This weekend should have been a gimme – after two consecutive weekends with rising returns, the July 22nd - 24th weekend had four new releases showing strength, and last weekend's number one film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, had all the signs of playing strong into its second frame. Openers included the effects-laden The Island, from Michael Bay, a remake in The Bad News Bears, an urban drama in Hustle & Flow, and a nasty horror flick in The Devil's Rejects. Demographics were spread out for these films – we knew going in that Hustle & Flow and The Devil's Rejects were not going to break out, but The Island and The Bears had all the signs of being big films. Unfortunately, neither of these two films could beat the opening of one of last summer's biggest dogs: Catwoman, which opened over the same weekend last year.
Bay Flop Keeps Charlie on Top at the Box Office
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for July 22-24, 2005
By John Hamann
July 24, 2005
The number one film of the weekend is a repeat of last weekend in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Tim Burton's take on the classic Roald Dahl novel. Charlie did okay in its second weekend, earning $28.3 million from 3,790 venues, 20 more than last weekend. The Johnny Depp spectacle dropped 50% compared to its $56 million opening frame, and had a venue average of $7,467. As Tim Briody reported yesterday, Charlie fell 57% compared to its previous first Friday, but came back solidly over the rest of the weekend. As a comparison, Depp's Pirates of the Caribbean dropped 27% in its second weekend before going on to reap more than $300 million at the domestic box office. While Charlie is certainly no Pirates, any drop at or lower than 50% after a $56 million opening weekend – especially in the madness of summer box office - is a great success. In 1999, even Toy Story 2 dropped 52% after opening to $57.4 million, and it's no secret that most summer blockbusters, kid oriented or not, will plummet 50%+ after opening weekend. There is only good news here for Warner Bros., who distributed The Chocolate Factory. The film had excellent weekday returns, and crossed the $100 million mark on Saturday, only its eighth day of release. At this point, Charlie looks like a lock for at least $200 million, but it is still a little early to send a ‘Congratulations' card to the folks at WB. Charlie was not a cheap production, as it cost WB, Village Roadshow and Richard D. Zanuck $150 million to bring this one to the screen (according to IMDb). However, everything is coming up roses when you think of sequel possibilities (Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator), huge DVD sales, and endless toy sale opportunities. Currently, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sits with $114.1 million in domestic sales.
Second place this weekend is one of the biggest surprises of the summer, and it's not even an opening weekend surprise. The Wedding Crashers, New Line's comedy with the hard R rating, fell just 23% in its second weekend. The Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughan comedy scored an awesome second weekend gross of $26.2 million, not far off last weekend's stellar opening gross of $33.9 million. As a non-sequel with no special effects or huge $20 million plus stars, The Wedding Crashers is in a league of its own with that opening, and has now followed it up with one of the best comedy holds ever. Excluding sequels, animated films, Jim Carrey, Will Smith or Adam Sandler comedies, The Wedding Crashers opening was probably second best to Sweet Home Alabama, which found $35.6 million over its debut frame, but fell 40% in its second weekend. Another similar title would be the more violent Rush Hour, as the Jackie Chan comedy opened to $33 million, dropping 36% in its second frame. Rush Hour went on to earn about $141 million for New Line in 1998, a number The Wedding Crashers should easily see. So far, this $40 million New Line film has earned $80.9 million, and is just getting started.
In third, The Fantastic Four rises above the openers, but the superhero flick had another nasty drop in its third frame after dropping 59% last weekend. This weekend, the 20th Century Fox film grossed $12.3 million, a slide of 46%. The $100 million event picture has now grossed $122.6 million domestically, and should finish with about $160 million in the domestic kitty.
