Post-Thanksgiving Frame Sleepy Affair at the Box Office
Weekend Wrap-Up for December 1-3, 2006
By John Hamann
December 3, 2006
The post-Thanksgiving, first weekend of December has never been a popular time for big business at the box office. This weekend brought more of the same. Openers either had their eye on bigger business in the future (The Nativity), or were trying to exploit a quiet weekend where no big films were opening (Turistas, Van Wilder 2). Overall, things were brighter than last year, thanks again to James Bond and some happy penguins.
The number one film is again Happy Feet, proving that three weekends on top are still possible in today's crazy box office world. Happy Feet, the film that is making Warner Bros. a player in the animation world, grossed $17.1 million over its third frame, dropping an expectedly large 54% from the Thanksgiving frame. Weekend-to-weekend drops are expected to be bigger following a big holiday weekend like Thanksgiving, and this frame is no exception. For distributor Warner Bros., Happy Feet is their biggest animated film since The Polar Express was released in 2004, when it earned $162 million. Happy Feet is also gaining ground on last year's animated Thanksgiving picture, Chicken Little, which earned $135 million at the domestic box office for Disney. Because of the upcoming Christmas holidays, it's hard to say where Happy Feet will end up. Currently, it sits with $121.0 million, and has another weekend to work before Charlotte's Web arrives. I think a domestic total of $165 million is completely possible and that $175 million isn't out of the question.
Second spot, also for the third weekend in a row, is Casino Royale, the excellent re-booting of the Bond franchise. Casino Royale earned $15.1 million in its third frame, off an also large 51% compared to last weekend. The latest Bond crossed some important milestones in the last couple of days. It hit the $100 million mark on Thursday, its 14th day of release, which is faster than GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough, but slower than current top grossing Bond, Die Another Day. The last Pierce Brosnan flick earned $100 million in only ten days and finished with a domestic total of about $161 million. It also moved ahead of the total gross of the first Pierce Brosnan Bond film, GoldenEye, which finished with $106.5 million. Expect Casino Royale to be hurt badly next weekend by Blood Diamond and Apocolypto, and fall further behind Happy Feet. Currently Casino Royale has earned $115.9 million domestically and could finish with as much as $155 million.
Finishing third, you guessed it – like last weekend – is the aptly titled Déjà Vu, with Denzel Washington. Déjà Vu earned a solid $11.0 million in its second frame, off 47% from the Thanksgiving weekend. Audiences seem to like what they are seeing from Denzel's latest sci-fi/action flick, as that drop is actually quite healthy considering the post-holiday situation. Will this be a $100 million film? Probably not, but it will be Denzel's sixth film since 2000 to gross more than $65 million. Currently, Déjà vu sits with $44.1 million.
Our first opener, The Nativity Story, finishes fourth. Produced and distributed domestically by New Line, The Nativity Story grossed an okay $8.0 million from 3,183 venues this weekend. It had a not very good venue average of $2,514, but did have a decent weekend multiplier of 3.4. The weekend multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross) can be an indication of how good a film is, or in this case, when people are seeing a film. The Nativity Story must have had a lot of viewers on Sunday, but this could change when actuals are released tomorrow. With a weekend estimate, Friday and Saturday actual numbers are counted, and an estimate is made of how well a film would do on Sunday. New Line most likely wasn't looking at this frame as its key weekend; they are looking toward the run up to Christmas. On the other hand, the venue count indicates they were looking for a bigger start than this, but they failed to do any of The Passion of the Christ style of marketing. This will be a very interesting story in the weekends to come; if they can turn an opener like this into a middle-sized hit, the suits at New Line will be very pleased.