Friday Night Excites Box Office

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for October 8-10, 2004

By John Hamann

October 10, 2004

What, you prefer the deconstructive nihlism of David Hume?

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All eyes were on how Shark Tale would perform at the box office in its second frame, but a little film featuring high school football is going to steal the headlines this weekend. Three movies joined a box office that is still trying to recover from the September blues. Friday Night Lights is a hit, but how would new films Raise Your Voice and Taxi hold up?

With the DreamWorks Animation IPO coming soon, Shark Tale’s weekend-to-weekend drop was of obvious interest to analysts worldwide. The animated flick was a lock for first place this weekend; the question was about the all-important second weekend drop-off. With it, we get a better indication of where the film is going to end up. Shark Tale finished the weekend in good shape, but not in excellent condition either. The film dropped more than 30% this weekend; however, Shark Tale is likening itself to the pattern of Ice Age, which grossed $176.4 million domestically.

The number one film of the weekend is of course Shark Tale, the computer animated blockbuster from DreamWorks. Shark Tale grossed $31.7 million in its second weekend, down a not-bad 33% compared to its opening weekend score of $47.6 million, after being downgraded from its initial estimate of $49.1 million. The Columbus Day Holiday on Monday would have kept the estimate up this weekend, so expect a slightly bigger drop next weekend. Now at 4,070 venues, Shark Tale had venue average of $7,788. Twentieth Century Fox’s Ice Age dropped 35% in its second weekend in 2002 after opening to $46.3 million. The difference is that Fox did it with 3,345 venues, where the shark has 800 more, which may mean that Shark Tale’s audience finishes with that product faster and therefore have poorer legs than Ice Age did. Also, the cost to make that many more prints is significant, and will affect the bottom line for the DreamWorks’ release. The best news for the studio is that Shark Tale has now grossed $87.7 million, eclipsing its production budget of $75 million. The film is on a slow roll-out internationally, but I’m sure you will find a UK box office report at BOP from Ash Wakeman after it opens there on October 15th.

The number two film is the surprise and story of the weekend. Brian Grazer of Imagine Entertainment tried for years to get Friday Night Lights to the big screen, and now that it is here, it’s a huge hit. Friday Night Lights grossed a massive $20.6 million this weekend, easily surpassing tracking and analyst’s best estimates. The film opened at only 2,667 venues, 1,403 less than Shark Tale, and had a fantastic venue average of $7,710. This opening is on par with Remember the Titans ($20.9 million open) and Varsity Blues ($15.9m open, which equates to $19m in today’s dollars). This one is a touchdown for the home team, after Grazer waited 13 years to bring this movie to audiences (The Dallas Morning News reported in March that the thanks go to Imagine’s Jim Whitaker for keeping this one alive). Director Peter Berg had a miniscule (compared to today’s standards) production budget of $30 million, so FNL is going to be a huge hit for Imagine and distributor Universal. Kudos should really go to the studio for such an effective marketing campaign, which translated well to what can be an extremely fickle audience. Now Universal’s marketing team has to communicate how good the reviews are for this one. Of the 98 reviews counted at RottenTomatoes, only 18 were negative, leading to a very-fresh rating of 81%. Word-of-mouth goes a long way with sports movies; Remember the Titans opened to a similar $20.9 million and went on to make $115.7 million.

Third spot this weekend belongs to last weekend’s number two film, Ladder 49, which really sputtered in the wake of the three openers. Ladder 49 grossed $13.3 million this weekend from 3,261 venues. It had a venue average of $4,069 and dropped 40% compared to last weekend’s opening of $22.1 million. The Touchstone Pictures release has now grossed $41.2 million, and if it can straighten out a bit next weekend, should make it to $75 million.

