Weekend Box Office (March 18 - 20, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The DreamWorks horror sequel The Ring Two scared up a strong number one opening at the North American box office grossing $35.1M in its first weekend of release, according to final studio figures. Playing ultrawide in 3,332 theaters, the PG-13 thriller averaged a muscular $10,524 per location improving upon its predecessor in both opening weekend gross and average. The Ring bowed to $15M from 1,981 sites for a $7,580 average in October 2002. Two once again starred Naomi Watts but was directed by Hideo Nakata who helmed the original Japanese cult hit Ringu which inspired the DreamWorks adaptations.

The Ring Two's debut exceeded the bows of this year's other scary flicks Constantine, White Noise, Hide and Seek, and Boogeyman. However, the killer tape sequel did not reach the $39.1M opening or $12,058 average of last October's The Grudge, another Hollywood remake of a Japanese horror hit. Two ranks as the third biggest March opening ever after Fox toons Ice Age and Robots. Reviews were generally downbeat and with Saturday sales dipping 12% from Friday's launch, long-term prospects look shaky.

Last weekend's box office leader, the animated comedy Robots, dropped a reasonable 42% in its second weekend to $21M. The respectable hold put the Fox toon at $66.1M after ten days and on a course to reach about $125M overall. Robots is currently running 24% behind the pace of both the studio's Ice Age from three years ago and fellow non-sequel digital toon Shark Tale from last fall which each took in $87.3M in their first ten days with ticket buyers.

Disney's family hit The Pacifier followed in third with $12.5M sliding only 31% in its third frame. The Vin Diesel kidpic has taken in a solid $72.3M in 17 days surpassing the $57.6M of the actor's last film, the expensive action dud The Chronicles of Riddick, from last summer. The Pacifier, which already stands as Diesel's third biggest hit in a lead role after The Fast and the Furious and XXX, is heading towards the $110M mark.

Disney skated into fourth place with its new teen tale Ice Princess which opened with $6.8M from 2,501 theaters. Averaging a mild $2,722 per venue, the G-rated story of a high school girl's figure skating dreams bowed a bit weaker than the studio's Lindsay Lohan pic Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen which targeted a similar audience a year ago debuting with $9.4M from about the same number of theaters.

Spending his sixth weekend in the top five, Will Smith collected $6.5M with the romantic comedy Hitch. The Sony smash was off only 26% and boosted its cume to $159.3M. The only other films in the past year to stay in the top five for six straight weekends were fellow leggy hits Meet the Fockers, The Polar Express, and The Passion of the Christ.

Pulp Fiction pals Bruce Willis and John Travolta found themselves taking the next two chart positions with their latest films each dropping over 40%. Miramax's action thriller Hostage grossed $6M for the frame and $19.5M in ten days while the MGM sequel Be Cool locked down $5.9M over the weekend and $47.3M after 17 days of release.

Moviegoers still flocked to Academy Award king Million Dollar Baby which grossed $4M, off only 22%, pushing its purse to $89.9M. Lions Gate followed in ninth with Diary of a Mad Black Woman which fell 51% to $2.4M for a $47.7M tally. Rounding out the top ten was the Warner Bros. thriller Constantine with $2.3M, down 39%, giving the Keanu Reeves devil pic $70.4M to date.

Scorching hot in its exclusive Manhattan debut was Woody Allen's newest film Melinda and Melinda which grossed $74,238 from just one theater in the director's home turf. Playing on three screens at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, the PG-13 pic tells the story of a woman in crisis from both a comedic and tragic point of view and stars Radha Mitchell, Will Ferrell, and Amanda Peet. The performance set a new record for a single-theater opening weekend outside of Imax and animated films. Allen's last four films were released by DreamWorks and bowed nationwide on the first weekend with between 750 and 1050 theaters each. Each witnessed a weaker opening weekend average than the previous film. With Searchlight distributing Melinda, the release pattern has returned to classic Woody style with a launch in New York followed by a steady rollout. The distributor will add playdates in a dozen more cities on Wednesday expanding to about 85 theaters for Easter weekend.

Sony unleashed the Japanese anime film Steamboy in 39 theaters and grossed $136,148 for a so-so $3,490 average. Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), the toon adventure tells the saga of a young boy who tries to save London. Anna Paquin, Alfred Molina, and Patrick Stewart provide the voices for the U.S. version.

