Weekend Box Office (March 10 - 12, 2006)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND An original comedy easily beat out a pair of new remakes at the North American box office, although all three debuting picture delivered solid results by appealing to different audiences. The Matthew McConaughey-Sarah Jessica Parker romantic comedy Failure to Launch debuted on top this weekend and was followed by the family comedy The Shaggy Dog and the horror flick The Hills Have Eyes. Together, the trio injected some new blood into the box office allowing the marketplace to bounce back from last weekend's sluggish frame. However, ticket sales were still down from both last year and the year before.

Paramount finally scored a big hit this weekend with the better-than-expected opening for Failure to Launch which grossed $24.4M in its debut frame, according to final studio figures. The PG-13 film averaged an outstanding $7,985 from 3,057 locations and drew upon a strong audience of adult women. The comedy stars Sarah Jessica Parker as a woman hired to get a 35-year-old man (McConaughey) to leave his parents home. The film proved to be a badly needed hit for Paramount which enjoyed a resurgence at the box office last summer but has since released a string of clunkers like Aeon Flux, The Weather Man, and Elizabethtown. Failure marked the first number one bow for the studio since last August's Four Brothers and its largest opening weekend since War of the Worlds.

Produced for about $50M, the opening weekend gross was similar to what the studio saw three years ago at this time of year with McConaughey's How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days which co-starred Kate Hudson. That film bowed to $23.8M and enjoyed strong legs that led to a blockbuster $105.8M domestic tally. Reviews were not strong for Failure with many critics claiming that the film's title summed up the movie's quality. Launch generated the fourth best opening of 2006 and became the latest in a line of successful comedies that moviegoers have been flocking to this year.

Bowing in second place was Tim Allen's family comedy The Shaggy Dog which grossed $16.3M from an ultrawide 3,501 theaters. Disney's redo of its 1959 classic averaged a healthy $4,659 per location. The opening did not fly as high as the openings for Allen's last two family films Christmas with the Kranks ($21.6M) and The Santa Clause 2 ($29M). Shaggy also opened weaker than the studio's last kidpic Eight Below which had less starpower and 435 fewer theaters but still bowed to $20.2M over three days. Still with many schools having spring holidays throughout March, Disney is hoping to pick up some business in the long run. Reviews were mostly negative for the story of a prosecutor who magically morphs into a dog.

Fox Searchlight enjoyed the biggest opening in company history this weekend with the $15.7M debut of its horror remake The Hills Have Eyes. Directed by Alexandre Aja, the R-rated chiller about a family attacked by mutant cannibals in New Mexico averaged a sturdy $5,996 per site. Reviews were mixed which is pretty good in the business of horror. The distributor was encouraged by Saturday's 9% improvement on Friday's sales. Recent fright flicks have seen sales decline on Saturday so good word of mouth is expected. Hills was produced for about $15M and Fox is handling distribution worldwide. Searchlight's previous record opening was $10.7M for 2002's Brown Sugar which debuted in 1,372 theaters. In fact, the distributor's only other film that ever opened in more than 2,000 theaters was that same year's The Banger Sisters which premiered in 2,738 theaters with $10M.

Among holdovers, the Bruce Willis cop drama 16 Blocks fared best grossing $7.4M in its second weekend putting its ten-day cume at $22.8M. The Warner Bros. film also enjoyed the smallest decine in the top ten slipping 38%. A final take of $35-40M seems likely.

After two weeks at number one, Madea's Family Reunion tumbled down to fifth place with $5.7M, down 55%, giving Lionsgate a healthy $55.7 to date. This weekend, Madea surpassed the $50.4M of last year's Diary of a Mad Black Woman which was also directed by and starred Tyler Perry. It also became the third largest grossing film ever for Lionsgate after Fahrenheit 9/11 ($119.2M) and Saw II ($87M).

Disney's adventure film Eight Below placed sixth with $5.6M, down 45%, for a $66.6M cume. The mermaid pic Aquamarine drowned 48% in its sophomore swim to $3.9M. With just $12.4M in ten days, look for a modest $17-19M finish.

Sony followed with two films that grossed $3.7M each. The femme-driven actioner Ultraviolet collapsed 59% in its second battle for a poor ten-day sum of only $14.8M while the Steve Martin comedy remake The Pink Panther dropped 47% in its fifth weekend and upped its total to $74.7M. Rounding out the top ten was the spoof comedy Date Movie with $2.5M, off 51%, for a $44.3M total.

Landing outside the top ten in its first weekend of nationwide release was the Johnny Depp period drama The Libertine which grossed $2.2M from 815 theaters for a weak $2,703 average. The Weinstein Co. released the costume drama in late December in order to qualify for Oscar consideration, but waited until after the big ceremony to go national. The strategy did not work as reviews were not too kind and moviegoers were in the mood for more commercial fare. Cume sits at just $2.3M.

