Weekend Box Office (March 23 - 25, 2007)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND A crowded box office saw six new films shove their way into the multiplexes, but it was the Warner Bros. animated film TMNT that led the way knocking the studio's own historical battle film 300 from the number one spot. Mark Wahlberg's new sniper pic Shooter enjoyed a decent opening in third place while the rest of the debuting films saw more modest results. Overall, the box office was vibrant with five different pictures hitting double digit millions.

Turtle power conquered North America as TMNT ruled the weekend with an opening of $24.3M, according to final studio figures. The PG-rated toon averaged a powerful $7,799 from 3,110 theaters and collected an amount that was almost identical to the record $25.4M debut of the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from March 1990. However, ticket prices were much lower 17 years ago and films played in fewer theaters so that hit's $12,661 average from 2,006 locations was more impressive. With few new choices for kids in recent weeks, TMNT was able to corner the market for young ones. However, long term success could be challenging as Disney will unleash its rival animated entry Meet the Robinsons this Friday.

After two weeks on top of the charts, the Spartan war epic 300 dropped to second place but still held up well despite the onslaught of new films. The Warner Bros. blockbuster fell by only 40% to $19.9M and lifted its cume to a staggering $161.7M after 17 days. The R-rated smash now looks likely to reach the $200M mark domestically - a level no March film has ever reached before.

Overseas, 300 dominated the marketplace with its invasion of the U.K. and several key European countries with a colossal $48M from 33 markets with 5,000 prints. That pushed the international total to $79M and the global gross to $241M. 300 should dominate the spring box office worldwide and could go on to surpass $500M.

Mark Wahlberg's new action thriller Shooter opened in third place with $14.5M from 2,806 locations. The Paramount release averaged a good $5,176 per theater and played to an adult aduience. Studio research showed that two-thirds of the crowd for the R-rated film was age 25 or older. Shooter finds the recent Oscar nominee playing a former marine wrongly accused of trying to kill the U.S. President. The budget was just over $60M.

With no new comedies opening among the half-dozen new releases, Buena Vista's motorcycle laugher Wild Hogs held strong once again and slipped only 27% to $13.9M. The Tim Allen-John Travolta pic has upped its cume to $123.3M to date making it 2007's second biggest blockbuster trailing only the Spartan tale. Hogs is also the top-grossing release for Disney since Johnny Depp's pirate smash from last summer.

New Line opened its kids adventure The Last Mimzy with $10M from 3,017 theaters for a mild $3,323 average. The sci-fi tale earned mixed reviews and faced stiff competition for children from TMNT.

Fox Atomic, the studio's division that targets teens and young adults, bowed its horror sequel The Hills Have Eyes 2 to the tune of $9.7M. Averaging a mediocre $3,958 from 2,447 locations, the R-rated mutant flick opened 54 weeks after its predecessor which itself was a remake. The first Hills performed better and opened to $15.7M and a $5,996 average last March on its way to $41.8M. Eyes 2 cost $15M to produce and played mostly to an under-25 audience. Males and females were almost equally represented.

After enjoying a career-high opening, Sandra Bullock saw her critically-panned suspense thriller Premonition fall by a reasonable 46% in its second weekend to $9.6M. Sony has scared up a solid $31.7M in ten days for the $20M production and should conclude with $55-60M.

The Adam Sandler drama Reign Over Me debuted in eighth place with $7.5M from 1,671 sites for a commendable $4,465 average per theater. The R-rated film about a man who loses his way in life after his family is killed on September 11 earned good marks from critics. Given the difference in subject matter, Reign played primarily to adult women and not to the young male crowd that the funnyman usually attracts with his comedies. Studio research showed that 59% of the audience was female and 60% was 25 or older. The $20M production co-stars Don Cheadle and Jada Pinkett Smith and opened a bit below Sandler's mature pic Spanglish which bowed to only $8.8M in 2004.

Lionsgate's swim team drama Pride tanked in its opening weekend diving into just $3.5M. Starring Cheadle's Crash co-star Terence Howard, the PG-rated film averaged a weak $2,328 from 1,518 locations and earned mixed reviews from critics. Rounding out the top ten was the killer doll flick Dead Silence with $3.4M in its second weekend. Off a steep 56%, the Universal release has grossed $13.2M in ten days and should finish with just under $20M.

