Weekend Box Office (January 23 - 25, 2004)

*** List of 2004 Golden Globe Winners ***

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND New Line Cinema's Ashton Kutcher thriller The Butterfly Effect stung like a bee at the box office opening in the number one spot. Last weekend's top grosser, the romantic comedy Along Came Polly, finished close behind in second place while the new teen comedy Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! was stood up debuting poorly in third. Overall, ticket sales were lackluster with only two films in the top ten averaging more than $3,000 per theater.

Ashton Kutcher continued to prove how strong of a draw he is with teens and young adults as his supernatural thriller The Butterfly Effect opened stronger than expected with $17.1M, according to final studio figures. Averaging a healthy $6,551 from 2,605 theaters, the R-rated pic gave the 25-year-old actor yet another hit, but more importantly, proved he could open a film on his own. Aside from drawing large television audiences to Fox's That 70s Show and MTV's Punk'd, Kutcher has seen his box office stock rise with 2000's Dude, Where's My Car? and last January's Just Married. With Butterfly, Kutcher departed from his usual line of goofy comedies and tried a role that was more serious and dramatic. Audiences responded by opening their wallets to the New Line release which made a splashy premiere at the Sundance Film Festival last week in order to give the edgy film some indie chic.

Dropping a moderate 41% from its healthy bow, the Universal comedy Along Came Polly slipped to second place over the weekend and grossed $16.4M. After ten days, the Ben Stiller-Jennifer Aniston hit has raked in a solid $53.3M and could find its way to the vicinity of $100M which would make it the first new release of 2004 to reach the century club. Heating up the summer box office Down Under, Polly made its international bow this weekend launching at number one in Australia with an estimated $1.9M from 193 theaters for a potent average of about $10,000.

Opening with weak results in third place was the teen comedy Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! which grossed $7.3M from 2,711 theaters. Averaging a dismal $2,700 per location, the PG-13 movie stars Kate Bosworth as a young woman who wins a chance to meet her screen idol played by soap star Josh Duhamel. Date drew almost exclusively from young women with DreamWorks reporting that over 80% of the audience for the $24M production was female. The lack of male appeal led the comedy to perform just a bit better than the similarly-skewing Mandy Moore flop Chasing Liberty which bowed to just $6M earlier this month. Competition for young adults from The Butterfly Effect and Along Came Polly didn't help either.

Swimming into fourth place was Tim Burton's Big Fish with $7.1M. Down 31%, the PG-13 fantasy drama has collected $48.9M to date and is up for four Golden Globes including Best Picture - Comedy or Musical.

Hobbits, wizards, elves, and even orcs were putting on their tuxedos in fifth place as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King prepared for the Golden Globe festivities. The Peter Jackson epic grossed $6.8M, off 34%, in its sixth weekend and boosted its massive haul to $337.8M. King leapfrogged over 1994's Forrest Gump to take the number nine spot on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters right behind Finding Nemo's $339.7M. After 37 days of release, the concluding chapter of the Tolkien trilogy stands 9% ahead of the pace of The Two Towers and 31% ahead of The Fellowship of the Ring. Overseas, King has vaulted to a towering $540M shooting the worldwide gross to $878M putting the film at number six on the all-time worldwide grossers list just ahead of Fellowship's $870M.

Slipping 29% to $6.4M was Fox's Cheaper by the Dozen which raised its cume to a stellar $122.5M. Miramax's Cold Mountain, which is up for eight Globe awards, followed with $5M, down 27%, and lifted its tally to $72.6M.

The biker pic Torque suffered the worst fall in the top ten decelerating 55% in its second weekend to $4.5M. With $17.3M in ten days, look for the Warner Bros. release to cross the finish line with just $25-28M. Landing in ninth was Sony's Something's Gotta Give which dropped 31% to $4M for a $107.1M sum.

In anticipation of Globe statues and Academy Award nominations in the coming days, Warner Bros. re-launched the acclaimed Clint Eastwood-directed murder mystery Mystic River into 1,327 locations and grossed $3.4M. The Sean Penn-Tim Robbins drama has grossed $58.8M to date and could show legs in the weeks ahead if it nabs an Oscar nod for Best Picture on Tuesday morning.

Three films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The Buena Vista comedy Calendar Girls slipped 25% to $2.4M and a cume of $21.5M. The British hit could reach $30M or more domestically. The Miramax comedy My Baby's Daddy dropped 45% to $2M for a 17-day tally of $15.6M. Look for a $20M finish.

