Would this one be it? Would this be the weekend to end the summer doldrums the box office has been experiencing leading up to the final Star Wars movie? The product was there, with four new releases aiming for your movie dollars. Kicking & Screaming, Monster-in-Law, Unleashed and Mindhunters were all after top spot after Kingdom of Heaven failed to get off to a huge start last weekend. What have we learned after the May 13th - 15th weekend? That JLo and JFo have huge followings, and that box office won’t beat last year's totals until at least next weekend when Star Wars Episode III debuts.
Summer Box Office Continues to Sputter
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for May 13-15, 2005
By John Hamann
May 15, 2005
The women, Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez, faced off against Will Ferrell, Jet Li, and the men of Mindhunters this weekend, and kicked some box office butt. The number one film this weekend is somewhat of a surprise in Monster-in Law. New Line’s take on the successful (and already tired) Meet the Parents formula worked this weekend, with the comedy taking in $24 million over its first three days. Tracking had Kicking & Screaming finishing first; however, Jane Fonda’s constant appearances everywhere seems to have broadened JLo’s usual movie audience. Monster-in-Law debuted at 3,424 venues this weekend and garnered an average of $7,016. BOP’s Tim Briody reported yesterday that Monster-in-Law grossed $8 million on its first Friday, and the film held up well over the rest of the weekend, pulling in a multiplier of 3.0 (weekend gross divided by Friday gross). New Line has to be happy with that performance. Audiences obviously ignored reviews, as they were roundly awful. RottenTomatoes found 103 reviewers who sat through this one, and of those, only 21 gave it a positive review. Yes, North American film audiences spent $24 million on a film that garnered a 17% fresh rating. Yikes. For J-Lo, Monster-in Law is her biggest open yet, beating the $18.7 million that Maid in Manhattan found in December 2002. For Fonda, it’s her first work in 15 years, and obviously, her audience is still around. Monster-in-Law cost New Line about $60 million to make, and looks to be a good investment for the studio. It’s the first time New Line has had the number one film at the box office since The Butterfly Effect in January 2004.
The best news that the overall box office has had in weeks is not a decent score for one film, but moderately successful scores for more than one film. Kicking & Screaming is the number two film this weekend, but it's no slouch. The Will Ferrell soccer movie scored well this weekend, pulling in a gross of $20.9 million. Universal secured 3,457 venues for the comedy, and it earned an average of $6,035. The PG-13 film scored a $6.3 million debut on Friday, so it had an internal multiplier of 3.3 – leading me to think that not only grownups are taking this one in, but the younger set as well. The PG demographic has been starved of product as last weekend, all three new releases carried an R rating. However, with comedy competition in Monster-in-Law, Universal probably would have been better served switching opening weekends with The Interpreter, and giving the Will Ferrell comedy a little more room to work before Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith hits theatres. Speaking of Ferrell, this one has to be a little disappointing for the up-and-coming star, as Anchorman pulled in $28.4 million to start its run, and Elf earned over $31 million when it opened. Universal’s marketing on this one seemed to be hit and miss. They had a great trailer, but the frenetic TV spots didn’t let the viewer know what the story was about, instead giving away the movie’s few bright spots. Reviews were better than Monster-in-Law’s, but it still didn’t have a fresh rating. Of the 87 reviewers, only 37 liked it, giving Kicking & Screaming a not-so-fresh rating of 43%.
The biggest surprise of the weekend may be that Jet Li was able to get Unleashed over the $10 million mark despite being on about 1,500 fewer screens than the other two opening comedies. Unleashed, from Rogue Pictures, a division of Universal’s Focus Features, earned a stellar $10.6 million from 1,955 venues this weekend. That’s good for an average of $5,409, which puts it right in line with Monster’s $7,016 and Kicking’s $6,035. The R-rated tale of Danny the Dog cost Rogue $45 million to make, so with this opening, heady international sales due to the involvement of Jet Li and Bob Hoskins, and what should be stellar DVD sales, the small division of Universal could have a real winner on its hands. Unleashed was also the best reviewed film of the four wide releases this weekend, with a positive 63% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes. It will be interesting to see if Universal decides to expand this one out a bit next weekend.
The fact that Kingdom of Heaven is the number four film this weekend is not good news for Fox or the overall box office, but just like Warner Bros. and Troy last year, we will never hear about this being a disappointment due almost completely to international sales. Kingdom of Heaven did a nosedive this weekend, dropping an absolutely huge 51% and grossing a small $9.6 million. Since I reported the budget at $130 million last weekend, I’ve heard other estimates as high as $185 million over the past week. Still, Kingdom has earned over $58 million in overseas markets already. So, despite only having $35.1 million in the domestic kitty so far, the combined total is already approaching $100 million, with more to come when more international box office numbers come in tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong, Kingdom of Heaven will still be a disappointment for Fox, but the spin will be deafening.
Landing in fifth is Crash, Paul Haggis’s small drama that stars some big names. Lions Gate added 12 venues to bring the count up to 1,876, and the Sandra Bullock/Matt Dillon film earned another $7.2 million this weekend, down a very soft 21%. IMDb lists Crash’s estimated budget at $6.5 million, so the folks at Lions Gate have to very happy they picked this one up. So far, Crash has earned $19.8 million at the domestic box office, with a lot more to come.
Sixth this weekend is House of Wax, last weekend’s other disappointment. There has to be at least a little bit of happiness in the Dark Castle offices today, as the teen-horror flick dropped less than the historical epic it faced off against last weekend. House of Wax grossed $6.3 million this weekend from the same 3,111 venues it had last weekend. The horror flick dropped a better-than-expected 48%, and now sits with a total of $21.7 million, not all that far off from its $30 million production budget. The fate of this one will only get better as international sales are counted toward the end of May. Dark Castle continues to make smart moves by creating stupid horror flicks that don’t cost much to produce.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy thumbs into seventh spot this weekend, as the Douglas Adams adaptation has slid down the chart very quickly over the last few weekends. Hitchhiker grossed $4.8 million in its third weekend of release, down a large 51% from the previous frame. The $45 million production has also earned about $20 million in overseas markets, so with the $43.3 million domestic gross so far, all parties should end up happy once everything is said and done.
The Interpreter falls to eighth, but this release will also be saved by international sales (noticing a trend yet?). The Interpreter grossed $4.4 million this weekend, down 44% from last weekend, but the suits at Universal will be happy because the thriller has already crossed the $50 million mark both at home and abroad. The $80 million Sean Penn/Nicole Kidman flick has so far earned $61 million at the domestic box office.
Ninth spot goes to XXX: State of the Union, as Mindhunters was not able to get ahead of the disastrous Ice Cube action movie. State of the Union took in $2.2 million, down a nasty 60% from last weekend. The $118 million production from Revolution and Sony has earned a sad $24.4 million so far at the box office.
Finally, in tenth we get the three-year-old Mindhunters, but it won’t be that disaster that XXX: State of the Union is. Mindhunters opened with a $2 million opening weekend, but with a small $27 million budget and foreign rights already sold off, this is only going to be a small miss for Dimension Films.
As a side note, Best Picture winner Million Dollar Baby crossed the $100 million mark this weekend after 22 weekends of release. It took awhile, but it made it in the end.
Overall, the bad news at the box office stays bad, but it could have been worse. The top ten for this May 2005 weekend came in at only $92 million; however, last year, with Troy on top, the top ten earned about $100 million. Things might be rough now, but the rest of May is a powerhouse with likes of Episode III, The Longest Yard, and Madagascar still to come.