Fantastic Four Score Beats Box Office Blues

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for July 8-10, 2005

By John Hamann

July 10, 2005

Stan Lee's mind is clearly no longer in mint condition.

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Sometimes box office has to be the wackiest thing in the world to track. After a 19 consecutive weekend streak of disappointing results from decent films, a really bad one comes along in The Fantastic Four and quickly ends that historic losing streak at the North American box office. As one bad review after another came forth last week (slowly, Fox knew they had a barking dog with this one), I wondered how I would recap another sad sack weekend at the box office. Now, instead of bemoaning bad results, we're back to trashing bad films. We are looking at YOU North America, wondering why you decided to support this one to the tune of $56 million, and not the much better film in Batman Begins.

Yes, the number one film of the weekend is The Fantastic Four, leaving tracking people fired and forecasters scratching their heads. The $100 million Fox property grossed an astounding $56 million from 3,602 venues this weekend, beating tracking by as much as $20 million. It had a strong venue average of $15,546, and as Tim Briody said yesterday, the comic book flick opened to about $20.8 million on Friday, resulting in a weekend multiplier of 2.7. Word-of-mouth shouldn't have been great. Not only were reviews bad, the comic book fanboys were downright furious with The Fantastic Four, especially at geek-popular websites like Comics2Film and AICN. For 20th Century Fox, this is their third big film of the summer, having already scored with Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Additionally, you can add in some international success for Kingdom of Heaven. Compared to other non-sequel superhero properties, The Fantastic Four had great success, landing behind only Spider-Man ($114.8 million open), The Incredibles ($70.5 million open) and The Hulk ($62.1 million open). It is the fifth biggest opener in July, behind Spider-Man 2, Goldmember, Planet of the Apes and War of the Worlds. Maybe the oddest thing is that The Fantastic Four opening is not that far off the three-day gross for War of the Worlds, which ended up with a Friday-to-Sunday gross of $64.9 million.

So what happened here? Why did a film that was tracked to open around $35 million pull a gross $20 million more than its estimate? While some griped that the marketing was horrible, I can't really agree. The TV ads used humour and eye candy to attract an audience, and I was looking forward to the film until reviews begin to roll out last Tuesday. The comic book was extremely popular even away from the comic book guys – even my wife used to read the comic, and she is LIGHT YEARS away from your typical comic book fanboy. I think Fox made excellent choices when deciding what pieces of the film to use in their marketing campaign, and used blanket coverage quite effectively. Did the London bombings and Hurricane Dennis keep people home over the weekend? I don't think so to much extent, but I'm sure the topic will be covered in BOP's next edition of Monday Morning Quarterback. Despite the quality of the film (and its impending descent next weekend), The Fantastic Four delivered the breakout that the box office needed to end its bad news streak.

Second spot this weekend goes to last weekend's champ War of the Worlds, but boy did it ever wilt in its second weekend. The Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg production earned $31.3 million in its second frame, down a not really surprising 52%. It had a venue average of $8,005 from 3,910 venues. After 12 days, the Paramount/DreamWorks co-production has now earned $165.8 million, with more than $100 million coming from overseas markets as well. The film cost about $130 million to make, and a whole bunch more to market.

Third place goes to Batman Begins, the much better comic book film in the top ten. After a three-day gross last weekend of $15.6 million, Batman Begins held quite strongly with a $10.2 million gross and a drop of 35%. Against a long weekend, drops tend to be higher, as audiences had Monday off and were freer to see a movie on Sunday night. The re-imagining of the Batman franchise is working very well. After three weekends of release, the $150 million WB release has now earned $172.1 million domestically, and is approaching $150 million in overseas sales as well. It has already passed Batman Returns and Batman & Robin, and will pass Batman Forever in a couple of weeks. The original Batman, Tim Burton's version, grossed $251.2 million in 1989.