Three films fell from the top ten over the weekend. Dave Chappelle's Block Party attracted most of its fans the first weekend as the sophomore session crumbled 68% leaving $2M gross. Focus has laughed up $9.6M for the comedy doc, although not much more is expected. Universal has taken in $52.6M with its animated hit Curious George and is set for a finish of about $55M.

Firewall has become Harrison Ford's biggest film in over five years, but the action thriller still has not posted impressive numbers overall. This weekend, the Warner Bros. title fell 50% to $1.8M for a total of $45.3M. A $48M domestic final seems likely. Overseas, Firewall has captured just $9.7M from 17 markets to date.

In limited release, Lionsgate reopened its Oscar winner for Best Picture Crash and saw modest results. The acclaimed race relations drama took in $342,709 from 175 theaters for a mild $1,958 average and raised its total to $53.7M. Crash has been widely available on DVD for over six months and thanks to last weekend's big Academy Award wins, the film has enjoyed a strong spike in home video sales and rentals.

The South African crime drama Tsotsi expanded after winning its Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Miramax widened the picture from seven to 30 locations and grossed $260,027 for a solid $8,668 average. Total stands at $470,438 with more new markets to be added in the weeks ahead.

A pair of new indie titles platformed in New York and Los Angeles over the weekend. Paramount Classics grossed $68,779 from seven sites for its Colin Farrell-Salma Hayek drama Ask the Dust. The R-rated film averaged a strong $9,826 per location. Warner Independent saw lukewarm results from its film Duck Season which grossed $24,658 from six theaters for a mild $4,110 average. The Spanish film expands to ten runs in six markets on Friday.

The top ten films grossed $88.9M which was down 12% from last year when Robots opened at number one with $36M; and down 12% from 2004 as well when The Passion of the Christ remained in the top spot for the third time with $32.1M.

Compared to projections, Failure to Launch soared higher than my $15M forecast while The Shaggy Dog opened lower than my $23M prediction. The Hills Have Eyes debuted close to my $17M projection and The Libertine was weaker than my $4M forecast.

For NEW reviews of The Hills Have Eyes, Ask the Dust, and Tsotsi visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when V for Vendetta and She's the Man both open.

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

# Title Mar 10 - 12 Mar 3 - 5 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Failure to Launch $ 24,411,322 3,057 1 $ 7,985 $ 24,411,322 Paramount
2 The Shaggy Dog 16,310,058 3,501 1 4,659 16,310,058 Buena Vista
3 The Hills Have Eyes 15,708,512 2,620 1 5,996 15,708,512 Fox Searchlight
4 16 Blocks 7,411,016 11,855,260 -37.5 2,706 2 2,739 22,808,568 Warner Bros.
5 Madea's Family Reunion 5,749,355 12,648,954 -54.5 1,812 3 3,173 55,703,144 Lionsgate
6 Eight Below 5,552,540 10,137,068 -45.2 2,970 4 1,870 66,564,664 Buena Vista
7 Aquamarine 3,858,072 7,482,669 -48.4 2,538 2 1,520 12,373,367 Fox
8 Ultraviolet 3,681,448 9,064,880 -59.4 2,558 2 1,439 14,832,858 Sony
9 The Pink Panther 3,650,306 6,883,674 -47.0 2,302 5 1,586 74,653,310 Sony
10 Date Movie 2,525,111 5,131,207 -50.8 1,812 4 1,394 44,289,381 Fox
11 Curious George 2,282,775 4,519,550 -49.5 1,942 5 1,175 52,581,905 Universal
12 The Libertine 2,202,799 815 1 2,703 2,264,096 Weinstein Co.
13 Dave Chappelle's Block Party 2,015,766 6,214,723 -67.6 1,200 2 1,680 9,623,002 Focus
14 Firewall 1,782,349 3,584,316 -50.3 1,410 5 1,264 45,341,374 Warner Bros.
15 Final Destination 3 1,290,227 3,116,987 -58.6 1,253 5 1,030 51,792,177 New Line
16 Brokeback Mountain 1,187,084 2,469,841 -51.9 877 14 1,354 80,983,058 Focus
17 Capote 1,040,598 1,585,366 -34.4 689 24 1,510 27,060,267 Sony Classics
18 Deep Sea 3-D 712,483 700,213 1.8 44 2 16,193 1,664,162 Warner Bros.
19 Transamerica 612,107 1,452,303 -57.9 516 15 1,186 7,655,572 Weinstein Co.
20 Mrs. Henderson Presents 517,044 905,491 -42.9 350 14 1,477 9,376,251 Weinstein Co.
Top 5 $ 69,590,263 $ 51,188,831 35.9
Top 10 88,857,740 77,522,301 14.6
Top 20 102,500,972 93,844,591 9.2
Top 20 vs. 2005 102,500,972 109,559,819 -6.4

Last Updated : March 13, 2006 at 7:45PM EST