Memorial Day Weekend launches the true start to the summer box office, and what a weekend it was, with three blockbusters all vying for top spot at the box office. There was some concern that the three films – The Longest Yard, Madagascar and the second weekend of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith – might cannibalize each other's potential receipts. That didn't happen, and each of these films got off to fantastic starts. While the three films weren't able to keep total box office ahead of last year, none flopped, so the coming weekends may have a shot at beating last year's totals.
Sith Wins Close Memorial Day Box Office Race
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for May 27-30, 2005
By John Hamann
May 30, 2005
The number one film over the powerful Memorial Day weekend is Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The George Lucas epic was not able to keep up with the torrid pace it started with last weekend, but it was able to hold onto the number one spot, grossing $70.8 million over the four-day weekend, and $55.1 million over the three-day frame. At 3,663 venues this weekend, the blockbuster scored a four-day average of $19,314, and dropped 35% compared to last weekend’s three-day figure. It now sits at $271.2 million, well ahead of where Spider-Man sat after 12 days of release ($232.8 million), and only about $40 million behind where Attack of the Clones finished ($302.2 million). Revenge of the Sith crossed the $200 million mark last Thursday, its 8th day of release, tying Spider-Man for the quickest film ever to make it to $200 million. Revenge of the Sith should also have no problem reaching $300 million faster than record holder Shrek 2, which reached that number in 18 days. Additionally, Sith is as big a hit overseas as it is domestically, as its overseas total is already approaching $250 million, and the international take has already passed $500 million. 20th Century Fox and LucasFilm have to be ecstatic about the gross so far. Next week new releases Cinderella Man, Lords of Dogtown and The Sisterhood of Travelling Pants roll out, so with little competition for its demographic, Revenge of the Sith should have another strong frame next weekend.
In second spot this weekend is DreamWorks' Madagascar, which proves there was enough room for both Star Wars and the animated blockbuster in a similar demographic. Chris Rock's first of two films in the top three performed as expected. It did much better than Shark Tale, but didn't find the success of Shrek 2. Madagascar opened strong over the long weekend, grossing a powerful $61 million from a very wide 4,131 venues (about 500 more than Revenge of the Sith and The Longest Yard). It had a venue average of $14,766. Madagascar built on its weekend nicely; after grossing $14 million on Friday, the animated film increased its score on Saturday by 30%, pulling in $18.1 million. Sunday's take dropped somewhat to $14.9 million, but there is still good momentum for the Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett-Smith feature. Buzz was hot heading into the long weekend, but it may have cooled somewhat after its first four days. Reviews were not kind to the DreamWorks product, of the 121 notices gathered at RottenTomatoes, a surprising 55 were of the negative variety, leading to rotten score of 55% (Shrek 2 was 88% fresh). Again, there is nothing much to get in the way of Madagascar over the next few weeks until The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl on June 10, or when Herbie: Fully Loaded hits screens on June 22.
The number three film this weekend is The Longest Yard, but positioning may change when actuals are released tomorrow. Adam Sandler's remake of the 1974 Burt Reynolds film grossed a more powerful than expected $60 million from 3,634 venues, leaving it only $1 million behind Madagascar. The take for Yard equals a venue average of $16,510, and the three-day gross of about $48 million is Sandler's biggest opening weekend ever, ahead of Anger Management's $42.2 million. The Memorial Day weekend had never been kind to comedies until Bruce Almighty came along in 2003 and found $85.7 million, doubling that of the last comedy, The Flintstones, to open on Memorial Day. MTV Films, Paramount, Columbia Pictures and Happy Madison Films (Sandler's production company) were behind The Longest Yard, and credit has to go the film's marketing department. Awareness was huge for The Longest Yard, as the producers used many TV sports shows to display their product. The movie was unavoidable if you are a sports fan. Kasey Kahne's NASCAR racer had The Longest Yard paint job on his car. The sports cast on your nightly local news probably had a story. To top it all off, the producers cast Burt Reynolds in a main roll to expand the demographic beyond Sandler and Chris Rock's audience. Reviews were about as strong as expected. Of the 108 critics who saw the movie, only 36 gave it a thumbs up, leading to a not-so-great rotten score of 33% (but its Sandler, so like that matters). The Longest Yard is another film that should play well in the future, at least for the next couple of weeks. For some reason, Hollywood organized three dramas to start June, so expect another healthy weekend for The Longest Yard in the next frame.
Fourth spot goes to the hideous Monster-in-Law with J.Lo and J.Fo, as the New Line release grossed $11.1 million over the four-day Memorial Day frame. Still at 3,230 venues, the comedy had a venue average of $3,428. So far, the $40 million film has made an excellent $60.7 million, so expect to see more Meet the Parents clones (and Jane Fonda movies) in the future.
If there was any strength in the holdovers, we might have had a record-breaking weekend, but again the weakness of the last few frames rises up and bites the box office in the ass once again. Fifth spot goes to Will Ferrell's Kicking & Screaming, which has not held well versus the blockbuster competition. Down 39% from last weekend’s three-day frame, Kicking & Screaming earned $6.6 million over the four-day, and now sits with a disappointing domestic total at $44.2 million.
Sixth spot goes to Crash, which is still holding well after four weekends of release, and is the lone bright spot in the lower rungs of the chart. Crash, still very effective counter-programming, earned $6 million over the four days, and was up 8% compared to last weekend's three-day frame, despite shedding 225 venues. This movie was made for $6.5 million, and has now found $36.1 million in box office receipts, making Crash a very good bet for the folks at Lions Gate.
The Interpreter finished seventh in a close race this weekend, earning $2.6 million and down only 9% from last weekend's three-day frame. The $80 million Nicole Kidman/Sean Penn thriller has turned into a huge hit overseas, earning as much abroad as it has domestically. The Interpreter currently sits with a North American total of $69.2 million.
Unleashed manages to hold on to eighth this weekend, as the Jet Li action flick quickly makes it way out of the top ten. The Rogue Pictures release earned $2.3 million over the long weekend, down an ugly 43% from the previous 3-day frame. After three weekends, Unleashed has earned a not-great $21.9 million, after opening over $10 million. It had a budget of $45 million, however this one should do well overseas, and on DVD.
Kingdom of Heaven finishes an embarrassing ninth, and will most likely be out of the top ten next weekend, after only 4 weeks of release. The $130 million film earned $2.2 million over the Memorial Day weekend, and now has a soft domestic total of $45 million. Internationally Kingdom of Heaven is very hot, earning well over $100 million already.
Tenth spot goes to horror film House of Wax, which stars Paris Hilton and Elisha Cuthbert. Over the four-day frame, Wax earned a small $1.6 million, and now sits with $29.9 million in domestic sales. Even with the extra day this weekend, House of Wax was still down 50% compared to last weekend's three-day gross. Ouch.
Overall this weekend, the top ten couldn't keep up with last year's record breaking pace. The top ten for the Memorial Day weekend 2005 earned a very good $224 million, but that was still off from last year's $237 million. Things shouldn't change next weekend, as the post-Memorial Day frame in 2004 launched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to $93.7 million, and 2005 brings the dry Cinderella Man.