Finishing fourth is our other opener, Dark Water from director Walter Salles. The Jennifer Connelly horror flick did not find the success of The Grudge this weekend, but did manage an opening over $10 million (although that may not be right when actuals are released tomorrow). Dark Water, a Buena Vista release, grossed $10.1 million from only 2,657 venues this weekend. It had a venue average of $3,811. Like predecessors House of Wax and Land of the Dead, the PG-13 rated horror film (I'm still not quite sure how that's possible) couldn't rise above the heavily advertised competition. With decent reviews on its side, Dark Water will have to hope for an excellent audience reaction, and shoot for a low drop next weekend against weaker openers. The chances of that happening? Pretty much nil.

Fox's second movie in the top five is Mr. & Mrs. Smith, as the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie thriller continues to hold nicely after five weekends of release. The Smiths grossed another $7.9 million this weekend, down a tiny 26% compared to the three-day holiday frame. Mr. & Mrs. Smith now sits with $158.6 million in domestic sales, and is another film in this top ten to earn almost its domestic gross overseas as well. Fox is smoking right now, as its three films in the top ten have grossed a combined $585.5 million. Not bad for a summer's work, but unfortunately $370 million of that goes to LucasFilm, as Fox was only paid help for distributing Revenge of the Sith.

Sixth is Herbie: Fully Loaded, as the Lindsey Lohan Disney flick continues to hold well, smarting only from a disappointing opening frame. Herbie grossed $6.3 million this weekend, down a slim 29%. The comedy, which cost Disney about $50 million, has now earned $48.5 million. If its trend continues, it should finish with about $70 million.

Bewitched lands in seventh this weekend, as it tries to recover from its 55% plunge last weekend. The Nicole Kidman/Will Ferrell comedy did bounce back a bit, grossing $5.5 million, down 40% from last weekend. Bewitched now sits with $50.9 million, as it works toward $65 million before its run is up.

Madagascar continues its march toward $200 million, although it will likely sputter out before it reaches that mark. This weekend, Madagascar grossed $4.3 million, down a tiny 21% from last weekend's holiday frame. So far, the DreamWorks Animation product has earned $179.6 million domestically, and is approaching $100 million overseas, with some big markets still left to debut the film.

Even Martin Lawrence's Rebound manages to hang onto a top ten spot this weekend, thanks mostly to the lack of any arthouse films showing any power. Rebound grossed $2.9 million, off 43% from the previous frame. At least the comedy was able to cross the $10 million mark on Saturday, and now has a gross of $11.4 million.

And we have a historic finish to the top ten films this weekend, as the Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith spends its last weekend in the top ten, and the last of any Star Wars film (unless George needs money). Revenge of the Sith grossed $2.6 million, down 36% from the previous frame. The final portion of the Star Wars saga has now earned $370.8 million domestically, and almost $400 million from overseas markets. Revenge of the Sith was able to pass The Passion of the Christ on the all time list this weekend, and should pass Spider-Man 2 next weekend.

Overall, I am extremely happy to say that the losing streak at the box office is finally over. Last year over the same weekend, the top ten earned about $132 million on the strength of the second weekend of Spider-Man 2 and Will Ferrell's Anchorman. This year, thanks mostly to The Fantastic Four, the top ten at the box office earned $137 million, ending the 19 consecutive weekend losing streak at the box office.

Top Ten for Weekend of July 8-10, 2005
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Gross ($)
Gross ($)
1 The Fantastic Four 3,602 New $56.0 $56.0
2 War of the Worlds 3,910 -52% $31.3 $165.8
3 Batman Begins 3,344 -35% $10.2 $172.1
4 Dark Water 2,657 New $10.1 $10.1
5 Mr. and Mrs. Smith 2,781 -26% $7.9 $158.6
6 Herbie: Fully Loaded 3,002 -29% $6.3 $48.5
7 Bewitched 3,014 -40% $5.5 $50.9
8 Madagascar 2,162 -21% $4.3 $179.6
9 Rebound 2,464 -43% $2.9 $11.4
10 Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith 1,355 -36% $2.6 $370.8



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