Weekend Box Office (March 24 - 26, 2006)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Denzel Washington scored the tenth number one film of his career with the hostage thriller Inside Man which also gave the Oscar-winning actor his largest opening weekend ever. More than doubling the gross of its nearest competitor, the bank heist pic led the North American box office to a solid performance that ended an eight-week streak that saw the top ten films fall below last year's levels. The frame's other new releases, the horror flick Stay Alive and the comedy Larry the Cable Guy - Health Inspector, both opened to respectable results to help lift the marketplace as well.

Moviegoers showed up in large numbers for Inside Man which generated the second largest opening of 2006 with $29M over the Friday-to-Sunday span, according to final studio figures. Universal launched the action thriller in 2,818 locations and averaged a stellar $10,275 per theater. Directed by Spike Lee, the R-rated film stars Washington as a New York detective who takes on a criminal mastermind (Clive Owen) who seizes control of a bank and all the people inside it. Jodie Foster plays a supporting role in the $45M film but was very prominent in the studio's marketing campaign.

For Washington and Lee, Inside Man delivered new career highs beating the openings of 2004's Man on Fire ($22.8M) and 2000's The Original Kings of Comedy ($11.1M), respectively. The film marked the director's fourth collaboration with the actor and showed once again how much fans love seeing the two work together. Lee's only other number one opener ever was 1998's He Got Game and the top-grossing picture in the filmmaker's 20-year career remains 1992's Malcolm X ($48.2M). Both starred Denzel Washington. Lee has spent most of his career directing and producing smaller, and more personal films. Inside Man marks his first mainstream commercial movie and reviews from criitics were mostly positive.

As expected, the opening weekend audience consisted of mature adults, skewed a bit more male, and included a strong multicultural turnout. According to studio research, 68% of the crowd was age 30 or older while 54% was male. Nearly one-third of the audience was African American or Latino. Long-term strength could be solid. A healthy 85% of those polled described the film as "excellent" or "very good" while the film experienced a hearty 27% bump on Saturday from Friday. This year's three biggest openers have all been anchored by black stars. Inside powered past the $27.7M of Martin Lawrence's Big Momma's House 2 but was a notch shy of the $30M of Madea's Family Reunion from Tyler Perry.

Inside Man launched overseas in 18 territories this weekend and collected an estimated $9.6M from 1,400 locations. This included number one debuts in the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, and Greece.

Falling 52% in its second weekend was the Natalie Portman actioner V for Vendetta which grossed $12.3M falling one spot to second place. The Warner Bros. release has taken in $46.2M in ten days and looks headed for the $70M mark. Overseas, Vendetta grossed a mild $5.4M from 24 markets to push the international tally to $17.6M from such countires as the United Kingdom, Italy, Korea, and Germany.

Moviegoers keen on seeing teens get killed by a lethal video game spent $10.7M on the opening weekend of the new horror pic Stay Alive. Buena Vista enjoyed a solid debut averaging $5,339 from 2,009 theaters with the PG-13 title. The distributor did not spend heavily on marketing as it focused its efforts squarely on young gamers. The opening was a bit better than what the industry was expecting.

Paramount's hit romantic comedy Failure to Launch once again stayed strong dipping only 33% in its third weekend to $10.5M. After 17 days, the Matthew McConaughey-Sarah Jessica Parker film has collected $63.5M and joined The Pink Panther and Eight Below as the year's only films to post three consecutive weekends of more than $10M each. At its current pace, Failure has a chance of eventually surpassing those two to become 2006's top-grossing film.

The Tim Allen family comedy The Shaggy Dog held up well once again dipping just 33% to $9M. Ranking fifth for the weekend, the Disney release has collected a solid $47.8M in 17 days. The teen comedy She's the Man followed in sixth with $7.3M in its sophomore session. The DreamWorks release declined by only 32% and pushed its ten-day tally to $20.3M. The $20M Amanda Bynes pic should reach the neighborhood of $40M.

Opening in seventh place with a respectable bow was the Lionsgate comedy Larry the Cable Guy - Health Inspector with $6.9M from 1,710 theaters. Averaging a good $4,048 per site, the PG-13 film is a big-screen vehicle for the standup comedian who has made fans laugh on the small screen in The Blue Collar Comedy Tour. The performance delivered a stronger gross, but weaker average, when compared to another recent film from a Comedy Central favorite - Dave Chappelle's Block Party. That doc bowed to $6.2M with a $5,179 average at the beginning of the month. Each film tapped into a built-in fan base, but neither became a breakout hit.

The horror remake The Hills Have Eyes dropped 45% to $4.4M in its third scare pushing the cume to $35.7M for Fox Searchlight. Disney's hit family film Eight Below slipped only 33% to $2.7M for a total of $77.1M to date. The action-adventure is the year's second biggest grosser behind The Pink Panther. Rounding out the top ten was the Bruce Willis cop pic 16 Blocks with $2.2M, down 55%, giving Warner Bros. a mediocre $34M thus far.

