Scooby Snacks on Box Office

John Hamann's Weekend Wrap-up

March 28, 2004

Scooby Doo 2: A Spike Lee Joint.

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Why? Why did you drop your kids off at Scooby Doo 2? There are so many other great things to do on an early-Spring weekend, yet drivel like Scooby manages to open to $30 plus million? Shame on you!

It was one of those frustrating weekends at the box office. Good, earnest films were lost in a sea of new releases, and pap like Scooby Doo 2 rises to the top. Other than the stupid-sequel dominance, there was good news at the box office this weekend for films trying a more subdued release. Three other films opened this weekend, The Ladykillers, Jersey Girl, and Never Die Alone, and all carried a screen count of less than 1,600 as studios try to find new ways to open and entrench word of mouth films.

Scooby Doo 2 is the number one film at the box office this weekend, however if it behaves anything like the original (and you can bet a scooby snack it will) the sequel will be mostly a memory by the time Easter rolls around. Scooby grossed $30.7 million from a ‘get it while you can’ ultra-wide release of 3,316 venues. The expensive WB franchise pic carried a screen average of $9,282. Scooby sure didn’t feel the usual sequel effect, where often the follow-up’s opening weekend is larger, and the total gross often smaller. The original grossed a surprising $54.2 million over its opening weekend, but its fortunes dropped quickly with a total take of $153.3 million. Critics lambasted the original, and didn’t quiet down for the sequel. Of the 68 critics that actually sat through this travesty, only 16 liked it, so I’m thinking word of mouth isn’t going to be a factor here. There is no clear production budget number offered up by the studio, although several sources say it is bigger than the original’s $85 million, sadly making Scooby 2 a probable win for the WB studio after overseas and video numbers are factored in.

Second spot this weekend goes to Touchstone’s The Ladykillers, starring box office god Tom Hanks. Considering the small size of the release (1,583 venues), The Ladykillers grossed a decent $13 million, and came in just shy of having the best theatre average at $8,214. The big question however is how audiences will respond to the film next weekend. The small venue count is an indication that Touchstone is hoping for word of mouth success here, expanding the film out in the week’s to come. The problem is that the film seems to be love it or hate it, with critics split on the Coen Brothers performance. Tom Hanks usually brings legs to any film he’s involved with, although Laydkillers will have to work very hard, or Hanks will lose his streak of consecutive $100 million plus hits, with the magic number currently sitting at 7, dating back to Saving Private Ryan.

The Passion of the Christ spends its fourth consecutive weekend with a gross above $10 million, this weekend landing in third spot on the chart. The Passion pulled in another $12.5 million this weekend, bringing its domestic total up to a heavenly $315 million. It will be interesting to see if Icon Productions and Newmarket Films decide to market Passion for Easter Weekend. I’m expecting a dip next weekend below the $10 million water line, with a healthy uptick over Easter Weekend.

Dawn of the Dead is forced to spend its sophomore weekend knocked down three spots to fourth, as the film behaves more like a sequel horror film than a critically praised remake of a timeless classic. Dawn fell a nasty 61% this weekend, pulling in $10.3 million, bringing its total up to $43.9 million. Even with the drop, the producers are sleeping well, don’t forget Dawn only had a production budget of $26 million.

Fifth is another small-run opener, Kevin Smith’s Jersey Girl. Smith has never had a lot of success at the box office, despite having a huge fan base thanks mostly to home video and DVD. With five films under his belt, Smith can’t claim a hit over $31 million, but it looks like Jersey Girl might have a chance at breaking that streak. Launched at only 1,520 sites, the Ben Affleck/Liv Tyler film grossed $8.3 million over its opening weekend, pulling a decent screen average of $5,462. Miramax, the distributor behind Jersey Girl, will most likely expand the film in the weeks to come, as it is Smith’s most mainstream film to date. For ‘star’ Ben Affleck, he needs this one to work. Gigli was an obvious disaster, and Daredevil is more know for Affleck’s wooden performance than its $100 million plus gross. Miramax, View Askew and partners ponied up about $35 million for this one, so some decent legs will be needed. Jersey Girl could be a word of mouth film. The audience at the screening I was at seemed to like it more than critics, who gave it only a 39% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes.

In a close race for sixth, Taking Lives managed to stay ahead of Starsky and Hutch. Taking Lives, the Angelina Jolie/Ethan Hawke thriller grossed $6.5 million in its second weekend, down a big 43% from last weekend. The WB/Village Roadshow combo has now grossed $21.7 million against a production budget of $45 million. The much stronger Starsky grossed $6.3 million, and I would expect the order of the two films to flip around come Monday afternoon. Starsky dropped 40%, and carries a strong cumulative gross of $76.9 million. Universal may have to wait awhile, but they should have a $100 million hit here, eventually.

There was another tight race for the eight, nine and ten spots on the chart this weekend as well, as three films finished within about $50,000 of each other. A good sign of a strong box office crop is that three films all grossed more than $5 million at the bottom of the chart. Currently (and this may all change tomorrow) Buena Vista’s Hidalgo sits in the eighth spot with a gross of $5.43 million. That’s a 35% drop from last weekend, and a total now of $56.5 million for the horse movie with the $100 million plus budget. Ninth, and estimated at only $9,000 behind Hidalgo is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a movie people should see before it disappears. The best film in release grossed $5.42 million, dropping 34% from last weekend. The Jim Carrey masterpiece now has a current gross of $16.7 million against a production budget of $35 million. Focus Features should be slapped for how they’ve marketed and distributed this picture. It’s simply too good for so few people to see it. In tenth and only $24,000 behind Sunshine is Sony’s Secret Window. The Johnny Depp thriller took in $5.4 million this weekend, down 42% from last weekend and now carries a gross of $40.7 million.

Never Die Alone, the new Fox Searchlight release, failed to engage a big enough audience to crack the top ten. The DMX film grossed $3.1 million from 1,161 venues to land in eleventh.

Overall this weekend box office remained extremely strong. The top ten estimates for the March 26-28 weekend took in about $104 million. A year ago, Chris Rock’s Head of State was on top at the box office, but estimates came in at only $82 million, giving 2004 a 27% uptick over last year.

Top Ten for Weekend of March 26-28 2004
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Gross ($)
Gross ($)
1 Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed 3312 New $30.7 $30.7
2 The Ladykillers 1583 New $13.0 $13.0
3 The Passion of the Christ 3214 -82 $12.5 $315.0
4 Dawn of the Dead 2748 +4 $10.3 $43.9
5 Jersey Girl 1520 New $8.3 $8.3
6 Taking Lives 2705 No Change $6.5 $21.7
7 Starsky & Hutch 2985 -200 $6.3 $76.9
8 Hidalgo 2667 -262 $5.43 $56.5
9 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 1357 +4 $5.42 $16.7
10 Secret Window 2912 -106 $5.4 $40.7
11 Never Die Alone 1160 New $3.1 $3.1
12 50 First Dates 1759 -394 $2.5 $116.8



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