Weekend Box Office (January 21 - 23, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND With winter snowstorms pounding the midwest and northeast keeping moviegoers away from theaters for part of the weekend, Ice Cube proved to be the hottest draw as his first family film Are We There Yet? drove all the way up to number one easily defeating its competitors. The weekend's other new release, the action remake Assault on Precinct 13, opened with more modest sales outside of the top five. With Saturday's blizzard having an effect on all movies, most holdovers saw substantial declines however major Golden Globe winners expanded and posted solid results on the eve of the unveiling of Academy Award nominations.

Ice Cube scored the sixth number one opening of his career this weekend with the surprisingly potent debut of the comedy Are We There Yet? which grossed $18.6M, according to final studio figures, over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Launching in 2,709 theaters, the PG-rated comedy about a man who tries to impress a woman by driving her kids to her on New Year's Eve averaged a solid $6,857 per location. The Sony release played to a broad multicultural crowd with studio research showing the audience breakdown as 43% white, 26% black, and 18% Latino. One-third of the audience was non-family suggesting the starpower of Ice Cube contributed to this new genre for the entertainer. Poor reviews meant little at the cash registers.

Since his screen debut over thirteen years ago in Boyz N the Hood, Cube has seen a large portion of his fan base go on to make families of their own. It was only natural for the rapper-turned-actor to eventually make a kid movie which would draw both parents and children with the right storyline. Although Cube knocked Samuel L. Jackson out of the number one spot, the two will next star together in Sony's action sequel XXX: State of the Union opening April 29.

Last weekend's box office champ Coach Carter fell 56% in its second weekend and finished the frame in second place with $10.5M. The Paramount high school basketball drama has grossed $42.8M in only ten days and is on course to end its season with a solid $65-70M. Budgeted at under $30M, Coach Carter is the third straight release for Paramount to perform well at the box office following The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Together the trio should collect about $270M in domestic grosses giving the struggling studio a positive move in the right direction.

Comedy juggernaut Meet the Fockers slipped a notch to third place with $9.7M falling 50% from the three-day portion of last weekend's holiday frame. The Universal smash has now grossed an amazing $247.2M putting it at number 34 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters behind last summer's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban which grossed $249.4M. Fockers also surpassed Jim Carrey's Bruce Almighty to become the second biggest live-action comedy ever. De Niro and company still hope to catch Macaulay Culkin and his $285.8M gross for 1990's Home Alone.

In its second weekend of wide release, the Topher Grace-Dennis Quaid comedy In Good Company dropped 44% to $8M boosting the cume to $27.4M. Universal added nearly 400 theaters to the run and averaged $4,070 per location, off 55% from last weekend's $9,125 average. Company seems headed for a solid $50M. The Warner Bros. talking animal flick Racing Stripes fell 51% in its sophomore session to an estimated $6.8M and has collected $27.1M in ten days. The family film should gallop to $45-50M. By comparison, Kangaroo Jack, the talking animal pic Warner Bros. launched over MLK weekend two years ago, slipped a more stable 30% in its second weekend on its way to $66.9M.

Opening in sixth place without too much firepower was the action thriller Assault on Precinct 13 which premiered to $6.5M from 2,297 theaters. The remake of the 1976 John Carpenter film averaged a mild $2,831 and collected $8M since its Wednesday launch. Assault, which stars Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne in a police drama that sees crime bosses take on dirty cops, garnered reviews that were generally good, but overall consumer interest failed to ignite.

Dropping 59% in its third scare was the Michael Keaton thriller White Noise with $5M which raised the total to $49.4M. Universal should find its way to about $60M. Add in Fockers and Company and the studio has grossed a colossal $325M over the past month.

Close behind was Golden Globe and Producers Guild champ The Aviator with $4.8M from 2,261 sites, up from 1,956 last weekend. The expansion and the publicity surrounding its Globe wins last Sunday for Best Picture and Best Actor in the Drama category helped the Miramax/Warner Bros. co-production experience the smallest decline in the top ten easing just 4%. The Martin Scorsese epic's average of $2,140 was off 17% from last weekend. With $58M in the bank after its fifth weekend of wide release, The Aviator is still flying at a slower pace than Miramax's recent Oscar contenders opening in late December. The Howard Hughes biopic stands 6% behind the $61.4M of Scorsese's Gangs of New York two years ago at the same point in its run, and 20% behind the $72.6M of Cold Mountain this time last year. However, this Tuesday's announcement of Academy Award nominations should help The Aviator remain a box office contender over the next several weeks.

