Weekend Box Office (December 31, 2004 - January 2, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

** Top 50 Box Office Hits of 2004 **

THIS WEEKEND Movie fans could not get enough of the dysfunctional family comedy Meet the Fockers which generated the largest New Year's weekend gross in box office history and in less than two weeks, has become the top-grossing live-action comedy of 2004. The Universal smash grossed $41.7M over the Friday-to-Sunday span, according to final studio figures, easing just 10% from its record Christmas opening. That gives Fockers, which was co-produced with DreamWorks for $80M, an eye-popping $162.5M domestic haul in a mere 12 days putting it on course to zoom past the $166.2M of 2000's Meet the Parents in just two weeks of release. By comparison, none of the other sequels this holiday season like Ocean's Twelve, Blade: Trinity, and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason will outperform their predecessors.

Playing in 3,524 theaters, the Robert De Niro-Ben Stiller sequel averaged a robust $11,845 per location and continued to attract almost every demographic group. Over the weekend, Fockers set new single day box office records for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day with $12.2M and $18M, respectively. Cast Away held the record for December 31st with $8.5M in its second weekend while The Return of the King formerly held the January 1st benchmark with $12.8M while in its third frame. Fockers beat each record by more than 40% and helped the top ten beat the previous year's for the first time in three weeks. In addition, co-star Dustin Hoffman became only the third star in Hollywood history to score $100M blockbusters in each of the past four decades joining Harrison Ford and Jack Nicholson.

With no Hobbit film to end off the year, Meet the Fockers took over as the megahit to lead the box office forward in the final weeks of the calendar. For Universal, the Jay Roach-directed blockbuster single-handedly allowed the studio to climb up two spots on the 2004 market share list passing DreamWorks and Fox to finish the year in fourth place. Final numbers for the year will be released later in the week, but Universal should find itself with about $930M for the 2004 box office year which runs from Monday January 5, 2004 through Sunday January 2, 2005. That still will represent a drop of approximately 14% from 2003 when the studio finished with $1.1 billion. According to preliminary figures for 2004, Universal will trail the top three studios of the year which include Sony with $1.3 billion, Warner Bros. with $1.2 billion, and Buena Vista with just under $1.2 billion.

Holding in second place were the many faces of Jim Carrey with $14.6M for Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Paramount's top-grossing film of 2004 saw its gross rise 16% from last weekend and boosted its 17-day sum to $94.6M. By the end of the week, Lemony Snicket will become the first $100M-grossing film for the studio in over 18 months.

In its first full weekend of national release, Martin Scorsese's The Aviator climbed one spot to third place with $11.4M. The Miramax awards contender rose a healthy 32% from last weekend when it played nationally for only two days due to its Saturday expansion and averaged a solid $6,328 from 1,796 sites. With $31.5M to date, and expected Golden Globe awards and Oscar nominations still to come later this month, the Leonardo DiCaprio drama should remain in the top ten for many weeks. Fox's family film Fat Albert bounced into fourth place with $10.2M inching up 2% from its two-day bow last weekend. After nine days, the PG-rated comedy has grossed $33.3M.

George Clooney and his crew of thieves swiped fifth place with Ocean's Twelve which collected $9.4M in its fourth mission, up 12%. The Warner Bros. title lifted its total to $107M becoming the 21st film of 2004 to cross the $100M domestic mark. Overseas, Twelve grossed an estimated $21M this weekend pushing the international total to $107M and the worldwide cume to $214M with major markets like Japan and the United Kingdom still to come. Disney's prolonged advertising campaign for the action hit National Treasure paid off as the Nicolas Cage film surged an amazing 71% to $6.8M in its seventh weekend of release. The PG-rated adventure tale rose five spots on the charts and pushed its cume to $154.5M.

Sony's domestic comedy Spanglish climbed 33% to $6.2M pushing the total to $31M. With Christmas gone, The Polar Express decelerated 14% and followed with $5.6M. Now in its eighth weekend, the Warner Bros. animated film has taken in a jolly $155.1M and remained a healthy performer over the entire holiday season just as the studio had expected when the Tom Hanks starrer bowed to less-than-stellar results in early November. Express also became the eighth $150M+ domestic blockbuster for the two-time Oscar winner cementing his status as one of the most popular actors of our time.

Placing ninth was the musical The Phantom of the Opera which grossed $4.8M in its second weekend, up 19%. The Warner Bros. release claimed the second best average in the top ten with $7,656 from 622 theaters and raised its cume to $16.2M after 12 days. Rounding out the top ten was Miramax's thriller Darkness with $4.6M over three days which was down 25% from its two-day bow last weekend. After nine days, the PG-13 fright flick has taken in $16.6M.

