Hitchhiker On Top of Box Office/XXX Bombs

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for April 29-May 1, 2005

By John Hamann

May 1, 2005

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Monday Update

Things only got worse on Monday when actuals were released, with estimates off on a wide ranging number of films.

Our winner of the weekend, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, dropped from an estimated $21.7 million to $21.1 million. Estimates on Sunday are a studio calculation, with actual tallies being counted on Monday. The Interpreter was down slightly to $13.8 million from $14.2 million.

XXX: State of the Union was the big loser again on Monday. After a $13.7 million estimate from Sony yesterday, that score was downgraded by a million to $12.7 million. A 60% drop next weekend, and this one may be headed to the record books. I see the Hollywood Reporter is calling the budget $87 million - not the $118 million IMDB and some of the other media have been reporting. I'll have more on that next week.

Check the chart below to view the weekend actuals at the box office; the chart at the bottom has been updated, the column below has not.

Hitchhiker On Top of Box Office/XXX Bombs

Sometimes spending more isn’t the best way to go. Two movies, both blockbusters, opened this weekend at the box office, and while they both looked like your typical summer fare with spaceships and huge explosions, one of them was different. Disney launched Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy this weekend, alongside Revolution Studios’ XXX: State of the Union. One of these films cost its studio almost $120 million to get to theatres, the other was significantly less than half that figure. Your question today, class, is which of these films cost more? And which finished on top? The real question is this: If summer is here, where are the big box office numbers?

We’ve spent weeks - no, months - waiting for this weekend to arrive, waiting for summer to start so we can shed the likes of Guess Who and Fever Pitch from our collective minds, and move on to some real summer blockbusters. The past decade has pushed the boundaries of what was once considered “summer box office”. Some studios have made the grade, releasing big movies in the last weekend in April, or the first weekend in May, and some certainly have not. Studios used to wait until the Memorial Day weekend to start blockbuster season, then they pushed it back to the beginning of May. Now it’s even earlier. The studio with the biggest success at coming out early has always been Universal, launching both of their Mummy titles successfully in the first weekend in May. The original Stephen Sommers Mummy started this trend, opening on May 7, 1999 to $43.4 million; they followed up with a sequel in 2001, released on May 4th to $68.1 million. In 2002, Universal pushed the envelope even further, opening The Scorpion King (another piece of the Mummy franchise) to $36.1 million on April 19, 2002. Last year, Paramount opened Mean Girls to $24 million over the April 30th weekend before Universal launched Van Helsing to over $50 million the weekend after. Blockbusters coming in late April or early May have not always found success. Fox tried to release Volcano back on April 25, 1997 and scored only $14.5 million over opening weekend. Warner Bros tried Sylvester Stallone’s Driven on April 27, 2001 and failed miserably, finding only $12.2 million over its opening frame. The summer has expanded, but like with all things, it’s the film, not the date of release. To start the Summer 2005 season off, we have two blockbusters and while neither have made enough at the box office to claim summer success status, only one is a real disaster.

Before we get started, let me say that XXX: State of the Union is neither the number one nor the number two film, making it a disaster of epic, epic proportions (but we’ll get to that later). The number one film of the weekend is Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, starring no one and directed by a nobody. Hitchhiker’s picked up $21.7 million this weekend, and while not breaking out, this is a figure the folks at Disney have to be very happy with. Opening on 3,133 venues (about 350 less than XXX2), the Douglas Adams piece had a venue average of $6,928 – most likely right on target with studio expectations. BOP’s Tim Briody reported yesterday that HGTTG found $8.1 million on its opening Friday, so with the weekend total, we know that the internal multiplier (Friday gross divided by weekend gross) comes out at 2.67. This isn’t bad (anything above 3.0 for an opening film is a home run), considering the film’s built-in audience of fanatical geeks, who would have run out on Thursday at midnight or Friday morning to catch this release. A higher multiplier than 2.5 tells us that Hitchhiker played to a broader audience than that of fans of the book. For sci-fi comedy, this one had better than average reviews. Of the 123 reviewers counted at RottenTomatoes, 77 gave the film a thumbs up, leaving the Buena Vista flick with a fresh average of 63%. Remember, last week’s The Interpreter scored slightly worse, and starred two Oscar winners.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a co-production between Disney and Spyglass Entertainment, who combined on the stupidly successful The Pacifier. That Vin Diesel comedy found over $100 million through March and April. Disney will certainly be taking Spyglass phone calls for a while. Hitchhiker’s Guide cost the companies a reportedly very slim $45 million - $73 million less than Revolution paid for XXX: State of the Union. Accomplished via few stars, a no-name lead, and a no-name director, Disney and Spyglass were able to keep costs down on the talent and location side (film was shot in England and qualified for a 10% filming incentive), and thrust more dollars into story and effects. Hitchhiker also opens in its native Britain this weekend along with Australia and New Zealand, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the worldwide gross for Hitchhiker hasn’t already passed its negative cost by this evening. I think we can expect to see more films soon from the late Douglas Adams’ universe, especially if the franchise picks up more fans as the summer weeks continue.

