Weekend Box Office (February 11 - 13, 2005)

*** Oscar Nominee Grosses ***

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Will Smith's agents are sure to start shopping for larger mansions after the stunning debut of their client's latest film Hitch which enjoyed a record-breaking opening at number one. Former box office champs Boogeyman and Are We There Yet? followed giving Sony the rare pleasure of commanding the top three positions on the charts. Disney's new kid film Pooh's Heffalump Movie got off to a slow start while Oscar nominees for Best Picture once again enjoyed the smallest declines in the top ten.

Setting a new record for the largest opening by a romantic comedy, Hitch attracted millions of moviegoers this weekend opening with $43.1M, according to final studio figures, to lead the weekend race with ease. The PG-13 film saw the multi-talented entertainer play a professional matchmaker who stumbles upon a woman who threatens to expose his secrets. Co-starring Eva Mendes and Kevin James, Hitch played ultrawide in 3,575 theaters and averaged a hearty $12,068 per site. Smith has headlined several action blockbusters but with Hitch, anchored his first romantic comedy and hit the ball out of the park. The actor's universal appeal reached beyond all boundaries of race, gender, age, and class and pulled in moviegoers from every demographic segment. Plus an opening slot right before Valentine's Day helped ensure that interest in the genre would be sky high from the date crowd.

Will Smith could not be more happy right now seeing his last five consecutive films become $100M+ blockbusters. Hollywood A-listers like Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey, Julia Roberts, Adam Sandler, and Brad Pitt cannot make the same claim. The versatile actor shot up $144.8M with last July's sci-fi action pic I, Robot and $160.8M with October's animated comedy Shark Tale. Overall, the former fresh prince has opened seven different movies above $40M over the past nine years. All were in his lucky month of July until the comedies Shark and Hitch expanded his resume in recent months. This weekend, Smith snagged the opening weekend record for a romantic comedy from Sony's own 50 First Dates which starred Sandler and Drew Barrymore and opened a year ago this weekend with $39.9M in three days and $45.1M over the four-day Presidents Day holiday frame. Hitch also stands as the fourth largest opening in the January-to-April corridor after The Passion of the Christ ($83.8M), Hannibal ($58M), and Ice Age ($46.3M).

Produced for $70M, Hitch skewed more to women, as expected, but had even appeal with age groups. Studio research showed that 55% of the audience was female while those under and over age 25 were equally split. Ticket buyers had a good time as a very high 92% marked the film as Excellent or Very Good. With Hitch , Boogeyman, and Are We There Yet?, Sony became the first studio to dominate the top three spots since Universal did it in September 1989 with Sea of Love, Uncle Buck, and Parenthood. The Sony trio has already grossed a combined $140M and looks headed for $275-300M giving the studio a great start to a new year where it hopes to defend its market share box office crown.

Last weekend's champ Boogeyman experienced a good second weekend hold for a horror film dropping 46% to $10.2M. The $7M Sony acquisition has scared up $32.8M in ten days and could find its way to around $60M. Ice Cube held strong in third place with his family hit Are We There Yet? which melted just 22% to $8.2M in its fourth journey. The Sony title has grossed a solid $61.3M in 24 days and is well on its way to becoming the top-grossing film ever for Cube.

Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby continued to attract audiences easing a mere 13% to $7.4M for fourth place. Warner Bros. has grossed $44.9M to date and is enjoying a durable run at the box office with what the studio believes will win it scores of Oscars. Baby generated the second best average in the top ten grossing $3,660 from each of 2,035 theaters.

Disney limped into fifth place with the disappointing opening for Pooh's Heffalump Movie which grossed $5.8M from 2,529 sites for a mild $2,296 average per theater. The G-rated toon hopes to pick up more business this month when many school children go on winter break. Pooh's bow fell short of the debut of the studio's The Tigger Movie which debuted on the same exact day five years ago and took in $9.4M on its opening weekend on its way to $45.5M.

With Hitch pulling away its audience, Universal's The Wedding Date suffered the worst drop in the top ten falling 51% to $5.5M putting the ten-day total at $19.4M. The $15M Debra Messing comedy should reach a decent $30-35M from roughly 1,700 theaters. The Fox thriller Hide and Seek declined 39% to $5.4M giving the Robert De Niro flick $43.4M in 17 days.

Oscar contender The Aviator followed with $4.7M, off only 14%, for a total of $82.3M. The $100M mark is still within its sights. Competing Best Picture nominee Sideways eased only 4% to $4.5M in its 17th weekend lifting the cume to $52.8M.

