Hollywood Rolls Out a Party at the Box Office; Nobody Shows

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for March 3-5, 2006

By John Hamann

March 5, 2006

It could be worse. She could be a transvestite in a fat suit.

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It was a brutal weekend at the box office. Crickets and critics were the only ones at movie theaters, as a lineup of four new films failed to cause much of a stir. We had a Bruce Willis movie that was always destined to be a $10-15 million opener in 16 Blocks; Dave Chappelle's Block Party, which had all the right ingredients save marketing; Ultraviolet, an action movie held back from critics; and Aquamarine, a film for teens about mermaids (or so I'm told). Chappelle's film was the only one that had a chance to break out, and it finished way back in seventh, leading this Oscar weekend into the toilet.

Hollywood has some huge problems – maybe not right now, but the writing is certainly on the wall. None of Sunday's Best Picture nominees earned $100 million at the domestic box office. Last year's top ten films earned about $105 million; this year, less than $80 million. Last weekend's number one film dropped 57% in its second frame, and a film that got one (yes, one) positive review is contending for top spot. What the hell is going on? Last year, the top two films (both openers) earned over $54 million – this year, the top two films failed to combine for $25 million. With all of this, don't think that the studios are suffering. Five of the six non-openers this weekend will make money for their parent company. This weekend is a definite indication of moviegoer habits; once bitten, twice shy isn't quite it – it's a thousand times bitten, and now I think I'll just stay home.

Almost like a sign from the heavens, the number one film of the weekend dropped 57% from last weekend. Madea's Family Reunion is number one over this Oscar frame, earning $13 million, but I bet that number will go lower tomorrow. Still at 2,194 venues, Madea earned an average of $5,925, which compares extremely poorly with last weekend's average of $13,688. Lionsgate, the distributor of Madea, doesn't care, as this one earned its budget back opening night, nine days ago. Madea's Family Reunion has now earned $48.1 million against a budget of $6 million. Like Diary of a Mad Black Woman, and despite the hideous drop this weekend, Madea will easily make ten times its production budget from domestic box office alone.

Second spot goes to our first opener, 16 Blocks, with Bruce Willis. Distributed by Warner Bros., but produced by a large handful of companies, 16 Blocks got off to an okay start with a $11.7 million opening weekend. For Willis, this is an expected result, as it did better than last year's Hostage, which opened to $10.2 million, but worse than Tears of the Sun, which debuted with $17 million. This one got better than usual reviews for Willis film, with 47 positive reviews and 51 not so positive at RottenTomatoes. 16 Blocks finished with a 48% rating, and will most likely be a memory in a few weeks.

Third spot goes to one of the few bright spots in this weekend's top ten. Eight Below grossed $10.3 million in its third weekend, and has become a huge hit at the box office. Now at 3,122 venues (50 more than last weekend), Eight Below earned a venue average of $3,288 this weekend. Most likely budgeted between $25 and $50 million, this Disney product has now earned $58.8 million, and could finish with as much as $90 million in domestic box office.

Fourth goes to Ultraviolet, starring Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil, The Fifth Element). Held back from critics (for good reason), this one probably had the best marketing campaign of the weekend, and was able to fool moviegoers into spending $9 million to see it. From Screen Gems, the PG-13 rated actioner debuted on 2,588 screens and garnered a venue average of $3,518. While this one looked cool, it certainly was not. At RottenTomatoes, there was only one positive review out of a possible 26, giving it a fresh rating of 4%, with that number sure to drop in the days ahead. Screen Gems already had a hit in 2006 with the idiotic When A Stranger Calls – that one cost about $15 million to make and has so far grossed $45.5 million. Now, with Ultraviolet, Screen Gems has an almost $10 million opener with a budget of about $30 million, which means profit will be made during DVD sales.


Fifth this weekend goes to another opener, Aquamarine. I have to admit that if I didn't write this column, I wouldn't know that this film exists, as the target here is teen girls. Aquamarine grossed $7.5 million this weekend, a number I imagine the Fox people are happy with, considering awareness. This is a Fox product all the way, with Fox 2000 (Walk the Line) producing and 20th Century Fox distributing. The good news here is that at least reviews were mixed. Usually teens get too many films like Ultraviolet. At RottenTomatoes, 62 reviews were counted and 38 were fresh, leading to a 61% fresh rating.

The Pink Panther finishes sixth this weekend, as the Steve Martin comedy continues to roll. Now in its fourth weekend, The Pink Panther earned $7 million, off 37% from the last frame. The $80 million picture has now grossed $69.8 million domestically.

Surprisingly, way back in seventh is Dave Chappelle's Block Party, which would have finished higher had it had more venues and improved marketing. Block Party grossed $6.5 million this weekend from only 1,200 venues, albeit more than the 800 that was originally planned by distributor Rogue Pictures. This one was made for $3 million, so again we have a film that exceeded its production budget basically on its first day of release. Probably the best thing about Block Party is that it seems to be almost universally liked by critics. Of the 89 reviewers that saw this Michael Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) film, only seven gave it a negative review. That's good for an electric fresh rating of 92%. Too bad it didn't turn into a higher gross for the concert film. Look for more venues and a similar gross in the next frame, as this could be a big hit for Rogue Pictures.

Date Movie finds a way to stay in the top ten this weekend, as the Fox film grossed $5.1 million in its third frame. Off 44% from the last frame, Date Movie has now earned $40.7 million, against a budget of only $20 million.

Ninth goes to Curious George, as Universal's cute little monkey prepares for its exit from the top ten. Curious George grossed $4.4 million this weekend, off 38% from last weekend. George has now grossed $49.2 million against a budget of about $50 million.

Tenth is Firewall, a thriller that is Harrison Ford's biggest since 2000's What Lies Beneath. Firewall grossed $3.6 million in its fourth weekend, off 46% from the previous frame. The Sony flick has now taken in $42.5 million.

Overall, things are not cool at the box office. This weekend, the top ten films grossed about $78.5 million, a number indicative of the product in release this weekend. Last year, the top ten films grossed $105 million, as The Pacifier and Be Cool propelled sales.

Top Ten for Weekend of March 3-5, 2006
of Sites
Gross ($)
Gross ($)
1 Madea's Family Reunion 2,194 -57% $13.0 $48.1
2 16 Blocks 2,706 New $11.7 $11.7
3 Eight Below 3,122 -35% $10.3 $58.8
4 Ultraviolet 2,558 New $9.0 $9.0
5 Aquamarine 2,512 New $7.5 $7.5
6 The Pink Panther 3,024 -37% $7.0 $69.8
7 Dave Chappelle's Block Party 1,200 New $6.5 $6.5
8 Date Movie 2,603 -44% $5.1 $40.7
9 Curious George 2,590 -38% $4.4 $49.2
10 Firewall 2,212 -46% $3.6 $42.5



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