Fahrenheit Rocks the Box Office

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for June 25-27, 2004

By John Hamann

June 27, 2004

In which Mr. Moore learns that the Secret Service doesn't like him very much.

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Monday Update – Fahrenheit Hotter Than Estimated

The news got even better for Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11, as the actual figure for the weekend was much higher than the initial weekend estimate.

After beating expectations over the weekend, Fahrenheit 9/11 beat its initial estimate by $2 million, finishing with a now final total of $23.9 million for the weekend. The new figure pushes the venue average up to $27,558 – easily beating Shrek 2’s opening weekend average of $25,115, and in a eerie twist of fate, basically ties The Passion of the Christ average of $27,554. The new figure now gives Fahrenheit an internal multiplier of 2.9, which shows that moviegoers embraced the film throughout the weekend, and fantastic word of mouth is afoot.

In other news, The Terminal dropped its estimate almost a full million, dropping the weekend take from $13.9 million to $13.1 million. The drop moves The Notebook up to fourth spot for the weekend, as its tally went from $13.0 million, to $13.5 million. The weekend to weekend drop for The Terminal moves from 27% to 31%.

The copy below has not been changed, but the chart at the bottom has been to reflect actuals instead of estimates.

Michael Moore is not only a force to be reckoned with in Washington, he is also now a huge force at the box office. Fahrenheit 9/11 debuted at 868 venues on Friday after opening strongly on Wednesday in New York; there was much speculation as to how the film would do this weekend. To put it lightly, F9/11 rocked the box office, with the doc beating the overall gross of Bowling for Columbine in only three days.

The box office spread itself out this weekend, with seven films grossing more than $10 million. Harry Potter 3 crossed the $200 million mark, and Shrek 2 cozied itself up to $400 million. Even with these awesome numbers, these films are not the story of the weekend. The story is about a movie that, for many reasons, could only open on 868 venues. That film is Fahrenheit 9/11, a documentary made by Michael Moore for only $6 million, a film that grossed more than its production budget on opening day. Like The Passion of the Christ, controversy and the news media made up for a small advertising budget, and Disney has once again let a huge moneymaker slip away.

The number one film this weekend is Fahrenheit 9/11, and the numbers around it might give George W. Bush some sleepless nights. F9/11 grossed $21.8 million from those aforementioned 868 venues, giving the film a rock and roll venue average of $25,115. This is very close to the venue average gained by Shrek 2 when it opened six weeks ago; that film opened on 4,163 venues and had an average of $25,952 from an $108 million open. When the Blair Witch Project expanded to 1,101 venues, it grossed $29.2 million and had an average of $26,528. It is obvious that Fahrenheit is playing big; however, the question remains whether this film can remain big and maybe change an election. Fahrenheit didn’t get a lot of screens in middle America (Tennessee, the 16th most populous state, only had ten venues showing the film) so the question remains whether Fahrenheit will play in Peoria. Twenty-five percent of Bowling for Columbine’s grosses came from Canada (there is no regional information for F9/11 yet), so many eyes will be on how the film expands next week, and how the hold is after the expansion. With the hype around it, Fahrenheit was sure to be frontloaded. As Tim Briody reported yesterday, Fahrenheit grossed $8.2 million on Friday, so with the $21.8 million open, the film had an internal multiplier of 2.66 (weekend gross divided by opening day gross) which isn’t bad, but indicates that the film dropped off after opening night. Fahrenheit has all those good things an expanding film needs – hot opening weekend, good reviews, and a lot of room for expansion. However, Spider-Man 2 is set to dominate starting Wednesday, which may shuffle Fahrenheit to the smaller venues in Cineplexes in only a few days.

When BOP selected the top 12 industry stories of 2003, one of our more unusual mentions was the box office power of the documentary. 2003 saw this previously ignored genre begin to flex a small amount of drawing power. Nothing could have prepared us for the evolutionary jump this weekend as Fahrenheit 9/11 became the biggest documentary ever in only one weekend. The former champ was Bowling for Columbine with $21.6 million, with third spot now going to Winged Migration at $11.7 million, a number F9/11 would have beaten by midday on Saturday. F9/11 should easily make $60-70 million domestically if not a lot more, as this film has a lot of room for expansion, and should play very well internationally. Home video/DVD in September will be another windfall for the film, and more trouble for Dubya as the audience for this will only get bigger.

After Disney shied away from letting Miramax handle Fahrenheit 9/11, the film is being distributed through Fellowship Adventure Group, Bob and Harvey Weinstein’s answer to Michael Eisner’s refusal to handle the film. That company (supposedly named after Lord of the Rings, another film Eisner gave the thumbs down to) bought the film from Disney, then sold the rights in North America to Lions Gate and IFC Films. Why Lions Gate? That company helped Miramax distribute Dogma domestically in 1995, and Lions Gate took the $10 million picture to $30 million in sales domestically. Why IFC? The Hollywood Reporter said on Friday that IFC (and its parent company Cablevision) might become a Miramax partner in the future if relations continue to sour between the Weinsteins and Disney. This column will have more on this very interesting relationship in the weeks to come.

