It was hot August nights at movie theatres, as a trio of new films all found different kinds of success. After a so-so frame last weekend with the debuts of Miami Vice and The Ant Bully, the box office was kicked back into high gear with the release of Will Ferrell's new film, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Also out were The Barnyard, the third new CG release over consecutive weekends, and something that has become one of the rarer animals in the movie business these days: a well-reviewed horror film in The Descent.
Will Ferrell Crashes Box Office with Talladega Nights
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for August 4-6, 2006
By John Hamann
August 6, 2006
The number one film of the weekend is Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Will Ferrell's return to huge business following two misses last year with Bewitched and Kicking & Screaming. Ricky Bobby earned a huge $47 million from 3,803 venues, giving the NASCAR flick an average of $12,358. This kind of huge opening gross proves that Talladega Nights played not only to the NASCAR crowd, but played strongly on both coasts as well. The Friday figure for Talladega Nights came in at $18.2 million, which means Ricky Bobby earned a weekend multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross) of 2.6. That's an excellent figure considering the size of the built-in audience, the time of year, and Sony's aggressive ambush marketing.
Talladega Nights worked because of Ferrell and the marketing. Flicking around the channels on Friday night, I found Ferrell and John C. Reilly hamming it up – in character – on Larry King Live, and that's just a single example. These guys were literally everywhere, making awareness huge heading into the weekend. The TV ads for this one were also fantastic; the bit with Ferrell driving the knife into his leg probably sold $20 million in tickets alone. After all of the questionable marketing choices we have seen this summer, this one is simply the best, and I hope Ferrell sees a large back-end of the profits made from Talladega Nights.
Those profits could be huge for Sony, despite a big budget of $85 million. Reviews for The Ballad of Ricky Bobby were excellent for the genre and surpassed expectations, and could indicate excellent legs in the future. Currently 105 reviewers have weighed in at RottenTomatoes, and 78 liked it enough to give it a positive review. That equals a fresh rating of 74%, and while not a home run, this type of flick rarely sees such an über-fresh rating. Most reviewers used terms like silly and stupid - even the good reviews- but isn't this the time of year for silly and stupid? Ricky Bobby finishes as the third biggest August opening ever, behind Rush Hour 2 ($67.4 million opening) and Signs ($60.1 million open). However, for Ferrell, it is his biggest headlining opening ever, far surpassing Elf's $31.1 million start. It will be interesting to see what happens next weekend; if this film sees a hold above 50%, it's destined for $150 million-plus.
Maybe even a bigger surprise is our number two film, which is The Barnyard, the third consecutive CG-animated flick released over the same amount of weekends. The Barnyard got off to a decent start with a gross of $16 million from 3,311 venues. That gives the Paramount release a venue average of $4,844. The debut figure for Barnyard slides it between the openings of Monster House ($22.2 million) and that of the lowly Ant Bully ($8.4 million). For Paramount and Nickelodeon, this is a big step up from some of their animated misses like Rugrats Go Wild! ($11.6 million opening). This one had fewer names in its cast, as Kevin James and Courteney Cox don't match the power of The Ant Bully's Julia Roberts and Nicolas Cage. Also, The Barnyard had the benefit of not looking like the remnants of Antz off the cutting room floor. Good for Paramount for getting this one to launch during a busy kids season; the studio will have even bigger business in the next frame when World Trade Center opens on Wednesday.
Third goes to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, as it continues to roll toward $400 million. The Johnny Depp spectacular grossed another $11 million in its fifth weekend, but was off a hefty 47% from the previous frame. The drops are getting bigger later in Pirates' run due to the fact that they are simply running out of folks to show it to. When your film opens to $135 million over three days, followed by drops of 54%, 44%, 41% and now 47%, you have nothing to complain about. The total now for Dead Man's Chest sits at $379.7 million, which moves it into eighth on the biggest domestic films of all time list.
Miami Vice gets hammered down to fourth as moviegoers wanted more Ricky Bobby than Crockett & Tubbs. The Michael Mann flick grossed $9.7 million, off a huge 62% from its debut frame. This one cost Universal and Mann $135 million to make, a figure it will never see from domestic box office. Currently, its total sits at $45.7 million and it will be lucky to reach $75 million.
Another Lionsgate coup lands in fifth this weekend in The Descent, the horror flick with the fantastic reviews. The Descent, a European flick which cost about $6.5 million to make and stars no one, opened to a very respectable $8.8 million from only 2,095 venues. That gives it a strong venue average of $4,200, and room to expand in the weeks to come, similar to what Lionsgate did with the original Saw film. The original Saw opened to $18.3 million, and was able to keep its second weekend drop below 40% due to an increase in screens in its sophomore frame. Lionsgate seems to have a knack for opening horror. After the strong take of the original Saw, the sequel opened to $30+ million; the studio also had Hostel open to almost $20 million, and The Devil's Rejects opened to $7 million from only 1,757 screens. Reviews made The Descent work. At RottenTomatoes, 89 reviews were counted, and of those, a surprising 73 were positive, leading to a fresh rating of 82%, by far the best rating in the top ten. This is one of those films that could have big legs if word-of-mouth spreads, and I'm betting that it will hold strongly next weekend.
John Tucker Must Die got stung by a busy marketplace. John Tucker grossed $6.1 million in its second frame, dropping a woeful 58%. The Fox feature has now earned $28.6 million, and should finish with at least $45 million.
Seventh goes to Monster House, as the Sony product got burned again by new, animated competition. Monster House grossed $6 million, off 49% from the previous frame. The $75 million-budgeted Sony effort has now grossed $57 million and should finish with about $80 million.
The Ant Bully finishes ninth, and will end up being the big loser out of the three-pack of CG-animated films. The star-studded Ant Bully grossed $3.9 million in its second frame, off a large 54% from its opening weekend. The Ant Bully is the most recent Warner Bros. production to fail, as it sits with $18.2 million, and won't see $35 million.
Ninth goes to You, Me and Dupree, which got decimated by the opening of Talladega Nights. The Owen Wilson comedy grossed $3.6 million, off 49% from last weekend. The Universal flick has now pulled in $66.8 million.
Our last opener, The Night Listener, finishes tenth. The Robin Williams thriller earned only $3.6 million from 1,367 venues, giving it an average of $2,633. The Miramax release is DOA, and will be a memory by next weekend.
Overall, box office was way up over last year, despite 2005's big opening of The Dukes of Hazzard. The top ten this weekend earned a powerful $115.7 million, thanks mostly to Ricky Bobby. Last year, the top ten took in only $98 million, giving August 2006 an early big lead over its predecessor. Next weekend should be another win for Hollywood, as the studios roll out World Trade Center on Wednesday, followed by Zoom, Step Up and Pulse on Friday.