With nothing to laugh at over the last couple of weeks at the box office (other than the juvenile Ice Age 2 of course), teenagers rushed to see Napoleon Dynamite 2/The Benchwarmers this weekend, and the gross for the critically-reviled movie is higher than expected. Nothing was moving reigning champ Ice Age: The Meltdown from top spot this weekend after a gross of $68 million in its last frame, but the gross for The Meltdown is actually lower than expected. New openers The Benchwarmers and Take The Lead may have bled the second weekend gross of Ice Age 2 somewhat, but after crossing the $100 million mark after only eight days, no one at Fox Animation should be concerned.
Benchwarmers, Sequelitis, Slow Ice Age 2 at the Box Office
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for April 7-9, 2006
By John Hamann
April 9, 2006
As expected, Ice Age 2 is again the number one film at the box office, but the story this weekend is not as good for the animated Fox product as it was in the last frame. After grossing a huge $68 million in its opening frame (although about $2 million less than the original estimate last weekend), Ice Age 2 dropped precipitously this weekend, and finished with about $7-8 million less than expected. In its second frame, Ice Age 2 grossed $34.5 million, equaling a huge drop of 49%, although like last weekend, that number could drop further tomorrow. Now at 3,969 venues (five more than last weekend), the Meltdown earned an average of $8,692. To illustrate how big the drop is, let's look at the original Ice Age. The original appearance of the lovable prehistoric animals grossed $46.3 million in its first weekend, but in the weekend following, dropped a very soft 35% to a gross of $30.1 million, very similar to what the sequel did this weekend. Don't get me wrong – no one was looking for a 35% drop from this sequel, 40-45% was expected, but not 50%. The second weekend drop here defines the current movie-going trend in 2006 – turn ‘em and burn ‘em. Fox Animation won't give a rat's ass if the drop is this high, their movie still earned $100 million in eight days (against a budget of $80 million), as the opening weekend is the fattest part of the contract with exhibitors. Movie theatres give as much as 90% back to studios in the opening weekend for a blockbuster like Ice Age 2. After the opening frame, the marketing department moves on to the next big thing (in this case, The Sentinel, with Kiefer Sutherland and Michael Douglas). The gross after ten days for Ice Age 2 stands at $116.4 million, and should face another tough weekend in the next frame with Disney's The Wild opening over the Easter frame.
One of the reasons why Ice Age 2 is lower than expected is that the gross of The Benchwarmers is higher than expected. The Jon Heder follow-up to Napoleon Dynamite rocked the box office this weekend, grossing a much higher than expected $20.5 million from 3,274 venues. It had a venue average of $6,261. The lesser stars of this movie, Rob Schneider and David Spade, haven't seen a hit like this in years. Schneider opened The Animal to $19.6 million in 2001, but had Survivor flavor of the month Colleen Haskell to help that open. David Spade has never really been involved with a hit film, unless it was animated and he wasn't the main draw (Rugrats, Racing Stripes). The real story of The Benchwarmers is Jon Heder, who makes his character in this one look like Napoleon Dynamite, the loser from the cult hit of the same name. Napoleon Dynamite was made for two rocks and stick, and ended up earning $45 million at the domestic box office, after earning over $1 million for 12 consecutive weekends. That film earned Heder a cult following, especially with young teens (the crossover audience for Ice Age 2), but he may have blown that following by appearing in The Benchwarmers. After being embargoed by the studio, early reviews are not kind whatsoever. So far, with only 24 reviews counted, The Benchwarmers only has three reviews of the positive variety. Still, with this opening, this comedy is obviously review proof, and is going to be at least a $55 million film for Sony, a hit on home video, and it carried a negative cost of only $35 million for the studio.
Third this weekend goes to Take the Lead, the new ballroom dance movie with Antonio Banderas. This is another film that would have hurt Ice Age 2, as it stole its crossover audience of young females, much like Benchwarmers stole the younger males. Take the Lead grossed an impressive $12.8 million this weekend from a larger-than-expected 3,009 venues. It had a decent venue average of $4,245, lower due to the large amount of screens. This is a solid start for a dance movie, even if it's not the $27.5 million that Save the Last Dance opened to. With the big screen count and so-so reviews, this one is going nowhere but down, but it is still a good start for the New Line release.
Fourth this weekend goes to the Inside Man, which had another decent frame, but one that will not help it get to the $100 million mark. Inside Man grossed $9.2 million in its third frame, down 41% from last weekend. The Denzel Washington/Jodie Foster/Clive Owen flick has now grossed $66.1 million, against a published budget figure of $45 million. At this point, Inside Man looks to finish between $90 and $100 million.
Lucky Number Slevin didn't get off to a very good start, as older males chose other activities this weekend. The noir flick with Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman earned a lower-than-expected but not disastrous $7.1 million from a slight 1,984 venues. It had a venue average of $3,593. Slevin is another flick leftover from MGM, and budget data isn't available. Critics were mixed at best on this one, as RottenTomatoes counted 106 reviews, and only 50 of those were positive. Expect this one to slip away, and be a minor hit on DVD.
Failure to Launch finds itself in sixth this weekend with a gross of $4.1 million. That's a drop this weekend of 37%, one of the lower drops in this weekend's top ten. So far, the critically despised comedy has earned $79.1 million, and may make it to $90 million.
ATL gets crushed in its second weekend after a surprisingly high gross of $11.6 million in its first frame. ATL was abandoned in its second weekend with a gross of only $3.8 million, resulting in a painful drop of 68%. The WB flick now has a gross of $17.3 million.
V for Vendetta lands in eighth this weekend, as it continues its slide out of the top ten. V for Vendetta grossed $3.4 million in its fourth frame, off 47% compared to last weekend. Vendetta, also a WB product, has now earned a disappointing $62.3 million.
Ninth goes to Phat Girlz, a Fox Searchlight product. Out to a very low 1,065 venues, Phat Girlz managed a gross of $3.1 million. It had a venue average of $2,935. This is another opener this weekend that critics didn't like much, with only three positive reviews at RottenTomatoes.
Tenth this weekend goes to indie darling Thank You For Smoking, another Fox Searchlight product, this one already twice as successful as Phat Girlz, but via a tiny amount of venues. The comedy with Aaron Eckhart and Katie Holmes grossed $2.4 million this weekend from only 300 venues, leaving its average of $8,000 just a few hundred dollars behind that of Ice Age 2. In four weekends, Thank You has now earned $6.3 million, and the finish this weekend should give it some much needed publicity.
Overall, the box office just had to show up to beat last year. Over the same weekend in 2005, the top ten earned only $76 million when Sahara opened to $18.1 million. In 2004, over the April 9th - 11th weekend, the top ten earned about $90 million, which is also below what the top ten earned this weekend. The top ten for this weekend earned about $100.8 million, and should stay above last year's figures until at least the end of April.