Rounding out the top ten was the comedy smash Meet the Fockers which in its eighth frame collected $3.5M dipping only 28%. With a towering total of $269.9M, the Universal/DreamWorks co-production now sits at number 25 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters behind The Matrix Reloaded which grossed $281.5M in 2003.

A number of new films debuted in limited release over the weekend. Miramax's musical comedy Bride & Prejudice opened in 32 theaters with a gross of $385,848 for a strong $12,057 average. The Bollywood take on Jane Austen is from director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) and will expand to more markets in the weeks ahead. Universal's NC-17 porn industry documentary Inside Deep Throat bowed to $88,709 from a dozen sites for a $7,392 average and widens to 13 more markets on Friday. Magnolia unleashed the Thai boxing pic Ong Bak in 387 theaters and grossed $1.3M for a $3,449 average. The subtitled film features martial arts star Tony Jaa.

A pair of MLK weekend openers dropped out of the top ten this weekend. The Warner Bros. kidpic Racing Stripes dipped 36% to $2.7M and boosted its total to $43.8M. The talking animal comedy should find its way to around $50M. Paramount's high school basketball drama Coach Carter took in $2.5M, down 40%, and pushed its tally to a solid $62.9M. The $30M Samuel L. Jackson starrer looks to conclude with nearly $70M.

The top ten films grossed $98.4M which was off 1% from last year when 50 First Dates debuted at number one with $39.9M; and down 16% from 2003 when Daredevil opened in the top spot with $40.3M. In both years, the frame was boosted by Presidents Day falling on Monday.

Compared to projections, Hitch powered well ahead of my $30M forecast while Pooh debuted below my $10M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on whether Martin Scorsese will finally win an Oscar. In last week's survey, readers were asked if Hitch would open to at least $20M. Of 2,256 responses, 82% correctly guessed Yes while 18% said No.

For a NEW review of Bride & Prejudice, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Constantine, Because of Winn-Dixie, and Son of the Mask all open.

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

# Title Feb 11 - 13 Feb 4 - 6 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Hitch $ 43,142,214 3,575 1 $ 12,068 $ 43,142,214 Sony
2 Boogeyman 10,235,785 19,020,655 -46.2 3,052 2 3,354 32,768,501 Sony
3 Are We There Yet? 8,236,727 10,614,455 -22.4 2,810 4 2,931 61,253,768 Sony
4 Million Dollar Baby 7,447,212 8,515,365 -12.5 2,035 9 3,660 44,948,277 Warner Bros.
5 Pooh's Heffalump Movie 5,805,559 2,529 1 2,296 5,805,559 Buena Vista
6 The Wedding Date 5,513,065 11,129,580 -50.5 1,704 2 3,235 19,421,375 Universal
7 Hide and Seek 5,408,477 8,906,932 -39.3 2,525 3 2,142 43,410,777 Fox
8 The Aviator 4,671,646 5,427,739 -13.9 2,196 9 2,127 82,323,907 Miramax
9 Sideways 4,472,135 4,657,390 -4.0 1,619 17 2,762 52,777,699 Fox Searchlight
10 Meet the Fockers 3,456,245 4,807,635 -28.1 1,883 8 1,835 269,946,550 Universal
11 Racing Stripes 2,725,334 4,282,291 -36.4 2,430 4 1,122 43,823,800 Warner Bros.
12 Coach Carter 2,531,251 4,233,812 -40.2 2,028 4 1,248 62,897,100 Paramount
13 Finding Neverland 2,291,204 2,528,704 -9.4 1,198 12 1,913 42,543,926 Miramax
14 Hotel Rwanda 2,043,249 2,316,416 -11.8 824 6 2,480 14,197,826 MGM/UA
15 The Phantom of the Opera 1,887,372 2,609,040 -27.7 1,365 6 1,383 45,562,064 Warner Bros.
16 In Good Company 1,682,680 3,341,960 -49.6 1,357 5 1,240 43,347,887 Universal
17 Ong Bak 1,334,869 387 1 3,449 1,334,869 Magnolia
18 Assault on Precinct 13 777,023 1,803,566 -56.9 678 2 1,146 19,369,962 Focus
19 Aliens of the Deep (Imax) 397,852 365,443 8.9 27 3 14,735 1,513,622 Buena Vista
20 Bride & Prejudice 385,848 32 1 12,058 385,848 Miramax
Top 5 $ 69,061,938 $ 58,186,987 18.7
Top 10 98,389,065 81,595,854 20.6
Top 20 114,445,747 97,276,195 17.7
Top 20 vs. 2004 114,445,747 115,746,477 -1.1

Last Updated : February 14, 2005 at 6:30PM EST