Cat Nips Box Office

John Hamann's Weekend Wrap-Up

November 21-23, 2003

They're watching Arrested Development.  Take note, Fox execs.

Monday Update

In the no-brainer surprise of the week, the estimate for Universal's Cat in the Hat was downgraded from $40.1 million to $38.3 million. All too often, if a distributor has an estimate close to a nice round number, the studio will round it up and add a .1 to the end of it. The lowered estimate puts The Cat out of the top ten openers all time for November, moving it down to 11th, nestled between 1998's The Waterboy and 1995's Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.

The other new release this weekend, Gothika, was lowered to $19.3 million from $19.6 million, leaving the horror flick with a decent gross.

As for holdovers, only two estimates were dramatically changed. Elf went from $19.1 million to $18.7 million, and Love Actually surprisingly got knee-capped, falling to $8.6 million from $9.1 million. Again, I am certain the studio wanted to show that Love Actually was ahead of the previous weekend's gross, which was $8.7 million.

Thanks to a reader who informed me that Gothika started shooting in April 2003, not April 2002. The column has been changed below.

The rest of the weekend actuals have been updated in the column below. (John Hamann/BOP)

Despite some awesome marketing for Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat from Universal, the film failed to make the top ten openers list for November, landing behind 1998's The Waterboy. We're back to the classic debate: Is the $38.3 million open for this piece soft, or should the production companies involved be happy with their success?

Universal spent $109 million bringing The Cat in the Hat to the screen, but would have made a significant percentage of that back through marketing partnerships with the likes of Burger King and Pepsi. At the very least, these partnerships expanded the film's marketing campaign as The Washington Post reported on Thursday that 12 companies were official sponsors of the film, with 40 brands helping to hawk the movie. With all of this support, The Cat in the Hat had a lot of marketing muscle, which should have kept the film at the forefront of moviegoer's minds. If that's the case, why did it finish the weekend $17 million behind the Grinch?

The number one film of the weekend is Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat, but expected grosses in the $45-$55 million range were not to be seen. The Cat grossed $38.3 million over the November 21st - 23rd weekend, 30% behind The Grinch's open of $55.1 million. Universal put The Cat out to 3,464 venues; it had an average of $11,065. So what happened? Was the Grinch just more of an endearing character to kids and families? Was the star power of Jim Carrey able to bring in a wider audience that of The Cat in the Hat?

One of the biggest problems The Cat in the Hat had working against it were the abysmal reviews the film gathered leading up to its release. By Friday, questionable word-of-mouth was already out and about. The score at RottenTomatoes tells the tale of the tape on this one: the review compilation website gathered 97 reviews, and a whopping 85 were negative, giving the film a downright rotten score of 12%. Now, we all know that kid movies are review-proof (I'm still kicking myself for seeing Krull when I was 12), but these abysmal reviews would have kept parents (and non-family moviegoers) in the mall instead of the Cineplex.

For Universal, it has been an up and down year. Bruce Almighty has been their biggest hit so far for 2003, pulling in an awesome opening weekend of $68 million, a total domestic gross of $242.7 million, and a worldwide take of $427 million. Other $100 million films from Universal include Seabiscuit, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Hulk and American Wedding. With the holidays approaching, The Cat in the Hat should have no problem joining that crew; the opening weekend multiplier was 3.7, which could have been better following the opening day gross of $10.6 million, but does not set alarm bells off.

Second spot goes to Gothika, the new horror/suspense flick from Warner Bros. and Dark Castle. The Halle Berry scare fest grossed $19.3 million this weekend from only 2,382 venues, giving it a venue average of $8,098 -- the second best average in the top ten. Originally scheduled for October, WB made the smart move of shifting the title to the horror-free month of November, moving it away from the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Scary Movie 3. The move worked. Gothika opened higher than all of the recent Dark Castle films including Ghost Ship (open: $11.5 million, budget: $20 million), Thirteen Ghosts (open: $15.2 million, budget:$19 million), and The House on Haunted Hill (open: $15.9 million, budget:$19 million). However, WB and Dark Castle paid significantly more for Gothika, with the production budget coming in at $40 million, so the film will have to do better than its compatriots to recoup the budget. With the $19.3 million open, that shouldn't be tough, but reviews were awful. RottenTomatoes gathered 104 reviews, with 90 of those coming in as thumbs down, leading to an awful score of 13% fresh.

