It's almost sad to be excited about a good movie topping the box office, but it happened this weekend and is so rare that it should be celebrated. V For Vendetta opened and won by a landslide, but it failed to cross the $30 million mark over its debut weekend, dooming the overall box office versus last year. The other opener, She's the Man, also got off to a decent start, but after week after week of bad films, overall box office continues to struggle.
Vendetta Gets the V at Soft Weekend Box Office
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for March 17-19, 2006
By John Hamann
March 19, 2006
The number one film of the weekend is V For Vendetta, the slick comic book movie starring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving, and produced by the Wachowski Brothers. V had an opening weekend of $26.1 million from 3,365 venues, good for an average of $7,766. While this is a strong opening frame, the debut lives in a poorer neighborhood than The Matrix, which opened to $27.8 million, way back in 1999 and on 500 fewer screens than Vendetta. If we were to adjust the opening of The Matrix for inflation, the opening would have been in the $33 to $34 million range. In terms of historical March openings, V for Vendetta is way back of the pack – even behind the $28.1 million Starsky & Hutch opening weekend in 2004 and Spy Kids' $26.6 debut in 2001. This less than blockbuster start has to be concerning to studios and exhibitors as the trend continues to toward a softening of overall box office. WB has to look into the mirror and decide whether they picked the right opening weekend. V had to fight off the beginning of the NCAA basketball championships and St Patrick's Day, and had an R rating to deal with. There is good news this weekend, though, and that is the fact that Eight Below (which opened a month ago) is no longer the only film in the top ten with good reviews. At RottenTomatoes, V For Vendetta grabbed 137 reviews, and 102 of them were positive, leading to a fresh rating of 74%.
For Warner Bros., who serves as both worldwide distributor and one of the production companies, V will be a big win for the studio. Somehow the Wachowskis, Joel Silver and director James McTeigue were able to keep the budget on this one in the $50 million range instead of the $100 million plus level we have seen with other big tentpole releases. The lack of a Keanu Reeves type of name would have helped keep costs down (and reviews on the good side), but may have impacted the opening weekend. Great casting choices of Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman may also help this one in the legs department, as word-of-mouth on V is already good.
Second spot goes to the opposite of V for Vendetta in Failure to Launch, a comedy that was absolutely brutalized by critics. After a better-than-expected start last weekend, Failure is more close to its title this weekend. Failure to Launch grossed $15.8 million in its second weekend, off 35% from the previous frame, despite Paramount adding another 60 venues. Now at 3,117 venues, the Sarah Jessica Parker/Matthew McConaughey flick had a venue average of $5,073. From Paramount, this $50 million production has now earned $48.5 million, and is on its way to $80 or $90 million.
Third place goes to Tim Allen and The Shaggy Dog remake, as the Disney release tries to keep some momentum after its disappointing debut. In its sophomore frame, The Shaggy Dog grossed $13.6 million, and picked up some speed with a drop of only 17%. With no family competition until Ice Age 2 at the end of the month, Shaggy should have free rein again next weekend. Right now, the total sits at $35.9 million, most likely in the vicinity of its budget.
She's the Man, the second of only two openers this weekend, finishes in fourth spot, but with a respectable total. She's the Man grossed $11 million from 2,623 venues this weekend, good for an average of $4,198. Usually, I feel embarrassed for the filmmakers of these types of films; however, this one seems a little better than the usual. She's the Man actually got some decent reviews, with 35 reviewers out of 70 finding something to like. From DreamWorks and Lakeshore Entertainment, this one was most likely made for a song, and after an opening weekend above $10 million, should put a smile on some executive faces as well.
The Hills Have Eyes did the expected this weekend, and dropped large in its second frame. Hills grossed $8.1 million in its second weekend, down a large 49% from its debut frame, but it could have been much worse. Like most of the horror films released this year, this one was also made on the cheap. Hills was made for $15 million, and has now grossed $28.8 million, so if it tumbles 50% for the rest of its weekends in release, no one will care (except for maybe exhibitors).
The rest of the top ten is just sad, and is the reason last year's totals continue to trump this year's totals. Sixth spot goes to 16 Blocks, the Bruce Willis actioner that has done moderate business so far. 16 Blocks grossed $4.7 million in its third weekend, off 36% from the previous frame. The WB flick has now grossed $30.2 million, and will finish with between $40 and $50 million.
Eight Below, the only other film out of ten with good reviews, finishes in seventh. In its fifth weekend, Eight Below grossed $4.2 million, off only 25% from the previous frame. The other Disney dog movie has now grossed $73.1 million, and is one of the few big successes so far this year.
Madea's Family Reunion continues to struggle after its huge opening weekend and finds itself in eighth spot. Madea grossed $3 million in its fourth frame, and was off 48% compared to last weekend. The $6 million dollar picture has now grossed $60.1 million, and will be one of the best cost-to-domestic-gross pictures of the year.
Ninth goes to The Pink Panther, mostly because there is nothing else worth seeing at movie theatres right now. The Pink Panther has now spent six weekends in the top ten, and had a gross this weekend of $2.5 million. The Steve Martin comedy was off 32% this weekend, and has a total so far of $78.6 million.
Tenth goes to Aquamarine (if you were expecting Ultraviolet, it was off 62% and landed in 11th this weekend). Aquamarine grossed $2 million this weekend and has now pulled in $15.7 million.
Overall, the news isn't good, as the box office this weekend is off 10% versus last year. Over the same weekend in 2005, the top ten grossed about $103 million. This year, this top ten could only pull in a disappointing $92 million, and unless V for Vendetta has some serious legs, the trend should continue for awhile.