million Universal release has earned $54.1 million on the domestic front, and is approaching $100 million already in worldwide sales.
Sixth spot goes to XXX: State of the Union, Ice Cube’s failed move to action star status. After opening horrendously last weekend, the news only got worse for Sony and Revolution Films this weekend. XXX: State of the Union grossed a sad $5.4 million over the early May weekend, dropping a huge 58% in the process. The $120 million film has now earned only $20.8 million, and will be lucky to finish with about $40 million in domestic ticket sales. Ouch.
It was a close battle for seventh amongst the basement dwellers. Seventh goes to the successful horror flick The Amityville Horror. MGM’s final stab grossed $3.2 million this weekend, dropping 60% versus House of Wax. The $18 million production has now earned $60.1 million.
Sahara finished seventh this weekend, as another very expensive action movie begins to slow down. Sahara grossed $3.1 million this weekend, down 46% from the previous frame. The $130 million dollar film has now earned about half that amount, as it sits with $61.3 million.
A Lot Like Love lands in ninth this weekend, as the Ashton Kutcher/Amanda Peet flick never found solid footing in the top ten. A Lot Like Love earned $3 million this weekend, down 40%. The Buena Vista comedy has now earned only $18.8 million against a $30 million production budget.
In tenth this weekend is Fever Pitch, the baseball rom-com that didn’t quite work. Fever Pitch earned $2 million, down 43%. It now sits with $39 million in the kitty.
Overall this weekend, things weren’t great. As we discussed above, the top ten earned $74.5 million, off significantly from the $100 million that the Van Helsing weekend earned, and still well off from the $83 million Mean Girls weekend last year. Next weekend we get Kicking & Screaming, Monster-in-Law (the Hollywood Reporter calls it “grindingly bad”), Mindhunters and Unleashed. Hopefully one of these films can get summer rolling before Revenge of the Sith hits theatres.