It was a wacky weekend at the box office. It's hard to believe that a movie that received only two positive notices from a nation of film critics can gross over $25 million in a weekend at the box office, but it happened, again. Big Momma's House 2 opened this weekend, and like last weekend's Underworld: Evolution, Big Momma did more business than it had any right to. What might be even stranger is that Annapolis, which has been in the can for ages and stars no one, managed to open over $7 million. Lastly, we have Nanny McPhee, a British import, which opened to over $14 million, despite a debut on only 1,995 screens.
Big Momma, Nanny McPhee Drive Box Office
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for January 27-29, 2006
By John Hamann
January 29, 2006
The number one film of the weekend (whether I like it or not) is Big Momma's House 2, Martin Lawrence's comeback picture, after, well, Rebound. Big Momma's House 2 somehow grossed $28 million this weekend from a huge-for-comedy 3,261 venues, giving it a venue average of $8,586. Sure to be a memory in no time, Big Momma's House 2 garnered only two positive reviews out of a possible 28, leaving it destined to be one of the worst reviewed films of the year, and we're only in January. A lack of straight comedy at movie theatres right now might have led to the big opening, but we also have to look at the Martin Lawrence factor. As much as it would seem that Lawrence has disappeared over the last few years (the horrible Rebound didn't help things), his opening weekend track record is actually quite good. Over ten years since 1995, only three of Martin Lawrence's 12 films have opened under $10 million (Rebound, Runteldat, The Thin Line Between Love and Hate). However, his opening-to-total box office multiplier is brutal. Leaving out Bad Boys 2, and despite all those $10 million-plus openings, his average total domestic box office is only $48.4 million, and that includes the $117.6 million that the original Big Momma made. Martin Lawrence hasn't been hot since 1999, when Blue Streak (opening $19.2 million, total $68.2 million) and Big Momma's House ($25.7 million open, $117.6 million total) opened. The original Big Momma was actually quite leggy, finding an opening-to-total multiplier of 4.6; that's not going to happen this time around, as I expect a plunge next weekend of the 50% plus variety. For Fox, this is a big win, as the production budget was most likely in the $40-$50 million range.
Second spot goes to Nanny McPhee, Emma Thompson's shot at becoming the new Mary Poppins. Nanny McPhee surprised me, grossing $14.1 million this weekend from only 1,995 venues. Because of the low screen count, Nanny McPhee had an excellent venue average of $7,060, not far behind the number one film. Like Big Momma, Nanny McPhee took advantage of good timing; Chronicles of Narnia is now in the lower rungs of the top ten, and Hoodwinked is a few weekends old. Unlike Big Momma, Nanny McPhee used good reviews and a charming ad campaign to increase ticket sales. At RottenTomatoes, Nanny McPhee received 91 reviews, of which 65 were positive, leading to a fresh rating of 71%. The top ten needed a fresh film. In the top ten this weekend only three films were critically fresh: Nanny, Brokeback Mountain and a new entry, The Matador.
Nanny McPhee is a small film, and it is great to see it off to a huge start in North America. Emma Thompson, much like Martin Lawrence, has been MIA at movie theatres for the last few years. After appearing in nine films between 1993 and 1998, she has only appeared in four mainstream films in eight years; however, one of them was a small part in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Her next film is Stranger than Fiction with Will Ferrell, from director Marc Forster (Finding Neverland). For production companies Universal, MGM, and Working Title Films (amongst others), Nanny McPhee is a huge hit no matter how it does over the rest of its domestic run. Nanny McPhee did the opposite of the usual, opening internationally before heading to North American theatres. Over its international run, Nanny earned $35 million against a production budget of about $34 million, meaning the North American run will be gravy for those involved. With any expansion whatsoever next weekend, look for Nanny McPhee to get ahead of Big Momma's House 2 in the next frame.
Third place goes to Underworld: Evolution, which got sent back down to earth in a hurry over its second weekend. Underworld 2 grossed only $11.1 million in its second weekend, down a very high - and not completely unexpected - 59% compared to its opening weekend. The original dropped a similar 57% in 2003, so I doubt the drop is a surprise to many. So far, the Screen Gems release has earned $44.3 million, a decent figure for all involved.
We have another complete surprise in fourth this weekend as Annapolis grossed more than it had any right to. Shot back in 2004, Annapolis found a way to get some of the stink off of it, and grossed $7.7 million in its debut weekend. While that may not seem like much, this had straight-to-video written all over it, but now will earn $20 million at the North American box office. This one almost had worse reviews than Big Momma. Annapolis gathered 74 reviews at RT, and only seven were positive, leading to a fresh rating of 9%. Is James Franco a bigger star than I realize, and if so, why didn't teen girls see Tristan and Isolde? Did the teaming of Jordana Brewster (Fast and The Furious) and Tyrese Gibson (2 Fast 2 Furious) help? I don't know, but after this debut combined with Big Momma's House 2, I worry about the kids of today.
Fifth this weekend goes to Hoodwinked, the little animated film that did. Hoodwinked, now in its third weekend, grossed $7.4 million from 3,020 venues. It was down 29% compared to last weekend, mostly due to the appearance of Nanny McPhee. Still, the independently animated Hoodwinked has earned $37.7 million so far against a budget of only $15 million. Hoodwinked should still make it to about $50 million, which will be a huge feather in the cap of The Weinstein Company.
Sixth place goes to Brokeback Mountain, which despite adding 458 venues this weekend, failed to earn more this weekend than it did last weekend. Brokeback Mountain, the early favorite for a Best Picture Oscar, grossed $6.4 million this weekend from 1,652 venues. It dropped 15% compared to last weekend, but still had a strong venue average of $3,841. So far, the gay cowboy film has grossed $50.8 million, and should be strong next weekend after Oscar nominations are released on Tuesday.
Glory Road takes the seventh place position. The basketball film from Buena Vista grossed $5.1 million, down a large 41% from the previous frame. It now sits with a total of $34.8 million.
Eighth spot goes to Queen Latifah's Last Holiday, which after a strong opening, was never able to gain traction in the top ten. Last Holiday grossed $4.8 million in its third weekend, also down a big 45% compared to last weekend. Last Holiday spends its last weekend in the top ten with a total gross so far of $32.6 million, against a budget of about $45 million.
The Chronicles of Narnia ends up in ninth this weekend, falling three spots from a sixth place finish last weekend. Chronicles grossed $4.4 million in its eighth frame, down 29% compared to last weekend. The big Christmas movie of 2005 now sits with an impressive total of $277.8 million, just short of the $279 million Meet the Fockers grossed over Christmas the previous year.
Tenth goes to the other Weinstein Company film in the top ten, The Matador with Pierce Brosnan. After a few weekends in limited release, The Matador went wide this weekend with mixed results. The film grossed $3.8 million from 885 venues, good for an average of $4,342, the fourth best in the top ten. The total for this $12 million film now sits at $5.5 million.
Overall, box office was strong, but not strong enough to keep up with last year. The top ten this weekend grossed $93 million, which isn't a bad total at all. Last year, on the strength of Hide and Seek with Robert DeNiro and Dakota Fanning, the top ten earned about $97.5 million, leaving this year in the dust. However, this weekend ended about $15 million ahead of 2004 totals.