Fourth is Taxi, the new comedy with Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon. Taxi opened to a much lower than expected $12.1 million, and has now grossed $12.7 million since opening on Wednesday. The amount of marketing heading into release for this one was mind-boggling, and I’m glad most people picked up on the dreadful reviews the film received. It was scorched at RottenTomatoes with only seven positive reviews out of a possible 64, giving it a dreadful average of 11%. Taxi gobbled up 3,001 venues this weekend, garnering a poor opening weekend venue average of $4,015. Tim Story of Barbershop fame (and only Barbershop fame) directed this one. His next film is the much anticipated and expensive Fantastic Four from Fox and Universal, and the nasty reviews for Taxi must be causing some heavy breathing on that set. The only thing that saved Taxi from complete oblivion is Queen Latifah, who adds another $10 million plus opening to her resume – her fourth since 1999.

The Forgotten falls to fifth in its third weekend of release. The Julianne Moore thriller grossed $7.5 million from 2,981 venues this weekend, dropping 37%. The Revolution Films’ entry has now grossed $48.6 million, surpassing its production budget of $42 million. The Sony-distributed flick should end up with around $60 to $65 million.

In sixth is our last new release of the weekend, Hilary Duff’s Raise Your Voice. The film didn’t make a lot of noise this weekend, grossing a soft $4.6 million from 2,521 venues. It had a venue average of $1,824. Shot for about $15 million, Raise Your Voice isn’t going to have much of an impact either way, or may even work for distributor New Line after video sales are counted. Reviews were bad, the marketing was bad, and let’s all say a prayer that this will drop hard next weekend and I won’t have to write about it anymore.

Box office was so low in the seven to ten spots that it allowed a brave new limited release to shine through, and shows how bleak things were in September. Seventh goes to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which finished the weekend with a massive $2.3 million. It drops 31% compared to last weekend and had an awful venue average of $1,305. The $70 million Paramount flop has now grossed $33.9 million and will never see the $40 million mark.

Eighth spot goes to Shaun of the Dead, which should be doing better than it is given a couple of awful films in release. Shaun grossed $1.6 million in its third weekend of stateside release. Focus added a handful of theatres to the run, but not enough to keep this one gaining steam. Shaun dropped 36% compared to last weekend, and now has a cumulative gross of $9.3 million. Shaun cost its makers only $4 million to make, and has made over $21 million worldwide.

Limited release The Motorcycle Diaries manages to poke its head into the top ten despite being shown at only 167 venues this weekend. The Motorcycle Diaries, which is being distributed by Focus Features, grossed an excellent $1.4 million this weekend for a venue average of $8,455, the best in the top ten. I saw this film last week, and can tell you it is definitely worth the time and effort it takes to go out and find a movie like this. After a couple of weeks of limited release, the Walter Salles film has grossed $1.4 million with much more to come, as well as a possible Oscar nomination for Gael Garcia Bernal.

Finally in tenth is Woman, Thou Art Loosed from Magnolia Pictures. Woman grossed $1.2 million in its second weekend, down 48% from the previous frame. Now at 432 venues, the small religious film had a venue average of $2,777. Woman has now grossed $4.1 million.

In very limited release, I Heart Huckabees narrowly missed making the top ten despite being shown in only 44 venues. Huckabees grossed about $940,000 this weekend, giving it a venue average of $21,363. This is another movie I saw last week, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Check back to BOP on Monday when my review will be posted.

Overall this weekend, box office held up fairly well compared to last year, and just managed to beat year ago totals. Last year’s October 10th - 12th weekend held the debut of Kill Bill Vol. 2, and the top ten managed to gross a strong $94 million. This year the top ten grossed an estimated $96.3 million, putting that September nastiness behind us forever.

Top Ten for Weekend of October 8-10, 2004
of Sites
Gross ($)
Gross ($)
1 Shark Tale 4,070 -33% $31.7 $87.7
2 Friday Night Lights 2,667 New $20.6 $20.6
3 Ladder 49 3,261 -40% $13.3 $41.2
4 Taxi 3,001 New $12.1 $12.7
5 The Forgotten 2,981 -37% $7.5 $48.6
6 Raise Your Voice 2,521 New $4.6 $4.6
7 Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow 1,743 -31% $2.3 $33.9
8 Shaun of the Dead 675 -36% $1.6 $9.3
9 The Motorcycle Diaries 167 New $1.4 $3.2
10 Woman, Thou Art Loosed 432 -48% $1.2 $4.1



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