After a very long wait, the box office is finally rolling now, hot even after a long period of discontent. The Easter long weekend saw the debut of Scary Movie 4 and The Wild, with the popular spoof franchise continuing to post extremely solid opening weekend numbers. Disney's The Wild on the other hand, had to deal with Ice Age 2 this weekend, and unending comparisons to Madagascar, DreamWorks' hit from only a summer ago. The story of the weekend, though, is Scary Movie 4, and how it turned a usually quiet holiday weekend into a box office bonanza.
Scary Movie 4, Ice Age 2 Rise to Beat Box Office; Wild Wallows
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for April 14-16, 2006
By John Hamann
April 16, 2006
Box office history has told us that unless you are The Passion of the Christ, the box office usually does not rise and meet expectations over the Easter frame, but this year is a different story. Last year, Easter fell on the March 25th - 27th weekend, and the top ten failed to earn a combined $90 million. Over that weekend in 2005, Miss Congeniality 2 flopped, earning only $14 million over its opening frame, while getting trounced by Guess Who, the Ashton Kucher movie that somehow earned over $20 million over its debut weekend. In 2004, things were even worse. That Easter weekend fell on April 11th, and The Passion of the Christ was still dominating in week seven. The Passion saw its gross rise over 40% to $15 million, and crossed the $350 million mark in domestic grosses. The Passion left five new films flailing, as films with at least opening weekend potential (if they didn't suck) like The Alamo and The Whole Ten Yards, packed it in after a single frame. In 2004, the top ten films again earned less than $90 million, about $40 million behind what the box office earned over Easter 2006. I think studios need to change their thinking that Easter is a non-movie holiday, as you will see by this weekend's top ten films.
The number one film of the weekend is Scary Movie 4, as it slides into its usual spot, between $40 and $50 million for its opening frame. Scary Movie 4 grossed an impressive $41 million this weekend, if anything, slightly below expectations. Released to a huge 3,602 venues, Dr. Phil's debut performance earned a venue average of $11,388. The Scary Movie franchise has been very profitable for at first Miramax, and now The Weinstein Company, who can finance many art films with the grosses from this one. The first Scary Movie came along in July of 2000 and opened to $42.3 million, while the second tumbled hard earning only $20.5 million over its opening frame. Scary Movie 2 was the disappointment in the group, as it became the only part of the franchise to fail to earn $100 million at the domestic box office. It was at that point that David Zucker took over from Keenen Ivory Wayans, and brought some fresh ideas to the laugh-a-minute franchise. Audiences were pleased, and Scary Movie 3 opened to $48.1 million in October of 2003. The nice thing about these movies for the studio is that they are cheap to make. Never has one cost more than $50 million, although the marketing campaigns must be very expensive. And while they may fall off quickly theatrically, there's a lot more to be earned on DVD. Critics were surprisingly mixed (I expected a lot worse). RottenTomatoes found 68 reviews, and 27 were positive, leading to a 40% fresh rating, which is twice as good as Disney's The Wild.
After plunging a decidedly scary 50% last weekend, Ice Age: The Meltdown picked it up somewhat over the Easter weekend. The Fox Animation/Blue Sky Studios production earned a tidy $20 million this weekend, dropping a much better 41%. Easter has always been a funny weekend for movies. Some kids have Friday and Monday off, although Sunday is busy with portions of the population finding Easter eggs, while others look for something else to do. Last weekend, Ice Age 2 grossed $33.8 million over three days, after earning $8.6 million last Friday. This Friday, Ice Age: The Meltdown earned a very similar $7.9 million, and as we know earned $20 million over the holiday frame. Because kids had Friday off, the gross was similar; however, earnings waned over the rest of the weekend. Whatever the case, Ice Age 2 has now earned $147.2 million after three weekends, where as the original was at $116.8 over the same amount of time. The Meltdown should earn as much as $215 million at the domestic box office, with a whole bunch more coming from overseas business and still more coming from release on DVD.
