Weekend Box Office (April 30 - May 2, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Paramount scored straight A's with the high school comedy Mean Girls which powered well ahead of the loftiest industry expectations to take the number one spot at the North American box office grossing more than the frame's four other new releases combined. Overall sales were exceptionally robust during the normally sluggish final weekend of April which bodes well for the upcoming summer movie season which kicks off next weekend.

Delivering the fourth largest April opening ever, the Lindsay Lohan teen pic Mean Girls grossed $24.4M over the weekend, according to final studio figures, and cemented the position of the young actress as one of the most bankable teen stars working in the business today. Debuting in 2,839 theaters, the PG-13 film averaged a vibrant $8,606 per location. Mean Girls co-starred Party of Five's Lacey Chabert and Saturday Night Live faces Tim Meadows and Tina Fey. Behind-the-camera duties were taken by director Mark Waters (Freaky Friday), SNL producer Lorne Michaels, and writer Fey of the long-running sketch comedy show.

Critics were very supportive of Mean Girls which opened better than most recent films aimed at teenage girls. The muscular bow beat out the single-digit openings of numerous other films this year as well as Lohan's own Freaky Friday ($22.2M), The Princess Diaries ($22.9M), and the Hillary Duff pic The Lizzie McGuire Movie ($17.3M). With a budget of only $17M, Mean Girls connected with the young female crowd. Exit polls showed that a remarkably high 75% was female and half was under the age of 18. Paramount, which hasn't had a number-one hit since October's School of Rock, will face direct competition next weekend when Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen make their box office debut in New York Minute. The saturation launch of Universal's monster flick Van Helsing won't help either. But for now, Paramount has a very profitable hit on its hands.

Despite the strength of Girls, Man on Fire was still a strong contender in its second weekend with $15M. The Denzel Washington-Dakota Fanning kidnapping picture displayed a dazzling hold sliding just 34% and lifted its ten-day cume to a solid $44.3M. The $70M film generated the smallest decline Washington has seen in some time as most of his films drop 45-50% in their sophomore frames. Man on Fire should find its way to about $80-90M.

Hit hard by the arrival of Mean Girls was the comedy 13 Going on 30 which tumbled 53% to $9.9M in its second weekend. Despite good reviews and positive word-of-mouth, the Sony title lost much of its core audience of young females to Lindsay and the gals but did manage to boost its ten-day gross to an encouraging $35.1M. Produced for $37M, the Jennifer Garner film should find its way to around $60M.

Fighting over fourth place were the new films Laws of Attraction, a marital comedy starring Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore, and the cloning thriller Godsend with Greg Kinnear and Robert De Niro. New Line opened Laws to the tune of $6.7M from 2,449 venues for a mild $2,748 average. Godsend was slighly ahead with $6.8M from 2,323 theaters giving the Lions Gate title a sluggish $2,928 average. Neither film was received well by critics.

The pairing of funny men Ben Stiller and Jack Black meant little for the DreamWorks comedy Envy which opened in sixth place with $6.2M. Averaging a weak $2,520 per site in 2,445 theaters, the PG-13 movie appealed mostly to a young male audience. According to studio research, 61% of the audience was male while 70% was age 25 or under. Directed by Barry Levinson, the much-delayed Envy did not capitalize on the rising draw of its stars. Black anchored last fall's School of Rock while Stiller has starred in this year's hit comedies Along Came Polly and Starsky & Hutch. Each film has grossed more than $80M domestically.

Vengeance films in their third weekends followed. Miramax's Kill Bill Vol. 2 dropped 44% to $5.9M for a $52.7M cume. The Punisher collected $3.5M for Lions Gate and upped its total to $29.7M. Family films rounded out the top ten with grosses of $2.3M each. Disney's Home on the Range fell 35% and has grossed $45.6M to date while Scooby Doo 2 slipped 33% giving the Warner Bros. sequel $79.7M so far.

Entering the marketplace with a weak putt was the golfer biopic Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius with $1.2M from 1,332 locations. The Film Foundry release, which stars Jim Caviezel as the Depression-era champ, averaged a dismal $925 per theater and suffered the worst opening this year for a wide release.

