Turkeys Cash-In at Thanksgiving Box Office

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for November 26-28, 2004

By John Hamann

November 28, 2004

Tim Allen and the kid from Malcolm in the Middle chase after the true meaning of Christmas.

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Monday Update

Studio estimated grosses pulled back significantly after actuals were released today, taking some shine off the success that was had over the Thanksgiving frame.

The worst offender was Sony's Christmas With The Kranks, which pulled back to $21.6 million after being estimated at $22.7 million. That's a million dollar difference, and may be attributed to questionable word of mouth following the film's opening weekend.

As for the two films, National Treasure and The Incredibles, both moved lower, dropping from $33.1 and $24.1 million to $32.2 and $23.6 million respectively. The Polar Express also moved down from $20.1 to $19.4 million (what a surprise - all those ".1" estimates were lowered). SpongeBob's estimate stayed basically the same, and Alexander actually moved up, from $13.5 to $13.7 million. What's .2 of $150 million?

Bridget Jones' woes continue as Universal's estimate of $6.8 million dropped significantly lower to $6.2 million. Bridget 2's total sits at $32 million.

The column below has not been updated but the chart at the bottom of the screen has been.

Estimates column:

It was a feast of fowl at the box office this weekend, as two films with horrible reviews opened, and audiences proved again that they would rather have quantity over quality. Joe Roth unleashed Christmas With The Kranks to unsuspecting audiences this weekend, as did Oliver Stone with Alexander. The result is a win for the folks at Disney, as the distributor takes the one and two spots in the box office top ten this weekend.

An interesting weekend was shaping up as of last Tuesday. Apparent weakness in the openers was giving The Incredibles a new shot at top spot, and the Pixar film had an opportunity to equal Finding Nemo’s 24-day sales mark of $228.5 million. The Polar Express ship had passed, and National Treasure was sure to drop this weekend. My reasoning was completely off.

The number one film by a country mile at the North American box office this weekend is surprisingly National Treasure, as audiences seemed to have embraced the adventure flick no matter how silly the premise might be. The Nicolas Cage movie grossed a fantastic $33.1 million over the three-day portion of the weekend, dropping only 6%. It had a venue average of $10,195 from 3,243 venues, 226 more than last week, but only the fifth highest total amount of venues in the top ten. Audiences were obviously looking for a little fun at the movies this weekend, and National Treasure delivered a la The Mummy with Brendan Fraser. The film, directed by John Turteltaub and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, was made by Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer Films. No budget data is available, but the cost will likely fall between the last two Bruckheimer/Cage films - Con Air at $75 million, and Gone in 60 Seconds’ $90 million. National Treasure is a blessing for Cage's career, as both the first and second weekends for Treasure are the star’s biggest box office weekends ever. The total for the Disney-distributed film stands at $87.9 million, and will cross the $100 million mark next weekend.

Moving up a spot to second over the Thanksgiving frame is The Incredibles, as the family of superheroes is still hugging the spotlight after four weekends of release. The Pixar flick grossed $24.1 million over the three-day portion of the weekend, and has moved its total up to a fantastic $214.7 million. If you’re still scoring along at home, Monsters, Inc. earned a similar $24.1 million over the Thanksgiving weekend and had a total of $192.2 million. As I mentioned above, Finding Nemo had earned $228.5 million over four weekends, earning $21.1 million in its fourth frame. With SpongeBob’s box office star beginning to wane and Lemony Snicket still a few weekends away, The Incredibles have an opportunity to shine over the next few weeks. It has a chance to leave Monsters, Inc. in the dust next weekend, as the post-Thanksgiving drop for Monsters, Inc. was a large 62%. $300 million is still easily in reach, but it will need some good holds over the next couple of weekends to hit that mark.

In third is Joe Roth’s Christmas With The Kranks, which finished well ahead of the other opener, Oliver Stone’s Alexander. The Revolution Studios picture did much better financially than it did critically, as the comedy finished the three-day weekend with a take of $22.7 million, and a score of $32 million since Wednesday. It opened on 3,393 venues and had a weekend average of $6,690. Joe Roth put together an impressive list of talent for Christmas With the Kranks, as he pulled in Harry Potter director Chris Columbus to produce the film and adapt the screenplay from John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas. He hired Christmas box office stalwart Tim Allen to star, backed up by Jamie Lee Curtis and Dan Ackroyd in co-starring roles. With all this help and a $60 million production budget, how many positive reviews was Kranks able to pull from 88 reviews? Four. Four positive reviews out of 88, which results in one of the lowest scores of the year at RottenTomatoes, equaling a 5% fresh rating. Kranks is proof that audiences will see anything in November with Tim Allen, but at least the Santa Clause movies seemed funny. Unless people are hypnotized by the plethora of commercials for this one, it should drop off rather quickly, much like Surviving Christmas, which the Kranks has already outgrossed, despite having worse reviews.

