Revenge of the Sith: Box Office Demon
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for May 20-22, 2005
By John Hamann
May 22, 2005
Too often, an exciting, huge grossing movie will have the shine taken off by an over-zealous estimate released by a studio. Given that, its very nice that the actual weekend gross for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is right in line with the estimate. After yesterday's estimate of $108.5 million was released, my first instinct was to think the estimate was bloated to keep the weekend gross ahead of Shrek 2's $108 million first weekend take. That wasn't the case, as Revenge of the Sith was only downgraded slightly to $108.4 million, keeping second spot on the all-time biggest three-day weekend safe at least for now.
We had a couple of emails to BOP Feedback as to why Revenge of the Sith's 3-day gross runs second to Spider-Man, even though Sith's combined Thursday, Friday, and Saturday gross was bigger than Spidey's first three days. Had Sith been released on Friday, it would have certainly beaten the record, but it wasn't, and thus the champ remains the same.
Other release estimates were very close, with only good news coming instead of the usual bad news. The nasty weekend for Unleashed got slightly better, moving from an estimated $3.8 million to an actual of $4.1 million. It's still a drop of 62%, so there isn't much good news anyway. The rest of the group was almost spot on, and not worth mentioning.
The column below has not been updated, but the chart at the bottom has. Check back on Thursday when BOP will have its forecast for Madagascar and The Longest Yard, along with the second weekend of Revenge of the Sith.
What a couple of days it has been. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith has been rolling since Wednesday at midnight, with huge grosses from those midnight showings, its first full day on Thursday, and a huge Friday. The only question remained was whether the final Star Wars episode could beat Spider-Man’s weekend record of $114.8 million, to cap the weekend off. It looked like the first uptick at the box office over last year in a long, long time. However, the rest of the top ten wilted in the face of the power of Episode III, leaving the race with last year close for another weekend.
The number one film with no doubt is Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The space epic, after grossing about $84 million over its first two days, pulled in an amazing $108.5 million over its first Friday to Sunday, narrowly missing the record set by Spider-Man at $114.8 million. It does set a record with $158.5 million over its first four days, leaving The Matrix Reloaded in the dust. Revenge of the Sith beat all records held by previous Star Wars films, and the three-day haul sits at second best for all films, just ahead of Shrek 2’s opening of $108 million over the same weekend last year (although it may slip behind Shrek 2 when actuals are released Monday). The summer behemoth opened at 3,661 venues, and pulled in an amazing venue average of $26,636 – the second biggest ever for a release at over 3,500 venues (still behind only the webslinger). As BOP has mentioned over the last few days, Episode III blasted off with $16.9 million from midnight screenings on Wednesday night, which led to a $50 million score for Thursday, and then it earned $33.7 million on Friday. The weekend gross of $108.5 million means Revenge of the Sith had a weekend multiplier of 3.2, an outstanding number considering the size of the Thursday and Friday gross (sequels tend to be frontloaded, and Star Wars films tend to be populated by first-night fanboys). Yesterday, I was looking for a weekend multiplier of 3.2 or 3.3, but anything above a 3.0 is a victory for Fox - even more for LucasFilm. 20th Century Fox makes a flat rate of $50 million for this one, with the rest of the revenues going to LucasFilm. With a budget of $115 million, this is already a win for the studios, considering the marketing partnerships and heated international sales already. Not only is this good news for George Lucas, its also good news for the overall box office. Things had been lean at best for the last three or four months, but with crowds this size at the cineplex, theatre marketing (trailers, posters, standees etc) really had a chance to showcase the rest of the summer, meaning potentially bigger biz for upcoming films. Even with the huge gross, studios like DreamWorks with Madagascar and Paramount/Sony with The Longest Yard have to be happy that they are positioned after Star Wars versus before, just to be part of the upswing. If you want a statement on films released before Revenge of the Sith, see how Kingdom of Heaven performed below.