The Benchwarmers manages a third place finish this weekend, after finishing with close to $20 million in the previous frame. The "comedy", as expected, fell on its face this weekend, earning $10 million from 3,282 venues. It dropped a serious 49%, and had a venue average of $3,046. This could have been much worse. I think over a normal, non-holiday weekend, this one chucks more than 50%, and finishes further down the list. Sony, Revolution Films, and Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions have to be happy with a two weekend gross of $36 million from The Benchwarmers (they should all send Jon Heder flowers, or maybe just the production team behind Napoleon Dynamite).
What's worse for The Wild?: A) getting creamed by the third weekend of Fox's Ice Age franchise B) finishing behind The Benchwarmers or C) the constant comparisons to the DreamWorks film, Madagascar (personally I'd say B; if you can't beat Spade and Schneider with a kids' CG film, you should be out of a job). Disney's The Wild is literally DOA, and quite lucky to get the gross it did this weekend, given the lack of marketing and effort. The Wild grossed a shallow $9.6 million this weekend from 2,854 venues, a screen count that tells me that the studio wasn't quite sure what to do with this one. It had an ugly average of $3,349. While not quite the loser of the Valiant variety ($5.9 million opening weekend), this is still grotesque given that CG animation has been almost bulletproof since its inception. The roughest part of this for Disney (who distributed but didn't produce) is the horrible reviews. The Wild managed only 14 positive reviews out of 72, giving it a rough rotten rating at RottenTomatoes of 19%. Even Valiant did better than that, with a 27% rating at RT. Watch The Wild disappear in a hurry, and have a low voltage debut on DVD. This is good medicine for the folks at Disney, as obviously now they have learned that every CG film does not stick to the proverbial wall.
Take the Lead, another film that got off to a good start last weekend, finished fifth in its second frame. Take the Lead grossed $6.7 million this weekend, mostly off of the back of Antonio Banderas, whose career has picked up a bit since his turn in Shrek 2. Now at 3,009 venues, the school dance movie had an average of $2,226 and saw of drop of 44% compared to its opening frame. The New Line drama has now earned $22.5 million after ten days of release.
Inside Man drops to sixth this weekend, but after four weekends of release, that's not bad at all. The Inside Man grossed $6.3 million this weekend, off a slim 31% compared to the previous frame. A little more marketing may push this one towards $100 million, but with a total so far of $75.3 million, even that's a bit of a stretch. Still, this $50 million film has been a great investment for Universal.
Lucky Number Slevin falls to seventh this weekend. The Bruce Willis/Morgan Freeman actioner grossed $4.6 million this weekend, down a not-bad 35% from its debut frame. The Weinsteins have not given up on this one, as the marketing easily beat out that of opener The Wild, with more TV ads this week than for the kids flick. Slevin is still sliding too fast, and a with a gross so far of $14.1 million, it's going to need a miracle to be remembered in a year.
Indie darling Thank You For Smoking sees its stock rise this weekend, but with 716 more venues to work with, the gross could have been better. Thank You grossed $4.5 million this weekend from 1,015 venues, good for an average of $4,384 (third best in the top ten). The Fox Searchlight production raised its gross by 93% this weekend, and now has a cume of $11.5 million.
Ninth goes to Failure to Launch, which seems to be refusing to die. This movie, which more resembles Frankenstein's monster, took in $2.6 million this weekend, falling 37%. The Paramount flick has now earned an inexplicable $83.2 million.
Tenth this weekend goes to V for Vendetta, as the Wachowski Brothers spend their last weekend in the top ten. V grossed $2.2 million, off 36% from last weekend. After five weekends of release, V has earned a disappointing $66 million.
Overall this weekend, box office continued its dominance over last year; however, again, it's really just a matter of showing up. The top ten this weekend earned about $107.3 million, yards ahead of the same weekend in 2005, which earned about $72 million.