Weekend Box Office (March 25 - 27, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND March madness heated up as two new star-driven comedies battled each other for the dollars of moviegoers with the tag team combo of Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac in Guess Who comfortably defeating Sandra Bullock's Miss Congeniality 2 to become the number one seed at the North American box office. The Easter frame also saw a steep fall for last weekend's champ The Ring Two while kidpics Robots and The Pacifier held up well as they head towards the $100M mark.

Ebony and ivory ruled the charts as Sony's hit comedy Guess Who claimed the number one spot with an opening of $20.7M, according to final studio figures. The PG-13 film about a young white man trying to win over his black girlfriend's disapproving dad averaged a sturdy $6,569 from 3,147 theaters. For both Kutcher and Mac, Guess Who delivered a career-best bow for a lead role. The Fox sitcom stars drew upon their respective fan bases to give the Kevin Rodney Sullivan-directed film broader appeal than the weekend's other new comedy Miss Congeniality 2. Studio research indicated that 59% of the crowd was under 25, 54% was female, and 55% was non-white. Reviews were mixed for Guess Who. Kutcher has reached the top spot in recent years with the psychological thriller The Butterfly Effect and the romantic comedy Just Married while Mac ruled the box office two years ago this very weekend co-starring in the Chris Rock comedy Head of State.

Settling for the runnerup prize was Sandra Bullock's first film in over two years Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous which grossed $14M over the weekend and $17.1M since its Thursday debut. Going undercover in 3,233 locations, the PG-13 comedy averaged a respectable $4,344 over three days. The four-day Easter weekend take was only 23% higher than the $13.9M four-day Christmas bow of 2000's Miss Congeniality from 2,668 theaters. Adjust for ticket price increases and the audience size was only slightly larger. Bullock, who also served as a producer on the Congeniality sequel, invested a great deal of time publicizing her newest film with talk show appearances and magazine covers. However, with the beauty queen kidnapping film appealing primarily to white adult women, it became difficult for Warner Bros. to excite other audience segments.

The Speed star has been absent from multiplexes since Two Weeks Notice with Hugh Grant which opened to $14.3M in December 2002 on its way to a stellar $93.4M. Some of Bullock's other films have opened stronger than Fabulous too including Hope Floats with $14.2M in 1998 and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood with $16.2M in 2002. Reviews were mostly negative for the new installment of Congeniality which may find its way to about half of the $106.8M of its predecessor. Internationally, Congeniality 2 opened simultaneously in several markets this weekend such as Germany, Spain, Australia, and the U.K. with an estimated $10.5M total.

Tumbling from first to third place was another high-profile sequel, the DreamWorks spookfest The Ring Two, which fell 61% to $13.6M in its second weekend. By today's standards, the decline was not surprising for horror sequels which now more than ever attract most of their audience in the first week. With $57.9M in ten days, the fright flick should find its way to about $90M or around 30% below the $129.1M of 2002's The Ring.

In fourth place was Fox's Robots with $12.9M in its third weekend, down 39%, giving the PG-rated film $87.3M to date. The animated film which features voices from Ewan McGregor and Robin Williams is running 25% behind the pace of the studio's last toon tale Ice Age which had grossed $116.9M after its first 17 days.

Disney's The Pacifier followed in fifth with $8.1M, off just 36%, giving the Vin Diesel hit $85.8M to date. Hitch, the year's top-grossing release, dropped 34% and grossed $4.3M putting the Sony comedy's cume at $166.4M. Add in Shark Tale and I, Robot and Will Smith has sold a colossal $950M worth of movie tickets over the last nine months at the worldwide box office.

The Bruce Willis action pic Hostage dipped 31% to $4.1M pushing its total to $26.2M. The Disney tale Ice Princess tripped 45% in its second weekend and collected $3.7M pushing the ten-day tally to a disappointing $13.3M. Look for a $20-22M final.

Dropping 52% to $2.8M was the MGM sequel Be Cool which has taken in $52.3M thus far. Rounding out the top ten was Million Dollar Baby which grossed $2.6M in its tenth weekend of wide release, off 36%, putting the cume at $94.1M.

Debuting in limited release was Tartan Films' ultraviolent Korean revenge tale Oldboy which punched up $68,957 from only five locations for a punishing $13,791 average. The R-rated action-drama won the Grand Jury Prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival.

A pair of films that could not be more different from each other dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The Keanu Reeves action thriller Constantine fell 47% to $1.2M in its sixth frame to boost its demonic cume to $72.7M. Budgeted at over $100M, the Warner Bros. release looks to end its North American run with about $75M. Internationally, Constantine has grossed $108.2M to date with a worldwide total standing at $181M and counting.

