Weekend Box Office (March 17 - 19, 2006)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers lined up for the futuristic action thriller V for Vendetta which opened at number one topping another not-so-robust box office in North America. The high school comedy She's the Man enjoyed a decent debut while many holdovers posted respectable numbers. For the eighth consecutive weekend, ticket sales for the top ten films lagged behind year-ago levels.

Taking command of the multiplexes this weekend, V for Vendetta captured $25.6M from 3,365 theaters, according to final studio figures, leading the marketplace with an opening that was slightly below expectations. The Warner Bros. title averaged a healthy $7,620 per theater and the figures included sales from numerous Imax theaters that are playing the large-format version of the picture. Vendetta stars Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving in a sci-fi tale about terrorists who try to overthrow the government in the London of the near future. It generated the fourth largest opening weekend of the year.

The action film was promoted by the studio as being from the creators of The Matrix trilogy. Andy and Larry Wachowski took writing and producing chores on Vendetta while newcomer James McTeigue sat in the director's chair. As expected, men made up a large share of the audience with studio research showing that 60% of the crowd was male. The audience was split evenly between those over and under the age of 25. The opening weekend performance came in a bit below those of last spring's stylish R-rated action entries Constantine and Sin City which bowed to $29.8M and $29.1M, respectively. Reviews were generally positive.

After a muscular top spot debut, the romantic comedy Failure to Launch enjoyed a solid second weekend slipping only 36% to $15.6M taking second place. After ten days, the Matthew McConaughey-Sarah Jessica Parker hit has collected an impressive $48.3M and is just the latest in a long line of comedy hits this year that audiences are flocking to. Budgeted at $50M, the Paramount release could go on to gross $85-90M.

Boasting the best hold of any wide release was Disney's The Shaggy Dog which slipped only 18% in its second weekend to $13.4M. The Tim Allen hit has grossed $35.6M in ten days and could be headed for the neighborhood of $75M.

The Amanda Bynes teen comedy She's the Man opened in fourth place with $10.7M from 2,623 theaters. The PG-13 film averaged a moderate $4,091 per location and appealed mostly to an audience of teenage girls. Budgeted for $20M, the modern day high school take on Shakespeare's The Twelfth Night was co-produced by DreamWorks and released by its new parent Paramount. Man's opening was close to the $11.4M debut of the 2003 Bynes comedy What A Girl Wants.

The horror remake The Hills Have Eyes enjoyed a reasonably good second weekend falling 49% to $8M giving Fox Searchlight $28.7M in ten days. Recent fright titles this year like When a Stranger Calls and Underworld: Evolution both fell by 58% in their sophomore sessions so Hills' hold was good for the genre. Budgeted at $15M, the R-rated film should finish with $40-45M. Following in sixth was the Bruce Willis cop drama 16 Blocks with $4.8M, off 36%, for a $30.2M cume for Warner Bros.

Three of the year's top grossing films followed. Disney's adventure Eight Below slipped only 26% to $4.1M putting the total at a robust $73M. The Lionsgate comedy Madea's Family Reunion fell 49% to $2.9M for a healthy $60M sum. 2006's highest grossing film The Pink Panther collected $2.5M, off only 33%, and raised its cume to $78.6M.

The top five new releases of the year have grossed a combined $342M which is off a significant 24% from last year's top five at this same point in time. Moviegoers are not rushing out to theaters as much as they have in the past during the spring and are certainly not as excited by Hollywood's offerings this year.

Rounding out the top ten was Fox's mermaid flick Aquamarine with $2.1M in its third frame lifting the total to a weak $15.8M.

Packing in theaters in limited release was Fox Searchlight's political satire Thank You for Smoking which debuted in only five theaters but puffed up $262,923. That resulted in a spectacular $52,585 average per location in its platform debut in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. Directed by Jason Reitman, Smoking was acquired by Searchlight last September at the Toronto International Film Festival after Paramount Classics had thought that it had closed a deal to buy the hot pic. Plenty of industry hoopla followed. The story of a slimey tobacco industry lobbyist trying to raise his son right stars Aaron Eckhart, William H. Macy, Robert Duvall, and Katie Holmes and earned good reviews. Smoking expands on Friday to the rest of the top ten markets with roughly 50 theaters and again on March 31.

