Poseidon Sinks; Sends Box Office Into Crisis Mode

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for May 12-14, 2006

By John Hamann

May 14, 2006

Kurt Russell vainly tries to put out the box office burning.

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Uh-oh. Hollywood was given a whole bunch of bad news this weekend; however, if you've invested in X-men: The Last Stand or The Da Vinci Code, get ready to cash in. Simply put, Poseidon sunk badly, grossing less than half of Mission: Impossible III's poor start last weekend. The other openers, Just My Luck (with the usually reliable Lindsay Lohan) and Goal! The Dream Begins, also tanked hard. The bleeding is throughout the top ten at the box office, as tumbleweeds and crickets were seen in many North American theatres.

First off, let's have a look at the history of the second weekend in May. Last year, four lame openers managed to earn about $56 million, pulling the top ten at the box office up to about $91 million for the weekend. In 2004, new openers Troy and Breakin' All the Rules earned about $51 million, and led the box office to a top ten score of about $99 million. Over the May 9, 2003 weekend, Daddy Day Care, with a $27.6 million debut, was the only opener to crack the top ten, however X2: X-men United earned $40 million in its second frame. That top ten earned about $100 million. Finally, in 2002, new openers were Spider-Man fodder, as Unfaithful and The New Guy earned about $23 million, while the webslinger earned $71.4 million with a drop of only 37% in its second weekend. That top ten earned about $113 million. The trend, in terms of top ten combined grosses, looks like this: 2002: $113 million, 2003: $100 million, 2004: $99 million, 2005: $91 million. This year, the top ten earned $77.6 million, and openers brought in $27.8 million. Those that say the summer movie industry is not in turmoil are lying to themselves, and as this column has said for almost two years, something has to change. Studios seem to have lost their marketing skills, audiences no longer seem to care, and last night at the theater, three cell phones went off, and a group of hooligans destroyed the experience.

The number one film is Mission: Impossible III with a gross that meets expectations this weekend; however, any excitement is gone due to its disappointing start in the last frame and the overall weakness of this frame's top ten. MI3 grossed $24.5 million this weekend from 4,059 venues (five more than last weekend). It was off 49% compared to its opening and it carried a soft venue average of $6,039. A weekend-to-weekend drop above 55% would have been nasty for the box office, as MI3 is carrying good word-of-mouth, and it should appeal to both men and women. As BOP's Tim Briody reported yesterday, MI3 grossed $7.6 million on Friday, so it had a second weekend multiplier of 3.2, a little lower than where expectations live. So far, MI3 has grossed $84.6 million. I think it will cross the $100 million mark next Friday, far too long for an event picture like this (Mission: Impossible II took only eight days to reach $100 million). As I mentioned last week, international totals will save MI3 (like Troy last year), but it will struggle to meet its negative cost of about $200 million on the domestic front.

Number two this weekend is Poseidon and I think we all knew this ship had sunk prior to its maiden voyage. Poseidon grossed only $20.3 million this weekend from 3,555 venues, which equals an average of only $5,717, but only a couple of hundred dollars away from MI3. The sunken boat movie started the weekend with a Friday gross of $7.2 million, so it ended the weekend with a worrisome weekend multiplier of 2.8. In terms of predictions for the opening on this one, BOP's Reagen Sulewski nailed it, with an estimate of $20.1 million back on Thursday. Sulewski said then that Poseidon had nothing going for it. Reviews were bad and marketing was poor save for the teaser that was released so long ago. Poseidon broke the cardinal rule of a summer blockbuster; it failed to garner any buzz whatsoever despite having some decent names in it.

Poseidon got ravaged by critics in general (32% fresh), by the nation's top critics (27%) and by usually forgiving audiences (50%). This most likely means that Poseidon will not right itself next weekend, and with a budget IMDb reports as $140 million (and that Variety suggests was as high as $200 million), this Warner Bros. flick has a long way to go domestically and internationally to meet that budget. With MI3, it was easy to blame Tom Cruise for the disappointing result. It's more difficult to find an answer as to why people are avoiding an event movie like Poseidon in the summer season. Usually, film quality is not an issue, so I think we have to look at Warner Bros. and wonder if they thought there was no saving this turkey. Maybe someone believed that this was going to be a funeral, and refused to spend money asking people to come. Poseidon pulled down the overall box office to ridiculously low levels, but the sinking could be good news for The Da Vinci Code and X-men: The Last Stand in the weeks to come. Often, when the box office tanks one weekend, it allows a blockbuster more room to move in the following weekend, which is what will happen here. However, the poor performance will also put pressure to the downside in the weeks to come, as soft results in the lower rungs of the top ten will make totals progressively weaker.


