Weekend Box Office (February 25 - 27, 2005)

*** Oscar Winners - Box Office Scorecard ***

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Catching the film industry off guard, Lions Gate generated a shocker with a scorching number one opening for the low-budget comedy Diary of a Mad Black Woman which shoved Will Smith's hit Hitch out of the top spot after two weeks. Two other new releases, the horror entry Cursed and the comedy Man of the House, were met with much less enthusiasm from ticket buyers while Academy Award contenders once again stayed strong over Oscar weekend.

Jumping from the stage to the screen, Tyler Perry's Diary delivered a stunning bow grossing $21.9M in its first weekend of release, according to final studio figures. The PG-13 pic played in the fewest theaters of any film in the top ten with 1,483 playdates but averaged a jaw-dropping $14,771 per site. Based on Perry's successful play about a woman who seeks vengeance after being dumped by her husband of 18 years, Diary tapped into a large built-in audience of African Americans who came out to see the movie adaptation which starred Kimberly Elise, Cicely Tyson, and Perry himself.

The opening powered ahead of other hit films with primarily black casts including How Stella Got Her Groove Back which bowed to $11.3M in 1998 from 1,395 theaters for a $8,114 average, Waiting to Exhale which opened in 1995 to $14.1M over four days from 1,253 sites for a $11,274 average, and even the Oscar-nominated Ray which debuted last fall with $20M from 2,006 for a $9,990 average. Diary boasted less starpower than any of these films yet had a bigger opening. Lions Gate capitalized on ethnic marketing to tap into an immensely large underserved audience with plenty of spending power that is often neglected by mainstream Hollywood offerings. The distributor hopes that the film's surprising number one debut will lead to substantial press attention this week that will expose the comedy to a wider audience that otherwise may never have had the film on its radar. More theaters will be added on Friday.

Will Smith was pushed out of the number one spot but still was charming moviegoers with the romantic comedy Hitch which slipped only 35% to $20.4M in its third weekend. The Sony smash became the first $100M blockbuster of 2005 reaching a stunning $121.4M in only 17 days. Showing strong legs, Hitch could find its way to $190M domestically making it one of the top comedies of all time.

Keanu Reeves saw his demonic thriller Constantine tumble 60% from the three-day portion of its holiday bow finishing in third place with $12M. The Warner Bros. release has scared up $51M in ten days and could find its way to $70-75M domestically. Internationally, Constantine grossed $19.5M this weekend, including top spot bows in Australia and Mexico, and boosted the overseas cume to $54.4M surpassing domestic.

Miramax haunted the number four spot with the opening of the horror flick Cursed which grossed $9.6M from 2,805 theaters. The Wes Craven film averaged a mild $3,434 per site and generated about half of the opening weekend sales (or less) of other recent fright pics like Boogeyman, Hide and Seek, or White Noise.

Debuting in fifth with $8.9M was Tommy Lee Jones with the comedy Man of the House which averaged a mediocre $3,682 from 2,422 locations. The story about a Texas Ranger assigned to live with and protect a group of college cheerleaders co-starred Cedric the Entertainer and carried a PG-13 rating. Sony's research found that 52% of the audience was under 25 while 54% was female.

Continuing its steady pace round by round, Academy Award champion Million Dollar Baby followed in sixth with $7.3M pushing its total to $64.9M. The Clint Eastwood drama registered the highest Oscar weekend gross by a Best Picture winner since Titanic in 1998. With four major statues for Picture, Director, Actress, and Supporting Actor, the boxing tale now seems certain to reach nine digits now that it has a whole new life at the box office.

Fox's family film Because of Winn-Dixie held up well in its second weekend grossing $6.8M, off only 33%. Budgeted at $14M, the PG-rated mutt flick has devoured $22.3M in ten days and may bark up around $40M. Ice Cube reached a new career high with Sony's family comedy Are We There Yet? which collected $4.1M, down 35%, for a cume of $76.5M. The PG-rated film surpassed the $75.8M of 2002's Barbershop to become the rapper-turned-actor's highest-grossing film ever.

