Gellar’s Grudge Rules Box Office

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for October 22-24, 2004

By John Hamann

October 24, 2004

Fire angry!

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After almost two months of waiting for a breakout hit, we finally have one in The Grudge from Sony. Box office has been dismal leading up to the hot November-December season, so a pre-Halloween hit is just what the box office doctor ordered. On the flipside is Surviving Christmas, as another Ben Affleck project crashes and burns.

The number one film at the box office this weekend is the remake of a Japanese film in The Grudge. Much like fellow remake The Ring, we have a big hit in a horror film. The Grudge had a home run opening weekend, as it scored a $40 million opening from 3,245 venues. The film, toplined by vampire slayer Sarah Michelle Gellar, had a venue average of $12,326. The Sony-distributed film picked a great release date, coming out a week before Halloween, which lands on a good box office day this year - the 31st is a Sunday. That means The Grudge will have two more hot days next weekend before Halloween passes for another year. The Grudge will have horror competition next weekend, though, as Lions Gate’s creepy-looking Saw hits theatres over the Halloween frame.

Horror remakes have certainly been hot lately. To the surprise of many, Dawn of the Dead opened to $26.7 million earlier this year, although it quickly petered out before making $60 million. The Grudge’s cousin, The Ring, is also a Japanese remake. The Ring’s opening weekend was only $15 million, which is about what The Grudge made on Friday. What The Grudge probably won’t be able to do, though, is meet the $129.1 million total domestic gross that The Ring was able to score in October 2002. Why? The Grudge won’t be the word-of-mouth hit that The Ring was. 101 critics at RottenTomatoes reviewed the Grudge, and only 43 reviews were positive. The Ring, on the other hand, was 72% fresh, with 118 positive reviews out of a possible 163 at the review compilation website. The Ring had an opening weekend multiplier of 3.1, where The Grudge’s came in at 2.6 (much like last weekend’s Team America multiplier). The weekend multiplier can be an excellent indication of legs; the further above three a film can achieve, the better it is for legs. While a very exciting opening, with the multiplier and the reviews, I’m thinking The Grudge will be a memory after three or four weekends. You’ll have to check back to BOP next weekend to see how the film holds over Halloween weekend.

Bumped to second after three consecutive weekends on top is DreamWork’s Shark Tale. The studio dropped 292 venues from Shark Tale’s run this weekend and the film fell 35%, pulling in a still-strong $14.3 million. We’ve been keeping a pretty close eye on how Shark Tale is comparing with another non-Disney CG film in Ice Age. The fourth weekend drop for Fox’s Ice Age was 25%, as the film dropped its gross to $13.6 million but brought its total up to $140.7 million. The total for Shark Tale stands at $137 million, so the race between it and Ice Age is still very close. Will Shark Tale gross more than Ice Age? It’s hard to say, but my guess would be no, as a couple of huge family-friendly films are set to open in the next few weekends, including The Incredibles and The Polar Express. Still, a $170 million gross for Shark Tale is nothing to sneeze at, but I think DreamWorks was looking for more.

A big surprise lands in third this weekend in Shall We Dance?. Now, Shall We Dance? was set up for third before the weekend began, likely finishing between Shark Tale and Friday Night Lights. However, Dance grossed $8.6 million this weekend, much better than I would have predicted and dropping only 27% compared to last weekend (one might think fellow horror movie The Grudge would have knocked it down a bit). How did the fine folks at Miramax accomplish this feat for a film that isn’t very good and had little marketing? The answer: By pumping up the venue count by 647 screens. Shall We Dance? ended up on 2,419 venues this weekend, and scored a not-great average of $3,560. The Richard Gere film now has $24.4 million in the box office kitty after ten days against a production budget of about $50 million.

