Weekend Box Office (March 4 - 6, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers trusted their kids in the hands of Vin Diesel who generated the second biggest opening of the year with the Disney family comedy The Pacifier. John Travolta and friends settled for second place with the hit man pic Be Cool which still delivered a strong debut. The frame's other new film, the psychological thriller The Jacket, opened far back in tenth place with modest results while Oscar champion Million Dollar Baby parlayed its four big statues into a spike in ticket sales.

Disney proved once again it can turn just about any actor into a kidpic star with The Pacifier which premiered at number one with $30.6M, according to final studio figures, exceeding pre-release expectations. Playing in 3,131 theaters, the PG-rated comedy averaged a muscular $9,758 per house and trailed only Will Smith's Hitch among opening weekends so far in 2005. The film about a Navy SEAL assigned to care for and protect a group of children represented Diesel's best debut since 2002's summer action hit XXX which bowed to $44.5M. The Pacifier also delivered the fifth best opening in the month of March.

The Adam Shankman-directed laugher connected with families and played well with both genders. Studio research indicated that 57% of the audience was 25 and under while 52% was female. Following in the recent footsteps of Ice Cube who scored a smash with Are We There Yet?, Diesel also experimented with his first kid movie and was met with great success from moviegoers finding humor in macho men taking on child care duties. The Pacifier will face some stiff competition this Friday when Fox unleashes its animated comedy Robots, featuring the voice of ex-Disney genie Robin Williams, in roughly 3,600 theaters.

John Travolta's Be Cool , which many in the industry had expected to top the box office this weekend, debuted in the runnerup spot with a solid debut grossing $23.5M. MGM released the Chili Palmer tale in 3,216 locations and averaged a powerful $7,292 per theater. The followup to 1995's Get Shorty was directed by F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job, Friday) and co-starred a long list of notable actors such as Uma Thurman, Danny DeVito, Vince Vaughn, and The Rock. Shorty opened nearly a decade ago to $12.7M, however comparing opening weekends of the two films would be pointless since Be Cool bowed in twice as many theaters, enjoyed much higher ticket prices, and had substantially more marketing dollars behind it. Cool will, however, try to reach the $72M gross of the original.

In its fourth lovable weekend, Will Smith's Hitch placed third with $12.1M, off 41%, giving the Sony blockbuster $138M to date. Last weekend's surprise winner Diary of a Mad Black Woman fell 50% to $11M in its second weekend despite adding 220 new theaters. Slipping to fourth place, the Lions Gate release saw its per-theater average of $6,475 drop 56% from its scorching bow. But with a terrific $37.1M in only ten days, the $5.4M-budgeted comedy looks likely to reach about $60M making it one of the year's most profitable pictures.

Clint Eastwood enjoyed a 11% bump in sales from last weekend for his Oscar champ Million Dollar Baby and claimed fifth place with $8.1M. Warner Bros. expanded the boxing saga by 225 locations to 2,350 and averaged a solid $3,462 in its sixth weekend of wide release. Cume to date hit $76.6M and the $100M mark seems within reach.

Keanu Reeves followed with the supernatural thriller Constantine which grossed $6.1M, down 49%, giving the Warner Bros. title $60.7M in 17 days. The sci-fi horror entry grossed $11.8M this weekend overseas to boost the international total to $72.5M putting the worldwide gross at $133M and counting.

Miramax's teen thriller Cursed crumbled 60% in its sophomore frame to $3.9M and put its ten-day sum at a disappointing $15.3M. The Wes Craven pic should conclude with around $20-25M. The Tommy Lee Jones comedy Man of the House also fell apart in its second weekend dropping 61% to $3.5M. With $14M locked down in ten days, the Sony dud should finish with only $20M. Fox's family drama Because of Winn-Dixie got hit hard by The Pacifier and fell 53% to $3.2M putting its cume at $26.8M.

Opening poorly in tenth place was the Adrien Brody-Keira Knightley thriller The Jacket which bowed to $2.7M from 1,331 theaters for a mild $2,046 average. The R-rated film about a soldier who can see into the future was the first wide release for Warner Independent Pictures and was met with mixed reviews.

A variety of films fell out of the top ten over the weekend. The five Academy Award wins for The Aviator did little for the Martin Scorsese epic's box office. Miramax collected $2.3M, off 38%, and pushed its cume to $97M. The Howard Hughes biopic did surpass the domestic grosses of the studio's previous Oscar contenders Cold Mountain ($95.6M) and Scorsese's Gangs of New York ($77.8M) and looks headed for a final tally of about $105M. That would make Aviator Miramax's first $100M blockbuster since Scary Movie 3 which opened in October 2003.

