Thank god, summer is almost over. Surprise, surprise; it's another summer weekend at the box office where critics hate the new product, but movie-goers embrace it. Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm opened this weekend along with The Cave and something called Undiscovered, hoping to earn a late summer bonanza at the North American box office. However, it was last weekend's good films – The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Red Eye – that stole the show.
A Grimm End to a Grim Summer
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for August 26-28, 2005
By John Hamann
August 28, 2005
There are very few things that I'm happy with at the box office, but thankfully this weekend's number one film is a repeat from last weekend in The 40 Year-Old Virgin, starring up and comer Steve Carell. After an opening weekend above $20 million, the Universal release held very solidly this weekend. The Judd Apatow production dropped only 23%, earning $16.4 million over its sophomore frame. Out to 2,868 venues this weekend (23 more than the previous frame), Virgin had a venue average of $5,730, the best in the top ten. The 40 Year-Old Virgin will cap off Universal's summer just the way they wanted it to. The $25 million production has now earned $48.7 million, will likely go on to make $100 million, and if The Wedding Date can make $8.5 million in first week home video rentals, look out when this one appears on DVD. The 40 Year-Old Virgin is the type of film we just don't see anymore; a good idea marketed well and embraced by North American audiences. Too many times we ignore these types of films because they aren't a safe enough bet, so kudos for making this one a winner.
The number two film is The Brothers Grimm, Terry Gilliam's first time in the director's chair since the 1998 disaster Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. While not the bomb that Fear and Loathing was, one could tell that Miramax and Disney weren't completely enamored by this production until they noticed that moviegoers were interested in it via tracking stats – and the marketing campaign began. Despite being bumped in the release schedule and endlessly tested, The Brothers Grimm did have an impact on the weekend box office. The oddball throwback (It's a comedy! No, it's a period piece!) managed to gross $15.1 million from 3,087 screens, leaving the Gilliam film with an average of $4,889. Once a diamond in the Miramax/Weinstein world, The Brothers Grimm was turned into a lump of coal by executives meddling in the production process, and the unraveling of Miramax over the last year. The marketing was a nightmare, as obviously the ad department at Dimension was stymied by how to sell The Brothers Grimm to the North American masses. Reviews weren't great. Of the 115 reviews counted at RottenTomatoes, only 45 were positive, giving the film a much less than stellar rating of 39% at the review compilation Web site. I expect Grimm to fall off quickly, leaving Disney holding the bag on most of the $80 million budget. However, this film could sell internationally, so it most likely won't carry the traumatic tag of disaster to its home video release.
Third place goes to Red Eye, last weekend's number two film featuring rising stars Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy. Red Eye held quite well in its second weekend, dropping 36% and grossing $10.4 million thanks to a strong second weekend marketing campaign from DreamWorks. Red Eye has now grossed $32.7 million, and should make it to at least $60 million. The best news for DreamWorks is that this one cost only $25 million to make, and I don't need to remind you what The Wedding Date did in rentals alone in its first week on DVD.
Fourth spot goes to Four Brothers, which is quietly turning into a decent-sized hit for Paramount. With its $45 million budget, Four Brothers never had to be a blockbuster to score for the studio (it would make that from DVD sales and rentals anyway). So, with its third weekend gross of $7.8 million (a drop of 37%), the Mark Wahlberg flick has now made $55.3 million, and becomes a decent entry for the studio. It will finish with about $80 million in domestic box office. Often, films released in August have clear sailing, as movies aren't discarded from one weekend to the next as audiences move from event film to event film like they do in June and July. For those who are mounting their BOP Feedback letters about how studios don't get all the domestic box office, marketing isn't included in the budget, blah, blah, blah, don't forget most movies make the bulk of their money when they are released on DVD/home video.
Fifth spot this weekend goes to Wedding Crashers, one of the very few bright spots from the summer box office in 2005. The New Line comedy earned $6.3 million in its seventh weekend, dropping only 22% (despite shedding almost 200 venues). For those still playing along at home, Crashers, since its release, saw weekend-to-weekend drops of 24%, 22%, 20%, 26%, 32% and now 22%. You just don't see that at movies anymore, unless you're Mel Gibson/Christ, Napoleon Dynamite or having a Big Fat Greek Wedding. Crashers has now earned $187.7 million at the domestic box office, over $40 million at the overseas box office (equaling its production budget), and I'm sure New Line will be pushing for a Christmas DVD release to take advantage of holiday shoppers.
Sixth goes to The Cave, Screen Gems' latest lowbrow horror release, a la Anacondas. The Cave managed to fool North Americans into giving it $6.2 million this weekend from a slim venue count of 2,195 – it earned an average of $2,824. Critics were decidedly un-thrilled by the Alien/Pitch Black rip off, as only seven reviewers liked it out of a possible 59 (the other 60 critics RT usually has didn't chime in – I wonder why). Screen Gems and Lakeshore Entertainment spent $30 million on this drivel, and while I applaud you movie-goers for turning it into a theatrical flop, I beg you to avoid it on home video, or we'll only get more of the same (ah screw it, we'll only get more of the same anyway).
Usually by this spot in this column, we're left with the dregs and the leftovers at the box office. The last couple of weekends have held a gem in the lower rungs, Warner Independent Pictures' March of the Penguins. The little film that could earned another $4.6 million from 2,394 venues this weekend (up 292 from the last frame). Penguins has now earned $55.7 million on a budget of less than $10 million. Wouldn't it be nice if all films were like this? It's a good, entertaining film made for less than the GDP of a small country.
The Skeleton Key ends up in eighth this weekend, as audiences aren't supporting this one after a decent opening weekend. In its third frame, the Kate Hudson creeper earned $4.4 million, down 43%. Made for about $45 million, The Skeleton Key has now earned $37.9 million at the domestic box office and should finish with about $60 million before winning the lottery on DVD.
Ninth spot goes to Disney's Valiant, the discarded animated flick from Vanguard Entertainment. With no support from its distributor, Valiant earned $3.4 million in its second weekend, carrying a drop of 43%. Made for less than $40 million, Valiant has now earned $11.6 million, but don't worry, Disney will still make a fortune off Valiant on home video.
Tenth spot goes to those Duke Boys, whose General Lee exploded into a million pieces after a huge opening weekend. After debuting with over $30 million, The Dukes of Hazzard has seen drops of 58% and 54%, and now has a fourth weekend drop of 49%. It earned $3 million this weekend, and while we might expect a blockbuster that opens over $30 million to do at least $90 million in domestic business, this one won't make it, as it has earned $74.4 million and should be tuckered out by $85 million at best.
Undiscovered, the new film from Lions Gate, opened horribly this weekend, finishing well back of the pack after earning only $690,000 from 1,304 venues this weekend. Lions Gate most likely won't make back the cost of making prints. The other happy news story this weekend is that Supercross, one of last weekend's openers, dropped 72% and had a venue average of $231 from 1,621 venues this weekend. Both scores are of the remarkably bad variety.
Overall, box office was quite close to last year's totals when Miramax's Hero opened to $18 million and Anacondas debuted with $12.8 million. Last year, the top ten films earned about $78.9 million. This year, the top ten films are estimated at $77.6 million, lower by just a few percentage points.