Four films from early April dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Fox Searchlight's comedy Johnson Family Vacation dropped 37% to $1.95M and pushed its total to $27.5M. Produced for only $12M, the Cedric the Entertainer pic looks to finish with $32-34M. The much more expensive Hellboy fell 41% to $1.8M boosting the cume to $57.5M. The Sony comic book flick should reach $60-63M overall.

Miramax's fairy tale story Ella Enchanted took in $1.8M, off 40%, for a sum of $19.7M. Look for a $22-24M finish. The Rock's actioner Walking Tall dipped 42% to $1.5M. With $42.8M to date, a $45-47M final seems likely.

The top ten films grossed $83M which was down 40% from last year when the summer movie season kicked off with X2: X-Men United which opened at number one with $85.6M; and down 44% from 2002 when Spider-Man launched summer with a record-shattering debut of $114.8M.

Compared to projections, Mean Girls more than doubled my $10M forecast. Laws of Attraction and Godsend both debuted close to my respective predictions of $8M and $6M. Envy and Bobby Jones, however, both premiered below my projections of $9M and $3M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Van Helsing. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of the weekend's new releases would have the biggest opening. Of 1,780 responses, 48% correctly chose Mean Girls, 36% picked Envy, 10% selected Laws of Attraction, and 6% said Godsend.

For a review of Mean Girls visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Van Helsing and New York Minute both open.

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

# Title Apr 30 - May 2 Apr 23 - 25 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Mean Girls $ 24,432,195 2,839 1 $ 8,606 $ 24,432,195 Paramount
2 Man on Fire 15,012,405 22,751,490 -34.0 2,986 2 5,028 44,295,221 Fox
3 13 Going On 30 9,876,246 21,054,238 -53.1 3,453 2 2,860 35,060,728 Sony
4 Godsend 6,800,617 2,323 1 2,928 6,800,617 Lions Gate
5 Laws of Attraction 6,728,905 2,449 1 2,748 6,728,905 New Line
6 Envy 6,160,886 2,445 1 2,520 6,160,886 DreamWorks
7 Kill Bill Vol. 2 5,858,536 10,410,219 -43.7 2,674 3 2,191 52,654,119 Miramax
8 The Punisher 3,499,450 6,287,612 -44.3 2,267 3 1,544 29,740,972 Lions Gate
9 Home on the Range 2,306,510 3,570,296 -35.4 2,010 5 1,148 45,597,280 Buena Vista
10 Scooby Doo 2 2,289,484 3,417,478 -33.0 1,915 6 1,196 79,672,914 Warner Bros.
11 Johnson Family Vacation 1,950,561 3,094,697 -37.0 1,116 4 1,748 27,491,672 Fox Searchlight
12 Hellboy 1,845,434 3,112,647 -40.7 1,563 5 1,181 57,508,487 Sony
13 Ella Enchanted 1,766,395 2,965,922 -40.4 1,923 4 919 19,748,866 Miramax
14 Walking Tall 1,548,273 2,660,332 -41.8 1,589 5 974 42,790,414 MGM
15 The Passion of the Christ 1,407,651 2,216,051 -36.5 1,832 10 768 366,685,267 NewMarket
16 Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius 1,233,297 1,332 1 926 1,233,297 Film Foundry
17 The Alamo 843,528 2,033,127 -58.5 936 4 901 21,215,774 Buena Vista
18 Eternal Sunshine 807,263 1,111,048 -27.3 406 6 1,988 30,928,429 Focus
19 The Ladykillers 715,552 1,495,884 -52.2 764 5 937 37,911,776 Buena Vista
20 Connie and Carla 631,750 1,625,875 -61.1 722 3 875 7,157,515 Universal
Top 5 $ 62,850,368 $ 64,073,855 -1.9
Top 10 82,965,234 79,324,931 4.6
Top 20 95,714,938 92,933,574 3.0
Top 20 vs. 2003 95,714,938 147,524,568 -35.1

Last Updated : May 2, 2004 at 4:45PM EDT

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