I Spy Box Office Trouble

John Hamann's Weekend Wrap-Up

November 1-3, 2002

You know what this sleigh needs?  More power!

Forget about Thanksgiving, folks, and quit raking those leaves; according to the box office, Christmas is already here. Two new releases hit the chart this weekend, as well as the further expansion of two other films on the chart, one successful and one not. The story of the weekend is the good news/bad news scenario for I Spy, the comedic action flick starring Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy. The good news is that the comedy grossed over $10 million during its opening weekend; the bad news is that it was released on 3,182 screens and grossed only $14 million.

Last year over the post-Halloween weekend, Buena Vista put Monsters, Inc. down for a $62.5 million open. The release date for that flick was ingenious; not really a Christmas movie (although it would be sixth over the Dec. 21st-23rd weekend) and not really a Halloween movie, although only one of the cast members wasn't a scary beast of one sort or another. Now Buena Vista gives us The Santa Clause 2 over the November 1st-3rd weekend, beating both TV ads and department stores in bringing us the Christmas message this early. According to my quick search, Santa Clause 2 now holds the record for earliest legitimate release of a Christmas movie, beating the original Santa Clause by ten days; that film was released November 11, 1994. The original opened to $19.3 million, which equals $24.8 million when adjusted for inflation.

I'm surprised that the number one film this weekend is The Santa Clause 2, even with it being a sequel to a $144 million earner and considering the fact that the film was released on 3,350 screens. SC2 grossed $29.0 million this weekend, beating the inflation-adjusted performance of the original film in this series. The screen average was a not-bad $8,662, and was the number-one screen average in a fairly weak top ten this weekend. With the November 1st release date, The Santa Clause 2 is arguably a dumped film for Disney, and could also arguably be the best opening for a dumped pic ever. Why did Buena Vista release this movie so early in the season? Easy: fear of competing product. The Harry Potter sequel opens in two weeks, and the Disney animated action movie, Treasure Planet, opens in four weeks. Also, Tim Allen's star time is just about up, although this box office performance should get a few more scripts sent his way. None of Allen's last three films - Joe Somebody, Big Trouble and Who is Cletis Tout? - opened above ninth on the chart, and had a combined gross of about $30 million. Another problem for Santa Clause 2 is that damned release date. Not a lot of theaters would have set up big displays for the film, as it breaks the rule of having Christmas decorations up before Halloween. As for marketing, TV ads were plentiful, but if you are at all like me, you cringe when seeing anything to do with Christmas this early in the fall. But with zero kid-flick competition, I'd say Santa Clause 2 enjoys another healthy frame next weekend, but is decimated when Mr. Potter opens on the 14th. SC2 had a budget of $65 million, and should at the very least make its production budget back, but the P&A budget is another question altogether.

<% sqlstr = "SELECT * FROM box WHERE" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Big Trouble' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Joe Somebody' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like '%Galaxy Quest%' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Toy Story 2' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'For Richer for Poorer' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Santa Clause, The'" sqlstr = sqlstr + " ORDER BY open DESC" max = 100 header = "Tim Allen Chart" tstyle = "release" skin = "bop" x = Drawtable(sqlstr,max,header,tstyle,skin) %>

Rotten Tomatoes treated The Santa Clause 2 better than I expected. Of the 75 reviewers that saw the flick, 42 wrote positive reviews. RT draws the line between fresh and rotten at 60%, making SC2 marginally rotten at 56%. CinemaScores were nothing short of fantastic; both sets of the key under-21 demo gave the film an A+, and the average score was an A, which should combat a few of the negative things I mentioned about the film above.

Second spot this weekend doesn't go to I Spy, it goes to the horror flick The Ring, which was also last week's runner-up. The Ring has now definitely earned the title of unexpected hit, with a gross of $18.5 million this frame. Down only .01%, The Ring added 174 screens this time out, bringing its total up to 2,808. The DreamWorks remake had a venue average of $6,585. After opening to $15 million two weeks ago, the fright flick has now had two weekends above that mark. When the film opened, I chided DreamWorks on their release strategy for the flick, but now have to take that back. Audiences are embracing this film, and the take has now hit $64.9 million, making for a very profitable entry for DreamWorks, as this was a $60 million dollar production. Another strong weekend should make this a $100 million dollar picture.

