Darkness Falls on Super Bowl Weekend

John Hamann's Weekend Wrap-Up

January 24-26, 2003

We're picking the Bucs in an upset.

Well, here we are again, and it's another weekend of moviegoers making bad choices at the local cineplex. Last week it was Jerry Bruckheimer's Kangaroo Jack taking the top spot (thankfully, it seems to be dying), but now another film of questionable quality has risen to take Jack's spot as the bad movie at the top of the box office; that movie is Darkness Falls. It's hard to believe, but Darkness scored even worse reviews than Kangaroo Jack did. At least we have the Super Bowl this weekend, which makes it all better, but the annual gridiron championship really knocks the Sapp out of the box office.

Will the winter of moviegoers' discontent ever end? When will the glory days of the Christmas schedule return? At the very least, we get Shanghai Knights in the first weekend in February, and Owen Wilson twiddling his thumbs for 90 minutes has to be better than Darkness Falls. Before Knights though, our only hope may be The Recruit with Colin Farrell and Al Pacino, as I've written off Laurence Fishburne's Biker Boyz already. The good news about this weekend, though, is the continued expansion of art films like Chicago and About Schmidt, films that are resilient against the Super Bowl. The big game ran a week later last year, over the February 2nd frame, and it really took apart the moviegoing weekend. Two films opened over Super Bowl weekend last year (Slackers and Birthday Girl), and both were decimated, finishing outside of the top ten. The funny thing is that those two films were supposed to be counter-programming against the Big Game, and both failed to achieve any sort of success. So how did Darkness Falls, which would appeal to the same demo as Slackers, succeed where others failed? It's simple: marketing. If Jeepers Creepers can do it, so can Darkness Falls.

<% sqlstr = "SELECT * FROM box WHERE" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Slackers' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Birthday Girl' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Valentine' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Head Over Heels' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Eye of the Beholder' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'She''s All That' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Great Expectations' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Desperate Measures' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Deep Rising'" sqlstr = sqlstr + " ORDER BY open DESC" max = 100 header = "Recent Super Bowl Combatants" tstyle = "release" skin = "bop" x = Drawtable(sqlstr,max,header,tstyle,skin) %>

The number one film this weekend is Darkness Falls, another like it or not scenario. Darkness marketed itself to an opening weekend gross of $12.5 million from 2,837 venues, good for an average of $4,406. Sony used a blitzkrieg of TV ads that started shortly after New Year's Day, and played heavily throughout the month. DF has a lot of similarities to Jeepers Creepers, the MGM movie that surprised everyone with a number one opening of $13.1 million at the end of the summer in 2001. MGM knew they were facing a tired top ten slate and Jeepers was the only new film of the weekend, so the studio advertised their brains out with an attention-grabbing TV ad and trailer. The play worked, at least over opening weekend, and the film with no stars and a direct-to-video premise became a small hit for the always-struggling studio. Jeepers ended up grossing $38 million against a production cost of $10 million. Darkness Falls is a carbon copy. Shot for $8 million, DF makes its production budget back over opening weekend, but it will take until at least next weekend to make back its advertising budget, which was in the $20 million range. Darkness Falls is distributed by Joe Roth's Revolution Studios, and was made by the low budget offshoot of Revolution called Distant Corners Entertainment Group. Roth's Revolution is certainly turning some heads in the industry. Revolution is home to films like Black Hawk Down, America's Sweethearts, and xXx. 2003 looks good for Revolution; upcoming features include Daddy Day Care with Eddie Murphy doing the family film schtick, Hollywood Homicide with Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett, and a $100 million version of Peter Pan. Darkness Falls is a fantastic start to the year for Joe Roth, regardless of the quality of the film.

Golden Globe winner Chicago faced off with last weekend's champ, Kangaroo Jack, for runner-up spot over Super Bowl weekend. Again, neither of these films appeals to the Super Bowl audience, so it was pretty clear sailing for both of them. Unfortunately, Kangaroo Jack was able to just hop ahead of Chicago, grabbing second place with a $11.9 million gross over the January 24-26th frame. Thankfully, Kangaroo Jack dropped 28% this weekend, which compares with the 26.5% drop that Snow Dogs had in its second weekend. The worrisome thing is that Snow Dogs added 138 screens heading into its second weekend, and KJ only added 30, bringing its screen count up to 2,818. It had a venue average of $4,233. The total so far for KJ has hit $35.5 million, Snow Dogs had amassed $38.8 million after two weekends, making the two movies so similar that it's almost creepy.

