Smart Fox Triumphs With Daredevil

John Hamann's Weekend Wrap-Up

February 14-17, 2003

Bald and balder.

Nobody could ask for a better weekend to release a tentpole franchise movie. With Valentine's Day falling on a date-filled Friday followed by a long February weekend, you've got a deadly combination for a top-notch release date. 20th Century Fox sort of fumbled into this date for their new comic franchise Daredevil, as the date originally planned was November of 2002. Fox worked hard on marketing and awareness for this fanboy flick, and the effort seems to have paid off. On the complete flipside of Daredevil, Oscar nominations came out on Tuesday, and definitely helped a couple of movies hit some high notes.

The last time Valentine's Day fell on a Friday, it was back in 1997, so far back that people still liked the Star Wars movies. The re-release of Star Wars was in its third weekend and still came in at the top of the box office. Further down that chart, though, is Jerry Maguire. Maguire reduced its screen count by about 200 heading into Valentine's Day weekend (it had already grossed over $120 million), but with Valentine's Day and a slew of Oscar nominations (one for best picture), this film bounced up 45% compared to the weekend before. Yes, there is an extra day in that total, but even with that, a 45% increase is unheard of. Even Fool's Rush In with Mathew Perry opened to almost $10 million. That, my friends, is the Valentine's Day/President's Day effect on the box office. Friday night for lovers, and two Saturdays for the kids for seeing films like Star Wars.

Yes, Daredevil won the weekend by a landslide, and by a far bigger amount than this hater of Bennifer predicted. The comic-based Fox flick grossed a massive $47.3 million over the long weekend, becoming 2003's biggest opener by a long shot. Daredevil opened at 3,471 venues, the ninth widest opening ever. The film had a massive four day venue average of $13,647. Since Bennifer and Jennifer Garner both had roles in Pearl Harbor, neither of the leads can boast that Daredevil is their biggest opening. What's important for Garner is that she now has three big successes on the big screen in a row, as her film before Daredevil was Catch Me If You Can. Ms. Garner may be more important to the box office success of Daredevil than people think. Fox employed Garner a lot in the trailers and TV ads, gearing the marketing away from the fanboy, and more towards couples in the later stages. Valentine's Day is the key to the weekend, and Daredevil definitely succeeded on the 14th.

Critics were evenly split on Daredevil, but one big thumb may have tipped the scale towards the good. RottenTomatoes counted 116 reviews of the film, and the split was 57 positive versus 59 negative reviews. One of those positive reviews came from uber-reviewer Roger Ebert, who gave the film three stars. Fox should get that fact into the ads as quickly as they can. Cinemascores, on the other hand, were pretty bad. Under 21 males and females only offered up a B+ grade, and older males gave Daredevil its lowest grade, a C+. Word-of-mouth on this one is going to be shaky at best.

For 20th Century Fox, this is their second hit of 2003, and we are only halfway through February. Fox opened the year with Just Married, which had grossed $52.7 million against a cost of only $18 million as of last Sunday. Daredevil is Fox's biggest opening since last May's Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

In second this weekend is How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days, which benefited largely from having its second Friday on Valentine's Day. The Matthew McConaughey/Kate Hudson rom-com held very well over the weekend, dropping only slightly compared to last weekend's gross of $23.8 million. The Paramount romantic comedy grossed $21 million over the four-day weekend, holding steady on 2,923 screens, and gathering a venue average of $7,184. So far, How To Lose A Guy has grossed $49.7 million against a production cost of about $50 million, which is great news for Paramount. The better news is that rom-coms have been showing great legs lately, and this looks to be at least a $90 million winner.

Third spot goes again to Oscar darling Chicago, which looks more and more like A Beautiful Mind with each passing weekend. Chicago grabbed a massive 13 Oscar nominations this last Tuesday, putting the film's name back into the headlines. The free promotion worked well for Chicago, which was also another Valentine's Day fave; the Rob Marshall-directed film grossed $15.5 million, an increase of 19% compared to last weekend. Miramax added 427 more screens to celebrate its batch of Oscar nominations, and the play certainly worked; Chicago has now grossed an awesome $83.6 million. Will Chicago be able to hold its audience until the Oscar party? We'll have to wait and see, but because the musical only had a budget of $40 million, that party has already started.

Taking the fourth slot is The Jungle Book 2, another "made-for-video, but good enough for theatrical release" title from Disney. Remember the good old days when Disney would just re-release their classics? Not anymore. Now they are mining those classics for story ideas, using parents' fond memories as marketing tools. Whether I like it or not, The Jungle Book 2 did quite well, grossing $15.1 million from 2,808 venues. JB2 had a venue average of $5,381. The release of JB2 comes exactly a year after Return to Neverland surprised at the box office, grossing $11.9 million over its opening weekend, and $48.4 million overall. RtN only cost Disney $20 million, so the beat is sure to go on at Disney. JB2 carries a little more star power than RtN, as Haley Joel Osment and John Goodman lend their voices to this film along with Phil Collins. Critics hated JB2; only 15 reviews out of 45 were positive, resulting in a 25% fresh rating for the kid flick. Cinemascores were better; both males and females under 21 gave the film an A.

Another sequel takes fifth position this weekend; Shanghai Knights grossed $12.8 million from 2,755 venues for a venue average of $4,646. The Jackie Chan/Owen Wilson flick dropped a large 35%, even with an extra day in the weekend. Knights had a production budget of $50 million, and so far has a gross of $36 million.

Sixth spot goes to The Recruit, Colin Farrell's second film in the top ten, as he has a featured role in Daredevil. The Recruit grossed $7.55 million over the four-day weekend, dropping 19% compared with its previous three-day gross. The Touchstone release has now hit $39.7 million after three weekends of release.

Final Destination 2, probably not a big Valentine's Day draw, drops two spots to number seven this weekend. The New Line flick dropped 24% compared to last weekend, as the horror sequel grossed $6.4 million from 2,238 screens over the long weekend. The Ali Larter film has now grossed $36.3 million, which is much better than where the original was after three weeks; the first Final had only grossed $28.3 million after three frames.

Eighth this weekend is Kangaroo Jack, a film I should only have to write about one more time. KJ grossed $5.06 million over the weekend, dropping 17% from the previous frame. Its total stands at $59 million.

In at ninth is Deliver Us From Eva, the urban love story from Focus Features. Even with the Valentine's Day bonus, Eva still couldn't match its gross from last weekend. The snowstorm in the east hurt Deliver Us >From Eva, as it only grossed $4.46 million from 1,139 venues, which is a drop of 33% compared to the last weekend's 3-day frame. Its total stands at $12.3 million.

Oscar Nominee The Hours is our tenth place finisher. The chick-flick grossed $3.85 million after receiving a handful of Oscar nominations. The total for the Paramount effort stands at $26.5 million.

Out of the top ten this weekend are Biker Boyz (that didn't take long) and Darkness Falls, two films we're better off without. Next week we get four new titles: Universal's The Life of David Gale, Ted Turner's Gods and Generals, the very humorous-looking Old School, and the under-marketed Dark Blue, starring Kurt Russell. Check out BOP's Release Schedule for more information on these films.

Top 12 for Four-Day Weekend of February 14-17
Number of Sites
Change in Sites from Last
Estimated Gross ($)
Cumulative Gross ($)
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
No Change
The Jungle Book 2
Shanghai Knights
The Recruit
Final Destination 2
Kangaroo Jack
Deliver Us from Eva
No Change
The Hours
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
About Schmidt



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