Eight Below, Date Movie top
broad box office

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for February 17-20, 2006

By John Hamann

February 20, 2006

We'll leave it up to the reader to determine which of these is the best actor.

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It's that time of year to see what sticks at the box office – movie studios throw the films they're not quite sure what to do with at movie screens, and then hope audiences show up. In a way, the weekend resembles American Idol, but in the Twilight Zone. What seems to be the best of the brightest (Freedomland), isn't, and the ugly kids (Eight Below) are the real stars, but unfortunately they remind you too much of Paul Walker. Then we have the kids that aren't musically inclined and you aren't sure why they show up (Date Movie). Out of all that, we have to pick a winner, and this President's Day weekend it's just not fun.

It was a close race for first this weekend between a truly bad movie and a movie that got good reviews, but one I'm hesitant on promoting. The winner of the weekend is Eight Below, unfortunately starring Paul Walker. The film had a four-day total of $25 million from 3,066 venues. It managed a holiday venue average of $8,154. There is good news and bad news with Eight Below. The good news is that we FINALLY have a opener that critics liked finishing in either the number one or number two spot at the box office. The last time that this happened was when Nanny McPhee opened in second on January 27th, and before that we have to go back to the opening weekend of King Kong back on December 16th. Good movies are extremely few and far between these days, and to have one that stars Paul Walker is an extreme surprise. Walker has starred in some real dogs over his career, including The Fast and the Furious movies, Into the Blue, Timeline and The Skulls, which have a combined rotten rating at Rotten Tomatoes of 25%. Eight Below blows that average. At RT, 101 reviewers saw this one (compared to the 24 that saw Date Movie), and a solid 73 (or 72%) liked it enough to give it a thumbs up. Surprisingly, this is a remake of a successful Japanese story called Nankyoku Monogatari, or Avalanche in the US. That film was released in Japan in 1983 and was very successful.

Eight Below is from Disney, who have had their ups and downs with these ‘live action but aimed at families' type movies lately. The Greatest Game Ever Played was a cheap miss for the studio, as it made only $15 million domestically. On the other hand, Sky High with Kurt Russell did quite well. That Disney product grossed almost $65 million domestically and cost only half that to produce. Other examples of these successful sorts of movies include Herbie: Fully Loaded (almost $145 million worldwide), and on the bad side, Ice Princess which grossed only $24.4 million domestically. For the studio, the best news is that these types of films aren't expensive, and home videos returns are usually enormous.


Date Movie from Fox lands in second spot for the four-day weekend, grossing a holiday $22.3 million from 2,896 venues, giving it a holiday-inflated venue average of $7,707. Date Movie, from New Regency Pictures and distributed by 20th Century Fox, was marketed with a series of dreadfully unfunny ads and an inept trailer. My only assumption is that they are putting something into the food of teenagers to make them go out and see this one. It was held back from most reviewers, but it did manage five positive reviews out of a possible 24 at RottenTomatoes, good enough for 21% fresh, but expect that rating to go way down as more reviewers see this pile of dreck. I can't knock New Regency; they did bring us Fight Club and LA Confidential, but I am disappointed with this release. If the movie had been good, or even funny, I would have embraced it as a top film, but let's face facts. This is simply a cash grab, ripping off unsuspecting teenagers who are mistakenly looking for a little T&A. The President's Day long weekend probably helped keep this one near the top of the chart, as a majority of high schools are closed on Monday. One thing this is certainly not is another Scary Movie, as the first and third installments of that franchise opened to over $40 million. I predict that Date Movie will be out of the top ten within four weekends and at that point BOP will be having a little party – you're invited as long as you don't see the film.

Landing in third is last weekend's number one film, Sony and MGM's remake of The Pink Panther. The Steve Martin film grossed $21 million over the long holiday weekend. Still out to a huge 3,477 venues, this unfunny remake had a four-day venue average of $6,039. The Pink Panther has now stolen $46.7 million out of domestic viewers' wallets. Congratulations for rewarding this behavior!

In fourth this weekend is Curious George, hurt somewhat by the opening of Eight Below. From Imagine and Universal, Curious George grossed $15.3 million over the four-day portion of the weekend. Curious George was the only decently reviewed film of the last seven to open wide, save for Eight Below (maybe filmmakers try harder for the kiddies). Curious George cost Universal and Imagine about $50 million to make, and the cute monkey has now earned $33.5 million.

Fifth spot goes to Final Destination 3, which finished in second spot last weekend. FD3 grossed $12.5 million over the holiday weekend from 2,880 venues. The gross now for this one stands at $38.2 million, which exceeds the film's $25 million budget by a fair amount already.

The Harrison Ford classic Firewall spends its second frame in sixth over the long weekend, grossing a lame $10.3 million. The thriller was down 34% during the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the weekend, and will end up as one of the low points of Harrison Ford's career. Firewall has now grossed $28.6 million, so it should surpass Random Hearts' total of $31.1 million and Hollywood Homicide's $30.2 million.

Freedomland, the movie that should have been good but wasn't, opened very poorly this weekend. From a Richard Price novel and starring Samuel L. Jackson and Julianne Moore, the thriller grossed a holiday-inflated $7 million from 2,361 venues this weekend (maybe too many remember Moore's The Forgotten). From Sony and Revolution, this one was directed by Revolution owner Joe Roth, and ends a trifecta of really bad movies. In 2001 Roth directed Julia Roberts and John Cusack in America's Sweethearts, and then did Christmas with the Kranks in 2004. Freedomland got 23 positive reviews out of a possible 95, giving it a rotten rating of 24%.

Big Momma's House 2 spends its last weekend in the top ten in eighth place. The Martin Lawrence comedy grossed $5.9 million over the four-day holiday weekend, and sits with a gross now of $62.7 million.

Down in ninth place is When A Stranger Calls, which grossed $5.8 million over the long holiday weekend. This pile of dung cost only $15 million to make and has now grossed $42.1 million stateside.

Tenth goes to Nanny McPhee, giving us three kid flicks in the top ten this President's Day weekend. Nanny grossed $5.1 million over the four days. This Universal release has now grossed $39.3 million domestically and almost $45 million at international cinemas.

Overall, the box office over the long holiday weekend stayed even with last year. The top ten films this weekend grossed about $130.3 million, just barely ahead of the $129.7 million earned by the top ten during the same four days last year.

Top Ten for Weekend of February 17-20, 2006
of Sites
Drop (Friday-to-Sunday)
Gross ($)
Gross ($)
1 Eight Below 3,066 New $25.0 $25.0
2 Date Movie 2,896 New $22.3 $22.3
3 The Pink Panther 3,477 -18% $21.0 $46.7
4 Curious George 2,572 -24% $15.3 $33.5
5 Final Destination 3 2,880 -47% $112.5 $38.2
6 Firewall 2,840 -34% $10.3 $28.6
7 Freedomland 2,361 New $7.0 $7.0
8 Big Momma's House 2 2,039 -37% $5.9 $62.7
9 When a Stranger Calls 2,629 -46% $5.8 $42.1
10 Nanny McPhee 2,001 -25% $5.1 $39.3



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