Lurking just outside of the top ten were a pair of Buena Vista releases. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou grossed $4.4M, off 3% from the yuletide frame when it played nationwide only on Saturday and Sunday. The Bill Murray comedy has captured $14.8M to date. The Disney/Pixar sensation The Incredibles enjoyed a 72% spike in sales and grossed $4.2M in its ninth outing. With $251.7M in the bank, the super hero saga hopped over Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to become the fourth biggest blockbuster of 2004. On the all-time list of domestic blockbusters, The Incredibles soared up to number 30 right behind Pixar sibling Monsters, Inc. which took in $255.9M in 2001.

In addition to having the number one runaway blockbuster Meet the Fockers, Universal started the new year off with more good news with the sensational debut of its comedic drama In Good Company which platformed in New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto with three theaters and grossed $151,750. The scorching $50,583 per-theater average bodes well for it national opening on January 14 when it widens to 1,600 theaters over a very competitive frame. Company stars Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, and Scarlett Johansson and has collected $225,031 since its Wednesday launch.

Also opening with strength in limited release was the Al Pacino starrer The Merchant of Venice which took in $69,868 from four playdates for a $17,467 average. The Sony Classics adaptation of the William Shakespeare tale co-stars Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes and has taken in $103,260 since Wednesday. ThinkFilm's Sean Penn starrer The Assassination of Richard Nixon opened to $37,547 from five sites for a solid $7,509 average.

Still packing a punch in limited play was Clint Eastwood's boxing tale Million Dollar Baby which played in just nine theaters but grossed $271,472 for a knockout $30,164 average. With $1M in its purse, Warner Bros. will expand on Friday to 100 sites in additional markets.

The top ten films grossed $115.2M which was about even with last year when The Return of the King remained at number one with $28.2M in its third battle; but up 13% from 2002 when The Two Towers stayed in the top spot for the third time with $25M.

Compared to projections, Meet the Fockers performed a little better than my $39M forecast while Lemony Snicket was on target with my $14M prediction. Fat Albert was close to my $12M projection while The Aviator flew higher than my $8M forecast.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Star Wars Episode III. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of last year's three biggest blockbusters they liked the most. Of 1,117 responses, 48% picked Spider-Man 2, 33% chose The Passion of the Christ, and 19% selected Shrek 2.

Check the NEW list of projected final grosses for the Top 50 Hits of 2004. For a NEW review of The Assassination of Richard Nixon, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when White Noise opens.

Marketplace: Shop for videos, DVDs, music, books, and posters at discounted prices using search engines

# Title Dec 31 - Jan 2 Dec 24 - 26 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Meet the Fockers $ 41,741,785 $ 46,120,980 -9.5 3,524 2 $ 11,845 $ 162,461,370 Universal
2 Lemony Snicket's A Series... 14,587,219 12,611,876 15.7 3,623 3 4,026 94,616,745 Paramount
3 The Aviator 11,364,664 8,631,367 31.7 1,796 3 6,328 31,541,390 Miramax
4 Fat Albert 10,176,065 10,021,510 1.5 2,744 2 3,708 33,325,622 Fox
5 Ocean's Twelve 9,433,199 8,401,175 12.3 3,290 4 2,867 107,006,344 Warner Bros.
6 National Treasure 6,768,112 3,964,473 70.7 2,282 7 2,966 154,522,305 Buena Vista
7 Spanglish 6,183,965 4,641,492 33.2 2,489 3 2,485 31,001,588 Sony
8 The Polar Express 5,609,096 6,527,163 -14.1 2,513 8 2,232 155,112,441 Warner Bros.
9 The Phantom of the Opera 4,762,233 4,001,890 19.0 622 2 7,656 16,178,431 Warner Bros.
10 Darkness 4,615,762 6,163,306 -25.1 1,718 2 2,687 16,626,820 Miramax
11 The Life Aquatic 4,424,122 4,547,181 -2.7 1,105 4 4,004 14,794,828 Buena Vista
12 The Incredibles 4,160,395 2,417,309 72.1 1,715 9 2,426 251,657,004 Buena Vista
13 Flight of the Phoenix 3,050,635 2,666,898 14.4 2,373 3 1,286 16,720,242 Fox
14 Blade: Trinity 3,000,202 2,952,129 1.6 2,207 4 1,359 48,079,939 New Line
15 Finding Neverland 2,590,313 1,361,370 90.3 1,054 8 2,458 24,676,372 Miramax
16 Closer 2,231,133 1,692,847 31.8 1,094 5 2,039 27,460,754 Sony
17 Sideways 2,150,398 1,169,527 83.9 370 11 5,812 22,404,206 Fox Searchlight
18 Christmas With The Kranks 1,637,528 2,586,277 -36.7 1,825 6 897 73,077,009 Sony
19 Beyond the Sea 1,340,773 36,711 383 3 3,501 1,917,756 Lions Gate
20 The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie 1,246,327 714,503 74.4 1,068 7 1,167 81,900,075 Paramount
Top 5 $ 87,302,932 $ 85,786,908 1.8
Top 10 115,242,100 111,667,940 3.2
Top 20 141,073,926 131,855,615 7.0
Top 20 vs. 2004 141,073,926 133,441,674 5.7

Last Updated : January 3, 2005 at 7:30PM EST