Four new releases hit theaters, all hoping to grab some sort of toehold before the onslaught of summer films sinks them quickly. Probably the most talked-about movie opening this weekend is United 93, the Paul Greengrass film about the September 11th plane where the passengers fought back. Other openers included ‘Bring It On Lite' in Stick It, and Robin William's foray into camp with RV. Would the all-of-a-sudden hot box office cool before summer? Would United 93 prove to be a Fahrenheit 9/11 hit? The real question may be whether any opener this weekend can gross more than $7 million next weekend against Mission Impossible 3.
RV Carries Hot Box Office Into Summer
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for April 28-30, 2006
By John Hamann
April 30, 2006
The phrase of the weekend is ‘like-it-or-not' over the last frame of spring at the box office. RV is the number one film this weekend, like it or not. The Robin Williams comedy (a Vacation look alike), grossed $16.4 million this weekend from 3,639 venues. The Sony film managed a not-very-good venue average of $4,506 (only the third best in the top ten), and had an extremely family-friendly weekend multiplier of 3.5, which is huge. For Robin Williams, who once opened Patch Adams to $25.3 million, this is his best live action debut since Insomnia in 2002, where Al Pacino helped him open that one to $20.9 million. Williams did help open Fox Animation's Robots to $36 million, but I think most people didn't realize he was in it. Like the director of RV, Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black), Robin Williams seems to have lost his way in Hollywood, and RV is no help for getting back on track. Critics were not at all fond of RV, as critics hammered it for being unfunny, but at least the opening is above $15 million. RV managed only 17 positive reviews at RottenTomatoes out of a possible 77, giving it a horrid fresh rating of 22%, by far the worst of the openers. If you can't get by something like Stick It in terms of reviews, your ship has pretty much sunk.
The race for second this weekend was between Stick It, which did better than expected, and United 93. The winner of the race was the fantastic United 93, which had a solid weekend gross of $11.6 million. Released to only 1,795 venues, the Universal film had a venue average of $6,465, far and away the best in the top ten. United 93 was a tough gamble for Universal. Is it too early? Is the subject matter still to sensitive for your target audience? I think the idea of getting someone like Paul Greengrass to direct was very smart, along with casting relative unknowns. In no way did Universal exploit the tragedy of 9/11. They marketed this one like a documentary, like they weren't looking to cash in on the lives of these ordinary people. Did it pay off? I think it did in a way; there was no real backlash against United 93, and the opening weekend gross is certainly respectable for a film with a little-known director and an unknown cast. Reviews as expected were excellent, with most of the negative ones crying "too early" or "I can't take this". Of the 123 reviews counted at RT, only nine gave it a thumbs down, leaving Untied 93 with a fresh rating of 93%, one of the best ratings so far this year. Where this one goes from here, I don't know. Can word-of-mouth spread for a film like this? Time will tell, as its serious nature could be good counter-programming against the summer fluff.
Third then goes to Stick It, which had an opening weekend gross of $11.3 million, only about $350,000 behind United 93, and much better than some expected. Stick It is a Buena Vista film scripted and directed by the writer of Bring It On. Bring It On was a cheerleader film released in 2000 that featured Kirsten Dunst as a cheerleader (give me a moment while I compose myself). Bring It On was released before Dunst's crushing success in the Spiderman films, and still managed to open to $17.4 million from only 2,380 venues, giving it an average RV truly envies. Stick It comes four years later, and this time the cheerleaders are gymnasts, and instead of Kirsten Dunst you have, well, Jeff Bridges. After a decade of working in great films like The Contender and Seabiscuit, Bridges works for the paycheck here and critics weren't happy. Of the 64 critics that saw it (United 93 had twice the total reviews of this bow-wow), only 19 liked it, leaving it with a rating of 30%. Luckily for Disney, this one was critic-proof, and the teenagers that saw it got it over $10 million. Unless schoolyard word-of-mouth is truly amazing, Stick It will go up with the many explosions seen next weekend in Mission: Impossible III.
Fourth this weekend goes to last weekend's critic-proof outing, and number one film in Silent Hill. The Sony project did the expected and nosedived from $20.2 million last weekend to $9.3 million this weekend. That's a brutal drop of 54% compared to last weekend, but sadly, fairly normal for the genre. Currently, this $50 million dollar picture has earned $34.2 million, and will most likely struggle to match its production figure (but the opening weekend still indicates a sequel or even a franchise).
Scary Movie 4 falls to fifth this weekend, as the wheels begin to fall off this one. After plunging 58% in its sophomore frame last weekend, the horror-spoof couldn't pull up much this weekend. It finished the frame with a weekend gross of $7.8 million, and another nasty drop of 54%. Currently, SM4 has $78.2 million in the kitty, and looks to be the lowest grossing Scary Movie after Scary Movie 2, which isn't saying much.
The Sentinel with Michael Douglas and Kiefer Sutherland finishes sixth this weekend, and surprisingly was unable to pass Scary Movie 4 and Silent Hill in the weekend rankings. The Sentinel grossed only $7.6 million in its second weekend, down a larger than expected 47%. For a thriller with the names it has and a current gross of $25.5 million, Fox can't be very happy, although they will be pleased with two films in the top ten.
Ice Age: The Meltdown is another sequel that slid down the top ten much quicker than expected, especially after Disney's The Wild crashed and burned so hard. In its fifth weekend, the Fox Animation product grossed $7.1 million, off a much larger than expected 47% from the previous frame. Looks like The Meltdown will finish with less than $200 million despite an opening weekend of $68 million. Currently it has $177.7 million in the domestic kitty against a budget of $80 million.
Like it or not, a great film in Akeelah and the Bee finishes in eighth this weekend, but it still managed a respectable gross. From Lionsgate, Akeelah and the Bee grossed a sturdy $6.3 million from 2,195 venues this weekend. That gives it an okay venue average of $2,847, and like United 93, this one may counter-program quite well against Mission: Impossible III.
The Wild finishes in ninth spot this weekend with a gross of $4.7 million. It dropped a heavy 43%. Had it not been for a release date so close to Ice Age 2, this one may well have worked. In reality, though, it didn't and will most likely leave the top ten with a domestic gross so far of $28.4 million.
The Benchwarmers finished tenth this weekend, and despite its low ranking in its fourth weekend, the folks at Sony have to be really happy with the end result of this one. This weekend, The Benchwarmers grossed $4.4 million, off a decent 39%. The good news for Sony is that The Benchwarmers has grossed $52.8 million, far more than it had any right to. Surprisingly, this could have been a $100 million dollar picture had it been released in June.
Overall this weekend, box office was again up over last year, but really that's not saying much. Last year, with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on top, the top ten at the box office grossed about $77.5 million. This year, with three films grossing more than $10 million, the box office rang up $86.2 million. The key versus last year, though, will happen next weekend, when Mission: Impossible III faces off against Kingdom of Heaven (snicker) and Paramount laughs all the way to the bank.