XXX: State of the Union star Ice Cube took a beating from XXX star Vin Diesel in the battle for family audiences. The rapper-turned-actor's Are We There Yet? tumbled 62% to $1.6M in its seventh weekend and put its total at $78.7M. The Sony title, which ranks as the year's second biggest new release and Cube's top-grossing film ever, looks to finish with around $82M. New Line's effects-driven comedy Son of the Mask crashed 70% in its third weekend and grossed $1.2M as well pushing the weak sum to $16M. Look for a $18M final.

Among holdovers, Fox Searchlight saw its Best Picture nominee Sideways fall about as much as The Aviator did taking in $2.1M in its 20th frame. Down 41%, the Paul Giamatti comedy has gulped down $66.2M to date. Miramax's musical take on Bollywood Bride & Prejudice remained in the Top 20 once again and slipped just 15% to $732,361 from 180 theaters. The distributor added 24 playdates in its fourth weekend and pushed the cume to $2.8M with more markets to be added in the weeks ahead.

The top ten films grossed $104.7M which was down 18% from last year when The Passion of the Christ remained at number one with a record $53.2M; but up 14% from 2003 when Bringing Down The House debuted in the top spot with $31.1M.

Compared to projections, The Pacifier powered ahead of my $20M forecast while Be Cool opened on target with my $24M prediction. The Jacket opened below my $6M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the opening of Robots. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether The Ring 2 would gross more than The Ring overall. Of 1,835 responses, 53% said Yes while 47% thought No.

For a NEW review of Danny Boyle's Millions, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when both Robots and Hostage open nationwide.

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

# Title Mar 4 - 6 Feb 25 - 27 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Pacifier $ 30,552,694 3,131 1 $ 9,758 $ 30,552,694 Buena Vista
2 Be Cool 23,450,212 3,216 1 7,292 23,450,212 MGM
3 Hitch 12,118,263 20,420,799 -40.7 3,438 4 3,525 138,004,437 Sony
4 Diary of a Mad Black Woman 11,026,195 21,905,089 -49.7 1,703 2 6,475 37,077,829 Lions Gate
5 Million Dollar Baby 8,135,421 7,344,390 10.8 2,350 12 3,462 76,600,008 Warner Bros.
6 Constantine 6,127,173 12,046,452 -49.1 2,758 3 2,222 60,653,370 Warner Bros.
7 Cursed 3,867,052 9,633,085 -59.9 2,805 2 1,379 15,281,069 Miramax
8 Man of the House 3,506,726 8,917,251 -60.7 2,422 2 1,448 13,982,619 Sony
9 Because of Winn-Dixie 3,200,236 6,823,980 -53.1 2,506 3 1,277 26,777,812 Fox
10 The Jacket 2,723,682 1,331 1 2,046 2,723,682 WIP
11 The Aviator 2,327,231 3,739,037 -37.8 1,331 11 1,748 97,039,461 Miramax
12 Sideways 2,095,676 3,537,135 -40.8 1,057 19 1,983 66,186,292 Fox Searchlight
13 Are We There Yet? 1,577,632 4,111,030 -61.6 1,745 6 904 78,710,343 Sony
14 Son of the Mask 1,153,357 3,822,241 -69.8 1,865 2 618 16,004,841 New Line
15 Finding Neverland 1,045,302 1,826,197 -42.8 643 16 1,626 49,590,262 Miramax
16 Hotel Rwanda 1,003,513 1,590,588 -36.9 575 10 1,745 20,728,231 MGM/UA
17 The Wedding Date 850,485 2,109,640 -59.7 810 4 1,050 30,320,730 Universal
18 Pooh's Heffalump Movie 844,649 2,096,013 -59.7 924 3 914 16,997,149 Buena Vista
19 Bride & Prejudice 732,361 856,488 -14.5 180 3 4,069 2,789,917 Miramax
20 Boogeyman 687,164 2,096,931 -67.2 995 4 691 45,842,149 Sony
Top 5 $ 85,282,785 $ 72,922,676 16.9
Top 10 104,707,654 98,763,354 6.0
Top 20 117,025,024 115,612,717 1.2
Top 20 vs. 2004 117,025,024 137,506,485 -14.9

Last Updated : March 7, 2005 at 8:00PM EST