Borat, Family Films Trump Openers

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for November 10-12, 2006

By John Hamann

November 12, 2006

The driving instructor got an unpleasant surprise when Borat sneezed on him.

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Repeating in third place is Flushed Away. Thanks to the Veteran's Day holiday, Flushed Away was able to show strength in its second weekend with a gross of $16.7 million, a decrease of only 11.1%. Flushed Away, an Aardman creation, looks to improve on the so-so success that Wallace and Gromit found last year. W&G dropped 28% in its second weekend after debuting to a slight $16 million. That film finished with about $56 million, while Flushed Away has $39.9 million in the kitty already with Thanksgiving on the horizon. All of a sudden, this film has an outside shot at $100 million, which will make distributor DreamWorks/Paramount very happy.

Will Ferrell's Stranger Than Fiction finishes fourth, and while I'm sure the producers and distributor Sony would have liked a top three finish, I think they will be very pleased with this result. Stranger Than Fiction earned $14.1 million from 2,264 venues, giving it a venue average of $ 6,228. This opening is akin to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the 2004 film that Jim Carrey opened to $8.2 million. While the opening for Sunshine was lower than that of Stranger Than Fiction, so was the venue count. Sunshine opened at 1,353 venues and had a very similar venue average of $6,042. Surprisingly, Eternal Sunshine didn't try to expand after opening weekend. It saw consecutive weekend drops of 35% and finished with about $35 million. Reviews aren't as good for Stranger Than Fiction (75% fresh at RottenTomatoes) than they were for Eternal Sunshine (a stellar 94% fresh). However, I also think that Stranger Than Fiction may be an easier grasp for audiences than Eternal Sunshine was.

Opening Stranger Than Fiction was no easy task, and to get it this close to $15 million should be seen as a quiet victory. Sure, Will Ferrell is a driving force at the box office, but his built-in audience is more comfortable laughing out loud at Borat than thinking with Stranger Than Fiction. If I were taking on a star to work in my movie, I would immediately seek out Ferrell because of his marketing prowess. Seen earlier this year with Talladega Nights, Ferrell did it again here, goofing off in TV spots and in any interview he could get. Will Ferrell controls his own opening weekend, and I think Sony will be happy with this one.


Finishing fifth is Saw III, as the horror flick plunges hard for the second consecutive weekend. Saw III grossed $6.4 million, off a huge 56%, equal to the drop it earned last weekend. Saw III now has earned $69.7 million domestically, and should have a similar finish to that of Saw II, which ended with $87 million.

Babel, expanding from arthouse release, finishes sixth. The Brad Pitt/Cate Blanchett drama earned $5.7 million from 1,251 venues this weekend, giving it a so-so venue average of $4,516. From Paramount, this Oscar wannabe had two weekends of strong limited release seeing weekend with seven and then 35 venues. This is a tough film to take wide despite the stars, as the title means little and has a confusing story. It does have decent reviews, though, and could carry good word-of-mouth. Let's see if it disappears next weekend.

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