Grossing $4.6M was the Warner Bros. musical The Phantom of the Opera which expanded from 907 to 1,511 locations raising its total to $33.1M. The Joel Schumacher pic saw its per-theater average slip 26% to a reasonable $3,015. Rounding out the top ten was the super hero dud Elektra which set the bar pretty high for second-weekend drops for 2005's future flops. Crumbling 69%, the Fox title fell from fifth to tenth and grossed $4M pushing its ten-day tally to a pitiful $20.4M. Look for a $25M finale and no sequel.

A pair of December kidpics fell from the top ten this weekend. The Paramount film Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events fell 60% to $1.6M in its sixth frame and put its cume at $114.6M. The $140M Jim Carrey vehicle should finish with around $117M domestically. Fox's Fat Albert fell apart in its fifth journey tumbling 78% to $606,807 for a $46.5M sum. A $47M final seems likely.

Two major Golden Globe winners finished the weekend just outside of the top ten but capitalized on their statues with solid sales. Fox Searchlight widened Best Picture - Musical or Comedy winner Sideways from 366 to 696 theaters and grossed $2.9M in its fourteenth weekend pushing the cume to $32.1M. Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, which won Globes for Best Director and Best Actress - Drama, remained in limited release and punched up $1.7M from 147 outlets for a sparkling $11,239 average. Cume stands at $8.3M. On Friday, both films will expand nationally to approximately 1,700 theaters hoping to take advantage of the added buzz created by Tuesday's Oscar nods.

The top ten films grossed $78.5M which was up 1% from last year when The Butterfly Effect debuted at number one with $17.1M; and up 6% from 2002 when Darkness Falls opened in the top spot with $12M.

Compared to projections, Are We There Yet? powered ahead of my $12M forecast while Assault on Precinct 13 opened below my $13M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on which upcoming horror film will be the biggest hit. For a NEW review of Assault on Precinct 13, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Hide and Seek and Alone in the Dark both open.

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

# Title Jan 21 - 23 Jan 14 - 16 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Are We There Yet? $ 18,575,214 2,709 1 $ 6,857 $ 18,575,214 Sony
2 Coach Carter 10,548,599 24,182,961 -56.4 2,552 2 4,133 42,790,414 Paramount
3 Meet the Fockers 9,683,260 19,316,095 -49.9 3,446 5 2,810 247,243,985 Universal
4 In Good Company 7,989,410 14,289,750 -44.1 1,963 4 4,070 27,429,867 Universal
5 Racing Stripes 6,815,275 13,920,052 -51.0 3,185 2 2,140 27,088,410 Warner Bros.
6 Assault on Precinct 13 6,502,724 2,297 1 2,831 8,040,854 Focus
7 White Noise 4,988,480 12,067,290 -58.7 2,247 3 2,220 49,379,130 Universal
8 The Aviator 4,837,872 5,057,536 -4.3 2,261 6 2,140 58,024,146 Miramax
9 The Phantom of the Opera 4,555,434 3,669,147 24.2 1,511 5 3,015 33,118,458 Warner Bros.
10 Elektra 3,964,598 12,804,793 -69.0 3,203 2 1,238 20,372,235 Fox
11 Sideways 2,851,955 2,164,549 31.8 696 14 4,098 32,131,621 Fox Searchlight
12 Million Dollar Baby 1,652,078 1,813,881 -8.9 147 6 11,239 8,312,424 Warner Bros.
13 Lemony Snicket's A Series... 1,622,636 4,040,709 -59.8 1,524 6 1,065 114,592,758 Paramount
14 Ocean's Twelve 1,379,378 2,984,382 -53.8 1,275 7 1,082 122,389,114 Warner Bros.
15 Hotel Rwanda 1,326,336 1,460,089 -9.2 319 5 4,158 5,620,900 MGM/UA
16 National Treasure 1,277,550 2,657,763 -51.9 1,071 10 1,193 166,525,706 Buena Vista
17 Finding Neverland 1,222,682 1,756,690 -30.4 869 11 1,407 32,538,331 Miramax
18 House of Flying Daggers 1,005,586 1,737,497 -42.1 1,017 8 989 8,953,950 Sony Classics
19 Fat Albert 606,807 2,800,707 -78.3 1,252 5 485 46,464,433 Fox
20 Closer 527,519 788,325 -33.1 504 8 1,047 32,818,696 Sony
Top 5 $ 53,611,758 $ 84,513,651 -36.6
Top 10 78,460,866 112,149,040 -30.0
Top 20 91,933,393 130,846,696 -29.7
Top 20 vs. 2004 91,933,393 93,032,391 -1.2

Last Updated : January 24, 2005 at 8:30PM EST