Chocolate Factory is sweet for weekend
By Kim Hollis
July 17, 2005
When actual box office figures rolled in this afternoon, it turned out that every single film in the Top 12 was underestimated. For most of them, it was a matter of $100,000 or so, but the number was considerably more significant than that for the openers. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had been undersold by nearly a million dollars, as it wound up with a number $800,000 higher than was reported yesterday. The news was even better for The Wedding Crashers, which had actual figures $1.7 million higher than the weekend estimates. Numbers have not been updated for actuals within the column text itself, but the chart at the bottom of the page does reflect the actual numbers taken in for the weekend.
Up until July rolled around, the 2005 box office figures had offered up plenty of good reasons for hand-wringing and second-guessing from the studios. Anything from DVD sales to movie quality to the success of The Passion of the Christ had been cited as possible reasons for the downturn so far this year. July has changed all that, though, as we have now seen three movies open in excess of $50 million. Can the slump be officially declared dead?
The folks who made Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the number one film this weekend would certainly seem to think so. Despite the fact that the marketing was a bit wonky and Depp's portrayal of Willy Wonka had many fans of the original adaptation of the Roald Dahl book screaming for his head, the movie proved to be extraordinarily family-friendly to the tune of $55.4 million. While Fantastic Four was able to ride a similar demographic to a $56.1 million debut, it did so in spite of horrendous reviews and questionable word-of-mouth at best. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, on the other hand, has been remarkably well-reviewed, and noted by most critics to have been quite faithful to its original source material. Furthermore, the morality tale disguised as a kid flick will score quite nicely amongst its target demographic, as it is funny, engaging and even touching. Warner Bros. has to be pleased with the way this potentially off-putting property has started.
Even with that excellent weekend number, there does have to be some slight concern over Charlie's Friday-to-Sunday multiplier. After starting on Friday with $20.8 million, the Saturday total actually dropped by about a million, which is rare for a family film. This might indicate that Tim Burton/Johnny Depp fanboys inundated the theaters on opening day, and also could be evidence that the official Saturday release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the latest in the series from J.K. Rowling, had kids staying at home to read. Chances are, the movie will recover to show some solid staying power in the coming weeks.
The second place finisher might have been a surprise to some forecasters, but anyone who has been watching the marketing for The Wedding Crashers had to know that New Line had been doing a superb job selling the film. From magazine covers featuring "The Wedding Crashers Girls" to tie-ins with Budweiser to trailers and commercials that really brought out the funny from both leading men, it was clear that this film was going to succeed perhaps because of its R rating. It had been a long time since a similarly raunchy comedy had been a factor on the big screen, and The Wedding Crashers had plenty more than just strong advertising on its side. Vince Vaughn has become one of the biggest rising stars in Hollywood, with stuff like Dodgeball and Old School establishing him as a guy who appeals both to men and women. As for Owen Wilson, he's not a consistent box office draw, but he is a known comedic entity whose pairing with Vaughn looked like a winner on paper. Indeed it was, as The Wedding Crashers opened with $32.2 million in its first three days. Like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it's being well-reviewed by critics and has positive buzz from movie-goers, and should continue to be a factor in the coming weeks.
There had been a significant amount of speculation around the ol' BOP water cooler last week as to whether Fantastic Four would be able to demonstrate any sort of staying power. In our Monday Morning Quarterback Column, Tim Briody posited that the film would have its legs cut from under it and drop dramatically, while I thought it might hold up okay, as I had just seen the film earlier in the weekend with a fairly enthusiastic audience. In the end, however, the bad reviews and questionable word-of-mouth won out, as Fantastic Four dropped a heady 59% in weekend two for a three-day total of $22.7 million. Its current total at the box office is $100.1 million, and Fox won't likely be deterred from the prospect of a sequel. There have already been stories in the last week where producer Avi Arad has all but stated that a second Fantastic Four is inevitable.
Coming up in fourth place is one of the year's biggest films in War of the Worlds. It was still off a significant 51% from last weekend with a $15 million three-day total, which might be an indicator that a plurality of the people who wouldn't be put off by star Tom Cruise's recent strange antics went out and supported the film in its first weekend. The film is nonetheless hurtling toward $200 million, which will likely make it the second best domestic earner this year after Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The Spielberg alien-invasion extravaganza now has accrued a total of $192.2 million.
After the top four, the next set of films find themselves pretty close with regards to dollars earned this weekend. The number five film was Batman Begins, which was able to find another $5.6 million from Friday-to-Sunday. That's a 44 % decrease from last weekend, and a total that would seem to indicate that the film is beginning to reach the end of the line. It's looking as though it will finish just under the coveted $200 million mark and currently has a domestic total of $182.7 million.
Next up is Mr. & Mrs. Smith, which finished in sixth place with a three-day total of $5.1 million. It's off a light 36%, and is a definite winner for 20th Century Fox. With $168.2 million so far, it's not going to crack the $200 million mark; however, it has found almost $300 million in worldwide receipts. Hopefully, the film's continued good performance will make the recently sick Brad Pitt feel a little bit better.
Dark Water was not able to follow the example of such similar fare as The Ring and The Grudge, dropping a horrendous 56% from its first weekend to wind up in seventh. After taking in a slight $4.4 million in its second weekend, it's going to be barely a blip on the summer radar screen, and go down as a forgotten movie in the genre. The total for the movie is a below-expecations $18.9 million.
Still hanging around in eighth place is Herbie: Fully Loaded, falling 44%. and earning $3.4 million for the weekend. Despite being perceived as an early disappointment, it's been able to come up with $55.7 at the box office and will certainly be a positive earner when it is released on DVD. Disney will ultimately be pleased with the way Herbie and Lindsay Lohan were able to rise above the initial rough start.
Bewitched spends its final weekend in the top ten, as it manages an additional $2.4 million for a ninth place finish. Its total is $56.9 million, which will definitely be viewed as a hugely disappointing number for Sony. It's not going to make its budget back until it hits DVD, and is more or less reminiscent of Nicole Kidman's similar mediocre performer of 2004, The Stepford Wives.
Finally, tenth spot belongs to Madagascar, the movie that has been hanging around in the top ten for the longest amount of time. The DreamWorks Animation project is starting to come to the end of its reign, with $2.1 million for the weekend and a grand total of $183.9million. While not the success that Shrek was, it's been a solid performer and will be an additional financial boon when it hits the home video market as well.
The box office continued its upward tick for a second weekend, as the $148.3 million earned by the top ten for 2005 showed an increase of 9% over 2004's $134.9 million over the same period. A variety of new offerings will look to continue that trend next week, with the foremost among them being Michael Bay's sci-fi actioner The Island, starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. Additionally, an update of The Bad News Bears, starring Billy Bob Thornton and directed by School of Rock's Richard Linklater, has some hilarious trailers that should attract a diverse group. Hustle and Flow will open on only around 1,000 screens, but is riding some hugely positive buzz and excellent critical reception. Last but certainly not least is Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects, a sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, which didn't do particularly well during its theatrical run but has gained a cult following since its video release.