Weekend Box Office (March 3 - 5, 2006)

*** OSCAR WINNERS 2006 ***

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND As Hollywood prepared for its annual ritual of patting itself on the back, the North American box office slumped to its lowest level of the year as audiences did not show much enthusiasm for the four new choices that were offered. Instead, Oscar weekend saw the comedy Madea's Family Reunion remain on top of the chart with what was the smallest gross for a number one film in nearly five months. Plus with moviegoers not flocking to key Oscar nominees they way they normally do this time of year, overall ticket sales fell sharply from last year following five straight weekends when the box office was virtually even with 2005 numbers.

Despite the arrival of four new competitors, the Tyler Perry comedy Madea's Family Reunion held onto the top spot for the second straight weekend grossing $12.6M, according to final studio figures. Off a steep 58%, the PG-13 film saw its ten-day tally climb to an impressive $47.7M. After delivering the year's biggest opening weekend, the Lionsgate hit also became the first film of 2006 to spend back-to-back frames at number one. Madea is running 29% ahead of Perry's last film Diary of a Mad Black Woman which opened at the same time last year and dropped by half in its second weekend leading to a ten-day gross of $37.1M. A final gross of about $65M could result for Reunion.

Bruce Willis delivered the best opening among the weekend's new releases, but only generated $11.9M over the weekend for the cop thriller 16 Blocks. Directed by Richard Donner, the PG-13 film averaged a decent $4,381 from 2,706 theaters. That gave the Warner Bros. film an opening average that was somewhat weaker than the $4,811 of the action star's Hostage from last March. The bow was even weaker than the $13.6M that the studio saw with its last action film from an aging star, Harrison Ford's Firewall, from just three weeks ago.

Disney's adventure hit Eight Below enjoyed another solid weekend with $10.1M dipping only 36%. After 17 days, the Paul Walker starrer has collected $58.6M.

The market for films with ass-kicking chicks seems to be eroding as evidenced by the mild $9.1M debut of the sci-fi action pic Ultraviolet. Sony launched the futuristic tale of a mutant defending her race in 2,558 venues and averaged only $3,544 per theater. Grosses for films of the genre have steadily declined with Catwoman bowing to $16.7M in 2004, Elektra opening to $12.8M a year ago, and December's Aeon Flux premiering to just $12.7M. Ultraviolet stars Milla Jovovich who flexed considerable muscle with the Resident Evil films, but failed to attract a paying crowd this time around. Young guys were the primary audience as expected. Studio research showed that 60% of the crowd was male and 72% was over the age of 21. Ultraviolet was not screened for critics before its release and cost roughly $30M to produce.

The new mermaid pic Aquamarine found its way to a fifth place opening with $7.5M from 2,512 theaters. The Fox title averaged a mediocre $2,979 per location and played primarily to young and pre-teen girls. The PG-rated film carried a budget that was in the mid-teen millions and opened slightly better than other spring films aimed at a similar audience like last year's Ice Princess ($6.8M) and 2004's Ella Enchanted ($6.2M).

Steve Martin's The Pink Panther continued its winning run with $6.9M in its fourth frame boosting the 24-day cume to $69.7M. The Sony release now stands as the top-grossing new release of 2006.

Another funnyman made a solid debut in seventh place. Dave Chappelle's Block Party, a music and comedy documentary, opened with $6.2M from only 1,200 theaters. Averaging a sturdy $5,179, the low-budget film documents a Brooklyn concert thrown by the popular comedian and features musical performances by numerous acts plus comedy routines from Chappelle. Though a good opening, the performance did not reach the heights of other concert pics from African American comedians like 2000's The Original Kings of Comedy which launched with $11.1M and a $13,051 average, and Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat which bowed to $7.4M and a $9,806 average. Reviews were mostly positive for Block Party.

Fox's spoof comedy Date Movie dropped 44% to $5.1M in its third weekend and pushed its cume to $40.7M. Curious George followed in ninth with $4.5M, off 37%, giving the Universal toon $49.3M to date. Rounding out the top ten was the Harrison Ford actioner Firewall which grossed $3.6M, down 46%, leaving Warner Bros. with $42.5M after its fourth frame.

A hit horror sequel and three winter flops all were pushed out of the top ten over the weekend. New Line's Final Destination 3 dropped 43% to $3.1M lifting the total to $49.6M. The fright flick should reach a final destination close to the $53.3M of the first film in the series. The animated comedy Doogal fell 45% to $2M in its sophomore frame giving The Weinstein Co. a mere $6.2M in ten days. A poor $10M final seems likely.

