Weekend Box Office (February 18 - 21, 2005)

*** Oscar Nominee Grosses ***

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers across North America chose love over evil as Will Smith's romantic comedy Hitch edged out Keanu Reeves' new sci-fi thriller Constantine to remain at number one over the four-day Presidents' Day weekend. But with two very different films grossing over $30M each over the Friday-to-Monday period, the overall marketplace experienced a healthy gain over the holiday frame from last year. Two new releases aimed at kids, the feel-good drama Because of Winn-Dixie and the effects-driven comedy Son of the Mask, also debuted in the top five while Oscar contenders for Best Picture remained popular choices for ticket buyers in the final full weekend before the industry's highest honor is given out.

Sony claimed the number one spot for the fourth time in the last five weeks with Hitch which held strong in its sophomore frame with $36.7M over the Friday-to-Monday period, according to final studio figures. After only eleven days, the $70M romantic comedy has already become the year's top-grossing film with a stellar $95M and should easily become Will Smith's fifth film to break through the $150M domestic mark. Hitch has displayed extremely broad appeal playing to all demographic groups and has benefited from good word-of-mouth. Playing in 3,575 theaters, the PG-13 film averaged a strong $10,274 over four days.

Opening close behind in second place was the R-rated thriller Constantine with $33.6M from 3,006 theaters for a sturdy $11,186 average over four days. The Keanu Reeves action film about a man ridding the world of demons to save his own soul opened in the same ballpark as the actor's 1999 R-rated sci-fi hit The Matrix which debuted to $27.8M over three days and $37.4M over five days. Reviews were mixed on Constantine, but the action audience came out in numbers following weeks of comedies and tame thrillers being released in theaters. The opening marked the biggest debut for an R film since last May's Troy, another big-budget Warner Bros release. Reeves was met with the third largest Presidents' Day weekend bow ever trailing the PG-13 pics 50 First Dates and Daredevil from the last two years.

Overseas, Constantine is already devilishly hot. Following last weekend's $12M debut from several Asian markets where the film opened early to take advantage of the Lunar New Year holiday, the supernatural thriller grossed an estimated $15.5M this weekend from holdovers such as South Korea and Hong Kong plus strong European bows in markets like France, Germany and Spain lifting the international cume to $30.7M early in its run.

Fox got off to a respectable start with its family film Because of Winn-Dixie which bowed to $13.2M over the Friday-to-Monday period to land in third place. Directed by Wayne Wang, the PG-rated film about a shy girl and her new dog opened in 3,188 locations and averaged $4,146. The $14M film played to a family audience, as expected, with studio research showing that 80% of the crowd consisted of parents with children under 12. The Jeff Daniels-Cicely Tyson starrer played better in rural areas than urban centers.

Debuting weakly in fourth place was New Line's Son of the Mask starring Jamie Kennedy with $9.1M over the long weekend. The PG-rated comedy about a cartoonist and his super-powered baby averaged a mild $3,068 from 2,966 theaters. Jim Carrey's The Mask from 1994 was in a different class opening that summer to $23.1M on its way to $119.9M helping to make the comedian a box office giant. Son appealed to a younger audience of children with tamed down subject matter.

Warner Bros. claimed fifth place with Million Dollar Baby which has been showing some of the best legs of any film in release this month. The Clint Eastwood Oscar contender, which hopes to nab numerous Academy Award statues next weekend, punched up an estimated $8.1M and put its total at $55.6M. Ice Cube followed in sixth with the durable sensation Are We There Yet? which eased to $8.1M for an outstanding $71.1M cume. Interestingly, this year's top three grossing new films are all headlined by African-American actors - Hitch, Yet?, and Coach Carter with $65.1M.

Sony's Boogeyman tumbled to $6.1M giving the thriller $41.7M to date. Pooh's Heffalump Movie grossed $5.3M and gave the Disney toon $12.6M after eleven days.

Miramax's The Aviator followed in ninth place with $4.9M leaving the Martin Scorsese film with $88.9M thus far. The Howard Hughes biopic stands as the top-grossing film of the acclaimed director's forty-year career. Scorsese has his fingers crossed hoping to land his first Oscar and his first $100M hit. Right behind in tenth place with $4.5M was Universal's The Wedding Date which boosted its cume to $25.9M.

Falling out of the top ten over the George & Abe frame was Fox Searchlight's Sideways which grossed $4.5M over the long weekend reaching a cume of $58.7M. The quirky comedy has become the distributor's highest grossing film ever and may drink its way to about $70M.

