It's not a surprise that Ashton Kutcher is holding onto the top two spots at the box office today. It's more of a surprise that North America allowed him to get away with it. Open Season, the animated film from Sony, and The Guardian from Buena Vista both opened this weekend, and both starred Kutcher. Also opening was School for Scoundrels, but it's already looking like North America is starting to forget Napoleon Dynamite.
Open Season at Box Office For Ashton Kutcher
Weekend Wrap-Up for September 29 - October 1, 2006
By John Hamann
October 1, 2006
The number one film of the weekend is Open Season, Sony Pictures Animation's first complete foray into the all-of-a-sudden overcrowded world of CG Animation. The latest animated talking animals flick grossed a decent $23.0 million from a huge 3,833 venues, a venue count usually reserved for the height of summer. That gives the Kutcher/Martin Lawrence flick an average of $6,001, and ends September on a positive note.
To tell you the truth, I had serious doubts as to whether this one was going to work. We have been flooded with digital animation over the last three months, and the trend has been to the downside for these types of films. Everyone's Hero opened a few weeks ago to only $6 million, and the box office in general has been sucking wind for the last six weeks. Sony was able to rise above the clutter through an effective marketing campaign, but was cut down somewhat by some less than glorious reviews. At RottenTomatoes, only 36 out of 69 liked Open Season enough to give it a positive review, leading to a 52% fresh rating. That's lower than Curious George's 69%, but Barnyard at 23% fresh proved that animated films don't have to be good to be successful. That one opened to $15.8 million and has already grossed $70.7 million, earning four-and-a-half times its opening weekend total.
Open Season's debut is similar to that of Sony's last animated film, Monster House, which was co-produced by Amblin Entertainment. Monster House opened to $23 million in late July, so given the worse release date for Open Season, the suits at Sony have to be okay with this result. Monster House finished with a domestic gross of $73 million. So, in Open Season's case, Sony will be hoping for a better opening-to-total multiplier. They should get it. Monster House had to deal with week after week of similar competition, while Open Season has a free month before the next CG product arrives in November.
In second is Kutcher's second film in the top two, The Guardian. The Buena Vista action flick took in an okay $17.7 million from 3,241 venues. It had a venue average of $5,461. For Kutcher, this was his action movie debut. So, this opening gross is a decent start for a new genre. Combined with Open Season, this is also an excellent weekend for the That ‘70s Show star. The combined opening of $40.7 million is better than that of Sweet Home Alabama, whose $35.7 million opening is the largest in the month of September. Co-star Kevin Costner has to be given some credit here as well. While not having a big hit since the early ‘90s, Costner has consistently delivered $10 million plus openings and has another one here. This is Costner's biggest opening since Message In a Bottle, which started with $18.9 million in February 1999. Next up for Costner is a co-starring role with Demi Moore in Mr. Brooks.
Third spot belongs to last weekend's number one film, Jackass: Number Two. The how-to on body abuse grossed $14.0 million this weekend from 3,063 venues, and was down an expected 52%. Despite the drop, this is still a big lottery win for Paramount, as the $12 million film has now grossed $51.5 million after only two weekends.
Finishing fourth is our last opener in the top ten, School For Scoundrels. The Jon Heder/Billy Bob Thornton comedy grossed a quiet $9.1 million from 3,004 venues, giving it a brutal average of $3,029. This one was quietly marketed, and failed to rise above the rabble of the two Kutcher movies and Jackass: Number Two. Critics voted the same way that audiences did. At RottenTomatoes, School For Scoundrels had 69 bad reviews out of a possible 93, giving it an ugly average of 26%. I find it a little odd that despite the release date difference, The Benchwarmers can open to almost $20 million, while this one fails to make $10 million. This is a small step backward in Heder's very promising career; however, I think that like Kutcher, he has to prove he can do more than comedy. If there is good news, according to IMDb, School cost MGM only $20 million to make, so it will at least gross its budget figure.
Jet Li's Fearless is another film that debuted last weekend and plunged in its sophomore frame. Fearless grossed only $4.7 million and was off 56% compared to last weekend. It's unfortunate, as this is one of the better films out in release right now. The big drop is due to Jet Li's fanbase showing up opening weekend and then having no one to maintain that momentum through the second weekend. Li's last film, Unleashed, dropped 62% in its second frame. The martial arts flick has now grossed $17.8 million and will most likely finish short of $30 million.
Dropping to sixth is The Rock's Gridiron Gang, as the market for this film has gotten very crowded since it opened. Gridiron grossed $4.5 million, equaling a larger-than-expected drop of 48%. The Sony football drama has now grossed $33.2 million, and should finish short of $50 million.
The Illusionist is continuing to tread some serious water in seventh as it enjoys its fifth weekend in the top ten. The Illusionist grossed $2.9 million, down a still small 14%. This Yari Film Group release has now earned $31.5 million.
Flyboys, the other sad sack MGM release in the top ten, is also a third film to debut last Friday and plunge 50% plus this weekend. Flyboys earned an embarrassing $2.3 million and was off 62% from its tiny opening. The World War I film has earned $9.9 million, and will be a memory once we have some new blood in the top ten.
Ninth goes to The Black Dahlia, another September opener we'd all like to forget. In its third weekend, The Brian De Palma flick grossed $2.1 million, off 53% from the previous frame. Dahlia has now earned $20.7 million.
In tenth is Little Miss Sunshine, the Fox Searchlight pick up from Sundance. This is Sunshine's eighth weekend in the top ten as it pulls in $2.0 million. That's off only 29% from last weekend, and it now sits with $53.2 million.
Overall, box office was ahead of last year, but unfortunately that's not saying much. The top ten this weekend grossed $82.3 million. While ahead of last year's $72.8 million, that weekend featured FlightPlan on top for the second straight weekend, as openers Serenity and Into the Blue were soft.