Fockers Meet White Noise at the Box Office

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for January 7-9, 2005

By John Hamann

January 9, 2005

Michael Keaton looks for lost footage from Johnny Dangerously.

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The box office in the first weekend in January is usually pretty sleepy. The Christmas big dogs continue to reap holiday dollars, while a low-profile, new release film has an uphill battle. The lone new release, White Noise, is being inserted into the mix so audiences wouldn't revolt over the lack of new, interesting product. Would the new Michael Keaton (remember him?) thriller (and I use that term loosely) draw bored audiences? Would the My Big Fat Greek Wedding producer, Gold Circle Films, find gold a second time?

The number one film at the box office has been champ now for three consecutive weekends, and is of course Meet the Fockers, but the race this weekend was closer than anyone expected. The wildly popular comedy picked up another $28.5 million this weekend, down a small 32% from the previous weekend, which had New Year's Eve on Friday and New Year's Day on Saturday. Fockers now has the biggest venue count in the top ten at 3,527; the film had a per screen average this weekend of $8,070. The total gross for Meet the Fockers reached $204.2 million, beating the original's domestic take of $166 million. This weekend, it also becomes Ben Stiller's biggest domestic haul as it passes There's Something About Mary's take of $176.5 million. The Universal film crossed the $200 million mark and became the studio's biggest film released in 2004, as it passed The Bourne Supremacy's domestic gross of $176 million. Fockers is now Universal's biggest hit since Bruce Almighty in 2003, which finished with $242 million. Where will Fockers finish? Its hard to say, but at this point, we should be looking at somewhere in the $250 million area – possibly Universal's best domestic finish since The Grinch in 2000.

Finishing second is White Noise, which is being distributed in the US by Universal as well, giving the studio the number one and number two spots at the box office this weekend. New product for the popcorn audience has been lacking over the last couple of weeks, so White Noise was in a position to thrive in a weak market. The critically-reviled film earned a powerful $24.0 million, much more than any box office analyst expected. This one had no reason to work except for a great trailer, which played in front of Meet the Fockers. White Noise stars Michael Keaton, whose only big screen work since 1998's Jack Frost is last year's Katie Holmes flop First Daughter. White Noise was produced by, among others, Gold Circle Films, who gave us their extremely profitable My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Gold Circle has committed to make niche films for under $25 million. With that information, we know White Noise will be a big hit for the production company, as they've recouped the production budget within the first weekend of release. Next up for both Gold Circle and its distributor Universal is The Wedding Date with Dermot Mulroney and Will and Grace's Debra Messing – maybe these two can catch fire in a bottle again in February.

White Noise got hacked up pretty badly by critics, despite being the only release this weekend (maybe reviewers wanted the week off). At Rotten Tomatoes, news wasn't great for the thriller. Of the 93 reviews compiled at the website, only ten were positive, giving White Noise a rotten rating of 11%. White Noise's Friday gross was about $8.2 million, so a $24 million finish means it had a weekend multiplier of 2.93 – not bad for a crappy horror movie. White Noise was released to only 2,261 venues (which may have been indicative as to how Universal felt about it), so it had an out-of-this-world average of $10,635 – the best in the top ten. White Noise may disappear from the scene very quickly, but because of some good decisions from its producer and distributor, its impact has been felt.

In third this weekend, we have Martin Scorcese's The Aviator, as Miramax added 71 venues to its theatre count, bringing the total up to 1,867. The Aviator grossed $7.6 million this weekend, dropping a fair 33% compared to its New Year's gross of $11.4 million. Despite being at less than 2,000 venues for its entire run, The Aviator has already earned $42.9 million.

Fourth spot goes to Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. The Jim Carrey film sputtered a bit with a gross of $7.4 million, down an alarming 49% from the previous frame. The Paramount film was able to cross the $100 million mark this weekend, the ninth time for Jim Carrey over his expansive career. Still, Snicket is not going to perform to expectations. The film currently sits with a gross of $105.5 million, and should finish around $130 million.

Fat Albert comes in at number five, still holding on to a top ten spot even with the holidays behind us. Fat Albert picked up another $6.0 million this weekend from 2,675 venues. It was down 41% from the previous weekend, and had a venue average of $2,242. So far, the Fox comedy has somehow earned $41.3 million.

Sixth this weekend goes to the Ocean's Twelve crew, as they stay in the top six due mainly to a lack of new product. Ocean's Twelve grossed $5.4 million in its fifth frame, down 43% from the previous weekend. The film, shot for about $100 million, has easily surpassed that amount with a domestic gross of $115.4 million, but is still well back of the $183.4 million the first one grossed domestically.

National Treasure, a film released eight weeks ago, finishes in seventh spot this weekend. The Nic Cage film that won't go away earned another $4.5 million this weekend, bringing its tally up to $160.7 million. Treasure is Disney's biggest live-action hit since Pirates of the Caribbean, which earned over $300 million in 2003.

Eighth, at this point, goes to Spanglish, the James L. Brooks miss starring Adam Sandler. Spanglish pulled in $4.4 million from 2,587 venues this weekend, down 29% from last weekend, and probably is the final nail in the coffin for this film that cost $100 million to produce. Oscar likes financially successful films, and in the long run this one won't be – so look for the Academy to pass on Spanglish. The gross so far for the Sony film is $37.7 million.

Ninth spot goes to The Phantom of the Opera, a film that I thought would have had a wider release by now. Still playing on only 622 venues, Phantom earned $3.4 million this weekend, down 28% from the previous frame. Phantom opened on those same 622 venues on Christmas Eve, and WB will finally expand next weekend. The musical, with its production budget of $70 million, has a current gross so far of $21.6 million.

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou finishes in tenth this weekend. The Bill Murray starrer from director Wes Anderson hasn't caught fire like The Royal Tenenbaums. The gross this weekend comes in at $2.7 million, and the film now has a cumulative gross of $19.4 million.

Overall, White Noise saved the weekend from giving 2005 a nasty start, but top ten numbers still lagged far behind their year ago predecessors. The top ten estimates for the first weekend of this year came in at about $94 million, well back of last year's figures of about $115 million.

Top Ten for Weekend of January 7-9, 2005
of Sites
Gross ($)
Gross ($)
1 Meet the Fockers 3,527 -32% $28.5 $204.3
2 White Noise 2,261 New $24.0 $24.0
4 The Aviator 1,867 -33% $7.6 $42.9
5 Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events 3,343 -49% $7.4 $105.5
3 Fat Albert 2,675 -41% $6.0 $41.3
6 Ocean's Twelve 3,010 -43% $5.4 $115.4
7 National Treasure 2,177 -34% $4.5 $160.7
8 Spanglish 2,587 -29% $4.4 $37.7
9 The Phantom of the Opera 622 -28% $3.4 $21.6
10 The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou 1,105 -40% $2.7 $19.4



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