Weekend Box Office (March 12 - 14, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND For the third straight frame, Mel Gibson's heavenly blockbuster The Passion of the Christ grossed more than all the new releases combined and remained the most popular movie among audiences across North America. This weekend's freshman flicks failing to unseat the behemoth included the Johnny Depp thriller Secret Window which debuted impressively in the runner-up spot, the spy kid pic Agent Cody Banks 2 which opened covertly in fifth, and the Val Kilmer thriller Spartan which was virtually ignored by moviegoers.

Falling 40% in its third session, The Passion of the Christ collected $32.1M over the Friday-to-Sunday period, according to final figures, boosting its overall cume to an astonishing $264.5M. The Jim Caviezel-starrer surged past the quarter-billion dollar mark on Saturday after only 18 full days of release. The only films in history to reach the $250M milestone sooner were 2002's Spider-Man in 15 days and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King which needed 16 days this past winter.

Passion rapidly climbed up the all-time domestic blockbusters list to land at number 23 snuggled in between Shrek which grossed $267.7M in 2001 and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets which raked in $262M the following year. Although the media hype surrounding the controversial religious film has faded to just a fraction of what it was two weeks ago, positive word-of-mouth and repeat business are keeping Passion moving ahead. So far, the Biblical epic has been showing the same legs as Spider-Man. Coming off of gigantic opening weekends, the webcrawler saw sales fall 37.8% in its sophomore frame compared to Passion's 36.5%. The third weekend saw a 36.9% drop for Spidey and a 39.7% drop for Passion.

Regardless of its trajectory, The Passion of the Christ has now made its distributor number one in market share for 2004 zooming past all of Hollywood's major studios. By next weekend, Passion should leapfrog over The Matrix Reloaded to become the highest-grossing R-rated film in history. The Gibson giant will finally face a formidable foe next weekend when Universal's horror remake Dawn of the Dead hopes to rise to the top.

Fresh off of two number-one hits last year, Johnny Depp took a backseat to Jesus with the suspense thriller Secret Window which opened to the tune of $18.2M. Sony premiered the PG-13 film in 3,018 locations and averaged a strong $6,043 per theater. Directed by David Koepp, the $35M film is based on a Stephen King story about a writer stalked by a man accusing him of plagiarizing his work. Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton, and Charles S. Dutton co-star.

Secret Window skewed a bit more towards women but also to a wide age group. Sony research indicated that 55% of the audience was female and 51% was under 25. After the hits Pirates of the Caribbean and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and his recent Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Actor for his turn as an eccentric pirate, Depp proved he could open a picture. Reviews were mixed for the thriller which took advantage of the fact that it was the only scary movie currently in wide release.

Dropping 43% in its second weekend was the cop comedy Starsky & Hutch with $16M. The $60M Warner Bros. release has grossed a solid $51.5M in ten days and seems headed for a finish of $90-100M. The Ben Stiller-Owen Wilson film also arrested $1.6M from 405 previews in the United Kingdom on Saturday to rank as the market's top grosser that day.

Buena Vista saw a commendable 37% fall for its Sahara adventure Hidalgo which grossed $11.9M in its sophomore mission. The $85M Viggo Mortensen pic has collected a ten-day sum of $35.6M and looks to conclude its journey with $65-70M.

Opening in fifth place was the kid adventure Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London with $8M. Playing in 2,973 theaters, the PG-rated film averaged a mild $2,696 for MGM. The bow for the Frankie Muniz spy sequel came in at almost half of the $14.1M opening exactly one year ago of the first Cody Banks pic. That film averaged a healthier $4,175 in its first frame and went on to capture a solid $47.9M.

Embracing the smallest decline in the top ten was the list's only romantic comedy, Sony's 50 First Dates, which slipped just 29% in its fifth frame to $5.4M lifting the cume to $106.7M. Paramount's crime thriller Twisted followed with $3.1M, off 40%, for a $21.1M total.

Falling 39% to eighth place was Disney's Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen with $2.5M and a sum of $24.9M to date. The Return of the King took ninth place with $2M, off 34%, raising the total to a wizardly $371.1M.

Arriving DOA in tenth place was the political thriller Spartan with $2M from 832 theaters. The Warner Bros. release averaged a poor $2,418 per location. Val Kilmer and William H. Macy starred in the R-rated film written and directed by David Mamet. Spartan delivered the worst opening of the year for a wide release.