So why the big gross for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith? Didn’t George Lucas come out and say that he was worried this one would flop? Wasn’t the rating supposed to curb the audience? Wasn't the dark nature of the screenplay supposed to turn some off? All of this was "a tempest in a teacup" - words used to stir the fanbase indirectly, and boy did it work. It also helped that reviews were good for this one. Of the 182 reviewers that saw this one, a very healthy 151 liked what they saw, and the film garnered an 82% fresh rating. The never-ending free publicity also helped Revenge of the Sith, as constant coverage of lineups, the "end of Star Wars," and the box office blues have all been receiving a ton of headlines over the last week. You can run as many commercials as you want for your film, it won't beat a story on the evening news, or George being interviewed by Oprah or Larry King. Where things go for Episode III in the weeks ahead is uncertain. The last frame of the saga seems to have angered 2 out of every 10 fanboys (instead of 8/10), so there will be some serious repeat viewings from the base audience, and the hefty box office may bring out some folks who were angered by The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. We'll know everything next weekend when the Sith faces off against Madagascar over Memorial Day weekend. I'd look for a bigger drop than The Phantom Menace's 21%, but smaller than Attack of the Clones' 40% drop, but we'll have to wait and see.
Yes, other films were playing this weekend, and the top three didn't do too badly considering the gross of Star Wars. The number two film this weekend is last weekend's number one, Monster-in-Law (you can never account for taste). The critically drubbed film earned $14.4 million in its second frame, down a decent 38% from last weekend. Monster-in-Law obviously proved to be good counter-programming against the Sith, as this chick flick and Crash held well this weekend. The $60 million New Line feature has now pulled in $44.2 million, and could be New Line's first $100 million hit since Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Much will depend on Monster's behavior over the long weekend in the next frame.
Pulling up in third is Will Ferrell's Kicking & Screaming. The comedy from Universal didn't hold up as well as Monster-in-Law, most likely due to a similarly targeted demographic. Kicking & Screaming pulled in $10.5 million in its second frame, a drop of 48%. The good news for the studio is that the soccer film was cheap to make ($45 million), a figure a Will Ferrell comedy will easily make from DVD sales and rentals. Its total sits at $34 million, with at least twice that still to come.
Crash is the other solid box office news in the top ten. The Paul Haggis film with the strong cast continued to earn nicely this weekend, with a third frame gross of $5.5 million. Crash dropped a tiny 22%, and the $6.5 million Lions Gate pickup continues to build on its totals. So far, Crash has earned $27.6 million from less than 2,000 screens.
That's where the good news ends at the box office, as the rest of the top ten was crippled by Revenge of the Sith. Fifth spot goes to Unleashed, the Jet Li film that finished positively last weekend with a take of $10.9 million. Things got bad though this weekend, as the punch-up fell a staggering 65%, earning only $3.8 million. The $45 million Rogue Pictures release (a division of Universal), has now grossed $17.6 million, as the shine has come off this one. Still, international sales should be solid, along with home vid, so expect more of these types of titles in the near future.
Sixth spot goes to Kingdom of Heaven, another film that got hammered by Star Wars. The Orlando Bloom epic took in an extremely soft $3.4 million this weekend, as domestic box office continues to evade historical epics. Kingdom of Heaven has already grossed more than $100 million in international sales, but looks like it will struggle to make $50 million domestically. BOP deals mainly with domestic grosses, so let me say again that Kingdom is a domestic disaster, considering its $130-$185 million price tag. At least Troy made more than $10 million in its third weekend, and at least Fox has that $50 million fee from the Star Wars release. So far, Kingdom has earned a paltry $41 million.
Horror movie miss House of Wax lands in seventh this weekend, and is another movie that has struggled since its release. The WB/Dark Castle release grossed $3.2 million in its third weekend, down a hefty 52% from the previous frame. I guess the good news is that the budget for this one was only $30 million, and a title like this will make that much from DVD sales alone. Currently, House of Wax sits with a gross of $26.8 million.
Eighth and ninth go to The Interpreter and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The Interpreter grossed $2.8 million this weekend, and Hitchhiker pulled in a similar $2 million. Their respective totals and budgets are $65.3 million ($80 million) and $46.9 million ($45 million).
In tenth, Mindhunters managed to leapfrog XXX: State of the Union to hold onto a top ten spot, but that's not saying much. Mindhunters grossed a sad $0.9 million this weekend, off 52%, and now has $3.5 million in the kitty after two weekends of wide release.
Overall this weekend, box office was good, but for the umpteenth weekend in a row, could not beat last year’s figures. Over the May 21-23 weekend last year, Shrek 2 grossed $108 million and led the top ten to a combined gross of about $162 million. This year, the top ten grossed about $155 million, leaving it a few million behind. Oh well, maybe next weekend.