Following up closely in third is New Line's Elf, as it continues to follow The Santa Clause 2 pattern from last year. Elf grossed $18.7 million this weekend, just missing its shot at a third consecutive $20 million plus weekend. With significant competition from the Cat, Elf lost only 28% of its audinece from last weekend. Last year's Christmas movie in November, The Santa Clause 2, dropped 39% against the second Harry Potter film in its third frame and had a 17-day take of $82.5 million. Elf, on the other hand, has now grossed $94.7 million after 17 days, coming up just short of the $100 million mark. Where Elf will end up is still up in the air -- the Thanksgiving frame should pull an even higher gross for Elf. As for competition, Elf faces off with The Haunted Mansion next weekend, but post-Mansion there's no significant kids entry until Peter Pan opens on Christmas Day. Elf should be a lock for $150 million, with $200 million unlikely but not completely out of the question.

Fourth this weekend is Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, the $150 million seafaring epic from Fox and its production partners, Miramax, Universal, and Samuel Goldwyn Films. Master found some rough seas at the box office. After pulling in a disappointing second place finish last weekend, the Russell Crowe flick dropped a bigger-than-expected 39% in its second frame, pulling in a gross of $15.2 million. When a movie costs $150 million and your opening weekend comes in at $25 million and is followed by a 40% drop, its time to bring out the antacids. Master's current total stands at $47.3 million, but still has the cushy holiday and Oscar season to make some serious coin.

Universal's slow rollout of Love Actually seems to be working very well. After placing sixth last weekend with the romantic comedy, the studio added 510 more venues managed a very slight decrease on last weekend's score of $8.7 million. Love Actually landed in fifth this weekend, pulling in a gross of $8.6 million and a site average of $5,122 from 1,687 venues. The film now carries a total of $30.8 million. Love Actually needs to have more weekends like this, as the film was not cheap to make, with the production budget coming in around $50 million US.

The Matrix Revolutions continued its descent into madness this weekend, as the film chucked a huge 58% of last weekend's audience. The WB film grossed $7 million as it began to lose a large amount of screens. The total now stands at a distressing $125.4 million, and it will struggle to make it to $140 million, which would be about half of the $281 million that The Matrix Reloaded found this past summer.

Seventh goes to Disney's Brother Bear, which took a tumble versus The Cat in the Hat. Brother Bear grossed $5.4 million in its fifth weekend, down 56% from the frame before where it took in $12.1 million. The total for the Disney flick comes in at $70.3 million, and it should finish up with about $80 million.

One of the big car accidents of the year, Looney Tunes: Back In Action, finds itself in the eighth place spot. Things didn't look too bad for the WB release after an opening weekend of $9.3 million, but Bugs and company got rocked this weekend against Cat in the Hat. Looney Tunes dropped a staggering 55% this weekend, pulling in a minute total of $4.2 million. The film cost $80 million before marketing and now has a puny total of $14.9 million. It looks to leave the top ten next weekend. Monkeybone, anyone?

Scary Movie 3 finds the ninth spot as the comedy begins to lose steam. SM3 grossed $3.1 million in its fifth weekend, down 46%. It now has an excellent total of $106.5 million against a production budget of about $45 million for the Dimension/Miramax flick.

Tenth place goes to Sony's Radio, which has very quietly done good business for the distributor. Radio grossed $2.6 million in its fifth weekend of release, and now has a gross of $47.1 million.

Overall, the pre-Thanksgiving weekend this year couldn't match up with the debut last year of Die Another Day and the second weekend of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Last year, box office totals for the top ten came in at $142.5 million, 12% higher than this weekend's estimates of $125.3 million.

Top Ten for Weekend of November 21-23, 2003
Number of Sites
Change in Sites from Last
Estimated Gross ($)
Cumulative Gross ($)
Cat in the Hat
No change
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
No change
Love Actually
The Matrix Revolutions
Brother Bear
Looney Tunes: Back in Action
No change
Scary Movie 3
Mystic River
Runaway Jury



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