The much less expensive comedy Diary of a Mad Black Woman stumbled 59% to $982,934 in its fifth weekend to lift its amazing sum to $49.4M. The Lions Gate hit, which was produced for just $5.4M, should end with roughly $51M making it the biggest box office surprise of the year so far.

In limited release, New Line's The Upside of Anger continued to hover just outside the top ten with $1.2M dipping 33% from last weekend. The Joan Allen-Kevin Costner drama added 14 theaters bringing its count to 167 sites and averaged a healthy $7,480. Total to date stands at $4M.

Fox Searchlight saw encouraging results from its two expansions this weekend. The Woody Allen pic Melinda and Melinda followed its sizzling exclusive Manhattan bow with a wider 95-location frame grossing an estimated $740,619 for a solid $7,796 average. The distributor expanded the Will Ferrell-Amanda Peet pic into a dozen markets and will add another 17 cities on Friday lifitng the theater count to approximately 150. Meanwhile, the company's British drama Millions widened from 19 to 77 theaters and grossed $488,044 for a good $6,338 average. With $917,265 in the bank, the Danny Boyle-directed film expands to about 100 playdates on Friday.

The top ten films grossed $86.9M which was down 15% from last year when Scooby Doo opened at number one with $29.4M; but up 6% from 2003 when Head of State debuted in the top spot with $13.5M.

Compared to projections, Guess Who opened close to my $23M forecast while Miss Congeniality 2 debuted below my prediction of $17M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on whether Sin City will open with more or less than $20M. In the last survey, readers were asked whether Batman Begins would become a $200M domestic blockbuster. Of 1,853 responses, 70% thought Yes while 30% said No.

For NEW reviews of Guess Who and Oldboy, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Sin City and Beauty Shop both open.

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

# Title Mar 25 - 27 Mar 18 - 20 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Guess Who $ 20,671,446 3,147 1 $ 6,569 $ 20,671,446 Sony
2 Miss Congeniality 2 14,043,215 3,233 1 4,344 17,098,519 Warner Bros.
3 The Ring Two 13,616,573 35,065,237 -61.2 3,341 2 4,076 57,901,866 DreamWorks
4 Robots 12,914,900 21,025,937 -38.6 3,431 3 3,764 87,302,429 Fox
5 The Pacifier 8,087,395 12,530,486 -35.5 3,102 4 2,607 85,833,272 Buena Vista
6 Hitch 4,283,334 6,480,230 -33.9 2,233 7 1,918 166,444,518 Sony
7 Hostage 4,138,040 5,989,221 -30.9 1,977 3 2,093 26,201,432 Miramax
8 Ice Princess 3,732,867 6,807,471 -45.2 2,501 2 1,493 13,342,028 Buena Vista
9 Be Cool 2,830,732 5,871,979 -51.8 1,883 4 1,503 52,336,105 MGM
10 Million Dollar Baby 2,587,313 4,021,437 -35.7 1,710 15 1,513 94,133,278 Warner Bros.
11 The Upside of Anger 1,249,125 1,853,260 -32.6 167 3 7,480 4,015,047 New Line
12 Constantine 1,237,064 2,325,359 -46.8 1,005 6 1,231 72,680,301 Warner Bros.
13 Diary of a Mad Black Woman 982,934 2,402,875 -59.1 802 5 1,226 49,433,714 Lions Gate
14 Melinda and Melinda 740,619 74,238 897.6 95 2 7,796 989,814 Fox Searchlight
15 Sideways 578,495 928,147 -37.7 413 22 1,401 70,437,851 Fox Searchlight
16 Downfall 553,538 590,498 -6.3 128 6 4,325 2,207,036 Newmarket
17 Millions 488,044 202,715 140.8 77 3 6,338 917,265 Fox Searchlight
18 Bride & Prejudice 484,423 637,836 -24.1 261 6 1,856 5,577,333 Miramax
19 The Aviator 461,719 899,062 -48.6 405 14 1,140 101,270,465 Miramax
20 Meet the Fockers 349,835 374,105 -6.5 350 13 1,000 277,642,295 Universal
Top 5 $ 69,333,529 $ 81,909,361 -15.4
Top 10 86,905,815 102,520,232 -15.2
Top 20 94,031,611 110,294,203 -14.7
Top 20 vs. 2004 94,031,611 114,307,003 -17.7

Last Updated : March 28, 2005 at 7:30PM EST