A pair of Robert De Niro films also fell from the elite list. The Fox thriller Hide and Seek scared up $3M pushing the cume to $48.3M. The $30M film looks to finish with $53-55M. Meanwhile, the Oscar-winning actor's smash comedy sequel Meet the Fockers finished its two-month run in the top ten and grossed $2.3M. With a mammoth $273.5M in the bank, the $80M Universal pic should reach around $280M. That makes Fockers the second biggest comedy of all-time after Home Alone ($285.8M from 1990-1991) and puts it at number 25 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters. Worldwide, Fockers has grossed a stunning $427M to date.

In limited release, Miramax's Bride & Prejudice grossed $384,481 over four days nearly matching its three-day bow last weekend. Averaging a solid $12,015 per theater from 32 sites, the Gurinder Chadha musical has collected $882,610 and will dance into additional markets this Friday. Universal expanded its NC-17 documentary Inside Deep Throat from 12 to 27 sites and swallowed $146,168 in its sophomore outing. Averaging $5,413 per theater, the film has taken in $278,723 to date.

The top ten films grossed $129.7M over four days which was up 13% from last year's Presidents' Day frame when 50 First Dates debuted at number one with $45.1M over the long weekend; but down 3% from 2003 when Daredevil opened in the top spot over the holiday with $45M.

Compared to projections, Constantine opened a few notches below my four-day forecast of $38M. Winn-Dixie and Son of the Mask both debuted close to my respective predictions of $13M and $10M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the opening weekend of Cursed. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Martin Scorsese would finally win an Oscar for best director. Of 1,776 responses, the voting was evenly split.

For NEW reviews of Constantine and Bride & Prejudice, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Cursed, Man of the House, and Diary of a Mad Black Woman compete to toss Will Smith from the top spot.

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

# Title Feb 18 - 21 Feb 11 - 13 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Hitch $ 36,731,246 $ 43,142,214 -14.9 3,575 2 $ 10,274 $ 95,046,465 Sony
2 Constantine 33,624,407 3,006 1 11,186 33,624,407 Warner Bros.
3 Because of Winn-Dixie 13,218,723 3,188 1 4,146 13,218,723 Fox
4 Son of the Mask 9,100,115 2,966 1 3,068 9,100,115 New Line
5 Million Dollar Baby 8,142,158 7,447,212 9.3 2,105 10 3,868 55,645,680 Warner Bros.
6 Are We There Yet? 8,051,495 8,236,727 -2.2 2,519 5 3,196 71,058,688 Sony
7 Boogeyman 6,077,063 10,235,785 -40.6 2,572 3 2,363 41,725,573 Sony
8 Pooh's Heffalump Movie 5,323,877 5,805,559 -8.3 2,529 2 2,105 12,578,011 Buena Vista
9 The Aviator 4,924,449 4,671,646 5.4 1,710 10 2,880 88,876,786 Miramax
10 The Wedding Date 4,510,085 5,513,065 -18.2 1,566 3 2,880 25,924,990 Universal
11 Sideways 4,473,622 4,472,135 0.0 1,300 18 3,441 58,695,137 Fox Searchlight
12 Hide and Seek 3,006,967 5,408,477 -44.4 1,779 4 1,690 48,294,631 Fox
13 Meet the Fockers 2,345,765 3,456,245 -32.1 1,289 9 1,820 273,488,020 Universal
14 Finding Neverland 2,301,205 2,291,204 0.4 860 13 2,676 45,691,722 Miramax
15 Hotel Rwanda 2,115,360 2,043,249 3.5 630 7 3,358 17,085,998 MGM/UA
16 Racing Stripes 1,911,013 2,725,334 -29.9 1,420 5 1,346 46,318,788 Warner Bros.
17 Coach Carter 1,384,402 2,531,251 -45.3 965 5 1,435 65,054,762 Paramount
18 The Phantom of the Opera 1,322,142 1,887,372 -29.9 902 7 1,466 47,718,438 Warner Bros.
19 Ong Bak 852,717 1,334,869 -36.1 361 2 2,362 2,814,161 Magnolia
20 In Good Company 759,240 1,682,680 -54.9 518 6 1,466 44,663,907 Universal
Top 5 $ 100,816,649 $ 69,061,938 46.0
Top 10 129,703,618 98,389,065 31.8
Top 20 150,176,051 114,445,747 31.2
Top 20 vs. Prez Day 2004 150,176,051 134,805,710 11.4

Last Updated : February 22, 2005 at 7:45PM EST