Weekend Box Office (January 20 - 22, 2006)

*** Oscar Spotlight: Brokeback Mountain ***

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers were in the mood for vampires and werewolves as the sci-fi sequel Underworld: Evolution made an impressive bow at number one easily leading the North American box office to a solid winter frame. Other new releases did not put much of a dent into the marketplace, but Golden Globe winners saw sales spikes as audiences flocked to see some of the more acclaimed films. Two of last year's hits crossed the $100M mark over the weekend while most major holdovers remained strong in their sophomore frames.

Generating the fourth largest debut ever for a January opener was the vampire thriller Underworld: Evolution which soared to $26.9M this weekend, according to final studio figures. The R-rated film stars Kate Beckinsale (and her tight leather pants) and averaged a meaty $8,375 from 3,207 theaters. The Sony sequel flew higher than the $21.8M bow and $7,463 average of the first Underworld which debuted in September 2003. It went on to gross $52M domestically. Young men were the dominant force, as expected, with studio research showing that 55% of the crowd was male and 54% was under 25. Most new films premiering at this time of year do not reach the heights of Evolution. The only films opening or expanding nationally in January to debut stronger were Star Wars: Special Edition with $35.9M in 1997, Black Hawk Down with $28.6M in 2002, and Along Came Polly with $27.7M in 2004.

The hit animated comedy Hoodwinked added over 600 theaters to its run and enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten dipping only 16%. In its second weekend, the PG-rated toon held onto second place with $10.4M from 3,002 locations. After ten days, The Weinstein Company release has grossed a solid $28.6M and should find its way to at least $60-70M at the box office. Hoodwinked's per-theater average of $3,467 dropped 33% from last weekend's three-day figure. Word of mouth has been very good for the Little Red Riding Hood tale and a sequel is already in development.

Another film pleasing audiences is Disney's college basketball drama Glory Road which fell from first to third with $8.8M. The PG-rated film declined 36% in its sophomore frame and posted $27.7M in ten days. The drop was a bit more than what the studio has seen with its other inspirational sports films like the hockey saga Miracle and the baseball pic The Rookie which each experienced second weekend declines of about 27%. Glory could go on to score around $55M.

The Queen Latifah comedy Last Holiday also held up well grossing $8.7M, off 32%, for a ten-day cume of $26M. Budgeted at about $45M, the Paramount release should reach roughly $50M.

After winning four Golden Globes, Focus expanded its cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain this weekend widening from 683 to 1,196 theaters and collected $7.4M giving the film its best gross yet. The acclaimed Ang Lee film climbed to the number five spot and averaged a solid $6,213 per site. Brokeback, which won Globes for Best Picture - drama and Best Director, has now taken in $41.7M to date. The validation from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association helped the film to reach a broader audience and its expected Oscar nominations next week should continue to make it a must-see film for more moviegoers.

Falling 38% to seventh place was Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia with $6.2M which boosted the fantasy adventure's tally to $271.9M. That allowed the megahit to surpass Shrek on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters and reach number 28 behind the $279.2M of Meet the Fockers. Narnia still looks capable of passing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to become the second largest blockbuster released in 2005.

Jim Carrey scored the tenth $100M hit of his career over the weekend with Fun with Dick and Jane which took in $5.8M in its fourth weekend. Down only 34%, the Sony title rose to $101.4M in 26 days and on Sunday became the twentieth wide release of 2005 to reach the century mark.

Opening in eighth place was the new Amazon adventure film End of the Spear which grossed $4.3M from 1,163 theaters for a moderate $3,681 average. Released by independent distributor Rocky Mountain, the PG-13 film is a drama about the son of a missionary who travels to Ecuador to learn about the death of his father. Horror flick Hostel tumbled 57% to $4.2M in its third weekend and landed in ninth place with a cume to date of $42.7M.

In its sixth attack, Universal's King Kong rounded out the top ten grossing $4.2M, off 44%, boosting the cume to $209.9M. The Peter Jackson epic now stands as the fifth biggest blockbuster of 2005 and should find its way to about $220M domestically. Overseas, the ape flick grossed an estimated $8.5M this weekend boosting the international total to $310M. Produced for a mammoth $207M, King Kong has grossed $520M worldwide thus far and hopes to make it to the $600M mark.

New Line opened nationally the Terrence Malick historical drama The New World but landed outside the top ten with $4M from 811 theaters for a $4,969 average. The Colin Farrell film has collected $4.2M overall as it played in limited release at the end of December to qualify for Oscar consideration.

Warner Independent opened the Albert Brooks film Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World in limited play and grossed $429,223 from 161 theaters for an average of $2,666. The PG-13 film finds the comedian being sent to India and Pakistan to write a government report on what makes Muslims laugh.

