Weekend Forecast For July 15-17, 2005

Weekend Forecast For July 15-17, 2005

By John Hamann

July 14, 2005

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After the bad news box office streak was beaten last weekend, we have something really weird happening at the box office this weekend - and it's not Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka outfit. There are two films opening wide this weekend, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Wedding Crashers, and both have good buzz and positive reviews (yes, you read that right). The last time two movies opened with good reviews was February 11, 2005 when Hitch and Pooh's Heffalump Movie debuted and earned a combined $50 million over their opening weekend.

Opening at 3,770 venues this weekend is Tim Burton's take on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from Warner Bros., Village Roadshow and Richard D. Zanuck. This Willy Wonka Spectacle stars Johnny Depp as the wacky chocolate maker, and looks so odd that it's tough to gauge its box office potential. Burton, director of the $250 million grossing Batman, has been hit and miss of late, with his last two films consisting of the dreadful but huge Planet of the Apes ($68.5 million open), and the oddball Big Fish, which had a platform release, but grossed $13.8 million over its biggest weekend. Burton has always been at his best with known entities (Batman, Sleepy Hollow) and cartoon characters (Nightmare Before Christmas, the upcoming Corpse Bride). His films with built-in audiences have been his biggest openers like the aforementioned Planet of the Apes, Batman and Batman Returns ($40.5 and $45.7 million openings respectively), and Sleepy Hollow ($30 million opening).

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a known entity as a much loved novel for young people, and a book I think adults remember well. Charlie has the opportunity to cross demographic lines, finding an audience both young and old that isn't too put off by Johnny Depp's odd look for the film. After a huge $46 million open for The Pirates of the Caribbean, Depp has become a much sought-after star. Since Pirates, he helped open Once Upon a Time in Mexico to a surprising $23.4 million, and earned a respectable $18.2 million from the opening of Secret Window. Finding Neverland reminded us of the great actor he is, as the James Barrie inspired film earned $52 million domestically. Now we get the oddest Johnny Depp since Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and I think we all know how that one ended up (final gross $10 million). However, because of films like Finding Neverland and Pirates of the Caribbean, Depp's core audience has expanded wildly, and that should prop up the opening number for Charlie. What I didn't expect from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are the great reviews, as almost all of the reviews so far are of the fantastic variety. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory could open as large as $50 million, but I think the Depp/Wonka/Michael Jackson weirdness might keep some people home. The marketing has also been strange, but at least it's been consistent. I'm looking for a solid $40 million open from its 3,770 venues, but I wouldn't be terribly shocked if it was quite a bit lower.

The other opener this weekend is The Wedding Crashers, and if you were shocked that Charlie and Chocolate Factory was getting good reviews, you had better hold onto your seat. Crashers stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan in a raunchy R-rated comedy opening Friday on a modest 2,600 or so venues. We haven't seen a good R-rated comedy yet this summer (or is that eons?), and with a laugh-out-loud trailer and positive buzz, this could be a really big hit. The Wedding Crashers is coming out almost six years to the day after American Pie - which re-invented the summer sex comedy and spawned a very successful franchise. The original Pie opened to $18.7 million from 2,507 venues, the sequel earned a stunning $45.1 million in August 2001, and even the tired American Wedding opened to $33 million in 2003. Star Owen Wilson has had some very popular turns in films like Meet the Parents/Fockers and The Royal Tenenbaums despite not being the main figure in the film. His biggest successes have come in the buddy-comedy genre, like Shanghai Noon/Knights, and Starsky and Hutch. Co-star Vince Vaughan had a fantastic small role in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and has starred in very successful films like Dodgeball and Old School, so it's not like audiences don't know him, either.

The simple fact here is that The Wedding Crashers looks funny. It's also getting rave notices, and I think this one has an opportunity to break out. I think an opening of $25 million isn't out of the question.

Last weekend's top film, Fantastic Four, won't be the box office savior it had been. With dreadful reviews and questionable word-of-mouth, I'm looking for a drop even worse than X-Men's 57% plunge from $54 million to $23.5 million. For this fanboy flick, I think the drop will be closer to 60% with a weekend gross of about $23 million - or lower.

War of the Worlds should level out a bit this frame after a second weekend drop of 53% to $30 million. Look for a 40% drop (or slightly better) to about $18 million.

Batman Begins continues to hurl itself toward $200 million after a small 36% drop last weekend. The Bat spent its last frame above $10 million last weekend, and should finish with about $7 million, which will have it approaching $180 million for its domestic run.

Dark Water will most likely vanish this weekend. After a so-so $9.9 million gross in the previous frame, I'm looking for a near 50% plunge this weekend to about $5 million.

Will solid starts for Charlie and The Wedding Crashers be enough to keep the top ten box office ahead of the same weekend last year? If my estimates hold, it's going to very close, so check back to BOP this weekend for Tim Briody's Friday Analysis and the Weekend Wrap-Up on Sunday.

Forecast: Weekend of July 15-17, 2005
Number of
Changes in Sites
from Last
Gross ($)
1 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 3,770 New $40.0
2 The Wedding Crashers 2,925 New $25.0
3 Fantastic Four 3,619 +17 $23.0
4 War of the Worlds 3,724 -186 $18.5
5 Batman Begins 2,810 -534 $7.2
6 Mr. & Mrs. Smith 2,370 -411 $5.0
7 Dark Water 2,657 No change $5.0
8 Herbie: Fully Loaded 2,481 -521 $4.5
9 Madagascar 1,779 -383 $4.3
10 Bewitched 2,290 -724 $4.0



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