Shark Ravages Slow Box Office

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for October 15-17, 2004

By John Hamann

October 17, 2004

I don't think puppets are good for the shark's digestive system.

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Step into my time machine folks, and let me take you back to July 2, 1999. That was the day that Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut opened at North American movie theatres. The controversy around the film was huge; the news networks devoted an ample amount of time to the film, debating its pros and cons. Despite the hype, South Park found only $11.3 million over its opening weekend. Five years later, Team America: World Police opened under similar circumstances – would the opening weekend be bigger this time out?

The number one film at the box office this weekend is not Team America: World Police; it is the much, much more family-friendly Shark Tale, on top for the third consecutive weekend. Shark Tale grossed an impressive $22.1 million this weekend from 3,948 venues – it had a third weekend venue average of $5,597. The film dropped 30% compared to last weekend, an excellent third weekend depreciation, as moviegoers forgot how bad reviews are and continued to bring their kids to the only ‘fun for the whole family’ film in the top ten. As Kim Hollis reported yesterday, Shark Tale crossed the $100 million mark on Friday, and now sits with a total of $118.8 million. The film is performing well, but won’t be a home run; it's already passed the box office totals of other DreamWorks animated fare like The Prince of Egypt ($101.2m) Antz ($90.7m) and Chicken Run ($106.8m). While admirable, Shark Tale won’t end up in the realm of the first Shrek movie, which grossed $267.7 million in 2001. The film is now improving on the Ice Age box office pattern, as the Fox film dropped 40% in its third frame, grossing $18.1 million. After three weekends, Ice Age had $116.9 million on its way to $176 million. Shark Tale should be able to improve on that number – Pixar’s The Incredibles doesn’t open until November 5th, so the DreamWorks kid-pic has the market to itself until then.

Kudos to DreamWorks for releasing their film when there was more than a good shot at having three consecutive weekends at number one. It will also fit well with the release of the Shrek 2 DVD, as Shark Tale will be just slowing down by the time the huge release comes to video stores on November 2nd (three days before the theatrical release of the Disney-distributed The Incredibles). The DreamWorks Animation IPO is in good shape; there will be 29 million shares priced at $23 to $25 per share, with proceeds coming in at around $700 million.

Second this week is Friday Night Lights. FNL spent its second consecutive weekend above the $10 million mark, pulling in a gross of $13.1 million. The high school football movie dropped 36% against its opening take of $20.3 million. Universal added 97 venues to FNL’s run; this weekend the pic had a venue average of $4,725. Friday Night Lights was made for $30 million and already has a gross of $38.7 million. It needs to make as much as it can stateside - Remember the Titans made only $21 million overseas after earning over $115 million at the domestic box office.

Third spot goes to Team America: World Police, as the Paramount film was not able to stay ahead of Universal’s Friday Night Lights. Team America disappointed with an opening weekend gross of $12.3 million, well below where audience tracking had this film slated to open. Paramount opened the film at 2,539 venues, and the film garnered a so-so average of $4,844. Marketing and reviews were top notch for Team America, but the question remains how big of a draw swearing marionettes can actually be. RottenTomatoes gathered 119 reviews, and a surprising 95 were positive, resulting in a 80% fresh rating. Fans of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone came out in droves on Friday night, but viewers waned as the weekend continued. Kim Hollis reported yesterday that Team America grossed $4.6 million on Friday night, so the film ended up with a front-loaded internal multiplier of 2.67, which isn’t great news. The comedy was made by Scott Rudin Productions (School of Rock, the upcoming Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events) for about $20 million according to IMDb, and could be a good investment. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut managed to gross $52 million (and loads more on DVD) after opening to only $11.3 million ($13.5 million adjusted for inflation).

