Weekend Box Office (April 16 - 18, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Hollywood's major studios were absent from the win, place, and show positions at the North American box office as smaller distributors topped the charts led by Miramax's Kill Bill Vol. 2. Lions Gate opened its comic-based action film The Punisher in second place while Fox Searchlight witnessed a strong hold for its comedy Johnson Family Vacation which remained in third place. NewMarket Films, on the other hand, saw sales tumble for The Passion of the Christ now that Easter has passed. Overall, the box office experienced its first year-to-year decline since the Biblical blockbuster first opened in February.

Moviegoers lined up for the conclusion of Quentin Tarantino's two-part revenge tale as Kill Bill Vol. 2 opened with $25.1M over the weekend, according to final studio figures, generating the third largest April bow in history. The Uma Thurman starrer averaged a muscular $8,450 from 2,971 theaters and beat out the $22.1M debut of last October's Kill Bill Vol. 1 by 14%. Backed by favorable reviews, Vol. 2 marked a career best opening for Tarantino. R-rated films have now topped the charts for six of the last eight weeks. The only April titles to ever open bigger were Anger Management ($42.2M) and The Scorpion King ($36.1M).

Opening in second place was another revenge-driven action film, the Lions Gate release The Punisher with $13.8M. The Thomas Jane-John Travolta pic averaged a solid $5,223 from 2,649 theaters despite facing competition from Kill Bill. Based on the Marvel Comics character, The Punisher was the widest release ever for Lions Gate and not surprisingly gave the company its largest opening ever.

Posting a terrific hold in its second weekend was Cedric the Entertainer's comedy Johnson Family Vacation which dipped only 37% to $6M. The Fox Searchlight release is taking advantage of good word-of-mouth and a lack of direct competition banking $21M in 12 days. Look for the $12M production to reach the area of $40M in grosses.

Sony's comic book actioner Hellboy fell 48% to $5.7M in its third weekend for a $50.3M cume. The animated comedy Home on the Range held up well dipping just 32% to $5.5M giving the Disney pic $37.8M in 17 days.

Dropping 35% was the canine comedy Scooby Doo 2 with $5.2M and a solid $72.3M to date. The Rock followed in seventh place with the action remake Walking Tall which grossed $4.6M lifting the sum to $36.6M. The smallest decline in the top ten was generated by Miramax's Ella Enchanted which eased only 31% to $4.2M in its sophomore frame. The fairy tale pic has taken in $13.6M thus far and is headed towards $25-30M.

In ninth place was Buena Vista's expensive bomb The Alamo which collapsed 55% in its second weekend to $4.1M. With a production budget hovering in the $100M range, the historical war drama has taken in only $16.4M and is set to conclude its run with an embarrassing $23-25M.

With the passing of Easter, The Passion of the Christ saw sales tumble 73% to $4.1M as last week's number one film tumbled down to tenth place. Mel Gibson's runaway hit has rung up $360.8M and on Friday passed Jurassic Park ($357.1M in 1993) to claim the number seven position on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters. With the holy holidays now gone, moviegoers no longer find Passion as topical so more large declines should follow. By the end of its run, the Biblical epic should reach about $375M domestically.

Universal's drag queen comedy Connie and Carla debuted outside of the top ten with $3.3M from 1,014 theaters. Averaging a poor $3,210 per location, the $27M film stars Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette and understandably attracted a mature female audience. According to studio research, 76% of the crowd was over the age of 30 while two-thirds were female.

A pair of sophomore comedies fell from the top ten over the weekend. The Whole Ten Yards starring Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry fell 46% to $3.6M putting the ten-day total at just $12.5M. The critically-panned Warner Bros. sequel should find its way to a poor $22-24M, or less than half of the $57.3M of 2000's The Whole Nine Yards.

Fox's teen comedy The Girl Next Door plunged 54% in its second weekend to $2.8M leaving the film with only $11M in ten days. Look for a disappointing $16-18M final.

The top ten films grossed $78.3M which was down 7% from last year's Easter frame when Anger Management remained at number one with $25M; and down 12% from 2002 when The Scorpion King debuted in the top spot with $36.1M.

Compared to projections, Kill Bill Vol. 2 opened a bit higher than my $23M forecast while The Punisher debuted better than my $10M prediction. Connie and Carla was on target with my $3M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on a sequel to Hellboy. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Kill Bill Vol. 2 would go on to gross more or less than the $70M of Vol. 1. Of 2,932 responses, 61% chose More while 39% said Less.

For a review of Kill Bill Vol. 2 visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Man on Fire and 13 Going On 30 both open.

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

# Title Apr 16 - 18 Apr 9 - 11 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Kill Bill Vol. 2 $ 25,104,949 2,971 1 $ 8,450 $ 25,104,949 Miramax
2 The Punisher 13,834,527 2,649 1 5,223 13,834,527 Lions Gate
3 Johnson Family Vacation 5,950,280 9,375,307 -36.5 1,326 2 4,487 20,977,918 Fox Searchlight
4 Hellboy 5,652,030 10,824,129 -47.8 2,897 3 1,951 50,308,617 Sony
5 Home on the Range 5,507,064 8,105,171 -32.1 2,735 3 2,014 37,782,081 Buena Vista
6 Scooby Doo 2 5,227,232 8,015,496 -34.8 2,810 4 1,860 72,307,969 Warner Bros.
7 Walking Tall 4,601,007 8,442,008 -45.5 2,444 3 1,883 36,634,257 MGM
8 Ella Enchanted 4,241,089 6,169,030 -31.3 1,939 2 2,187 13,579,980 Miramax
9 The Alamo 4,138,571 9,124,701 -54.6 2,609 2 1,586 16,402,427 Buena Vista
10 The Passion of the Christ 4,051,112 15,216,723 -73.4 2,848 8 1,422 360,761,619 NewMarket
11 The Whole Ten Yards 3,585,434 6,685,381 -46.4 2,654 1 1,351 12,488,847 Warner Bros.
12 The Prince and Me 3,344,157 5,388,594 -37.9 2,059 2 1,624 24,316,910 Paramount
13 Connie and Carla 3,254,940 1,014 3,210 3,254,940 Universal
14 The Girl Next Door 2,757,145 6,003,806 -54.1 2,142 1 1,287 11,016,963 Fox
15 The Ladykillers 2,482,856 4,576,730 -45.8 1,534 3 1,619 34,455,415 Buena Vista
16 Jersey Girl 1,462,007 2,954,504 -50.5 1,428 3 1,024 23,530,359 Miramax
17 Eternal Sunshine 1,367,316 2,447,862 -44.1 575 4 2,378 28,106,424 Focus
18 Starsky and Hutch 824,379 1,338,227 -38.4 702 6 1,174 86,035,421 Warner Bros.
19 Dawn of the Dead 729,265 1,904,965 -61.7 688 4 1,060 56,965,120 Universal
20 Hidalgo 648,739 1,108,094 -41.5 532 6 1,219 64,065,370 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 56,048,850 $ 52,982,868 5.8
Top 10 78,307,861 87,961,752 -11.0
Top 20 98,764,099 110,894,762 -10.9
Top 20 vs. 2003 98,764,099 99,761,438 -1.0

Last Updated : April 19, 2004 at 5:15PM EDT

Gitesh Pandya can be seen each Friday on "The Biz" airing at 12:30pm ET on CNNfn.