Two films were pushed out of the top ten over the weekend. Fox's period romance Tristan & Isolde tumbled 52% in its second weekend to $3.2M for a ten-day tally of $11.8M. A $17M final seems likely. The studio's Steve Martin comedy Cheaper by the Dozen 2 fell by 46% to $2.8M pushing the cume to $78.1M. The sequel could end with $83M.

The marketplace was also crowded with a number of acclaimed awards contenders hovering outside the top ten. After sweeping the Comedy/Musical category at the Globes last Monday, Fox's Walk the Line shot up a remarkable 73% to $3.1M boosting the cume to $102.1M. On Saturday, the Joaquin Phoenix-Reese Witherspoon pic became the nineteenth wide release of 2005 to cross the $100M mark doing the deed a day before Fun With Dick and Jane.

Universal's Munich grossed $3M, off 40%, and raised its total to $38M. Though losing out in all four Golden Globe categories it was nominated in, Woody Allen's Match Point continued its expansion going from 312 to 441 theaters and grossed $2.9M. DreamWorks saw a solid $6,657 average and lifted the sum to $10.2M. Sony's Memoirs of a Geisha, which won a Globe for Best Score, grossed $2.7M, off only 38%, and saw its cume grow to $51.2M.

The top ten films grossed $86.9M which was up 11% from last year when Are We There Yet? opened at number one with $18.6M; and up 12% from 2004 when The Butterfly Effect debuted in the top spot with $17.1M.

Compared to projections, Underworld: Evolution opened a couple of notches above my $24M forecast while Brokeback Mountain was on target with my $8M prediction. Both End of the Spear and The New World also opened very close to my respective projections of $4M and $5M.

Be sure to read the NEW Oscar Spotlight column. This special seven-week series features one-on-one interviews with the producers and studio executives behind the most acclaimed films of the season. The series begins with a talk with James Schamus, producer of Brokeback Mountain.

For NEW reviews of Nanny McPhee, Imagine You & Me, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, and a DVD review of Broken Flowers, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Annapolis, Nanny McPhee, and Big Momma's House 2 all open.

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

# Title Jan 20 - 22 Jan 13 - 15 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Underworld: Evolution $ 26,857,181 3,207 1 $ 8,375 $ 26,857,181 Sony
2 Hoodwinked 10,409,378 12,401,900 -16.1 3,002 2 3,467 28,635,878 Weinstein Co.
3 Glory Road 8,769,735 13,594,734 -35.5 2,396 2 3,660 27,709,549 Buena Vista
4 Last Holiday 8,711,606 12,806,188 -32.0 2,514 2 3,465 25,996,444 Paramount
5 Brokeback Mountain 7,430,942 5,805,082 28.0 1,196 7 6,213 41,730,237 Focus
6 The Chronicles of Narnia 6,236,570 10,059,756 -38.0 2,757 7 2,262 271,852,138 Buena Vista
7 Fun with Dick and Jane 5,751,700 8,734,224 -34.1 2,826 4 2,035 101,368,957 Sony
8 End of the Spear 4,281,388 1,163 1 3,681 4,281,388 Rocky Mountain
9 Hostel 4,246,471 9,973,880 -57.4 2,258 3 1,881 42,674,185 Lions Gate
10 King Kong 4,222,560 7,528,060 -43.9 2,205 6 1,915 209,875,885 Universal
11 The New World 4,029,715 811 3 4,969 4,219,579 New Line
12 Tristan & Isolde 3,165,026 6,583,135 -51.9 1,845 2 1,715 11,801,377 Fox
13 Walk the Line 3,065,796 1,768,437 73.4 1,125 10 2,725 102,076,758 Fox
14 Munich 3,032,070 5,033,425 -39.8 1,437 5 2,110 37,985,445 Universal
15 Match Point 2,935,733 2,001,434 46.7 441 4 6,657 10,167,645 DreamWorks
16 Cheaper by the Dozen 2 2,791,413 5,149,368 -45.8 2,067 4 1,350 78,070,178 Fox
17 Memoirs of a Geisha 2,684,497 4,307,893 -37.7 1,404 7 1,912 51,191,654 Sony
18 The Ringer 1,384,752 2,718,309 -49.1 998 5 1,388 33,700,040 Fox Searchlight
19 Rumor Has It 1,047,358 2,723,998 -61.6 1,055 5 993 41,685,614 Warner Bros.
20 Casanova 922,217 2,343,243 -60.6 770 5 1,198 10,457,989 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 62,178,842 $ 58,836,458 5.7
Top 10 86,917,531 92,636,327 -6.2
Top 20 111,976,108 118,710,958 -5.7
Top 20 vs. 2005 111,976,108 91,933,393 21.8

Last Updated : January 23, 2006 at 8:00PM EST