Weekend Box Office (February 20 - 22, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND With Mel Gibson's hotly anticipated The Passion of the Christ just days away from its national launch, moviegoers across North America held onto their money as four new films flopped in their debuts giving last week's champ, 50 First Dates, another easy spin in the top spot. Grosses for the top ten fell to their second-lowest level of the past five months, although Oscar contenders remained strong in the final full weekend before the awards ceremony.

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore ruled the charts for the second straight weekend as 50 First Dates grossed $20.4M, according to final studio figures, dropping 49% from the Friday-to-Sunday portion of last weekend's holiday debut. The Sony hit averaged a solid $5,655 from a saturation-level 3,612 theaters and boosted its ten-day cume to $71.7M. The $75M production might find its way to $125-130M. Dates is the third film for Adam Sandler to spend back-to-back weeks at number one following 1998's The Waterboy and last year's Anger Management.

Opening in second place with a mediocre debut was the high school comedy Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen with $9.35M in ticket sales. The PG-rated film averaged a mild $3,736 from 2,503 locations and drew primarily from a teen female audience. Lindsay Lohan (Freaky Friday, The Parent Trap) stars.

The rest of the weekend's new films fared even worse opening with averages below $3,000 per theater. Fox collected a paltry $6.8M for its Ray Romano-Gene Hackman political comedy Welcome to Mooseport. Playing in 2,867 locations, the PG-13 film placed fourth and suffered from low voter turnout averaging just $2,362 per theater. The pricetag for the film came in at $26M and proved that despite being one of the highest-paid actors on television, Romano does not necessarily have the power to pull in paying audiences.

Close behind in fifth was the teen sex comedy Eurotrip with only $6.7M from 2,512 sites. The R-rated entry, which was budgeted at $25M, averaged a weak $2,672 per hostel for DreamWorks. Opening far lower in eighth was Meg Ryan's boxing drama Against the Ropes which grossed $3M. The Paramount release averaged an embarrassing $1,898 per location in 1,601 rings and extended the studio's seemingly endless losing streak at the box office.

Among holdovers, Disney's Miracle scored $7.8M in third place, off 44%, giving the Kurt Russell drama $50.4M to date. Barbershop 2 tumbled 57% to $6.3M for a sixth place finish and a $53.2M tally.

Off only 16% was the Warner Bros. Oscar contender Mystic River which collected $3.1M raising the cume to $79.2M. The Ashton Kutcher thriller The Butterfly Effect dropped 43% to $3M for a $53.2M total.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King fell 32% in its tenth weekend to $2.85M and boosted its domestic sum to $361.1M one week before Academy Awards night. By comparison, The Two Towers grossed $1.9M this weekend a year ago with a $328.2M cume while The Fellowship of the Ring took in $3.5M over the frame with a $283.2M total. Overseas, The Return of the King saw its cume rocket to $648M allowing the global gross to break the $1 billion mark. Titanic, with its record-shattering $1.8 billion worldwide haul, is the only other film to reach ten-digit territory.

Fox Searchlight added more engagements for its daring drama The Dreamers jumping from 66 to 115 theaters and collected $410,355. The NC-17 pic averaged a lukewarm $3,568 per site and raised its total to $1.2M.

Four films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Sony's urban dance drama You Got Served tumbled 47% to $2.7M for a cume of $36.5M. The $8M film should find its way to a solid $40-42M. The Jennifer Aniston-Ben Stiller comedy Along Came Polly dropped 56% to $2.1M and saw its total climb to $85M. Budgeted at $42M, the Universal hit looks to end its run with around $90M.

Miramax's Civil War saga Cold Mountain declined 35% to $2.3M in its ninth frame giving the Oscar-nominated picture $90.7M to date. The $80M production should reach roughly $97-100M domestically. Fox saw its youth adventure Catch That Kid crumble 60% to $1.8M leading to a 17-day cume of $15.1M. Produced for $18M, the PG-rated film is headed for a final gross close to its cost.

The top ten films grossed $69.3M which was down 23% from last year when Daredevil remained at number one with $18.1M; and down 10% from 2002 when Queen of the Damned debuted on top with $14.8M.

Compared to projections, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen was on target with my $9M forecast. Welcome to Mooseport and Eurotrip both opened below my respective predictions of $12M and $10M. Against the Ropes also bowed a couple of notches below my pessimistic $5M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on who will win the Academy Award for Best Actor. In last week's survey, readers were asked if they thought The Passion of the Christ would open with at least $20M. Of 3,153 responses, 72% voted Yes while 28% thought No.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Passion, Twisted, Club Dread, and Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights all open.

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

# Title Feb 20 - 22 Feb 13 - 15 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 50 First Dates $ 20,427,325 $ 39,852,237 -48.7 3,612 2 $ 5,655 $ 71,738,493 Sony
2 Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen 9,350,572 2,503 1 3,736 9,350,572 Buena Vista
3 Miracle 7,803,352 14,031,960 -44.4 2,713 3 2,876 50,352,253 Buena Vista
4 Welcome to Mooseport 6,775,132 2,868 1 2,362 6,775,132 Fox
5 Eurotrip 6,711,384 2,512 1 2,672 6,711,384 DreamWorks
6 Barbershop 2 6,287,008 14,467,561 -56.5 2,229 3 2,821 53,223,440 MGM
7 Mystic River 3,094,569 3,687,667 -16.1 1,352 20 2,289 79,206,839 Warner Bros.
8 Against the Ropes 3,038,546 1,601 1 1,898 3,038,546 Paramount
9 The Butterfly Effect 2,975,882 5,254,166 -43.4 1,901 5 1,565 53,208,211 New Line
10 LOTR: The Return of the King 2,850,455 4,187,195 -31.9 1,407 10 2,026 361,118,934 New Line
11 You Got Served 2,713,752 5,111,778 -46.9 1,441 4 1,883 36,490,797 Sony
12 Monster 2,535,903 3,237,258 -21.7 1,087 9 2,333 23,802,022 NewMarket
13 Cold Mountain 2,264,111 3,460,854 -34.6 1,404 9 1,613 90,712,258 Miramax
14 Along Came Polly 2,142,535 4,831,820 -55.7 1,714 6 1,250 84,955,980 Universal
15 Catch That Kid 1,774,617 4,465,460 -60.3 1,745 3 1,017 15,108,033 Fox
16 Something's Gotta Give 1,601,175 2,605,868 -38.6 915 11 1,750 121,417,924 Sony
17 Big Fish 1,187,814 2,501,913 -52.5 947 11 1,254 65,150,895 Sony
18 Lost in Translation 831,250 1,492,810 -44.3 481 24 1,728 43,217,012 Focus
19 Cheaper by the Dozen 725,974 1,907,711 -61.9 801 9 906 135,444,586 Fox
20 Girl with a Pearl Earring 724,269 928,422 -22.0 319 11 2,270 8,536,275 Lions Gate
Top 5 $ 51,067,765 $ 78,717,702 -35.1
Top 10 69,314,225 99,350,698 -30.2
Top 20 85,815,625 115,746,477 -25.9
Top 20 vs. 2003 85,815,625 106,360,509 -19.3

Last Updated : February 23, 2004 at 7:30PM EST

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