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Weekend Wrap-Up Part II

By David Mumpower

May 21, 2006

If you talk on your cell phone during movies, 'possums will get you.

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Believe it or not, there were other films in release this weekend at theaters. The winner among the also-rans was Over the Hedge, an unfortunate victim of circumstance. On 16 out of 20 weekends this year, 80% of the time, this animated flick from DreamWorks (well, Paramount now) would have won the weekend and been the story. Alas, the studio picked a weekend when Sony had it beat by $40 million as the time for counter-programming. With $37.7 million in its opening frame, Over the Hedge had the fifth-highest opening of 2006. Only Ice Age: The Meltdown, Scary Movie 4, Mission: Impossible III and The Da Vinci Code surpassed it. Opening ultra-wide in 4,059 venues, Hedge earned a respectable but not spectacular $9,172 per exhibition.

Is this performance good or bad? That depends upon perspective. It is hard to quibble with one of the five biggest openings of the year. The fact that Over the Hedge got smoked by Ice Age: The Meltdown by over $30 million is troubling. The $37.7 million total is $10 million lower than the previous two DreamWorks Animation releases, Madagascar and Shark Tale. Even Chicken Little, a Disney (not Pixar) animated title made it to $40 million on opening weekend. This number is more in line with the $36.0 million Robots accrued 14 months ago. And while that title wound up with $128 million, it still has the perception of stink of failure. Of course, the Robots team wound up apologizing for not writing a script. Over the Hedge has a 74% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes (a number Ron Howard may only dream about at the moment), indicating it might find momentum from word-of-mouth. At the moment, this box office performance is nothing special if not disappointing, but summer legs might yet carry it to $140 million or so.

Third and fourth place this weekend belong to a disappointment and a bomb. Mission: Impossible III adds an estimated $11.1 million to its flagging grand total of $103.2 million. This represents a weekend three decline of 56%. So much for those legs, eh? The Tom Cruise vehicle did finally go over $100 million on day 15. Alas, this is a full week longer than it took Mission: Impossible II. With international receipts running about 25% under expectations as well, the production is going to wind up in the black before it leaves theaters. It simply won't be the rainmaker Paramount had expected.

Poseidon can't even claim that. The film plummeted a precipitous 58.5% from an already weak opening weekend total, winding up with an estimated $9.2 million. Its cumulative total of $37.7 million indicates anything significantly above $50 million in domestic receipts is going to be tough to achieve. For a film with a reported negative cost in excess of $225 million, this is nothing short of disastrous. As much as The Island and Stealth were slagged last year, neither one of them was ever in danger of losing their studio this much money. Perhaps it is self-fulfilling prophecy, but Poseidon is a sinking ship.




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Rounding out the top five is RV, the Robin Williams laugh riot that 76% of critics at RottenTomatoes found funny but not funny ha ha. Another $5.1 million this weekend represents a 48.7% decline and a running tally of $50.4 million. Relative to the budget of $65 million, this isn't good; however, considering that the opening weekend was only $16.4 million, the film's legs are gradually egging it on toward respectability.

Finishing in sixth place is the final new release of the week. See No Evil, a horror film starring WWE wrestler Kane, manages to scare up $4.4 million. The film is actually a production of the wrestling corporation, their first large foray into the industry that does not involve The Rock. The results proved what most analysts already recognized. Without The Rock above the title, the results are going to be shaky at best. Only 1,257 exhibitors were even willing to take a shot on this tile, giving the project a mediocre per-venue average of $3,461. WWE Films has two more 2006 releases currently on the schedule, The Marine and The Condemned. The latter project stars Steve Austin and has only recently started filming. I am dubious it sees the light of day in 2006. The Marine is in the same boat but for different reasons. Currently slated for October 13th, the project stars the universally reviled John Cena. With the well-liked Kane unable to sell a horror film, a natural for him, it is impossible to imagine the Cena action film to be anything other than Cool As Ice 2. Considering the fact that See No Evil isn't guaranteed to ever make back its negative cost due to the print count expenses, straight-to-video would be the smarter business move for The Marine. What have we learned from all of this? The WWE needs The Rock a lot more than The Rock needs the WWE.

Lindsay Lohan boozes her way into seventh place with Just My Luck. The former poster child for Disney tweeners has come to realize the new generation of tweeners are much bigger fans of High School Musical than they are of anorexic poster children for Defamer.com. Just My Luck falls another 41% to $3.4 million this weekend, giving it a whopping grand total of $10.5 million. This problem isn't going to get her that Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen sequel.

The bottom half of the top ten is filled by stragglers. Had this area been stronger, we would have been looking at a sensational weekend of box office growth relative to last year. Instead, we get An American Haunting with $1.7 million, United 93 with $1.4 million and Akeelah and the Bee with $1.0 million. As John Hamann accurately forecasted in this column a couple of weeks ago, the problem we have with current summer box office is at the bottom of the board. When 30% of the top ten is comprised of box office south of $5 million total, it is difficult if not impossible to see sustained overall box office strength. As we head toward Memorial Day weekend and the true start of the summer box office campaign, this will be one of the most important aspects to track if we are to avoid last year's disastrous season of woe.

With regards to overall box office, we're looking at a good news/bad news situation. The happy story that studios can emphasize is that attendance totals are way, way up from last weekend, an increase from $80.9 million to $151.4 million, a massive increase of 87%. That's what the difference between a steaming pile of disappointment and a bona fide hit will get you. However, if we compare this weekend's numbers to the same weekend last year, we're looking at a drop-off of around 3%. The top ten in 2005 made $156 million, which just edges out the aforementioned $151.4 million of 2006.

Next weekend, X-Men: The Last Stand will be the sole new opener over what has traditionally been a very lucrative Memorial Day holiday. We're looking at consecutive weekends over $70 million, a feat that is none too easy in this day of tricky box office trending and consumers who are willing to wait for DVD.


Top Ten for Weekend of May 19-21, 2006
Rank
Film
Number
of Sites
Percentage Drop
Estimated
Gross ($)
Cumulative
Gross ($)
1 The Da Vinci Code 3,735 New 77.0 77.0
2 Over the Hedge 4,059 New 37.2 37.2
3 Mission: Impossible III 3,450 -56 11.0 103.2
4 Poseidon 3,555 -59 9.2 36.8
5 RV 2,925 -49 5.1 50.4
6 See No Evil 1,257 New 4.4 4.4
7 Just My Luck 2,543 -41 3.4 10.5
8 An American Haunting 1,265 -53 1.7 13.6
9 United 93 1,308 -59 1.4 28.3
10 Akeelah and the Bee 751 -58 1.0 15.7

     


 
 

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