Fourth spot by a nose goes to the Michael Bay flop, The Island. A film with most of the ingredients for a summer blockbuster, the sci-fi flick failed to come even close to expectations this weekend, dragging down what would have been a great summer weekend at the box office. The Island pulled in an extremely slow $12.1 million over its opening frame from 3,122 venues this weekend. That equals a sad sack venue average of only $3,875 – the kiss of death for this $100 million production. For director Bay, this is by far his lowest opening ever, as moviegoers have figured out what to expect from a Michael Bay film. This Bay film lacked what the rest had – a star like Will Smith, Bruce Willis, or Sean Connery bringing audiences in on star power alone. This one starred Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johannson, two good actors, but not good enough to open a film above $20 million. In fact, I really have to wonder why studios are casting McGregor in these big films. Other than the Star Wars movies, McGregor hasn't toplined a $100 million plus film – his biggest is Big Fish at $66 million. Reviews for The Island started out strongly, but wilted as the week continued. RottenTomatoes gathered 113 reviews, and only 47 were positive leading to a rotten rating of 42%. The Island, from DreamWorks, and latecomer to the production WB, will be extremely lucky to earn half the $100 million production cost back domestically, but this one may still be successful overseas.
Fifth spot this weekend goes to The Bad News Bears, Richard Linklater's take on the 1976 classic from Paramount Pictures. The Bears scored decently this weekend, but didn't break out, with a weekend take of $11.5 million. Released quite wide to 3,183 venues (about 60 more than The Island), the Billy Bob Thornton comedy had a venue average of $3,612. Paramount had to be looking at the 2001 Keanu Reeves film Hardball as a comparison, as that baseball film filled with cursing kids opened to $9.4 million, although it was released on the weekend following the September 11th tragedy. The Bears cost Paramount about $40 million to make, and this one should have no problem grossing that much before going on to big business on DVD. For Billy Bob Thornton, this opening is very similar to Bad Santa, which found about $12.3 million when it opened over Thanksgiving weekend in 2003. Bad Santa went on to earn over $60 million at the domestic box office, and I'm sure Paramount will be hoping for a similar total for The Bad News Bears.
Sixth this weekend goes to War of the Worlds, as the Tom Cruise sci-fi flick falls faster than expected. After dropping 50% last weekend, the Steven Spielberg film grossed $8.8 million this weekend, off 42% from the previous frame. The Paramount co-production did cross the $200 million mark on Friday, its 24th day of release. It now sits with $208.3 million on the domestic front, and has more than doubled that on the overseas stage. War of the Worlds should finish with a domestic total around $250 million.
Hustle & Flow, the new urban release, got off to decent start despite placing seventh this weekend. Released to only 1,013 venues, Hustle & Flow still earned an excellent $8.1 million this weekend for Paramount Classics, finishing with the second best venue average in the top ten at $7,996. It earned almost three times its production budget over opening weekend, as this one was made for a tiny $3 million. Excellent reviews followed Hustle & Flow into theatres, with an 81% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes. Those reviews could help an expansion next weekend.
Eighth spot goes to newcomer The Devil's Rejects from Rob Zombie, as the oddball director tries to capture the similar magic as the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Audiences were obviously intrigued; the horror flick opened to $7 million from only 1,757 venues - it had an excellent venue average of $3,984 (better than the $100 million production, The Island). Rejects, a ‘follow-up' to Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses, cost more than the $7 million it took to make Corpses (Lions Gate finished with a $12.6 million on that one) and shows the director has picked up more of a following. Corpses was huge on DVD, selling over a million units, and there is no reason why this one won't do the same. For Lions Gate, Rejects is another strong title to add to their 2005 release slate. Already the upstart studio has had $50 million hits in Crash and Diary of a Mad Black Woman, and they have some strong titles still to come this year. They include Waiting with Ryan Reynolds, Anna Faris and Justin Long, A Good Woman with Helen Hunt and Scarlett Johansson, and Saw 2. It could continue to be a great year for Lions Gate.
Ninth is Batman Begins, as the WB superhero flick grossed $4.7 million in its sixth weekend. The ‘good' superhero movie dropped only 22% this weekend, and now sits with $191.1 million in domestic sales.
Tenth goes to the documentary March of the Penguins from Warner Independent Pictures. The little film that could earned a very strong $4.3 million this weekend from only 695 venues (up 563 from last weekend). It had a venue average of $6,187, and has now earned $9.2 million.
Overall, thanks mostly to the deserted Island, box office over this weekend in 2005 couldn't hold a candle to last year's success when The Bourne Supremacy and Catwoman opened to a combined $69 million. This year's top ten total came in at $123.5 million, off about 10% from last year's top ten total of $135 million. Look for more struggles next weekend when Stealth, Must Love Dogs and Sky High invade theatres.