Weekend Box Office (March 11 - 13, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Robin Williams and friends topped the North American box office with the new animated film Robots while fellow family comedy The Pacifier stayed strong in second place. The Bruce Willis action pic Hostage enjoyed a respectable bow in fourth place while Mel Gibson's The Passion Recut was virtually ignored by worshipers. Overall the marketplace struggled to keep up with last year's pace which was led by the original release of the Jesus blockbuster.

Fox scored its best opening since last summer with the toon comedy Robots which collected $36M in its first weekend of release, according to final studio figures. Saturating the industry with a massive 3,776 theaters (including 58 Imax houses), the PG-rated film averaged a strong $9,546 per location and generated the second largest debut of the year after the $43.1M of Hitch. Robots also landed the second biggest bow in March but could not match the month's record-holder, the studio's previous computer-animated wonder Ice Age, which opened to $46.3M three years ago on its way to $176.4M.

Produced for $75M, the story of a young droid out to change the robot world appealed to a family audience with studio research showing that 76% of the audience consisted of parents and children under 12. Appeal to teens and young adults was good but nowhere near that of megahits like The Incredibles and the Shrek pics. In fact, among computer-animated films opening in ultrawide release, Robots ranked rather low trailing last fall's Shark Tale which bowed to $47.6M from 4,016 theaters and 2000's Dinosaur which debuted to $38.9M from 3,257 sites.

However, the other hits did not face the level of direct competition in their openings that Robots faced with Disney's The Pacifier playing stronger than expected with nearly $20M and enjoying a solid sophomore frame stealing away a substantial portion of the kid crowd. None of the above mentioned CGI toons had to open opposite a kidpic grossing $5M or more on the same weekend. Fox is hoping that those families busy laughing at Vin Diesel changing diapers will eventually find the time to return to their local multiplex for a 91-minute journey with Robin Williams and Ewan McGregor in a zany mechanical world.

Dropping one spot to second place was Vin Diesel's hit family comedy The Pacifier which took in $18.2M dropping a moderate 41%. Disney's PG-rated entry has taken in an impressive $54.5M in ten days and could very well become the action star's third $100M starring vehicle after The Fast and the Furious and XXX. Despite having Robots pulling away part of its audience, The Pacifier held up well in its second weekend and marks another family hit for the Mouse House.

John Travolta's hit man sequel Be Cool got wacked in its second weekend tumbling 56% to $10.3M finishing in third place. The MGM comedy has grossed $38.4M in ten days and seems headed for a $60M finish trailing the $72M of 1995's Get Shorty.

Bruce Willis shot up a number four opening with his new action thriller Hostage which opened with $10.2M. Miramax released the film in 2,123 theaters and averaged a solid $4,811 per venue. The R-rated pic about a hostage negotiator battling gangsters was Willis' first modern-day action movie in seven years as the actor has spent the last few years doing suspense dramas, comedies, and historical war films. Reviews were mixed for Hostage which generated a per-theater average close to that of the star's Mercury Rising from 1998.

Will Smith enjoyed the best hold of any film in the top ten with the romantic comedy Hitch which continued to stay strong in its fifth frame with $8.8M. Down only 28%, the Sony smash has boosted its sum to $149.8M and became the box office titan's third film in nine months to cross the $140M mark following July's I, Robot and October's Shark Tale. On Monday, the former Fresh Prince will score his fifth film to top $150M domestically. Overseas, Hitch attacked Europe this weekend with a $30M frame including number one bows in the United Kingdom, Italy, and Sweden propelling the international haul to $65.5M. In North America, the $70M date flick is on course to reach at least $175M while the worldwide tally is headed north of $300M.

Oscar's favorite film Million Dollar Baby dropped 37% to $5.2M and drove its cume to $84.1M. The $35M Warner Bros. release still hopes to reach the $100M mark by the end of its domestic run.

Lions Gate's comedy hit Diary of a Mad Black Woman fell sharply again in its third weekend falling 56% to $4.9M for a $44M cume. Produced for just $5.4M, the moneymaking pic should reach about $55M or about ten times its budget. Warner Bros. followed in eighth place with the Keanu Reeves demonic thriller Constantine which took in $3.8M, off 37%, for a $66.5M cume. The $100M actioner looks to finish domestically with around $75M. Overseas, the hell flick scared up $9.1M this weekend pushing the overseas total to $87M.

Dropping 50% was the Tommy Lee Jones comedy Man of the House with $1.8M lifting the total to $16.5M. The Sony release is set to conclude with a disappointing $20M. Rounding out the top ten was Wes Craven's horror pic Cursed with $1.6M, tumbling 60% in its second weekend. The Miramax thriller has grossed $17.8M in ten days and looks set to finish with about $21M.

Two films fell out of the top ten over the weekend. Fox's kidpic Because of Winn-Dixie dropped 55% to $1.4M in its fourth outing and put its total at $29M. Produced for $14M, the girl-and-her-dog saga should finish with about $31M. The Jacket, the first wide release ever for Warner Independent Pictures, fell 51% in its second weekend to $1.3M for a ten-day tally of just $5M. The Adrien Brody-Keira Knightley thriller looks to end with roughly $8M.