Our second opener, Miramax’s Shall We Dance?, lands in fourth this weekend. Seemingly abandoned by its studio, Shall We Dance? did better than many thought it would this weekend, as it pulled in a gross of $11.6 million from only 1,772 venues. Dance ended up with the second best venue average in the top ten at $6,559. Originally slated for a summer release, Shall We Dance? was moved late in the process, probably after Miramax brass saw that they weren’t going to have a critical hit with the Richard Gere/Jennifer Lopez rom-com. Critics at RottenTomatoes were mixed. Of the 108 reviews counted at the website, only 51 were positive, leading to a 47% fresh rating at RT. All signs pointed to the studio not liking the product - changed release date, low venue count, invisible marketing. However, Shall We Dance? is not going to be a severe miss, most likely thanks to the star power in the film, as well as a soft movie market for older females. The production budget was only $50 million, and with the opening weekend gross, will make at least $30 million at the North American box office.

Ladder 49 finishes in fifth this weekend, its third in the top ten. Ladder 49 grossed $8.6 million from a still massive 3,255 venues. It had a low venue average of $2,644 and dropped 34% compared to last weekend. For John Travolta, Ladder 49 has become his biggest hit since 2001’s Swordfish, which grossed $69.8 million. So far, Ladder 49 has taken in $53.9 million.

Fox’s Taxi took a tumble this weekend, but not as bad as I was expecting. Taxi grossed $7.7 million in its sophomore weekend, dropping a better than expected 36%. Despite the bad reviews, Taxi is not going to hurt the folks at Fox too much at the box office. The Queen Latifah/Jimmy Fallon flick has now grossed $23.7 million versus a production budget of $25 million.

Holding well this weekend in seventh is Sony’s The Forgotten. The Julianne Moore film has seen good legs despite some nasty reviews. In its fourth weekend of release, The Forgotten grossed $6 million, down a small 21%. The thriller, made for about $45 million, has now earned $57.2 million.

Eighth goes to Raise Your Voice, Hilary Duff’s latest. RYV fell only 26% in its second weekend, grossing $3 million. The ‘film’ has now grossed $8.1 million against a production budget of about $15 million.

Ninth place belongs to The Motorcycle Diaries, the latest film from director Walter Salles. Focus Features added 83 venues to the arthouse hit’s screen count, and the move kept this excellent film in the top ten for the second consecutive weekend. Now at 250 venues, TMD grossed $1.7 million this weekend, up 12% from last weekend. The Motorcycle Diaries had the best venue average in the top ten at $6,740 and now has a total domestic gross of $5.7 million.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow lands in tenth spot this weekend. The Paramount miss grossed $1.3 million, down 44% compared to the previous frame. Sky Captain has now grossed a total of $36 million domestically.

Finishing just outside of the top ten is arthouse hit I Heart Huckabees. The Fox Searchlight film finished in 12th this weekend, pulling in a gross of $900,000 from only 65 venues. It had an awesome venue average of $14,153 and has already earned $2.6 million, despite the extremely limited amount of screens. Huckabees goes wide next weekend – make sure you get out and see this one, you won’t be disappointed.

Overall, the box office was a little light compared to last year. In the same weekend in 2003, the top ten films grossed just short of $100 million. This year, box office lagged well behind, with the top ten estimates coming in at about $87.4 million.

Top Ten for Weekend of October 15-17, 2004
of Sites
Gross ($)
Gross ($)
1 Shark Tale 3,948 -30% $22.1 $118.8
2 Friday Night Lights 2,764 -36% $13.1 $38.7
3 Team America: World Police 2,539 New $12.3 $12.3
4 Shall We Dance 1,772 New $11.6 $11.6
5 Ladder 49 3,255 -34% $8.6 $53.9
6 Taxi 3,001 -36% $7.7 $23.7
7 The Forgotten 2,768 -21% $6.0 $57.2
8 Raise Your Voice 2,521 -26% $3.0 $8.1
9 The Motorcycle Diaries 250 +11% $1.7 $5.7
10 Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow 1,208 -44% $1.3 $36.0
11 Shaun of the Dead 672 -35% $1.1 $11.3
12 I Heart Huckabees 65 +2% $0.9 $2.6



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