Second spot is really still up in the air until actual numbers are released on Monday. When Friday numbers were released, XXX: State of the Union was second with an opening day take of $4.4 million; however, The Interpreter was only a couple of hundred thousand behind. The Interpreter should have ended up second, as sequel-itis theoretically would lower XXX’s weekend multiplier to the point where The Interpreter passed it. However, these are estimates and studios have been known to fudge these a little (let’s remember that Star Wars: Attack of the Clones was over-estimated by $6 million). Check back to this column tomorrow for final results and I’ll lay them out now as the estimates were listed.

After all that, second place does go to The Interpreter, the film that cost $40 million less to make than XXX: State of the Union. In its second frame, The Interpreter held very well in the face of these blockbusters, grossing $14.2 million, and dropping a very slim 38%. Out to 2,764 venues, the Sean Penn/Nicole Kidman thriller earned a venue average of $5,154. So far, the $80 million production has earned $43.6 million stateside, and will be close to its production cost once international grosses are released this afternoon. The Interpreter is another great April release for the folks at Universal (they are distributing only on this one). Universal continues to stretch the boundaries of the early summer blockbuster, although one could argue that this isn’t a summer film.

In a devastating third spot this weekend is XXX: State of the Union, Revolution Studios’ expensive follow up to their 2002 hit which starred Vin Diesel (who has made some very good decisions this year). With neither the star or the director back, XXX: State of the Union failed to impress this weekend, crashing and burning with an opening weekend gross of $13.7 million. This is unmitigated disaster territory for Revolution and distributor Sony, as the production cost on this one was an astounding $118 million. Released to a large 3,450 venues, folks probably heard a lot of crickets at screenings, as the action flick had a venue average of $3,936 (remember we’re talking venues not screens). There is nothing good to be said about this one. The reviews were - as expected - bad, but these were ugly. Of the 94 reviewers counted at RottenTomatoes, only 14 had something positive to say, leaving it with a nasty rotten rating of 15%. At least Ice Cube can say he’s appeared in two of the worst-reviewed films of the year so far, as Are We There Yet? got a similar 13 positive reviews out of a possible 104. Speaking of Are We There Yet?, the comedy should easily outgross XXX: State of the Union, as the kid-flick grossed $81.6 million, a figure XXX2 won’t see unless international sales are counted. Hopefully, XXX: State of the Union isn’t a sign of what’s to come later this summer at the box office.

Fourth spot goes to The Amityville Horror, which had a saving grace drop last weekend of 42%, well below the average for recent horror remakes. This weekend, the Ryan Reynolds film dropped similarly, grossing $8.1 million, and dipping 41%. The total for the last MGM film we'll see (at least from its last incarnation) now sits at $55.1 million, more than three times the $18 million production budget. That's really a great way to go out.

The rest of the lot isn’t much. Fifth spot goes to the expensive Sahara which dropped 34% this weekend, pulling in $6 million. The $130 million actioner has now earned $57.2 million, and will need to win the lotto a number of times to make its production budget back.

A Lot Like Love finished sixth, taking in $5.2 million this weekend. The Ashton Kutcher film fell a decent 31% from its opening (which shows what a poor draw XXX2 was), and has now earned a not-so-good $14.7 million.

Seventh is Kung Fu Hustle from Sony Pictures Classics, who have now officially dropped the ball on this one. Hustle lost 43% of last weekend’s audience, as the film was expanded much too quickly. It dropped 60 venues from last weekend, earned $3.8 million, and now has $13.2 million in the domestic kitty.

Fever Pitch finished in eighth, earning $3.8 million. It dropped 32% from its previous weekend (again, I’m looking at you, XXX), and the $30 million Farrelly brothers film has now earned $36.5 million, which means Jimmy Fallon will continue to find work (whether I like it or not).

Guess Who and Robots round out the top ten this weekend, with Robots taking ninth. Again the Fox Animation piece dropped very slightly again this weekend, taking in $2.7 million and slipping only 23% from the previous frame. The total now sits at $123.7 million. The Ashton Kutcher/Bernie Mac film Guess Who pulled in $2.2 million for tenth. It dropped 37% from last weekend and has now grossed a decent $65.5 million.

Sadly, Sin City spends its first weekend out of the top ten with a gross of $2 million. The very good film from Robert Rodriguez dropped 46%, and sits with an excellent gross of $70.6 million.

Overall, the top ten grossed about $81 million, not too far off the $82 million the top ten grabbed last year. The problem is that a line can basically be crossed through any big receipts expected from XXX: State of the Union over the next few weekends, which will put more pressure on the summer movies to perform.

Top Ten for Weekend of April 29-May 1, 2005
of Sites
Gross ($)
Gross ($)
1 Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 3,133 New $21.1 $21.1
2 The Interpreter 2,764 -39% $13.8 $43.2
3 XXX: State of the Union 3,480 New $12.7 $12.7
4 The Amityville Horror 3,058 -43% $7.9 $54.8
5 Sahara 3,112 -37% $5.7 $56.9
6 A Lot Like Love 2,502 -33% $5.1 $14.6
7 Fever Pitch 2,192 -36% $3.5 $36.3
8 Kung Fu Hustle 2,440 -51% $3.3 $12.7
9 Robots 1,782 -34% $2.3 $123.3
10 Guess Who 1,863 -39% $2.2 $65.4
11 Sin City 1,665 -46% $2.0 $70.6
12 The Pacifier 1,224 -36% $1.4 $108.4



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