With all the new faces, six films tumbled out of the top ten over the weekend with declines of more than 50% each. Chris Rock's latest film I Think I Love My Wife fell 51% in its second weekend to $2.8M for a ten-day cume of only $10M. A final gross of about $15M seems likely. Disney's fantasy drama Bridge to Terabithia dropped 55% to $2.3M in its sixth frame. With a strong $78.9M in the bank, Bridge looks to end its run with $82-84M.

Sony's Ghost Rider took in $1.7M, down 60%, for a $113.2M cume. The Nicolas Cage actioner should finish with roughly $116M. Paramount's serial killer drama Zodiac has been one of the year's big underperformers and crumbled 64% to $1.2M. The $65M film has collected only $31.6M thus far and looks to end with a disappointing $34M.

The Eddie Murphy hit Norbit has performed much better for Paramount and grossed $965,543 this weekend, off 65%, pushing the total to $94.1M. A $96M final is likely. Hugh Grant's latest comedy has made half as much. Music and Lyrics, co-starring Drew Barrymore, fell 62% to $875,423 pushing the total to $49.2M. Look for a $51M final.

Fox Searchlight once again generated the best per-theater average in the Top 20 with Mira Nair's The Namesake which expanded from 41 to 117 theaters and grossed $1.3M. Averaging a sturdy $11,169 per site, the PG-13 pic upped its total to $2.6M and will add another 125 theaters this Friday. ImaginAsian Pictures saw a strong $87,442 from four sites for its Vietnamese pic Journey From the Fall delivering a $21,861 average.

The top ten films grossed $116.2M which was up 22% from last year when Inside Man opened at number one with $29M; and up 34% from 2005 when Guess Who debuted on top with $20.7M.

Compared to projections, TMNT opened ahead of my $16M forecast while Shooter was close to my $16M prediction. Reign Over Me did slightly better than my $6M projection while The Last Mimzy, The Hills Have Eyes 2, and Pride all debuted below my respective forecasts of $12M, $13M, and $7M.

For a NEW review of Shooter and a DVD review of Blood Diamond, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Blades of Glory, Meet the Robinsons, and The Lookout all open.

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

# Title Mar 23 - 25 Mar 16 - 18 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 TMNT $ 24,255,205 3,110 1 $ 7,799 $ 24,255,205 Warner Bros.
2 300 19,862,491 32,877,328 -39.6 3,280 3 6,056 161,706,146 Warner Bros.
3 Shooter 14,523,571 2,806 1 5,176 14,523,571 Paramount
4 Wild Hogs 13,850,542 19,058,871 -27.3 3,401 4 4,072 123,303,817 Buena Vista
5 The Last Mimzy 10,024,819 3,017 1 3,323 10,024,819 New Line
6 The Hills Have Eyes 2 9,686,362 2,447 1 3,958 9,686,362 Fox
7 Premonition 9,562,739 17,558,689 -45.5 2,831 2 3,378 31,653,484 Sony
8 Reign Over Me 7,460,690 1,671 1 4,465 7,460,690 Sony
9 Pride 3,533,300 1,518 1 2,328 3,533,300 Lionsgate
10 Dead Silence 3,440,415 7,842,725 -56.1 1,806 2 1,905 13,216,140 Universal
11 I Think I Love My Wife 2,769,349 5,674,802 -51.2 1,794 2 1,544 10,048,530 Fox Searchlight
12 Bridge to Terabithia 2,323,868 5,192,153 -55.2 2,010 6 1,156 78,873,979 Buena Vista
13 Ghost Rider 1,678,864 4,176,658 -59.8 1,560 6 1,076 113,216,624 Sony
14 Amazing Grace 1,476,109 2,111,589 -30.1 932 5 1,584 16,790,093 Goldwyn / Roadside
15 The Namesake 1,306,819 715,026 82.8 117 3 11,169 2,640,299 Fox Searchlight
16 Zodiac 1,168,965 3,287,560 -64.4 872 4 1,341 31,639,642 Paramount
17 Norbit 965,543 2,766,593 -65.1 1,006 7 960 94,053,460 Paramount
18 Music and Lyrics 875,423 2,272,317 -61.5 875 6 1,000 49,163,340 Warner Bros.
19 The Lives of Others 742,648 802,380 -7.4 232 7 3,201 5,672,720 Sony Classics
20 Namastey London 578,224 65 1 8,896 578,224 Eros
Top 5 $ 82,516,628 $ 83,012,415 -0.6
Top 10 116,200,134 100,707,696 15.4
Top 20 130,085,946 111,482,000 16.7
Top 20 vs. 2006 130,085,946 103,442,801 25.8

Last Updated : March 26, 2007 at 9:30PM ET

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