Weekend Box Office (January 6 - 8, 2006)

*** Golden Globe Nominee Grosses ***

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers were in the mood for low-budget torture as the brutally violent horror film Hostel slashed its way to number one shoving aside the big-budget adventure films The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong which have ruled the charts over the last four weeks. The weekend's other new releases became 2006's first flops while expanding art films saw mixed results. Most films held up well in the first full weekend of the year and the overall box office enjoyed a modest gain over a year ago.

Leading the way in profitable ultraviolent fright flicks, Lions Gate flexed its muscles once again opening Hostel to $19.6M, according to final studio figures, powering its way to the top of the charts. Playing in only 2,195 theaters, the R-rated film hacked up a bloody $8,909 average and generated results that were in the same ballpark as the openings for the distributor's highly successful Saw franchise. In 2004, the first Saw bowed to $18.3M and a $7,895 average while its sequel debuted a year later to $31.7M and a $10,758 average. The $4.5M-budgeted Hostel did not have the advantage of opening right before Halloween, the best time of year for the genre, but instead used "presenter" Quentin Tarantino's name in all marketing materials in order to excite the core audience of young men. With a combined production budget of only $10M, Hostel and the two Saw films should collectively gross a stunning $200M for Lions Gate from the domestic box office alone.

After ruling the New Year's frame, The Chronicles of Narnia slipped to second place with $15.6M dropping a reasonable 39% from the Friday-to-Sunday portion of last weekend's holiday session. After 31 days of release, the Disney megahit has amassed a gargantuan $247.8M making it the third-biggest blockbuster released in 2005 behind the latest Star Wars and Harry Potter sequels. The big-budget fantasy adventure held up relatively well after the holidays and is on course to reach about $290M which would allow it to leap ahead of Potter to rank second among last year's big releases. Narnia currently ranks seventh among all Disney releases and third among the studio's live-action hits.

Dropping 49% to third place was former chart-topper King Kong which grabbed $12.6M in its fourth attack to boost its cume to $192.7M. The Peter Jackson remake declined a substantial amount from the three-day portion of its holiday take suffering the largest drop in the top ten. Hostel seemed to have taken away some of its male following, but the three-hour-plus pic still looks to find its way to around $225M. That would put the Universal actioner at number five among blockbusters released in 2005. Overseas, Kong gobbled up an estimated $24M from 57 markets to drive its offshore cume to $272M making it the studio's third largest international grosser ever trailing Steven Spielberg's first two dinohits. The $207M ape flick has now grossed $464.5M worldwide and is on a trajectory to reach the $600M mark.

Jim Carrey's latest comedy Fun with Dick and Jane is well on its way to becoming the funnyman's latest blockbuster and held up very well in its third weekend with $11.9M. Slipping a mere 28%, the Sony release has taken in a strong $81.1M in 19 days and could be headed to around $120M. Fellow comedy Cheaper by the Dozen 2 remained in Carrey's shadow following in fifth with $8.4M, off a moderate 42%. The Fox sequel has collected $66.6M to date and should finish with $85-90M.

Universal generated a successful expansion for its political thriller Munich which widened from 532 to 1,485 theaters rising four notches to sixth place with $7.6M. The Spielberg film averaged a good $5,095 per site and raised its total to $25.4M. The filmmaker is up for a Golden Globe next week for Best Director even though the film did not earn a nod for Best Picture. Sony's Memoirs of a Geisha took seventh with $6.1M, down only 21%, for a $39.9M cume.

Focus added more theaters to the run of awards front-runner Brokeback Mountain and charged back into the top ten with $5.7M from 483 theaters. The acclaimed Ang Lee drama generated its largest weekend gross to date and averaged a strong $11,856 per theater outperforming the averages of all other major releases once again. Brokeback climbed to $22.4M and is on course to collect much more.

Jennifer Aniston's comedy Rumor Has It followed close behind with $5.7M, down 39%, giving Warner Bros. $35.2M in 15 days. Rounding out the top ten was the all-star cast of The Family Stone with $4.6M, down 43%, for a total of $53.2M after its fourth frame.

Buena Vista saw respectable results from its expansion of the Heath Ledger period piece Casanova which widened from 37 to 1,004 theaters nationwide and grossed $3.8M this weekend. Averaging a mild $3,764, the R-rated comedy had no Golden Globe nominations to market itself with, but did have a high-profile actor in the lead. Total stands at $5M.

With Hostel commanding all the attention of young men, two new R-rated releases tried but failed to reach that exact same audience on the very same weekend opening miserably outside the top ten. Fox's Adam Sandler-produced comedy Grandma's Boy bowed to just $3M averaging a poor $1,493 from 2,015 theaters. Meanwhile, Romar Entertainment crashed and burned with its vampire thriller BloodRayne which grossed $1.6M from 985 theaters for an embarrassing average of $1,574. Young men were not convinced that either film was anything more than video rentals down the road.