Fourth this weekend is the very strong Friday Night Lights, which continues to bring in business at a fairly brisk rate, albeit down this weekend due to The Grudge. Universal borrowed a page from the Miramax folks this weekend and added to 205 venues to FNL’s venue count. The move didn’t work quite as well as it did for Dance, as Friday Night Lights finished fourth this weekend with $7 million. The high school football movie dropped 43% compared to last weekend and had a venue average of $2,344. Made for $30 million, Friday Night Lights is definitely in the win column, as its total sits at $47.3 million.

Team America: World Police drops to fifth this weekend, as the Paramount feature failed to build on good reviews and word-of-mouth. Team America grossed $6.6 million in its second weekend, down 46% from its debut frame. It’s a good thing Paramount and Scott Rudin Productions kept production costs low on this one (the production budget came in around $32 million), as its total sits at $22.3 million, and will be lucky to add another $15 million by the end of its run.

Sixth spot goes to top ten stalwart Ladder 49. The Joaquin Phoenix/John Travolta movie grossed $5.4 million in its fourth weekend of release, dropping 36% compared to its previous frame. Ladder 49 has to be considered a big October success, as its total has reached $61.5 million. It should see at least $75 million by the end of its run.

Way back in seventh this weekend is our other opener, the critically-drubbed Surviving Christmas (which could also be titled Why Is Ben Affleck Still Working?). Surviving Christmas will not survive October, as it came in with a brutal opening weekend gross of only $4.5 million. The DreamWorks miss opened at 2,750 venues this weekend, and had an awful opening weekend average of $1,636. Why DreamWorks opened this one so early is mystifying to me. If they had waited a little longer, the movie world would have been busier, and the media would not have had as much time to give this the drubbing it deserved. Critics were not very Christmas-like. At RottenTomatoes, 80 critics were polled, and only five came back with a positive review, which leaves the film with a 6% fresh rating under the tree, one of the worst ratings of the year. The worse news for the studio is that DreamWorks can’t even get the DVD out by Christmas. No budget data is currently available, but the shoot had major problems, so this is probably an expensive miss.

Eighth this weekend is Taxi, which is only in the top ten because there is so little comedic competition for adults. Taxi grossed $4.3 million this weekend, down 46% from last weekend. It has a current total of $29.9 million.

The Forgotten is the old man of the chart as it spends its fifth weekend in the top ten. The Forgotten grossed $3.4 million this weekend, down 43% from the previous frame, even with fellow Sony horror flick The Grudge taking over this weekend. The Forgotten now has a total of $62 million, which compares nicely to its production budget of $42 million.

Finally, in tenth is I Heart Huckabees, which found almost-wide release this weekend. After earning $2.6 million on 65 screens or less, Fox Searchlight made Huckabees available to 785 venues this weekend. Unfortunately, the expansion didn’t work as well as the studio hoped, as the film grossed $3 million this weekend, earning a lower than expected venue average of $3,821 (still the third best in the top ten). Viewers seem divided on Huckabees, with some loving it (like me) and some hating it (a few BOP readers). Huckabees has a long way to go to recoup its $20 million dollar production budget, as it has earned $5.9 million so far.

Overall, thanks mostly to The Grudge, the box office had a stellar weekend, but it needed even more to beat last year’s total. This weekend the top ten grossed an estimated $97 million, which comes in short of the $116 million that last year’s top ten brought in.

Top Ten for Weekend of October 22-24, 2004
of Sites
Gross ($)
Gross ($)
1 The Grudge 3,245 New $40.0 $40.0
2 Shark Tale 3,656 -35% $14.3 $137.0
3 Shall We Dance 2,419 -27% $8.6 $24.4
4 Friday Night Lights 2,969 -43% $7.0 $47.3
5 Team America: World Police 2,620 -46% $6.6 $22.3
6 Ladder 49 2,802 -36% $5.4 $61.5
7 Surviving Christmas 2,750 New $4.5 $4.5
8 Taxi 2,357 -46% $4.3 $29.9
9 The Forgotten 2,253 -43% $3.4 $62.0
10 I Heart Huckabees 785 New $3.0 $5.9



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