Not faring well in its limited bow was Vin Diesel's mob trial pic Find Me Guilty which opened to $608,804 from 439 theaters for a dismal $1,387 average. The Yari Film Group release attracted mixed reviews. Diesel hit the press circuit promoting Guilty, but in the end, moviegoers found it not worthy of paying top dollar for.

A pair of films dropped from the top ten over the weekend. Sony's action flop Ultraviolet stumbled 64% to $1.3M putting the total at a mere $17.5M. A pitiful $19M final seems likely putting it even lower than the $25.9M of Aeon Flux and the $24.4M of Elektra. Fox's spoof comedy Date Movie fell 46% and grossed $1.4M in its fifth outing. The PG-13 pic has taken in $46.5M to date and should conclude with just under $50M.

Elsewhere at the domestic box office, Disney's smash hit The Chronicles of Narnia surpassed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on the all-time domestic blockbusters chart. Narnia jumped to $289.8M this weekend inching by the $289.7M of the fourth Potter pic. Overseas, Goblet has still grossed about $200M more.

The top ten films grossed $89.7M which was down 13% from last year when The Ring Two opened at number one with $35.1M; and down 15% from 2004 when Dawn of the Dead debuted on top with $26.7M.

Compared to projections, V for Vendetta opened a few notches below my $30M forecast while She's the Man debuted very close to my $10M prediction.

For a review of The Hills Have Eyes visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Inside Man and Stay Alive both debut.

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

# Title Mar 17 - 19 Mar 10 - 12 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 V for Vendetta $ 25,642,640 3,365 1 $ 7,620 $ 25,642,340 Warner Bros.
2 Failure to Launch 15,604,892 24,411,322 -36.1 3,117 2 5,006 48,273,823 Paramount
3 The Shaggy Dog 13,377,363 16,310,058 -18.0 3,501 2 3,821 35,635,419 Buena Vista
4 She's the Man 10,730,372 2,623 1 4,091 10,730,372 Paramount
5 The Hills Have Eyes 8,008,822 15,708,512 -49.0 2,621 2 3,056 28,741,291 Fox Searchlight
6 16 Blocks 4,755,012 7,411,016 -35.8 2,666 3 1,784 30,190,041 Warner Bros.
7 Eight Below 4,084,276 5,552,540 -26.4 2,603 5 1,569 73,040,379 Buena Vista
8 Madea's Family Reunion 2,933,815 5,749,355 -49.0 1,403 4 2,091 60,029,631 Lionsgate
9 The Pink Panther 2,464,468 3,650,306 -32.5 1,852 6 1,331 78,575,414 Sony
10 Aquamarine 2,114,445 3,858,072 -45.2 1,869 3 1,131 15,778,293 Fox
11 Curious George 1,626,305 2,282,775 -28.8 1,390 6 1,170 55,392,060 Universal
12 Date Movie 1,357,518 2,525,111 -46.2 1,196 5 1,135 46,503,825 Fox
13 Ultraviolet 1,332,297 3,681,448 -63.8 1,746 3 763 17,536,337 Sony
14 Firewall 988,456 1,782,349 -44.5 850 6 1,163 46,984,514 Warner Bros.
15 The Libertine 881,076 2,202,799 -60.0 819 2 1,076 3,867,537 Weinstein Co.
16 Dave Chappelle's Block Party 661,271 2,015,766 -67.2 643 3 1,028 11,086,100 Focus
17 Final Destination 3 652,541 1,290,227 -49.4 583 6 1,119 52,942,422 New Line
18 Find Me Guilty 608,804 439 1 1,387 608,804 Yari Film Group
19 Deep Sea 3-D 590,461 712,483 -17.1 44 3 13,420 2,663,952 Warner Bros.
20 Brokeback Mountain 545,919 1,187,084 -54.0 506 15 1,079 82,057,408 Focus
Top 5 $ 73,364,089 $ 69,590,263 5.4
Top 10 89,716,105 88,857,740 1.0
Top 20 98,960,753 102,500,972 -3.5
Top 20 vs. 2005 98,960,753 110,294,203 -10.3

Last Updated : March 20, 2006 at 8:00PM EST