The New Line comedy Son of the Mask tumbled 49% in its second frame to $3.8M pushing the ten-day tally to just $14M. Budgeted at over $70M, the effects-driven Jamie Kennedy pic looks to end with a disappointing $20M. Like most Oscar nominees for Best Picture, Miramax's The Aviator posted a strong hold and dipped just 10% to $3.7M. The Martin Scorsese epic, which took home five Academy Awards, has grossed $93.6M to date and seems certain to join the $100M club.

Sideways, which swept the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, eased just 8% to $3.5M pushing its total to $63.2M. The Fox Searchlight hit has boosted its cume by more than 50% since earning its nomination for Best Picture. Debra Messing's first attempt at anchoring a romantic comedy, The Wedding Date, fell 45% to $2.1M. The $15M Universal title has grossed $28.9M thus far and should conclude with about $35M which is decent, but not enough to make her the next big A-list movie star.

The Sony thriller Boogeyman crumbled 61% and grossed $2.1M. With $44.7M in the bank, the PG-13 fright flick is on course for a final take of $47-49M. Disney's toon kidpic Pooh's Heffalump Movie crashed 49% to $2.1M lifting the total to $15.6M. Look for a $18-20M final.

The top ten films grossed $98.8M which was down 27% from last year when The Passion of the Christ opened at number one with a record-shattering $83.8M; but up 20% from 2002 when Cradle 2 the Grave debuted in the top spot with $16.5M.

Compared to projections, Diary of a Mad Black Woman more than doubled my $8M forecast while Cursed opened well below my $18M prediction. Man of the House was on target with my $9M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on The Ring 2. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Cursed would open with more than or less than $20M. Of 1,760 responses, 47% said More while 53% correctly guessed Less.

For a review of Constantine, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Be Cool, The Pacifier, and The Jacket all open nationwide.

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

# Title Feb 25 - 27 Feb 18 - 20 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Diary of a Mad Black Woman $ 21,905,089 1,483 1 $ 14,771 $ 21,905,089 Lions Gate
2 Hitch 20,420,799 31,355,930 -34.9 3,571 3 5,719 121,429,017 Sony
3 Constantine 12,046,452 29,769,098 -59.5 3,006 2 4,007 50,977,992 Warner Bros.
4 Cursed 9,633,085 2,805 1 3,434 9,633,085 Miramax
5 Man of the House 8,917,251 2,422 1 3,682 8,917,251 Sony
6 Million Dollar Baby 7,344,390 6,810,065 7.8 2,125 11 3,456 64,851,738 Warner Bros.
7 Because of Winn-Dixie 6,823,980 10,208,431 -33.2 3,188 2 2,141 22,275,661 Fox
8 Are We There Yet? 4,111,030 6,285,089 -34.6 2,242 6 1,834 76,477,479 Sony
9 Son of the Mask 3,822,241 7,511,675 -49.1 2,966 2 1,289 14,018,767 New Line
10 The Aviator 3,739,037 4,155,024 -10.0 1,579 11 2,368 93,643,789 Miramax
11 Sideways 3,537,135 3,826,327 -7.6 1,229 19 2,878 63,165,002 Fox Searchlight
12 The Wedding Date 2,109,640 3,852,360 -45.2 1,290 4 1,635 28,896,210 Universal
13 Boogeyman 2,096,931 5,310,462 -60.5 2,027 4 1,034 44,705,008 Sony
14 Pooh's Heffalump Movie 2,096,013 4,127,699 -49.2 1,944 3 1,078 15,645,951 Buena Vista
15 Finding Neverland 1,826,197 1,893,767 -3.6 776 16 2,353 48,066,961 Miramax
16 Hotel Rwanda 1,590,588 1,741,889 -8.7 580 10 2,742 19,220,593 MGM/UA
17 Meet the Fockers 1,100,145 2,017,070 -45.5 816 10 1,348 275,027,050 Universal
18 Hide and Seek 971,177 2,631,246 -63.1 1,254 5 774 49,825,766 Fox
19 Bride & Prejudice 856,488 321,502 166.4 156 3 5,490 1,800,562 Miramax
20 The Phantom of the Opera 665,049 1,093,014 -39.2 603 8 1,103 48,693,054 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 72,922,676 $ 85,655,199 -14.9
Top 10 98,763,354 109,385,833 -9.7
Top 20 115,612,717 126,465,886 -8.6
Top 20 vs. 2004 115,612,717 148,868,309 -22.3

Last Updated : February 28, 2005 at 7:30PM EST