Opening well in limited release was the Kevin Costner-Joan Allen pic The Upside of Anger which bowed in New York and Los Angeles with $211,559 from nine theaters for a sizzling $23,507 average. New Line's well-reviewed drama expands to 150 playdates on Friday. Fox Searchlight unveiled the Danny Boyle-directed Millions in five locations and grossed $70,224 for a solid $14,045 average. The tale of two young brothers who find a suitcase full of money will widen to 19 new venues on Friday and expand each week until April 22 when the distributor expects the PG-rated film to be in 400 runs. Searchlight will also open the new Woody Allen film Melinda and Melinda on Friday, exclusively in one Manhattan house.

Newmarket Films realized that not all of Mel Gibson's ideas are good ones. The distributor released The Passion Uncut, an edited version of the enormously successful The Passion of the Christ with some of the more violent scenes removed, but saw empty theaters from coast to coast. Recut resurrected itself in 957 theaters but grossed only $223,789 for a wimpy $234 average. With most fans having seen the film last year and owning it on DVD, there were few takers this time to spend top dollar on a tame version of The Passion.

Continuing its expansion, Miramax's musical comedy Bride & Prejudice widened from 180 to 282 locations and grossed $826,724, up 13% from last weekend's tally. The Gurinder Chadha pic averaged a mild $2,932 in its fifth frame and upped its total to $3.9M. Another film set in India and expanding over the weekend was the Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature Born Into Brothels which nearly doubled its run from 65 to 124 theaters and grossed an estimated $373,488. The ThinkFilm release averaged $3,012 and pushed its limited-release total to $1.5M.

The top ten films grossed $100.7M which was off 1% from last year when The Passion of the Christ remained at number one for a third time with $32.1M; but up 16% from 2003 when Bringing Down The House remained in the top spot with $22.1M.

Compared to projections, Robots opened well below my $48M forecast while Hostage was on target with my $10M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on how big this summer's Batman Begins will be. In last week's survey, readers were asked if Robots would open as big as Ice Age. Of 1,443 responses, 64% said Yes while 36% correctly guessed No.

For a review of Millions, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Ring 2 and Ice Princess both open.

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

# Title Mar 11 - 13 Mar 4 - 6 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Robots $ 36,045,301 3,776 1 $ 9,546 $ 36,045,301 Fox
2 The Pacifier 18,152,357 30,552,694 -40.6 3,166 2 5,734 54,477,697 Buena Vista
3 Be Cool 10,250,128 23,450,212 -56.3 3,216 2 3,187 38,375,714 MGM
4 Hostage 10,214,734 2,123 1 4,811 10,214,734 Miramax
5 Hitch 8,786,575 12,118,263 -27.5 2,975 5 2,953 149,840,901 Sony
6 Million Dollar Baby 5,153,356 8,135,421 -36.7 2,375 13 2,170 84,054,207 Warner Bros.
7 Diary of a Mad Black Woman 4,876,399 11,026,195 -55.8 1,605 3 3,038 44,019,656 Lions Gate
8 Constantine 3,838,380 6,127,173 -37.4 2,170 4 1,769 66,518,726 Warner Bros.
9 Man of the House 1,770,456 3,506,726 -49.5 1,903 3 930 16,523,056 Sony
10 Cursed 1,564,363 3,867,052 -59.5 1,687 3 927 17,759,198 Miramax
11 Because of Winn-Dixie 1,432,433 3,200,236 -55.2 1,702 4 842 29,015,769 Fox
12 The Aviator 1,359,048 2,327,231 -41.6 1,002 12 1,356 99,061,021 Miramax
13 The Jacket 1,339,283 2,723,682 -50.8 1,331 2 1,006 4,990,169 WIP
14 Sideways 1,326,550 2,095,676 -36.7 804 20 1,650 68,124,638 Fox Searchlight
15 Bride & Prejudice 826,724 732,361 12.9 282 4 2,932 3,861,584 Miramax
16 Hotel Rwanda 678,012 1,003,513 -32.4 485 11 1,398 21,761,845 MGM/UA
17 Finding Neverland 604,386 1,045,302 -42.2 500 17 1,209 50,497,544 Miramax
18 Are We There Yet? 506,452 1,577,632 -67.9 843 7 601 79,535,490 Sony
19 Meet the Fockers 430,745 605,125 -28.8 397 11 1,085 276,573,235 Universal
20 The Incredibles 404,137 437,634 -7.7 361 18 1,119 260,658,938 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 83,449,095 $ 85,282,785 -2.2
Top 10 100,652,049 104,707,654 -3.9
Top 20 109,559,819 117,025,024 -6.4
Top 20 vs. 2004 109,559,819 111,105,566 -1.4

Last Updated : March 14, 2005 at 11:30PM EST