Weekend Box Office (January 28 - 30, 2005)

*** Oscar Nominee Grosses ***

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The two faces of Robert De Niro came out at theaters as his new suspense thriller Hide and Seek scared up enough business for a number one opening while his comedic side continued to draw audineces in Meet the Fockers giving the legendary actor two films in the Top Five. All five Oscar nominees for Best Picture capitalized on their recent nominations and expanded into wider release leading to strong sales spikes and higher chart positions this weekend. Meanwhile, most holdovers experienced small declines as ticket buyers snowed out last weekend returned in full force to the multiplexes this time to power the January box office to an exceptionally strong finish.

For the fourth consecutive weekend, a new release surged above industry expectations in its opening as the Fox fright flick Hide and Seek bowed in the top spot with $22M from an ultrawide 3,005-theater release, according to final studio figures. Averaging a solid $7,308 per location, the R-rated chiller stars De Niro as a psychologist whose daughter, played by Dakota Fanning, befriends an imaginary character who causes terror in their new home. The studio's marketing efforts connected with consumers by focusing on starpower and suspense. A catchy title didn't hurt either. Reviews were harsh but moviegoers payed little attention to critics making Hide and Seek the latest horror film to post surprisingly stellar grosses following White Noise and The Grudge.

Budgeted at $30M, Hide and Seek skewed 57% female and 57% under the age of 25, according to studio exit polls. After a string of fall and winter flops such as First Daughter, Flight of the Phoenix, and Elektra, Fox found itself at number one for the first time since August's Alien vs. Predator. After the better-than-expected debuts of White Noise and Coach Carter, Hide became the third $20M+ opener of the month helping to start off the new year on a powerful note.

Last weekend's top film, the Ice Cube family comedy Are We There Yet?, finished in second place but saw sales slip by a mere 12%. The incredible hold helped give the Sony release a total of $38.5M in only ten days of release. With its broad appeal, the PG-rated film could very well go on to become Cube's top-grossing movie ever beating the $75.8M of 2002's Barbershop.

After six weeks of limited release, Clint Eastwood's highly acclaimed boxing drama Million Dollar Baby expanded into national play on the heels of its seven Oscar nominations and grossed $12.3M to finish the frame in third place. Widening from 147 to 2,010 theaters, the Warner Bros. title averaged a solid $6,102 per location and raised its cume to $21.6M. Of the five Best Picture nominees, Baby had grossed the least and played in the fewest number of theaters and therefore had the most to gain in the post-nomination period. Now in full national release, the PG-13 film aims to remain a box office contender for weeks to come and Eastwood's DGA Award victory over Martin Scorsese for director of the year on Saturday will help keep the Oscar race between Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator a very dramatic one.

Robert De Niro's other film in the top five, comedy heavyweight Meet the Fockers, placed fourth with $8M in its sixth weekend sending the cume to $258.4M. That puts the Universal smash at number 29 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters ranking an inch above fellow holiday juggernaut The Incredibles which has grossed $258M. In its third game, Paramount's Coach Carter fell only 24% to $8M giving the Samuel L. Jackson hit $53.6M in 17 days.

With eleven Academy Award nominations to its credit, Martin Scorsese's The Aviator flew 56% higher this weekend taking in $7.6M in its sixth weekend of wide release and watched its total climb to $68.2M. Miramax added 242 extra playdates and averaged an even $3,016 from 2,503 venues. The Leonardo DiCaprio epic now seems on course to fly to the $100M domestic mark if it can keep public interest high during Oscar season. The talking animal pic Racing Stripes eased just 4% to $6.5M giving Warner Bros. $35.1M to date.

Competing Best Picture contender Sideways finally hit the top ten in its 15th week of release grossing $6.3M finishing in eighth place. Fox Searchlight added 998 theaters boosting the run to 1,694 sites and averaged $3,747. Earning five Oscar nominations, the Paul Giamatti starrer reached its widest point of distribution yet and more than doubled the biggest weekend gross of its run. With its cume now at $40.1M, Sideways will easily become the highest-grossing film in company history for Searchlight by next weekend surpassing the $45.9M of 1997's The Full Monty.

Universal's comedy In Good Company slipped 22% to $6.2M pushing the cume to $36M. Rounding out the top ten was the Focus action title Assault on Precinct 13 which dropped a reasonable 34%, but still suffered the worst decline in the top ten. The Ethan Hawke-Laurence Fishburne starrer grossed $4.3M bringing the 12-day sum to $14.8M.

Debuting poorly outside the top ten was the sci-fi thriller Alone in the Dark which played in empty theaters to a weekend gross of just $2.8M. Lions Gate averaged a pitiful $1,334 from 2,124 locations for the R-rated Christian Slater-Tara Reid venture. Moviegoers looking for a new scary movie chose Hide and Seek over Alone by a whopping eight to one margin.

Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. The Phantom of the Opera, which earned three Oscar nominations in less prominent categories, grossed $4M, off only 12%, and lifted its cume to $38.9M. The Warner Bros. musical may go on to reach about $50M. Universal's Michael Keaton thriller White Noise fell 44% to $2.8M and brought its sum to $53.7M. The PG-13 fright flick should find its way to $55-60M. Crumbling again in its third adventure was the Fox flop Elektra which declined 64% to $1.4M. The Jennifer Garner actioner has collected a measly $23M and should finish its run with under $25M.

Healthy gains were enjoyed by other Academy Award nominated films this weekend. Miramax's Finding Neverland, which captured seven nods including Picture and Actor, more than doubled its gross with $2.8M from 1,258 theaters. The distributor added 389 additional runs, averaged $2,190, and pushed its total to $35.9M. The MGM/UA genocide drama Hotel Rwanda added 98 theaters for a total of 417 and grossed $1.8M for a 39% boost. Averaging $4,427 per site, the Don Cheadle pic which was honored with nominations for Actor and Supporting Actress has taken in $8.2M to date and will expand further on Friday. Universal more than doubled the theater count for the Jamie Foxx film Ray and collected $615,415 pushing the cume to $73.8M. The highest-grossing Best Picture nominee has already reached most of its theatrical audience since its national launch in October and is likely to see most of its Oscar boost help its DVD which will be released this Tuesday.

The top ten films grossed $97.6M which was up a solid 46% from last year when You Got Served debuted at number one with $16.1M; and up 15% from 2002 when The Recruit opened in the top spot with $16.3M.

Compared to projections, Hide and Seek opened stronger than my $16M forecast while Alone in the Dark bowed to less than half of my $8M prediction. Million Dollar Baby performed a bit below my $14M projection while The Aviator was on target with my $7.5M forecast.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the Oscar battle between The Aviator and Million Dollar Baby. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of three upcoming horror films would become the biggest hit. Of 1,518 responses, 62% picked Hide and Seek, 28% selected Boogeyman, and 10% chose Alone in the Dark.

For a 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 Boogeyman and The Wedding Date both open.

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

# Title Jan 28 - 30 Jan 21 - 23 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Hide and Seek $ 21,959,233 3,005 1 $ 7,308 $ 21,959,233 Fox
2 Are We There Yet? 16,346,395 18,575,214 -12.0 2,710 2 6,032 38,458,267 Sony
3 Million Dollar Baby 12,265,482 1,652,078 642.4 2,010 7 6,102 21,579,631 Warner Bros.
4 Meet the Fockers 8,026,165 9,683,260 -17.1 3,006 6 2,670 258,372,305 Universal
5 Coach Carter 8,015,331 10,548,599 -24.0 2,574 3 3,114 53,570,689 Paramount
6 The Aviator 7,550,128 4,837,872 56.1 2,503 7 3,016 68,233,031 Miramax
7 Racing Stripes 6,538,292 6,815,275 -4.1 3,185 3 2,053 35,063,608 Warner Bros.
8 Sideways 6,347,364 2,851,955 122.6 1,694 15 3,747 40,054,672 Fox Searchlight
9 In Good Company 6,242,825 7,989,410 -21.9 1,960 5 3,185 35,998,497 Universal
10 Assault on Precinct 13 4,289,986 6,502,724 -34.0 2,297 2 1,868 14,757,794 Focus
11 The Phantom of the Opera 4,033,481 4,555,434 -11.5 1,511 6 2,669 38,919,263 Warner Bros.
12 Alone in the Dark 2,834,421 2,124 1 1,334 2,834,421 Lions Gate
13 White Noise 2,815,650 4,988,480 -43.6 2,125 4 1,325 53,654,685 Universal
14 Finding Neverland 2,755,230 1,222,682 125.3 1,258 12 2,190 35,942,714 Miramax
15 Hotel Rwanda 1,845,952 1,326,336 39.2 417 6 4,427 8,184,175 MGM/UA
16 Elektra 1,411,578 3,964,598 -64.4 1,530 3 923 23,009,001 Fox
17 Indigo 1,190,000 603 1 1,973 1,190,000 Emissary
18 Lemony Snicket's A Series... 972,836 1,622,636 -40.0 793 7 1,227 116,022,076 Paramount
19 National Treasure 781,644 1,277,550 -38.8 644 11 1,214 167,681,143 Buena Vista
20 Ocean's Twelve 688,364 1,379,378 -50.1 702 8 981 123,608,293 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 66,612,606 $ 53,611,758 24.2
Top 10 97,581,201 78,460,866 24.4
Top 20 116,910,357 91,933,393 27.2
Top 20 vs. 2004 116,910,357 88,322,844 32.4

Last Updated : January 31, 2005 at 9:00PM EST