Two films fell from the top ten over the weekend. Fox Searchlight's hit comedy The Ringer enjoyed a solid third frame slipping only 31% to $4.2M. With $27.8M in the bank, the Johnny Knoxville starrer looks to end with around $40M making it one of the five biggest grossers ever for the distributor.

Speaking of big grossers, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire fell sharply now that children have returned to school following the holiday break. The wizard tale dropped 50% to $2.9M pushing the cume to $281.5M. Goblet still stands as 2005's second largest hit after Star Wars Episode III, however Narnia is making a strong charge to overtake it. The fourth Hogwarts installment surpassed the $279.2M of Meet the Fockers to reach number 26 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters. A final haul of $285-290M seems likely.

Goblet became 2005's biggest global blockbuster over the weekend as its worldwide total rose to $851.7M edging out the $848M of Revenge of the Sith. Internationally, the wizard pic grossed an estimated $12.7M from 58 markets and watched its overseas haul climb to a staggering $570.3M. As with previous Harry Potter films, North America accounts for a little less than one-third of the global pie.

In limited release, DreamWorks expanded its Woody Allen drama Match Point from eight to 304 theaters and grossed $2.7M averaging a solid $8,912 per location. After a better-than-expected opening, the studio excelerated its release plan adding eight new markets and saw especially strong results in San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington D.C. Match Point upped its cume to $3.6M.

The Weinstein Company took a slower approach to rolling out its Pierce Brosnan pic The Matador going from four to 28 sites and grossed $233,072. The film averaged $8,324 and stands at $347,684. ThinkFilm bowed Fateless, Hungary's official Oscar submission, and took in $12,680 from a solo New York house and adds Los Angeles next.

The top ten films grossed $97.9M which was up 5% from last year when Meet the Fockers remained at number one with $28.5M; and up 18% from 2004 when The Return of the King stayed in the top spot for a fourth time with $14.2M.

Compared to projections, Hostel powered past my $16M forecast while Munich and Casanova were both very close to my respective predictions of $8M and $4M. Grandma's Boy and BloodRayne were both weaker than my projections of $6M and $5M, respectively.

Visit the NEW Top 20 chart of top-grossing films from 2005.

Be sure to check the Golden Globe chart which tracks the box office of the major nominees with weekly updates throughout awards season. For a review of Munich visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when another four-day holiday weekend sees the launches of Glory Road, Last Holiday, Hoodwinked, and Tristan & Isolde.

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

# Title Jan 6 - 8 Dec 30 - Jan 1 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Hostel $ 19,556,099 2,195 1 $ 8,909 $ 19,556,099 Lions Gate
2 The Chronicles of Narnia 15,643,135 25,686,555 -39.1 3,514 5 4,452 247,777,824 Buena Vista
3 King Kong 12,622,285 24,772,410 -49.0 3,482 4 3,625 192,678,805 Universal
4 Fun with Dick and Jane 11,918,995 16,522,532 -27.9 3,182 3 3,746 81,077,547 Sony
5 Cheaper by the Dozen 2 8,432,616 14,486,519 -41.8 3,109 3 2,712 66,553,553 Fox
6 Munich 7,566,075 4,758,390 59.0 1,485 3 5,095 25,350,740 Universal
7 Memoirs of a Geisha 6,111,193 7,746,419 -21.1 1,589 5 3,846 39,861,859 Sony
8 Brokeback Mountain 5,726,662 3,619,497 58.2 483 5 11,856 22,436,190 Focus
9 Rumor Has It 5,702,435 9,364,661 -39.1 2,766 3 2,062 35,202,061 Warner Bros.
10 The Family Stone 4,607,787 8,132,554 -43.3 2,085 4 2,210 53,175,323 Fox
11 The Ringer 4,249,864 6,179,977 -31.2 1,688 3 2,518 27,761,220 Fox Searchlight
12 Casanova 3,778,824 405,615 831.6 1,004 3 3,764 4,977,280 Buena Vista
13 Grandma's Boy 3,009,341 2,016 1 1,493 3,009,341 Fox
14 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 2,858,384 5,684,917 -49.7 1,555 8 1,838 281,516,498 Warner Bros.
15 Match Point 2,709,289 398,593 579.7 304 2 8,912 3,618,079 DreamWorks
16 The Producers 2,244,115 4,014,930 -44.1 937 4 2,395 15,116,722 Universal
17 Walk the Line 2,111,049 2,662,417 -20.7 1,027 8 2,056 95,367,226 Fox
18 Syriana 2,065,292 4,087,460 -49.5 1,202 7 1,718 42,079,173 Warner Bros.
19 BloodRayne 1,550,000 985 1 1,574 1,550,000 Romar
20 Wolf Creek 1,100,176 3,753,932 -70.7 1,479 3 744 15,336,285 Weinstein Co.
Top 5 $ 68,173,130 $ 89,214,435 -23.6
Top 10 97,887,282 112,310,468 -12.8
Top 20 123,563,616 134,596,412 -8.2
Top 20 vs. 2005 123,563,616 111,582,592 10.7

Last Updated : January 9, 2006 at 10:30PM EST