Weekend Box Office (April 29 - May 1, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND What was expected to be an explosive frame to kickstart the summer box office ended up becoming the tenth consecutive down weekend for Hollywood as a pair of big-budget action films failed to ignite overall ticket sales. Capturing the top spot with a solid launch was the sci-fi entry The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy but the action sequel XXX: State of the Union was clobbered in its launch and finished in third place despite a heavy marketing push. Industry hopes for a much-needed rebound as the summer blockbusters start lining up for takeoff were dashed. Despite the openings of two major contenders, the top ten actually slipped 1% from last weekend and dropped 7% from last year when no summer blockbusters were launched.

Fans of the popular sci-fi novel powered the film adaptation of Hitchhiker's Guide to the top of the charts with $21.1M over the weekend, according to final studio figures. Warping into 3,133 theaters, the PG-rated film averaged a healthy $6,736 per location. The Garth Jennings-directed intergalactic adventure stars Martin Freeman of the award-winning BBC series The Office as an Earth chap who travels the universe with an assortment of colorful characters played by Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, and John Malkovich. Buena Vista successfully tapped into a built-in audience of fans eager to see the big-screen version of the beloved series of Douglas Adams books and positive reviews from critics helped the cause too. Hitchhiker also opened at number one in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom over the frame with a combined $8.3M. The sci-fi film's victory over XXX this weekend gives merit to Hollywood's move away from sequels this summer and towards remakes and adaptations.

With the frame's two new releases aiming for young males, last week's box office champ The Interpreter, which boasts a core audience of older women and adults, posted a strong second weekend hold dropping 39% to $13.8M. After ten days, the $80M espionage thriller has grossed $43.2M and is headed for a $80-85M final take from North America. Overseas, the Nicole Kidman-Sean Penn film grossed an estimated $7.1M from 33 territories this weekend upping its international total to $39M. Like in the States, the United Nations tale ranks ahead of the debuting XXX in markets such as Germany, Mexico, and Argentina.

Opening poorly in third place and lacking the bang the industry was expecting from it was Sony's action sequel XXX: State of the Union which grossed $12.7M. The PG-13 film about a renegade agent assigned to prevent the overthrow of the U.S. government averaged a flabby $3,653 from an ultrawide 3,480 theaters. Gone were star Vin Diesel and director Rob Cohen from the first XXX which exploded on the scene in August 2002 with $44.5M on its way to $142.1M. Pinch hitting were Ice Cube and director Lee Tamahori who last helmed the hugely successful James Bond pic Die Another Day. The pricey $87M XXX sequel grossed less in its entire opening weekend than the original did in its opening day.

Though Cube has proven himself to be a potent draw in comedies like the Friday and Barbershop flicks as well as this year's family hit Are We There Yet?, he failed to bring in the crowds this weekend to State of the Union as fans just did not buy him in the slam-bang action hero role. Plus with the rapper-turned-actor lacking the pull with females that Diesel boasts, it made selling the sequel even tougher. Not surprisingly, studio research showed that the audience this weekend was an incredibly high 64% male and 53% under 25.

How bad was the new XXX's opening? Last summer's action flops Catwoman and King Arthur both debuted stronger as did the epic disaster Alexander despite playing in one thousand fewer theaters. With such a poor showing, XXX now joins other action franchises like Tomb Raider, Charlie's Angels, and Daredevil that will probably not live to see a third installment.

Sony launched day-and-date openings for State of the Union around the world and was met with ho-hum results abroad too with a combined $15M overseas. The actioner failed to claim the number one spot in major markets such as Germany, Mexico, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Spain, however, did deliver a top spot bow.

Displaying another strong hold in its third weekend, MGM's The Amityville Horror dropped 43% to $7.9M pushing the 17-day total to a solid $54.8M. The durable horror remake is now running only 17% behind the pace of 2003's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but 6% ahead of last year's Dawn of the Dead.

Off 37% in its fourth adventure was the Matthew McConaughey actioner Sahara with $5.7M giving Paramount $56.9M to date. Buena Vista's romantic comedy A Lot Like Love dipped only 33% in its second date grossing $5.1M for a ten-day tally of $14.6M. A final take of about $30M seems likely.

Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon followed in seventh place with Fever Pitch which caught $3.5M, off 36%, raising its count to $36.3M. The martial arts comedy Kung Fu Hustle got kicked down 51% to $3.3M in its second weekend of national play. Sony Classics has taken in $12.7M to date and should reach $20-22M.

Robots eased 34% in its eighth session and grossed $2.3M bringing Fox's animated comedy up to $123.3M to date. Rounding out the top ten was the Bernie Mac-Ashton Kutcher comedy Guess Who with $2.2M, down 39%, for a cume of $65.4M.

Two very different spring titles dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Miramax's ultra-violent action hit Sin City fell 46% in its fifth battle and took in $2M pushing the cume to $70.6M. The stylish crime thriller should finish with about $75M. New Line's comedy flop King's Ransom tumbled 61% in its sophomore frame to $831,925 putting its ten-day total at only $3.5M. The Anthony Anderson film looks to end its run quickly with a miserable $5M.

The top ten films grossed $77.6M which was off 7% from last year when Mean Girls opened at number one with $24.4M; and down a steep 44% from 2003 when X2: X-Men United debuted in the top spot launching the summer season with $85.6M.

Compared to projections, Hitchhiker's Guide opened on target with my $21M forecast while XXX debuted with less than half of my $28M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on whether or not Kingdom of Heaven will open with at least $25M. In last week's survey, readers were asked if XXX would debut with more or less than $30M. Of 1,307 responses, 28% said More while 72% correctly selected Less.

Be sure to read the annual BoxOfficeGuru.com Summer Box Office Preview highlighting the hits and misses of the upcoming movie season. For NEW reviews of House of Wax and Hitchhiker's Guide, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Kingdom of Heaven, House of Wax, and Crash all open.

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

# Title Apr 29 - May 1 Apr 22 - 24 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy $ 21,103,203 3,133 1 $ 6,736 $ 21,103,203 Buena Vista
2 The Interpreter 13,833,815 22,822,455 -39.4 2,764 2 5,005 43,152,385 Universal
3 XXX: State of the Union 12,712,272 3,480 1 3,653 12,712,272 Sony
4 The Amityville Horror 7,862,157 13,707,999 -42.6 3,058 3 2,571 54,816,999 MGM
5 Sahara 5,708,332 9,027,885 -36.8 3,112 4 1,834 56,885,831 Paramount
6 A Lot Like Love 5,084,727 7,576,593 -32.9 2,502 2 2,032 14,561,119 Buena Vista
7 Fever Pitch 3,532,813 5,509,381 -35.9 2,192 4 1,612 36,317,491 Fox
8 Kung Fu Hustle 3,317,955 6,749,572 -50.8 2,440 4 1,360 12,653,318 Sony Classics
9 Robots 2,269,605 3,417,363 -33.6 1,782 8 1,274 123,300,061 Fox
10 Guess Who 2,151,446 3,513,837 -38.8 1,863 6 1,155 65,434,348 Sony
11 Sin City 2,011,933 3,726,675 -46.0 1,665 5 1,208 70,605,067 Miramax
12 The Pacifier 1,351,787 2,106,224 -35.8 1,224 9 1,104 108,377,223 Buena Vista
13 Miss Congeniality 2 1,037,380 1,807,426 -42.6 1,108 6 936 45,942,267 Warner Bros.
14 Beauty Shop 901,489 1,961,024 -54.0 905 5 996 35,426,139 MGM
15 King's Ransom 831,925 2,137,685 -61.1 1,508 2 552 3,499,259 New Line
16 Millions 600,918 667,848 -10.0 340 8 1,767 4,615,070 Fox Searchlight
17 The Upside of Anger 600,022 994,481 -39.7 816 8 735 17,717,325 New Line
18 Hitch 447,498 738,440 -39.4 461 12 971 177,207,898 Sony
19 Enron 411,960 76,639 437.5 49 2 8,407 523,774 Magnolia
20 Ice Princess 352,011 582,535 -39.6 458 7 769 23,583,376 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 61,219,779 $ 59,884,504 2.2
Top 10 77,576,325 78,189,445 -0.8
Top 20 86,123,248 88,383,478 -2.6
Top 20 vs. 2004 86,123,248 95,714,938 -10.0

Last Updated : May 2, 2005 at 5:45PM EDT