Racing into eleventh place from only 68 theaters was the Imax film NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience with $1.5M. The latest Warner Bros. entry into the large-format world averaged a stunning $21,580 per venue. Although Disney's family-oriented Imax films have debuted stronger, NASCAR certainly revved up healthy sales and hopes to last in theaters for many more laps to come. Warners has followed the House of Eisner's lead by releasing The Matrix sequels in Imax last year and will bow their next event film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, on June 4 in both traditional and Imax theaters concurrently.

Three films fell from the top ten over the weekend. Disney's ice hockey saga Miracle skated to $1.4M, down 44%, giving the Kurt Russell film $61.9M to date. Look for a $65M final. Charlize Theron's Oscar vehicle Monster slipped 35% to $1.4M giving the indie pic $32.1M. NewMarket Films should shoot its way to around $36M with the serial killer pic. Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights stumbled 53% to $1.4M. With $12.4M in the bank, the Lions Gate title aims to end with under $15M.

The top ten films grossed $101.3M which was up 17% from last year when Bringing Down the House remained at number one with $22.1M; but down 13% from 2002 when Ice Age debuted on top with a March record $46.3M.

Compared to projections, Secret Window debuted a bit below my $22M forecast. Agent Cody Banks also opened a couple of notches below my $10M prediction while Spartan was on target with my bearish $2M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Dawn of the Dead. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether The Passion of the Christ will go on to break the $350M mark. Of 4,622 responses, 76% chose Yes while 24% said No.

For a review of Secret Window visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Dawn of the Dead, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Taking Lives all open nationally.

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

# Title Mar 12 - 14 Mar 5 - 7 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Passion of the Christ $ 32,130,978 $ 53,246,801 -39.7 3,221 3 $ 9,975 $ 264,510,209 NewMarket
2 Secret Window 18,237,568 3,018 1 6,043 18,237,568 Sony
3 Starsky and Hutch 16,018,291 28,103,367 -43.0 3,185 2 5,029 51,500,921 Warner Bros.
4 Hidalgo 11,861,620 18,829,435 -37.0 3,065 2 3,870 35,635,388 Buena Vista
5 Agent Cody Banks 2 8,014,005 2,973 1 2,696 8,014,005 MGM
6 50 First Dates 5,425,736 7,637,128 -29.0 2,586 5 2,098 106,701,379 Sony
7 Twisted 3,081,612 5,126,387 -39.9 2,208 3 1,396 21,134,984 Paramount
8 Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen 2,472,097 4,045,006 -38.9 1,801 4 1,373 24,942,380 Buena Vista
9 LOTR: The Return of the King 2,021,501 3,037,822 -33.5 1,307 13 1,547 371,147,794 New Line
10 Spartan 2,011,435 832 1 2,418 2,011,435 Warner Bros.
11 NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience 1,467,406 68 1 21,580 1,467,406 Warner Bros.
12 Miracle 1,413,069 2,543,422 -44.4 1,205 6 1,173 61,859,933 Buena Vista
13 Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights 1,396,187 2,962,008 -52.9 1,239 3 1,127 12,382,121 Lions Gate
14 Mystic River 1,386,460 1,975,433 -29.8 927 23 1,496 87,163,685 Warner Bros.
15 Monster 1,385,802 2,123,915 -34.8 1,012 12 1,369 32,112,739 NewMarket
16 Barbershop 2 967,842 1,760,007 -45.0 835 6 1,159 61,343,779 MGM
17 Eurotrip 635,909 1,620,668 -60.8 605 4 1,051 16,944,239 DreamWorks
18 Something's Gotta Give 433,640 405,476 6.9 439 14 988 124,002,367 Sony
19 Cold Mountain 412,645 827,306 -50.1 475 12 869 94,645,048 Miramax
20 You Got Served 331,763 592,483 -44.0 329 7 1,008 39,401,647 Sony
Top 5 $ 86,262,462 $ 112,943,118 -23.6
Top 10 101,274,843 127,655,291 -20.7
Top 20 111,105,566 137,506,485 -19.2
Top 20 vs. 2003 111,105,566 98,753,567 12.5

Last Updated : March 15, 2004 at 5:00PM EST

Gitesh Pandya can be seen each Friday on "The Biz" airing at 12:30pm and 9:30pm ET on CNNfn.