White Chicks, the new film from Keenan Ivory Wayans, lands in second, somewhat of a disappointment after an solid opening on Wednesday with $4.2 million. The comedy grossed $19.6 million over the three-day portion of the weekend and has pulled in $27.1 million since its debut on Wednesday. No budget data is available on this one; however, I’d estimate a budget in the $30-35 million range. Critics ravaged White Chicks – RottenTomatoes counted 84 reviewers who had the sad luck of sitting through this one and could only find 13 who gave it a thumbs up. That’s a bottom feeder rotten rating of 15%, one of the lowest scores of the year.

Third spot this weekend goes to last weekend’s top earner, Dodgeball, from 20th Century Fox. Dodgeball grossed $18.5 million from 3,020 venues in its sophomore session, down a not-bad 39%, as Fox added 326 venues to the smash comedy’s run. Dodgeball had a venue average of $6,125 ($18,990 less than F/911) and already has a current gross of $67.2 million. The $30 million film should have no problem reaching a domestic gross of $100 million.

The Terminal, which I was ready to write-off last weekend, lands in fourth place. The film held very well in weekend number two, dropping only 27% and pulling in a gross of $13.9 million. The Terminal had a production budget of $60 million, and has a current gross of $41.8 million. The Tom Hanks film should finish as below average entry on his box office chart, but above the production budget figure.

Fifth spot goes to another opener; this time it’s The Notebook from New Line. Sold out screenings of Fahrenheit 9/11 may have helped The Notebook, as it got out of the gate quite strongly this weekend with an opening weekend pull of $13 million. The film, based on a novel by Nicolas Sparks, debuted in only 2,303 venues and had a solid average of $5,655. The film wilted as the weekend went by; it opened on Friday with $5.2 million, and had an internal multiplier of 2.5. That’s not good news for New Line as that kind of multiplier means that this film was a Friday night date movie, and didn’t translate to older audiences who don’t brave the crowds on opening night. However, this is a chick flick with good reviews and positive word-of-mouth, so it could have decent legs in the weeks to come. It should prove to be excellent counter-programming against Spider-Man 2 next weekend.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban finished in fifth for the weekend. Potter grossed another $11.4 million over the weekend, down a healthier-than-previous-weeks 37%. Potter 3 crossed the $200 million mark on Thursday, its 21st day of release, much slower than the first two Potter movies which took 15 and 17 days to reach the $200 million mark. After four weekends of release, Potter 3 has grossed $211.7 million. After the same amount of release time, Sorcerer’s Stone had grossed $239.7 million, and Chamber of Secrets had grossed $214 million.

Way back in seventh - but still pulling more than $10 million in its sixth straight weekend - is Shrek 2. The animated DreamWorks flick pulled in $10.5 million this weekend, down only 25% compared to last weekend. The first Shrek movie also grossed more than $10 million for six straight weekends; however, Shrek 2 will benefit from the July 4th weekend in the next frame, and will pass Spider-Man’s take of $403 million. It currently carries a gross of $397 million, and could still end up with a final tally in the $440-450 million range, which would make it the third biggest movie of all time.

Eighth spot goes to Garfield, one of those movies that won’t go away (I’m looking at you Scooby). Garfield grossed $7 million in its third weekend, down 38%, and has a current overall gross of $55.8 million.

In ninth this weekend is the last of the openers, Universal’s Two Brothers. Despite opening well down the chart, Two Brothers still got off to a decent start. The wildlife film grossed $6.2 million from 2,175 venues and had a venue average of $2,855. This is a word-of-mouth film and reviewers loved it, which will probably translate to today’s family audiences. RottenTomatoes gathered 80 reviews, and 66 were fresh, which led to a very healthy 83% fresh rating.

Finally, in tenth is The Stepford Wives, Nicole Kidman’s latest. The Paramount release grossed $5.2 million in its third weekend, down 41% from the previous frame. The comedy has a current tally of $49 million against a reported budget of $90 million.

Overall this weekend, the box office was hot, with the top ten pulling in $127.1 million

Top Ten for Weekend of June 25-27, 2004
of Sites
Gross ($)
Gross ($)
1 Fahrenheit 9/11 868 New $23.9 $24.1
2 White Chicks 2,726 New $19.7 $27.2
3 Dodgeball 3,020 -37.5% $18.8 $67.5
5 The Notebook 2,303 New $13.5 $13.5
4 The Terminal 2,914 -31.1% $13.1 $41.0
6 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 3,404 -37.6% $11.2 $211.5
7 Shrek 2 2,937 -26.7% $10.2 $396.8
8 Garfield: The Movie 2,880 -33.6% $7.5 $56.3
9 Two Brothers 2,175 New $6.1 $6.1
10 The Stepford Wives 2,437 -42.3% $5.1 $48.9
11 The Day After Tomorrow 2,212 -47.6% $4.8 $175.6
12 Around the World in 80 Days 2,801 -43.8% $4.3 $18.3



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