Weekend Box Office (March 14 - 16, 2008)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND North American film fans heard the call of the elephant and stampeded to the box office to see the animated Dr. Seuss pic Horton Hears a Who which enjoyed the largest opening weekend of the year so far. The testosterone flick Never Back Down launched to decent numbers, however the virus thriller Doomsday was dead on arrival in its debut. But toon power was able to revitalize the marketplace sending the top ten above the $100M mark and ahead of year-ago levels for the first time in a month.

Jim Carrey and Steve Carell lent their voices to Horton and ticket buyers responded spending $45M on the Fox hit for a strong number one premiere, according to final studio figures. The G-rated tale bowed ultrawide in 3,954 locations and averaged a sturdy $11,384 per theater. The Whoville story generated the fourth best March opening ever behind 300 ($70.9M), Ice Age: The Meltdown ($68M), and the original Ice Age ($46.3M) and also landed the fifth largest opening in history for a G-rated film.

Horton took advantage of starpower, the popularity of the Seuss brand, and an open marketplace with few options for families to help it post the year's best debut. But the film went beyond just parents and kids with the studio reporting that 47% of the audience was non-family with teens kicking in a significant contribution. Budgeted at $85M, the animated feature also garnered glowing reviews from most critics. Horton bowed in 29 international markets as well this weekend and captured an estimated $14.2M tally.

Animated films opening in March usually enjoy strong legs thanks to the Easter holiday and school vacations. Ice Age's opening weekend represented only 26% of its eventual $176.4M domestic final. Fox's 2005 film Robots witnessed a 28% share, Meltdown played like a sequel and saw 35%, and last year's Disney offering Meet the Robinsons grabbed 26%. Horton should follow in the same footsteps as direct competition in the coming weeks is not too fierce leading to possibly $150-175M from North America alone.

Trailing the animated elephant were the woolly mammoths of 10,000 BC. The not-so-accurate account of prehistoric times fell 53% in its second outing to $16.8M and pushed the total to $61.6M after ten days. Given the bad reviews, negative word-of-mouth and the genre, the sharp decline was expected. The Warner Bros. title is playing almost exactly like another spring historical actioner - 2002's The Scorpion King. The Rock starrer generated similar numbers with a $36.1M debut and $61.3M ten-day take before concluding with $90.5M. 10,000 BC should find its way to the same vicinity domestically. Overseas, the prehistoric pic collected a mighty $39.2M this weekend as it saw top spot debuts in the United Kingdom, Korea, and Russia and second place launches in France and Italy. The international cume has risen to $74M putting the global gross at an impressive $135M.

So far this year, moviegoers have been showing up in the same numbers, but have spread their dollars across a wider selection of movies than in 2007. Overall domestic box office is up 4% compared to the same period last year and when factoring in the annual increase in ticket prices, total admissions are up only a slight amount. But whereas in 2007 six films at this point crossed the $50M mark including three that broke the $100M barrier, this year none have reached nine digits yet but a whopping ten have vaulted ahead of $50M (not including Horton which is just days away from surpassing that mark).

The Mixed Martial Arts drama Never Back Down debuted to mediocre results and landed in third place with $8.6M from a wide 2,729 theaters. Averaging a mild $3,153, the PG-13 high school tale is the first in-house production from new distributor Summit and played to an audience of young males. Research showed that 59% of the audience was male and 60% were under 21. Never was budgeted at $20M.

Martin Lawrence's second comedy of the year College Road Trip dropped a moderate 43% in its second weekend grossing $7.8M. With $24.2M collected in ten days, the G-rated family flick should end up in the neighborhood of $45M.

Sony's action thriller Vantage Point has been enjoying surprisingly strong legs and slipped only 26% to $5.5M for a solid cume of $59.3M. Rival actioner The Bank Job posted an even greater hold sliding only 15% in its sophomore frame to $5.1M giving Lionsgate $13.3M in ten days. The high-octane pics should reach about $75M and $27M, respectively.

Universal suffered a dismal opening for its futuristic virus thriller Doomsday which bowed to just $4.9M from 1,936 theaters. The R-rated pic averaged a miserable $2,545 and should find its real audience on DVD this summer.

Will Ferrell's basketball comedy Semi-Pro fell 47% to eighth with $3M pushing the total for New Line to $29.8M. Look for a final of roughly $35M making it the comedian's lowest-grossing lead performance in a wide release since 1998's Night at the Roxbury.