Third spot does go to I Spy, Sony's rehash of the old TV show with Bill Cosby. The Owen Wilson/Eddie Murphy combination didn't work, as the film debuted way below expectations. The Sony flick earned $14.0 million this weekend, far below the expected $20 million most prognosticators predicted. The film opened ultra-wide, garnering 3,182 venues, for a scary average of $4,400. What happened? The marketing was never really clear about what this film was supposed to be. Sometimes it looked like a kid flick, a PG-13 romp that wouldn't offend anyone. Then the ads started to look like this was more of a film for adults, keying on the sequence where Eddie Murphy is walking Owen Wilson through sex. Mixed messages in an ad campaign are usually the first sign of desperation from the studio, and often indicate a troubled film. Reviews at Rotten Tomatoes certainly indicate problems; only 12 of the 86 reviews were positive, resulting in a rotten rating of 14%. CinemaScores weren't much better. The best grades came from youth, who would make no association with the classic series, and grades got worse as the viewer got older. The average grade was a B, which in CinemaScore-land should either stand for Bad or Bland. While I Spy won't be the traditional Eddie Murphy flop (huge cost and under $10 million open), it will most likely mark three losers in a row for the star (Showtime, Pluto Nash, and now I Spy).

<% sqlstr = "SELECT * FROM box WHERE" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like '%Pluto Nash%' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Showtime' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Dr. Dolittle 2' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Shrek' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Bowfinger' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Life' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Holy Man'" sqlstr = sqlstr + " ORDER BY open DESC" max = 100 header = "Eddie Murphy Chart" tstyle = "release" skin = "bop" x = Drawtable(sqlstr,max,header,tstyle,skin) %>

Fourth spot goes to last weekend's champ, jackass: the movie. The MTV-based film dropped hard, but maybe not as hard as expected. jackass grossed $13.1 million this weekend, dropping 42.5%. Its total is now at $42.5 million, and should have a decent shot at $60 million. The jackass model, Beavis and Butthead Do America, dropped a similar 49% back in December 1996. Video sales should be through the roof for jackass: the movie, as viewers who weren't able to get past the strict MPAA R rating will be able to rent or own the DVD or video.

Fifth and sixth this weekend are two films going in opposite directions. Fifth is Ghost Ship, the Dark Castle/WB collaboration that got off to a decent, but not great, start last weekend. Ghost Ship sank 43% this weekend, grossing $6.6 million in the post-Halloween frame. With direct genre and demographic competition from the leggy Ring, Ghost Ship didn't have a chance. WB will be lucky if this film makes back its budget of $35 million. Its current total stands at $21.3 million.

Sixth is My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which is becoming an old friend to this column. In its 29th weekend, the IFC film grossed $5.6 million from 1,977 screens, good for an average of $2,843. Wedding is becoming a welcome sight for the small-town theater owner, as long lineups continue in smaller markets. The film dropped 9.5% this frame, its smallest drop since the October 11th weekend. Its total now stands at $185.2 million. See the chart below for more big films on the top grossers of all time list that Wedding has passed in terms of total dollars earned.

<% sqlstr = "SELECT * FROM box WHERE" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Batman Forever' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Fugitive, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like '%Ocean''s%' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'What Women Want' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Perfect Storm, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Liar Liar' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Jurassic Park III' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Mission: Impossible'" sqlstr = sqlstr + " ORDER BY open DESC" max = 100 header = "Wedding Roadkill" tstyle = "release" skin = "bop" x = Drawtable(sqlstr,max,header,tstyle,skin) %>

Seventh spot goes to Reese Witherspoon's Sweet Home Alabama. In its sixth week on the chart, SHA grossed $4.6 million, bringing its total up to $113.5 million.

Punch-Drunk Love is in at eighth, but the platform release doesn't seem to be helping the PT Anderson picture. PDL grossed $4.2 million from 1,252 venues this frame. Last weekend, the Adam Sandler film grossed $3.3 million from 481 screens, so you can see how much the increase of 771 screens helped Punch-Drunk Love. The total stands at $11.1 million, and has a long way to go to recoup the $25 million expenditure.

Ninth is Red Dragon, a film I picked to clock Sweet Home Alabama. That certainly didn't happen. Red Dragon grossed $2.7 million this weekend, down 43%. The total for the Brett Ratner-directed film has now hit $89 million.

Tenth goes to Brown Sugar, which grossed $1.7 million this weekend. Its total now stands at $24.6 million.

Out of the top ten this weekend are The Transporter and Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie, two films for very different audiences. Opening next weekend is 8 Mile from Universal. This film should get a lot of press over the next week and vie with The Santa Clause 2 for the number one spot. Also opening on Wednesday is Femme Fatale, another WB film with Antonio Banderas. Hopefully it's better than WB's Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever, but I doubt it.

Totals and year-to-year comparisons for the top ten are abysmal. Last year, led by Monsters Inc, the top ten grossed an eye-popping $129.5 million; this year, the top ten could only deliver $100.01 million, leading to a large drop of 23%.

Check out BOP's November forecasts for info on 8 Mile and the other big films opening this month.

Top 12 for Weekend of November 1-3, 2002
Number of Sites
Change in Sites from Last
Estimated Gross ($)
Cumulative Gross ($)
The Santa Clause 2
The Ring
I Spy
jackass: the movie
Ghost Ship
No change
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Sweet Home Alabama
Punch-Drunk Love
Red Dragon
Brown Sugar
Bowling for Columbine
Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie



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