Fourth this weekend is The Polar Express, which audiences might finally be finding and supporting. The Tom Hanks film desperately needed a bounce over the holiday weekend and seems to have received it, as it increased on its take from last weekend by $4 million. The Polar Express grossed $20.1 million over the three-day portion of the weekend, an increase over last weekend’s take of $15.7 million. The film, from Playtone and Warner Bros., carries a budget of $150 million, and now has a total of $82.2 million. If The Polar Express can continue to hold decently from weekend to weekend this should do okay, however there are only four weekends left until Santa comes down the chimney, and this year, that happens on a Saturday.

Fifth spot does not go to historical hero Alexander; it goes to pop culture hero, SpongeBob SquarePants. The little yellow sponge grossed $17.8 million over the three-day portion of the weekend, falling a large 44% compared to last weekend, a bigger drop than Paramount would have liked. With a free day on Friday for kids, percentage drops for the under-15 set should be tiny over a weekend like Thanksgiving, which makes it one of the big weekends of the box office year. SpongeBob, because of his built-in TV audience all rushing out for opening weekend, fell somewhat larger than his kid-flick compatriots did this weekend. All should be happy at Paramount; SpongeBob cost only $30 million to make and has now grossed $58.6 million.

At long last in sixth is Alexander, beaten and scarred. Audiences proved this weekend that they wanted no-brainer entertainment, and the fall of Alexander pushes that point home. The Oliver Stone film grossed $13.5 million over the three-day portion of the weekend, and $21.6 million since opening on Wednesday. Warner Bros secured only 2,445 venues for the 173-minute Alexander (less venues than the Bridget Jones debacle), and pulled a three-day venue average of $5,501. It's no secret that Stone spent $150 million bringing Alexander to the screen; let's see if Warner Bros is able to spin its questionable success much like they did with summer’s Troy.

At seventh, the box office drops off somewhat, and Bridget Jones leads the back of the pack. The Edge of Reason, the sequel to the winner that grossed $71.5 million, is not doing as much winning this time out. Over the Thanksgiving frame, Bridget grossed $6.8 million, down 33% from last weekend’s take of $10 million. So far, the sequel that cost as much as the first one grossed has earned only $32.5 million and doesn’t look like it will come anywhere near the domestic take of the original.

Eighth is another new addition to the top box office films of the week in Finding Neverland, as Johnny Depp is working through the back door of the box office this time out, unlike Pirates of the Caribbean. Finding Neverland, after a few weekends of limited release, breaks through over the Thanksgiving frame, earning $4.7 million from only 513 venues. Neverland is from a production company called Film Colony, led by producer Richard N. Gladstein. Film Colony was nominated for an Oscar in 2000 for Cider House Rules, another film that played through Christmas before earning $57.5 million stateside. Finding Neverland cost Film Colony $20 million to make, is being distributed by Miramax. So far, it has made $7.8 million.

Ninth this weekend is Ray, Universal’s Ray Charles biopic. This film has been a huge success for Universal, and in its fifth weekend, the movie earned another $3.9 million, off only 15% from last weekend. So far, the Crusader Entertainment production has earned $65 million.

Pulling up in tenth this weekend is After the Sunset with Pierce Brosnan, which earned $3.3 million from 2,309 venues. The New Line film now has a disappointing total take of $24.6 million.

In limited runs, both Sideways and Kinsey are continuing to show great strength at the box office. This weekend Sideways finished with $2.8 million from only 497 screens. Now in its sixth weekend, the Alexander Payne/Fox Searchlight release has grossed $9.8 million. Kinsey, showing on only 188 screens this weekend, grossed $1.2 million and had a venue average of $6,436. Its total after a couple of weekends of work has already reached $2.5 million. Sony Pictures Classics’ Bad Education is also having a strong start. In its second weekend, the Pedro Almodovar film pulled in $147,000 from only three venues for an average of $49,000.

Overall, the top ten films were in good shape compared to previous Thanksgiving weekends. The top ten over the long weekend in 2004 grossed about $153.8 million. In 2003 the top ten earned about $141 million, in 2002, about $127 million. Hollywood has to be happy heading into December, although the first week of the twelfth month is usually pretty drab. Check back next weekend to see how Mike Nichols’ limited opener Closer competes with the holdovers.

Top Ten for Weekend of November 26-28, 2004
of Sites
3-Day Gross ($)
Gross ($)
1 National Treasure 3,243 -8.5% $32.2 $87.3
2 The Incredibles 3,453 -11% $23.6 $214.3
3 Christmas With the Kranks 3,393 New $21.6 $30.8
4 The Polar Express 3,650 24% $19.4 $81.5
5 The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie 3,307 -44% $17.8 $58.8
6 Alexander 2,445 New $13.7 $21.8
7 Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason 2,473 -38% $6.2 $32.0
8 Finding Neverland 513 New $4.7 $7.8
9 Ray 1,499 -13% $4.0 $65.1
10 After the Sunset 2,309 -39% $3.1 $24.3



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