Hostel Carves Up Narnia, Kong at the Box Office

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for January 6-8, 2006

By John Hamann

January 8, 2006

C'mon, vogue. Let your body move to the music.

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Lionsgate Films did it again this weekend, rocking the box office with another cheap-to-make, well positioned horror film called Hostel. Right now, Lionsgate seems to be the only movie studio not using "the see what sticks" method of producing films, and actually making smart decisions when it comes to choosing their films. Other new releases this weekend like BloodRayne (shot in 2004) and Grandma's Boy from Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions failed to stick to anything this weekend, as the box office gets off to a strange start in 2006.

The number one film of the weekend is Hostel, which looks more like snuff-lite than a horror film. Quietly, this grisly flick built up some decent awareness this week via another good marketing campaign from Lionsgate and good early reviews. Despite tracking having it finishing well behind Narnia and Kong, Hostel rose to the occasion this weekend, earning a very solid $20.1 million. Hostel opened on only 2,195 screens, so it carried an excellent venue average of $9,157. Audiences were obviously looking for something scary in the post-holiday world and got it, as critics called Hostel one of the most grisly films ever. Overall, critics were mixed, with 34 good reviews out of a possible 49 at RottenTomatoes, giving it a fresh rating of 69%. After opening to $7.5 million on Friday, Hostel had a weekend multiplier of 2.7, which is typical for this kind of film. Look for Hostel to nosedive next weekend, as we remember that George Romero's Land of the Dead opened above $10 million, and finished with a domestic total just over $20 million.

After a fantastic 2005, Liongate is off to another good start with Hostel. Coming off 2005 hits like Saw II and Crash, the mini-major steps up with Hostel, similarly priced between $4 and $5 million. The addition of the Quentin Tarantino name might have made TV audiences sit up and take notice, as the addition made Hostel more than just the second feature from Eli Roth, director of Cabin Fever (which actually finished with a narrowly fresh rating at RT). Tarantino is now on a bit of a roll, after his directing guest appearance on Sin City and now the mini-hit that is Hostel. Look for a lot more films like Hostel, as grisly horror is cheap to make, requires fewer effects than a PG-13 horror flick, and usually stars no one. Plus, there always seems to be an audience for this type of film.

Second spot this weekend goes to last weekend's champ, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe. Narnia grossed an additional $15.4 million in its fifth weekend, down 40% compared to the oddball New Year's weekend in the last frame. Remember, because of New Year's Eve falling on Saturday, percentage drops are going to be a little odd. The important thing is that Narnia has now grossed $247.6 million, will finish with at least $280 million domestically, and could approach $300 million. The overseas gross is somewhat similar to the domestic gross, so Walden and Disney have to be very happy with the performance of their new franchise. Narnia cost about $180 million to make.

It was a closer than expected battle between King Kong and Fun With Dick and Jane, with Kong barely coming out on top. King Kong started to fade more than Narnia, as the big ape was off 50% compared to its New Year's finish. Kong earned $12.5 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period from a still huge 3,482 venues. The Universal release now has a disappointing $192.5 million in the kitty so far; however, the international grosses are heading towards the $250 million mark. Look for Kong to pass the $200 million mark but fail to reach $250 million on the domestic front. And while this one will gross almost $500 million worldwide, let's remember that Kong cost Universal well in excess of $200 million, who then most likely spent another $100 million on marketing. After the split with theatres and back-end deals are paid out, this is going to end up as a push, instead of a lottery win. Kong is the defining movie of 2005; a film that had everything going for it, but was doomed by its own excess. Who killed this beast? Three hours and seven minutes of run time.

Fun With Dick and Jane finished with $12.2 million, down a tiny 26%,. This is a better number for the Jim Carrey/Tea Leoni flick, as the comedy has now earned $81.4 million. While good, remember that Sony spent $100 million on it, so it will need another weekend above $10 million, which is highly doubtful.

Cheaper by the Dozen 2 finishes fifth, and compared to other weekend drops, families seem to be abandoning this ship in a big hurry. Cheaper finished the weekend with a gross of $8.3 million, down a large 43%. It's not really a surprise; Cheaper had only five positive reviews out of a possible 71, not long after Cheaper's clone, Yours, Mine and Ours finished with five positive reviews out of 88. Cheaper has already done enough damage, and sits with a current domestic total of $66.4 million.

Spielberg's Munich got a huge increase in venues from Universal, and the move worked with a strong increase at the box office. Universal added 953 venues to Munich's run, bringing the count up to 1,485. From those venues, Spielberg's high octane drama scored $7.5 million, and garnered an average of $5,020. The $70 million film still needs to see some increases in the weeks to come, as it sits now with $25.2 million.

Memoirs of a Geisha, the $85 million Oscar-aimer that missed, added 42 venues, bringing its count up to 1,589. The Rob Marshall film held well, earning $6 million, falling 23% compared to last weekend. Memoirs has now grossed $39.8 million, and needs to have a few more strong weekends if it wants to match the production budget domestically.

Rumor Has It, the Jennifer Aniston/Shirley MacLaine comedy, continued to struggle. The WB release earned $5.9 million this weekend, and dropped 37% compared to the previous frame. Rumor now sits with $35.4 million, is a film that is neither good or bad, and will be a memory in no time.

Brokeback Mountain continues to roll, as it also added venues this weekend, preparing for its stretch towards Oscar. Focus Features added 214 venues, bringing the total up to 483 and adding some fresh markets to Brokeback's run. The move paid off with an increase over last weekend of about 60% and a weekend gross of $5.8 million. It had a venue average of $11,904 and has now grossed $22.5 million. The question now is where this one is going to end up – it cost only $15 million to make, so its future is extremely rosy – Oscar win or not.

Tenth goes to The Family Stone, Fox's low-budget attempt at a Christmas win. Stone cost only $18 million to make, so a gross in its fourth weekend of $4.6 million is great news. The Family Stone has now earned $53.2 million.

The other two new releases failed to make the top ten. Bloodrayne finished with a total so embarrassing that its distributor didn't release a number, and Grandma's Boy finished with $2.9 million from 2,015 venues.

Overall, box office is actually up in the first weekend of the year, despite the outright failure of two of the openers. Last year, the top ten at the box office earned about $93 million. Over the same weekend this year, the top ten earned about $98 million, giving 2006 a head start over 2005.

Top Ten for Weekend of January 6-8, 2006
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Gross ($)
Gross ($)
1 Hostel 2,195 New $20.1 $20.1
2 The Chronicles of Narnia 3,514 -40% $15.4 $247.6
3 King Kong 3,482 -50% $12.5 $192.5
4 Fun With Dick and Jane 3,182 -26% $12.2 $81.4
5 Cheaper by the Dozen 2 3,108 -43% $8.3 $66.4
6 Munich 1,485 +57% $7.5 $25.2
7 Memoirs of a Geisha 1,589 -23% $6.0 $39.8
8 Rumor Has It 2,766 -37% $5.9 $35.4
9 Brokeback Mountain 483 +59% $5.8 $22.5
10 The Family Stone 2,085 -43% $4.6 $53.2
11 The Ringer 1,688 -29% $4.4 $27.9
12 Casanova 1,004 New $4.0 $5.2



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