With a box office rebound this weekend and the potential blockbuster Ice Age: The Meltdown opening next weekend, the industry is hoping to turn things around in April before kicking off the summer movie season on May 5 with Mission: Impossible 3. The chart below breaks down the year thus far against the same period last year:

2006 2005
$80M+ Grossers 1 4
$50M+ Grossers 9 10
$20M+ Openings 9 11
$10M+ Openings 23 21

Three films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Sony's Panther grossed $1.5M, off 41%, to raise its total to $80.8M. The Steve Martin remake looks to close its case with about $83M. Another successful comedy, Madea's Family Reunion, tumbled 54% to $1.3M pushing its cume to a rosy $62M. Lionsgate should end its run with around $64M outdistancing the $50.4M from last year's Tyler Perry hit Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Fox watched its mermaid pic Aquamarine sink 50% to $1M putting the sum at just $17.3M. A $19M final seems likely.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight generated strong results with the expansion of its political satire Thank You for Smoking which widened from five theaters in three markets to 54 locations across the top ten markets. The Aaron Eckhart pic grossed $1M, averaging a sparkling $18,591, and still drew sell-outs in its second weekend. Results for Smoking were similar to those of Searchlight's 2004 release I Heart Huckabees which expanded to 44 theaters in its second weekend and grossed $901,123 for a $20,480 average. With $1.4M in the bank, Smoking will continue to widen this Friday to approximately 120 theaters.

The top ten films grossed $95M which was up 9% from last year when Guess Who opened at number one with $20.7M; but down 7% from 2004 when Scooby Doo 2 debuted on top with $29.4M.

Compared to projections, Inside Man powered ahead of my $23M forecast while Stay Alive opened higher than my $7M prediction. Larry the Cable Guy debuted very close to my $6M projection.

For a NEW review of Inside Man and DVD reviews of The Ice Harvest and Prime, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Ice Age: The Meltdown, Basic Instinct 2, ATL, and Slither all open.

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

# Title Mar 24 - 26 Mar 17 - 19 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Inside Man $ 28,954,945 2,818 1 $ 10,275 $ 28,954,945 Universal
2 V for Vendetta 12,338,402 25,642,640 -51.9 3,365 2 3,667 46,205,949 Warner Bros.
3 Stay Alive 10,726,406 2,009 1 5,339 10,726,406 Buena Vista
4 Failure to Launch 10,462,474 15,604,892 -33.0 3,202 3 3,267 63,537,895 Paramount
5 The Shaggy Dog 9,035,928 13,377,363 -32.5 3,421 3 2,641 47,823,278 Buena Vista
6 She's the Man 7,296,562 10,730,372 -32.0 2,631 2 2,773 20,344,197 DreamWorks
7 Larry the Cable Guy 6,922,767 1,710 1 4,048 6,922,767 Lionsgate
8 The Hills Have Eyes 4,386,566 8,008,822 -45.2 2,461 3 1,782 35,717,166 Fox Searchlight
9 Eight Below 2,718,343 4,084,276 -33.4 2,101 6 1,294 77,137,940 Buena Vista
10 16 Blocks 2,160,379 4,755,012 -54.6 2,066 4 1,046 34,004,226 Warner Bros.
11 The Pink Panther 1,458,975 2,464,468 -40.8 1,352 7 1,079 80,752,569 Sony
12 Madea's Family Reunion 1,340,851 2,933,815 -54.3 1,030 5 1,302 62,044,404 Lionsgate
13 Aquamarine 1,048,536 2,114,445 -50.4 1,054 4 995 17,345,896 Fox
14 Curious George 1,024,835 1,626,305 -37.0 1,161 7 883 56,889,815 Universal
15 Thank You For Smoking 1,003,911 262,923 281.8 54 2 18,591 1,382,024 Fox Searchlight
16 Date Movie 623,148 1,357,518 -54.1 739 6 843 47,498,798 Fox
17 Deep Sea 3-D 617,467 590,461 4.6 46 4 13,423 3,605,821 Warner Bros.
18 The Chronicles of Narnia 501,655 542,977 -7.6 418 16 1,200 290,611,900 Buena Vista
19 Firewall 454,471 988,456 -54.0 578 7 786 47,775,490 Warner Bros.
20 Final Destination 3 366,180 652,541 -43.9 422 7 868 53,511,256 New Line
Top 5 $ 71,518,155 $ 73,364,089 -2.5
Top 10 95,002,772 89,716,105 5.9
Top 20 103,442,801 98,960,753 4.5
Top 20 vs. 2005 103,442,801 94,031,611 10.0

Last Updated : March 27, 2006 at 6:30PM EST