Weekend Box Office (April 8 - 10, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND For the second straight weekend, action defeated comedy as the Africa-set adventure Sahara claimed the number one spot in its opening while the date comedy Fever Pitch settled for third place in the standings. Sandwiched in between the new releases was former box office leader Sin City. Most holdovers witnessed strong declines during a sluggish frame as the top ten slipped to its lowest point of the year.

Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz discovered a number one opening for their new action pic Sahara which grossed $18.1M, according to final studio figures, to easily lead all films at the North American box office. Averaging a solid $5,729 from 3,154 theaters, the PG-13 film debuted with results that were very close to last spring's Viggo Mortensen desert flick Hidalgo which launched with $18.8M. Sahara played to an older audience but was evenly appealing to men and women. Paramount research indicated that 64% of the audience was over 25 while 51% was male. Produced for more than $120M, the studio will be handling distribution in North America, Australia, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Sahara, by outperforming Fever Pitch this weekend, showed that often it is easier to attract women to an action movie than it is to get men to see romantic comedies.

Last weekend's number one film, the stylish and violent crime thriller Sin City, dropped 51% in its second weekend and took the runnerup spot with $14.2M. Falling at a rate that is common for the genre, the R-rated film has grossed $50.8M in ten days and seems on course for a $80-85M final.

Finishing in third place was the new romantic comedy Fever Pitch starring Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon with $12.4M. Playing in 3,267 stadiums, the PG-13 film averaged a mediocre $3,796 per theater. The story about a business woman who must cope with her boyfriend's obsession with the Boston Red Sox tried to appeal to both genders with its combination of romance and sports. However, Fallon and baseball were not enough to draw in a sizable male audience as Fever Pitch played out like a typical Drew Barrymore film skewing young female. According to Fox research, the $30M film attracted an audience that was 58% female and 55% under 25. Hurting Pitch's chances for a bigger opening was competition from five other comedies in the top ten including two, Beauty Shop and Miss Congeniality 2, which also came from popular actresses who also served as producers like Barrymore did with her latest effort.

A string of recent comedies followed led by Sony's Bernie Mac-Ashton Kutcher pic Guess Who which grossed $7M, off 45%, putting the 17-day cume at $51M. Queen Latifah took fifth with $6.8M for Beauty Shop, down 47% in its second weekend, for a 12-day sum of $26.1M. MGM should find itself with about $40-45M overall.

Tumbling 53% to $4.7M was the Fox toon Robots which has taken in $111M to date. The Sandra Bullock sequel Miss Congeniality 2 followed with $4.2M in its third frame, falling 49%, for a cume of $37.5M. Disney's The Pacifier fell 46% to $3.1M and put its total at $100.6M becoming the third release of 2005 to join the century club after fellow comedies Hitch and Robots.

The horror sequel The Ring Two finished in ninth with $2.9M, down 50%, lifting the total to $72.3M. Rounding out the top ten was the Joan Allen-Kevin Costner film The Upside of Anger which eased 38% to $2.5M giving New Line a sum of $12.3M.

Stephen Chow's martial arts comedy Kung Fu Hustle packed an explosive punch in its debut grossing $269,225 from only seven theaters for an eye-popping $38,461 average. The R-rated extravaganza bowed in New York and Los Angeles and was backed by an intriguing print ad campaign highlighting each of a dozen different colorful characters. The debut average for the Sony Pictures Classics release powered ahead of other recent speciality bows including Million Dollar Baby which averaged $22,494 from eight sites, Finding Neverland which averaged $27,565 from eight locations, and the distributor's own Chinese epic House of Flying Daggers which averaged $26,498 from 15 theaters. Kung Fu Hustle, a gangster pic that was a smash hit in Asia this past winter, will expand to major markets across North America on April 22.

Also premiering in limited release was Warner Independent Pictures' three-in-one film Eros which grossed $53,666 from a dozen sites for a mild $4,472 average. The R-rated film features a trio of stories from directors Wong Kar-Wai, Steven Soderbergh, and Michelangelo Antonioni and stars Gong Li, Robert Downey Jr. and Alan Arkin.

A pair of films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The year's biggest blockbuster Hitch declined 41% in its ninth date to $1.7M to push its stellar cume to a charming $173.8M. The $70M Sony smash should conclude with about $177M. Disney's The Ice Princess fell 45% to $1.5M in its fourth outing to push its tally to $20.9M. The teen tale looks to end with roughly $24M.

The top ten films grossed $75.8M which was down 14% from last year when The Passion of the Christ reclaimed the number one slot over Easter weekend with $15.2M; and down 7% from 2003 when Anger Management debuted in the top spot with $42.2M.

Compared to projections, Sahara opened on target with my $18M forecast while Fever Pitch debuted weaker than my $20M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the James Bond franchise. In last week's survey, readers were asked if they wanted to see DreamWorks make a third Ring picture. Of 1,605 responses, 24% voted Yes while 76% indicated No.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Amityville Horror opens.

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

# Title Apr 8 - 10 Apr 1 - 3 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Sahara $ 18,068,372 3,154 1 $ 5,729 $ 18,068,372 Paramount
2 Sin City 14,154,696 29,120,273 -51.4 3,230 2 4,382 50,762,939 Miramax
3 Fever Pitch 12,400,125 3,267 1 3,796 12,400,125 Fox
4 Guess Who 7,018,395 12,716,557 -44.8 3,064 3 2,291 51,021,623 Sony
5 Beauty Shop 6,808,532 12,801,465 -46.8 2,659 2 2,561 26,124,657 MGM
6 Robots 4,652,252 9,825,372 -52.7 2,713 5 1,715 111,040,714 Fox
7 Miss Congeniality 2 4,184,319 8,134,453 -48.6 3,011 3 1,390 37,532,083 Warner Bros.
8 The Pacifier 3,116,340 5,800,206 -46.3 2,375 6 1,312 100,566,320 Buena Vista
9 The Ring Two 2,867,390 5,689,130 -49.6 2,407 4 1,191 72,279,279 DreamWorks
10 The Upside of Anger 2,500,503 4,025,000 -37.9 1,151 5 2,172 12,256,474 New Line
11 Hitch 1,706,346 2,906,879 -41.3 1,478 9 1,154 173,768,723 Sony
12 Ice Princess 1,507,317 2,749,671 -45.2 1,419 4 1,062 20,942,437 Buena Vista
13 Hostage 1,185,551 2,335,451 -49.2 1,269 5 934 32,234,819 Miramax
14 Million Dollar Baby 702,019 1,466,429 -52.1 857 17 819 97,825,712 Warner Bros.
15 Melinda and Melinda 520,502 558,707 -6.8 294 4 1,770 2,450,648 Fox Searchlight
16 Millions 435,011 483,815 -10.1 176 5 2,472 2,145,138 Fox Searchlight
17 Downfall 371,125 531,980 -30.2 174 8 2,133 3,646,687 Newmarket
18 Be Cool 354,211 1,049,063 -66.2 564 6 628 55,181,399 MGM
19 Kung Fu Hustle 269,225 7 1 38,461 269,225 Sony Classics
20 Meet the Fockers 267,605 276,990 -3.4 299 15 895 278,487,890 Universal
Top 5 $ 58,450,120 $ 72,598,120 -19.5
Top 10 75,770,924 93,769,006 -19.2
Top 20 83,089,836 101,623,073 -18.2
Top 20 vs. 2004 83,089,836 110,894,762 -25.1

Last Updated : April 11, 2005 at 8:45PM EDT