Third spot goes to Chicago, which surprisingly only added 72 screens after winning three high-profile Golden Globe awards last weekend. The extra 72 screens brings its count up to 629 venues, and Miramax was able to parlay those screens into a weekend gross of $8.5 million, which may go higher when actuals are released tomorrow. Chicago had a screen average of $13,434, not far off of its average of $13,648 from a weekend ago. Miramax is obviously doing a very slow rollout for this film, which is admirable in an age of the 3,000-venue release. Miramax is doing a great job of keeping Chicago as a "top of mind" choice for Oscar nominations, and it will be extremely interesting to see how they continue to roll this film out over the next couple of weekends. Will it be a Greek Wedding scenario? Chicago certainly appeals to that sort of audience (older, worldly), but being a musical, it might not appeal to the male side enough. Only time will tell. I couldn't find a Greek Wedding Cinemascore, but could imagine it coming very close to the A- that Chicago averaged. So far, Chicago has grossed $40.6 million and at this point, I'd be very surprised if it didn't become a $100 million dollar earner.

Just Married continues to stay in the top five, as it comes in at number four this weekend, dropping only one spot. Just Married grossed $7.5 million from 2,705 screens, leading to an average of $2,762. This weekend's gross pulls the total for Married up to $44.3 million, and it will pass Dude, Where's My Car's total of $46.7 million sometime this week or next weekend. Remember, Just Married only had a production budget of $19 million, and is Fox's best investment since Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

In at fifth is National Security, the Sony film starring Martin Lawrence and Steve Zahn. After opening to over $14 million last weekend, the buddy cop movie fell hard this weekend, grossing only $7.4 million. That's a hurtful drop of 49%. So far National Security has grossed $26.1 million, and probably won't make it to $35 million.

Sixth this weekend is The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. After exploding out of the gate, LOTR has dried up a bit in recent weeks. This weekend, the New Line flick grossed $6.9 million from 2,666 venues for an average of only $2,588. New Line needed to come up with a "see it again" sort of campaign for January and has failed to do it. One of my pet peeves is to see an ad for a movie in January that says "This Christmas go see X." In January, the last thing I want to hear about is Christmas, as I'm busy paying for the holiday through the first month of the year. The Two Towers is the perfect type of film for the "see it again" campaign, and it's unfortunate that it's not there. Two Towers is still working to pass the original's gross of $313 million. Its current total stands at $309.1 million.

Catch Me If You Can lands in seventh after five weekends of release. The Spielberg/Hanks/DiCaprio extravaganza grossed $6.6 million, dropping 38% after last weekend's holiday inflated gross. The total for the DreamWorks pic has now hit $145.1 million against a cost of only $52 million, which makes this a mega hit for the studio and the triumvirate of talent.

Next up in eighth is a new film for the chart, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. The George Clooney-directed pic grossed only $6.0 million this weekend. I have to give Miramax a big fat F grade for their handling of this one. Its first wide release frame comes on Super Bowl weekend, and is the most male-skewing flick other than the woeful National Security. With stars like Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Drew Barrymore, this should have been a hit no matter what the plot outline is. The release strategy has been awful, as moviegoers have had to guess at its release date for the last few weeks. The marketing has been strange at best, with a madcap TV ad and trailer, which is surprising, as the marketing for Chicago has been nothing short of excellent. Released this weekend on 1,769 screens, it had a terrible average of $3,392. So far, Confessions has grossed $6.5 million, and looks to be heading for the poorly marketed trash heap, along with Fox's Antwone Fisher.

Ninth this weekend is Jack Nicholson's About Schmidt, another film that has parlayed some success from the Golden Globes. Schmidt grossed $5.5 million from 1,236 venues, up 290 from last weekend. Schmidt dropped only 2% compared to last weekend, and carried a not-bad venue average of $4,474 (a few dollars higher than Darkness Falls). The total for Schmidt has now hit $37.9 million, a total that should make New Line very happy, particularly since everybody, including Nicholson, thought this was a comedy.

Coming in at tenth is our final Golden Globe winner, The Hours, from director Steven Daldry. The Hours is another film excelling due to its success at The Globes. The female-driven pic scored $4.0 million from 502 venues this weekend, leading to a venue average of $7,968. So far, the Paramount film has amassed $13.9 million, but I don't feel the buzz is there for either extreme financial success or a Best Picture award. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Out of the top ten this weekend are A Guy Thing and Two Weeks Notice. Stepping up to the plate next weekend are three films with decent chances - Biker Boyz, a Fast and Furious knockoff, the sequel to the actually quite good Final Destination, appropriately titled Final Destination 2, and the aforementioned The Recruit with Pacino and Farrell. It should be a very interesting weekend box office-wise.

Totals are somewhat tricky this weekend. Calendar-wise, estimates for the top ten over the same weekend last year came in at $108.6 million, but estimates from last year's Super Bowl Weekend were only $69.3 million. This weekend's top ten grossed $76.8 million, so you can see that 2003 is well ahead at least in terms of Super Bowl weekends.

Top 12 for Weekend of January 17-19, 2003
Number of Sites
Change in Sites from Last
Estimated Gross ($)
Cumulative Gross ($)
Darkness Falls
Kangaroo Jack
Just Married
National Security
No change
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Catch Me If You Can
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
About Schmidt
The Hours
A Guy Thing
Gangs of New York



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