Tom Cruise's epic adventure The Last Samurai declined 30% in its eighth weekend to $2.2M and raised its domestic tally to $105.5M. Budgeted at roughly $140M, the Warner Bros. title should find its way to about $110M, unless it can secure an Oscar nod for Best Picture which would allow the Ed Zwick pic to squeeze some more mileage out of its release. Overseas, Samurai has just smashed the $200M barrier with Japan contributing almost half of the total. The warrior saga now has its sights set on the $400M global hurdle.

Elsewhere, Newmarket expanded its Charlize Theron serial killer pic Monster from 221 to 330 theaters and saw sales climb 37% to $2.1M. The R-rated drama averaged a good $6,218 per chamber and lifted its cume to $6M. Theron is the front-runner in all Best Actress races this season and has already picked up wins from a half-dozen organizations including the National Board of Review, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and and the National Society of Film Critics. This Friday, Monster will widen to over 500 total playdates in order to capitalize on its expected Oscar nod for the South African-born actress.

The top ten films grossed $77.9M which was up 6% from last year when Darkness Falls opened at number one with $12M; but down 25% from 2002 when Black Hawk Down remained on top with $17M.

Compared to projections, The Butterfly Effect opened above my $13M prediction while Tad Hamilton bowed below my $11M forecast. Along Came Polly and Mystic River were both very close to my respective projections of $16M and $3M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on which new release next weekend will have the biggest opening. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether The Return of the King would win the Golden Globe for Best Picture - Drama. Of 1,811 responses, 60% voted Yes while 40% said No.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Perfect Score, You Got Served, and The Big Bounce all open over Super Bowl weekend.

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

# Title Jan. 23 - 25 Jan 16 - 18 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Butterfly Effect $ 17,065,227 2,605 1 $ 6,551 $ 17,065,227 New Line
2 Along Came Polly 16,352,625 27,721,185 -41.0 2,995 2 5,460 53,263,615 Universal
3 Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! 7,320,066 2,711 1 2,700 7,320,066 DreamWorks
4 Big Fish 7,110,138 10,306,947 -31.0 2,438 7 2,916 48,934,111 Sony
5 LOTR: The Return of the King 6,786,756 10,219,470 -33.6 2,558 6 2,653 337,817,998 New Line
6 Cheaper by the Dozen 6,381,508 9,001,374 -29.1 2,812 5 2,269 122,533,720 Fox
7 Cold Mountain 5,004,505 6,811,773 -26.5 2,802 5 1,786 72,570,380 Miramax
8 Torque 4,492,005 9,970,557 -54.9 2,463 2 1,824 17,278,318 Warner Bros.
9 Something's Gotta Give 4,017,675 5,783,869 -30.5 2,143 7 1,875 107,054,327 Sony
10 Mystic River 3,368,197 403,122 735.5 1,327 16 2,538 58,766,374 Warner Bros.
11 Calendar Girls 2,385,676 3,178,276 -24.9 966 6 2,470 21,529,440 Buena Vista
12 The Last Samurai 2,177,479 3,122,326 -30.3 1,115 8 1,953 105,521,192 Warner Bros.
13 Monster 2,052,238 1,500,274 36.8 330 5 6,219 6,002,670 NewMarket
14 My Baby's Daddy 2,033,788 3,670,300 -44.6 1,227 3 1,658 15,644,789 Miramax
15 Teacher's Pet 1,427,679 2,461,252 -42.0 2,027 2 704 5,315,505 Buena Vista
16 Peter Pan 1,225,180 2,209,660 -44.6 1,124 5 1,090 45,465,970 Universal
17 Paycheck 1,176,378 2,507,336 -53.1 1,108 5 1,062 52,558,091 Paramount
18 The Cooler 913,089 1,119,031 -18.4 408 9 2,238 5,002,374 Lions Gate
19 Mona Lisa Smile 888,179 2,138,100 -58.5 1,007 6 882 62,351,962 Sony
20 21 Grams 854,003 1,070,924 -20.3 401 10 2,130 12,126,282 Focus
Top 5 $ 54,634,812 $ 67,219,533 -18.7
Top 10 77,898,702 89,786,077 -13.2
Top 20 93,032,391 107,489,727 -13.4
Top 20 vs. 2003 93,032,391 92,745,129 0.3

Last Updated : January 26, 2004 at 7:00PM EST

Gitesh Pandya can be seen each Friday on "The Biz" airing at 12:30pm and 9:30pm ET on CNNfn.