A handful of films witnessed encouraging results while expanding into more markets. New Line's Joan Allen-Kevin Costner drama The Upside of Anger widened from nine to 153 theaters and took in $1.9M nearly entering the top ten. Averaging a stellar $12,112 per site, the relationship tale has grossed $2.1M from its limited run. Downfall, a look at the final ten days of the life of Hitler, expanded from 46 to 87 venues and grossed $590,498 for a solid average of $6,787. Cume has reached $1.4M. Fox Searchlight widened its kids-find-money tale Millions from five to 19 sites and took home $202,715 for a promising $10,669 average. The Danny Boyle-directed drama has pulled in $298,959 to date.

A pair of February flops fell from the top ten over the weekend. Sony's Tommy Lee Jones comedy Man of the House dropped 45% to $970,405 putting its cume at only $18.1M. It should conclude with a disappointing $20M. Miramax's Wes Craven fright flick Cursed tumbled 70% to $467,198 for a cume to date of just $18.7M. Budgeted at $35M, the Christina Ricci pic should conjure up a measly $20M overall as well.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $102.5M which was off 3% from last year when Dawn of the Dead opened at number one with $26.7M; but up 31% from 2003 when Bringing Down The House remained in the top spot with $16.2M.

Compared to projections, The Ring Two opened very close to my $36M forecast while Ice Princess debuted with half of my $15M prediction.

For NEW reviews of The Ring Two and Oldboy, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Guess Who and Miss Congeniality 2 both open.

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

# Title Mar 18 - 20 Mar 11 - 13 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Ring Two $ 35,065,237 3,332 1 $ 10,524 $ 35,065,237 DreamWorks
2 Robots 21,025,937 36,045,301 -41.7 3,776 2 5,568 66,067,739 Fox
3 The Pacifier 12,530,486 18,152,357 -31.0 3,181 3 3,939 72,270,940 Buena Vista
4 Ice Princess 6,807,471 2,501 1 2,722 6,807,471 Buena Vista
5 Hitch 6,480,230 8,786,575 -26.2 2,703 6 2,397 159,325,368 Sony
6 Hostage 5,989,221 10,214,734 -41.4 2,183 2 2,744 19,503,139 Miramax
7 Be Cool 5,871,979 10,250,128 -42.7 2,660 3 2,208 47,275,015 MGM
8 Million Dollar Baby 4,021,437 5,153,356 -22.0 2,210 14 1,820 89,943,692 Warner Bros.
9 Diary of a Mad Black Woman 2,402,875 4,876,399 -50.7 1,279 4 1,879 47,667,768 Lions Gate
10 Constantine 2,325,359 3,838,380 -39.4 1,670 5 1,392 70,382,151 Warner Bros.
11 The Upside of Anger 1,853,260 211,559 776.0 153 2 12,113 2,129,265 New Line
12 Man of the House 970,405 1,770,456 -45.2 1,056 4 919 18,141,443 Sony
13 Sideways 928,147 1,326,550 -30.0 590 21 1,573 69,500,314 Fox Searchlight
14 The Aviator 899,062 1,359,048 -33.8 718 13 1,252 100,444,305 Miramax
15 Bride & Prejudice 637,836 826,724 -22.8 288 5 2,215 4,812,473 Miramax
16 Because of Winn-Dixie 602,380 1,432,433 -57.9 906 5 665 30,223,960 Fox
17 Downfall 590,498 329,539 79.2 87 5 6,787 1,387,295 Newmarket
18 Cursed 467,198 1,564,363 -70.1 812 4 575 18,725,765 Miramax
19 Hotel Rwanda 451,080 678,012 -33.5 362 12 1,246 22,485,525 MGM/UA
20 Meet the Fockers 374,105 430,745 -13.1 358 12 1,045 277,125,990 Universal
Top 5 $ 81,909,361 $ 83,449,095 -1.8
Top 10 102,520,232 100,652,049 1.9
Top 20 110,294,203 109,559,819 0.7
Top 20 vs. 2004 110,294,203 113,838,760 -3.1

Last Updated : March 21, 2005 at 7:00PM EST