Snakes Slithers Into Top Spot at the Box Office

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for August 18-20, 2006

By John Hamann

August 20, 2006

I have a snake. And we're on a plane. *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*

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After all the buzz, hype, and news stories for Snakes on a Plane, I wonder if New Line isn't a little disappointed with their film's box office result this morning. The Samuel L. Jackson flick, which achieved cult status prior to opening, opened at the lower end of a broad range of expectations, but was still number one (though not by much). Other openers of this late August frame performed to expectations, with Accepted being just that, and Hilary Duff's Material Girls crashing and burning.

The number one film of the weekend is Snakes on a Plane, the oft-discussed B movie from New Line. What did you think SoaP would open to? BOP thought it might break out, but it wasn't to be, as the Sam Jackson thriller found only $15.3 million over its opening weekend. Snakes had all the chances it needed to hit even bigger. New Line gathered a huge 3,555 venues for this bonanza, and wound up with a venue average of $4,290. Was I the only one anticipating a Blair Witch-type gross? In 1999, after three weekends of white-hot limited release, The Blair Witch Project grossed $29.2 million from only 1,101 venues, changing the horror flick industry forever. Snakes won't change anything, but it could start a decent-sized franchise for New Line, with huge revenue from DVD in the cards. With a reported cost of only $35 million, this will be an okay performer for a studio that has struggled since the last of the Lord of the Rings films. Since Return of the King was released, the studio's only big hit was Wedding Crashers ($209 million), followed by 2004's The Notebook ($81 million) and the dreadful Monster-in-Law ($82 million). New Line has a couple of bright spots on their fall/winter schedule, with another Jason/Friday the 13th movie, another Texas Chainsaw movie, and a gem with Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny.

Maybe the biggest surprise about Snakes is how much fun reviewers are having with it, and potentially audiences. As of Saturday afternoon, Snakes, despite no preview screenings for critics, had 97 reviews counted at RottenTomatoes. Of those 97 reviews, a huge 60 were positive, leaving SoaP with a fresh rating, albeit a mild one of 62%. Users of the site were much more enthusiastic at 90%, but that was to be expected as users of a site like RT were what got Snakes the exposure the studio was looking for. As Kim Hollis reported in BOP's Friday Box Office Analysis, Snakes grossed about $6.3 million on Friday after earning $1.5 million from midnight screenings on Thursday. Where does Snakes go from here? It depends really on word-of-mouth: good word-of-mouth may keep this one going for another weekend; bad word-of-mouth may do the same. Indifferent word-of-mouth may sound a quick death knell for this one, but I'm doubting that's going to happen.

Second spot this weekend goes to the other way over-the-top feature in the top ten this round, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. After a big 52% drop in the last frame, Ricky Bobby pulled up a bit this weekend with a gross of $14.1 million and a respectable drop of 36%. Talladega Nights crossed the $100 million mark on Thursday, and is a safe bet to reach between $140 and $150 million domestically.

Paramount's World Trade Center had a steady second weekend after getting off to a solid opening start in the last frame. Oliver Stone's critical darling grossed $10.8 million in its second frame, off 42% from last weekend. World Trade Center cost about $63 million to make, and now sits with $45 million on the domestic front.

Fourth this weekend goes to Universal's Accepted, as the studio tries for a repeat of its American Pie franchise, which I'm sure it misses greatly. Despite the ambush marketing, too many of its target chose Snakes on a Plane, leaving the comedy with an opening weekend gross of $10.1 million. Accepted debuted on 2,913 venues, and carried an average of $3,467. Considering the debut of Snakes, this isn't a bad score. Star power for Accepted was similar to films like Van Wilder and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, which opened to about $7.3 million and $5.5 million respectively. The other good news here for Universal is that this one was most likely made for a song, with the opening weekend gross probably coming in higher than the production cost.

Plunging from an almost win last weekend to fifth this weekend is Step Up, as Snakes, Accepted and, to a much lesser extent, Material Girls ate its audience. Step Up grossed $9.9 million in its second weekend, dropping an expected 52%. While a big drop, let's not forget that Step Up opened to over $20 million, but cost only $12 million to make, so anything that comes after opening weekend is literally gravy. The dance movie has now earned $39.4 million for Buena Vista.

Barnyard, the last of the CG animal pictures of 2006, continues to excel now that the tots have forgotten that Monster House and The Ant Bully are still in release. Barnyard grossed another $7.5 million this weekend and was off an extremely slim 23% compared to the previous frame. Barnyard, from the usually hapless-at-animation Paramount, has now grossed an extremely decent $46 million. It could finish with as much as $65 million in domestic sales. That's not bad for a $50 million film that will see a large amount of revenue come from DVD sales.

Seventh goes to Little Miss Sunshine, the arthouse hit that platformed this weekend. Sunshine, distributed by those savvy Fox Searchlight folks, grossed $5.7 million in its first semi-wide weekend. It earned that from only 691 venues, giving the comedy a venue average of $8,249. It should see some more decent business in the weeks to come, as it is one of best-reviewed films of the year at RottenTomatoes, with a Fresh rating of 93%.


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest may have finished eighth this weekend, but it accomplished something only a handful of films have been able to do in box office history: it crossed the $400 million mark in domestic sales. Dead Man's Chest grossed $5.0 million this weekend, and was off 31%. It crossed the $400 million mark on Sunday, its 46th day of release, narrowly missing the record set by Shrek 2, which made $400 million in 43 days of release.

Material Girls, the new film starring the Duff sisters, finishes way back in ninth this weekend, which wasn't totally unexpected. From MGM, this light-beer teen film earned only $4.6 million from a small venue count of 1,509. It had a venue average of $3,048, and is already a memory.

Tenth this weekend unfortunately does not go to The Descent, it goes to Pulse, the much worse of the two horror films. Pulse earned a dismal $3.5 million in its second frame and was off 57%. The total now for the Weinstein Company flick has reached $14.7 million.

Overall this weekend, things are not great, despite the debut of Snakes on a Plane. The top ten this weekend grossed about $86.5 million, which is close to last year's $92.7 million, but still less. Last year benefited from strong debuts by The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Red Eye, but was held back by the animated flop Valiant. In 2004, box office was much better, finding about $98 million.

Top Ten for Weekend of
of Sites
Percentage Drop
Gross ($)
Gross ($)
1 Snakes on a Plane 3,555 New 15.3 15.3
2 Tallageda Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby 3,741 36% 14.1 114.7
3 World Trade Center 2,998 42% 10.8 45.0
4 Accepted 2,913 New 10.1 10.1
5 Step Up 2,639 52% 9.9 39.4
6 Barnyard 3,227 23% 7.5 46.0
7 Little Miss Sunshine 694 +119% 5.7 12.8
8 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest 2,277 31% 5.0 401.1
9 Material Girls 1,509 New 4.6 4.6
10 Pulse 2,323 57% 3.5 14.7



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