RV continues to enjoy some success against dueling disappointments in the blockbuster category. The Robin Williams Revival grossed a surprising $9.5 million for Sony from a still powerful 3,536 venues. It dropped an eye-opening 14% versus last weekend, and had a venue average of $2,686. I don't think too many parents were into taking their kids to Poseidon this weekend, and it looks like the junior crowd would rather see RV than Lindsay Lohan. RV now has a decent $42.8 million in the domestic bucket after three weekends, but is still well away from its production budget of $65 million. For Robin Williams, though, this could be his Cheaper By The Dozen.

Fourth goes to the aforementioned Just My Luck, and the gross could be extremely detrimental for Lindsay Lohan, who is also afflicted with Tom Cruise-itis. Just My Luck earned only $5.5 million, leaving it ignored by the starlet's audience. The New Regency film, distributed by 20th Century Fox and produced by Bruce Willis, opened at 2,541 venues, and carried a brutal opening weekend venue average of $2,164. This is Lohan's lowest opening ever, coming in far behind the forgotten Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen's debut of $9.4 million. That film finished with a domestic gross of $29 million and a 13% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes. This one will finish with a lower gross and something similar to its current 11% fresh rating at RT. Lindsay and Tom, if you're reading, get it together. Your audiences are tired of your antics.

Starting in fifth, the real concern for the box office grows, as the numbers are so low they indicate real problems with the moviegoing experience. Fifth goes to An American Haunting, which flew well under the radar and grossed $5.8 million in its debut. This weekend, the thriller grossed $3.7 million, off a decent-for-the-genre 36%. Upstart distributor Freestyle Releasing added only a handful of new venues, bringing the total up to 1,703 and giving it a venue average of $2,166, slightly better than Just My Luck. The total for this small movie now sits at $10.9 million, approaching its budget of $14 million.

United 93 finds itself in sixth spot this weekend with a small gross of $3.6 million. The Universal film has slipped fast since opening to $11.5 million three weekends ago. Last weekend, the 9/11 film dropped 53%. This weekend it slips a better 33%. The total now for a film that cost less than $20 million to make stands at $25.6 million.

Seventh spot goes to Stick It, a film that opened much higher that Lindsay Lohan's Just My Luck. In its third weekend, Stick It grossed $3.2 million from 2,009 venues. It was off 41% compared to last weekend. The upstart Buena Vista comedy now sits with $22.2 million.

Eighth goes to Ice Age: The Meltdown, after seven weeks in the top ten. Ice Age 2 grossed $3 million from only 1,879 venues, proving that audiences are starved for content. It dropped only 29%, and now has a domestic total of $187.4 million.

Ninth goes to Silent Hill, as audiences are obviously frustrated with their choices. Silent Hill earned $2.2 million this weekend, off 45%, and now carries a domestic total of $44.5 million.

Hoot, the family movie with the bad reviews and ridiculously high venue count finishes tenth this weekend, exactly where it was in the last frame. Hoot grossed $2.1 million this weekend, and has now earned $6.2 million after two weekends of release.

Way back in twelfth is new opener Goal! The Dream Begins, a soccer movie distributed by Disney. It got off to an extremely poor start for a film with two sequels already pencilled in. In its first weekend, Goal! Grossed only $2 million from an albeit small venue count of 1,007. Despite the low count, it still had an awful venue average of $1,989. The biggest problem here is that IMDb lists the budget at $30 million, a scary figure for a movie with a start like this.

Overall, things are not good at the box office this weekend. The top ten managed only $77.6 million, a figure that is simply far too low for this time of year. Last year, as mentioned above, the top ten grossed $90.8 million, leaving this year in the dirt. It ends a streak of seven straight weekends where the top ten box office performers were able to finish ahead of 2005's batch.

Top Ten for Weekend of May 12-14, 2006
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Gross ($)
Gross ($)
1 Mission: Impossible 3 4,059 -49% $24.5 $84.6
2 Poseidon 3,555 New $20.3 $20.3
3 RV 3,536 -14% $9.5 $42.8
4 Just My Luck 2,541 New $5.5 $5.5
5 An American Haunting 1,703 -36% $3.7 $10.9
6 United 93 1,871 -33% $3.6 $25.6
7 Stick It 2,009 -41% $3.2 $22.2
8 Ice Age: The Meltdown 1,879 -29% $3.0 $187.4
9 Silent Hill 1,888 -45% $2.2 $44.5
10 Hoot 3,018 -37% $2.1 $6.2
11 Scary Movie 4 1,793 -44% $2.1 $86.6
12 Goal! The Dream Begins 1,007 New $2.0 $2.0



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