Sony's The Other Boleyn Girl dipped only 29% to $2.9M for a cume of $19.2M. The kidpic The Spiderwick Chronicles rounded out the top ten with $2.3M, off 51%, for a $65.4M sum. Final grosses should reach $26M and $70M, respectively.

Warner Independent had a mixed weekend with its pair of limited release titles. The Naomi Watts thriller Funny Games opened in 274 theaters and grossed $510,958 for a dull $1,865 average. But its promising platform release Snow Angels added one Los Angeles site and took in $25,428 from three sites for a potent $8,476 average. The Kate Beckinsale starrer expands to the top ten on Friday during its third session.

Three solid box office performers fell from the top ten this weekend. Fox's sci-fi flick Jumper dropped 45% to $2M lifting the total to $75.7M. The $85M Hayden Christensen-Samuel L. Jackson actioner should conclude with about $80M. It's already banked $105M overseas and counting.

The $70M adventure comedy Fool's Gold collected $1.7M, off 39%, for a $65.4M sum. Warner Bros. looks to end with just under $70M. Step Up 2 The Streets, the latest teen dance drama to score with audiences, took in $1.5M, down 50%. With $55.5M taken in thus far, the Buena Vista release will reach close to $60M putting it within striking distance of the $65.3M gross of 2006's surprise smash Step Up.

The top ten films grossed $101.9M which was up 1% from last year when 300 remained at number one in its second weekend with $32.9M; and up 14% from 2006 when V for Vendetta debuted in the top spot with $25.6M.

Compared to projections, Horton Hears A Who debuted a few notches below my $50M forecast while Never Back Down opened slightly above my $6M prediction. Doomsday was on target with my $5M projection.

For NEW DVD reviews of Enchanted, No Country For Old Men, 30 Days of Night, Bee Movie and 101 Dalmatians visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Drillbit Taylor, Meet the Browns, and Shutter all open.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Mar 14 - 16 Mar 7 - 9 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Horton Hears A Who $ 45,012,998 3,954 1 $ 11,384 $ 45,012,998 Fox
2 10,000 B.C. 16,773,312 35,867,488 -53.2 3,410 2 4,919 61,577,423 Warner Bros.
3 Never Back Down 8,603,195 2,729 1 3,153 8,603,195 Summit
4 College Road Trip 7,810,400 13,601,419 -42.6 2,706 2 2,886 24,203,543 Buena Vista
5 Vantage Point 5,462,747 7,356,236 -25.7 2,761 4 1,979 59,263,128 Sony
6 The Bank Job 5,054,961 5,935,256 -14.8 1,613 2 3,134 13,257,949 Lionsgate
7 Doomsday 4,926,565 1,936 1 2,545 4,926,565 Universal
8 Semi-Pro 3,043,162 5,786,032 -47.4 2,270 3 1,341 29,809,714 New Line
9 The Other Boleyn Girl 2,882,846 4,048,026 -28.8 1,212 3 2,379 19,153,729 Sony
10 The Spiderwick Chronicles 2,335,238 4,712,945 -50.5 2,407 5 970 65,376,031 Paramount
11 Jumper 2,025,810 3,662,375 -44.7 1,605 5 1,262 75,657,556 Fox
12 Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day 1,940,781 2,490,942 -22.1 539 2 3,601 5,299,639 Focus
13 Fool's Gold 1,688,262 2,782,416 -39.3 1,505 6 1,122 65,356,918 Warner Bros.
14 Step Up 2 The Streets 1,531,231 3,062,501 -50.0 1,546 5 990 55,458,225 Buena Vista
15 Juno 1,192,817 1,968,057 -39.4 846 15 1,410 139,812,288 Fox Searchlight
16 Penelope 886,917 2,106,696 -57.9 757 3 1,172 8,258,801 Summit
17 Definitely, Maybe 695,520 1,680,485 -58.6 647 5 1,075 30,689,995 Universal
18 The Bucket List 618,202 1,027,423 -39.8 595 12 1,039 90,218,795 Warner Bros.
19 Be Kind Rewind 591,578 1,165,888 -49.3 452 4 1,309 9,982,615 New Line
20 Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins 579,165 1,139,945 -49.2 515 6 1,125 41,666,605 Universal
Top 5 $ 83,662,652 $ 68,546,431 22.1
Top 10 101,905,424 86,814,694 17.4
Top 20 113,655,707 101,124,811 12.4
Top 20 vs. 2007 113,655,707 111,482,000 1.9

Last Updated: March 17, 2008 at 9:00PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Friday at 9:50am ET.