New Line's Running Scared stumbled 61% in its second weekend to $1.3M putting the cume at a weak $5.9M. Sony's Samuel L. Jackson film Freedomland raised its disappointing total to $12.3M. Neither film is likely to gross much more.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight expanded its Russian horror film Night Watch from 34 to 158 theaters in all major markets and grossed $360,597. The first chapter of the fantasy trilogy averaged a mild $2,282 and is not expected to widen much more. Total stands at $773,722. Miramax added one theater to the run of the South African film Tsotsi which grossed $65,280 from seven houses. Averaging a healthy $9,325 per site, the Oscar winner in the foreign lingo category upped its cume to $168,885.

Key Academy Award contenders saw their grosses increase over Oscar weekend. Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain grossed $2.5M, up 8%, pushing its cume to $78.9M. Fellow Best Picture nominee Capote expanded to 744 sites and collected $1.6M putting its total at $25.5M. Transamerica starring Felicity Huffman also expanded and took in $1.5M giving The Weinstein Co. $6.6M to date.

Despite these gains this weekend, the overall Oscar crop is still not exciting ticket buyers nationwide the way they have in the past. The cumulative gross of the five Best Picture nominees rose to $237.7M which was down a considerable 31% from the $345M taken in by Oscar night last year. The combined gross that the four nominees in theatrical release earned during the five-week period between nominations and the ceremony amounts to just over $50M this year, down an alarming 64% from the $139M of last year's quartet of contenders still in theaters.

The top ten films grossed $77.5M which was down 26% from last year when The Pacifier opened at number one with $30.6M; and down 39% from 2004 when The Passion of the Christ remained in the top spot with $53.2M in its second weekend.

Compared to projections, Madea's Family Reunion was close to my $15M forecast while 16 Blocks opened well below my $17M prediction. Ultraviolet and Dave Chappelle's Block Party both debuted weaker than my respective projections of $12M and $14M while Aquamarine bowed very close to my $7M forecast.

For NEW reviews of The Hills Have Eyes, Dave Chappelle's Block Party, and Tsotsi visit The Chief Report.

Check the NEW Oscar Winners Box Office Chart which lists the grosses of all the winners.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Shaggy Dog, Failure to Launch, The Hills Have Eyes, and The Libertine all open.

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

# Title Mar 3 - 5 Feb 24 - 26 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Madea's Family Reunion $ 12,648,954 $ 30,030,661 -57.9 2,194 2 $ 5,765 $ 47,748,243 Lionsgate
2 16 Blocks 11,855,260 2,706 1 4,381 11,855,260 Warner Bros.
3 Eight Below 10,137,068 15,872,840 -36.1 3,122 3 3,247 58,636,373 Buena Vista
4 Ultraviolet 9,064,880 2,558 1 3,544 9,064,880 Sony
5 Aquamarine 7,482,669 2,512 1 2,979 7,482,669 Fox
6 The Pink Panther 6,883,674 11,101,845 -38.0 3,024 4 2,276 69,668,601 Sony
7 Dave Chappelle's Block Party 6,214,723 1,200 1 5,179 6,214,723 Focus
8 Date Movie 5,131,207 9,125,555 -43.8 2,603 3 1,971 40,709,501 Fox
9 Curious George 4,519,550 7,213,870 -37.3 2,590 4 1,745 49,301,615 Universal
10 Firewall 3,584,316 6,682,212 -46.4 2,212 4 1,620 42,494,897 Warner Bros.
11 Final Destination 3 3,116,987 5,495,785 -43.3 2,208 4 1,412 49,595,902 New Line
12 Brokeback Mountain 2,469,841 2,293,859 7.7 1,272 13 1,942 78,861,599 Focus
13 Doogal 1,968,341 3,605,899 -45.4 2,319 2 849 6,202,624 Weinstein Co.
14 Capote 1,585,366 1,066,844 48.6 744 23 2,131 25,471,928 Sony Classics
15 Transamerica 1,452,303 851,128 70.6 656 14 2,214 6,633,150 Weinstein Co.
16 Running Scared 1,326,824 3,381,974 -60.8 1,611 2 824 5,922,910 New Line
17 Nanny McPhee 1,255,905 2,402,230 -47.7 1,329 6 945 44,405,510 Universal
18 Big Momma's House 2 1,128,891 2,438,478 -53.7 950 6 1,188 67,309,189 Fox
19 When a Stranger Calls 1,112,341 2,512,662 -55.7 1,118 5 995 47,064,026 Sony
20 Mrs. Henderson Presents 905,491 1,001,298 -9.6 522 13 1,735 8,472,639 Weinstein Co.
Top 5 $ 51,188,831 $ 73,344,771 -30.2
Top 10 77,522,301 95,382,856 -18.7
Top 20 93,844,591 110,641,995 -15.2
Top 20 vs. 2005 93,844,591 117,025,024 -19.8

Last Updated : March 6, 2006 at 6:45PM EST