Weekend Box Office (May 4 - 6, 2007)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND In the most lopsided box office victory in history, the hugely anticipated super sequel Spider-Man 3 swung into theaters and monopolized the marketplace breaking the all-time records for both opening day and opening weekend in the process. Sony unleashed its summer behemoth worldwide and also shattered the record for the biggest global debut ever as it conquered the box office in over 100 countries. Final grosses turned out to be even stronger than originally estimated indicating better-than-expected Sunday sales. The summer movie season could not have asked for a better way to begin.

Following a tidal wave of hype, Spider-Man 3 exploded on the scene and grossed an eye-popping $151.1M during its opening weekend in North America, according to final studio figures, breaking the previous record of $135.6M set last summer by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest by a healthy 11%. The super hero flick opened in 4,252 theaters (also a record) and averaged a staggering $35,540 for Sony. The smash hit also set a new Imax record with $4.8M from those large-format engagements beating 300's old mark set two months ago by 33%. Imax presentations, despite their higher ticket prices, were reportedly sold out from coast to coast.

Overseas, Spider-Man 3 began its global assault on Tuesday May 1 in several key nations in Asia and Europe and has since grossed a mammoth $231M from over 8,900 theaters in 105 international territories putting its worldwide cume at a gargantuan $382M in a mere six days. In less than one week around the world, SM3 has already reached nearly half of the total global gross of Spider-Man 2 which hauled in $784M in 2004.

Domestically, the new webslinger adventure kicked things off on Friday with a record $59.8M in its first day beating the former record Chest set with $55.8M. Both figures included shows beginning at midnight on Thursday night. Spidey dropped 14% on Saturday to $51.3M and dipped another 22% on Sunday to $39.9M. According to Sony research, the opening weekend audience skewed towards young men as expected. Males made up 54% of the crowd while 63% were under the age of 25.

Spider-Man 3 reunited director Sam Raimi with his key actors Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco. Joining the cast were Topher Grace, Thomas Haden Church, and Bryce Dallas Howard. Critics had mixed feelings with many calling it the worst of the series. Part 3 scored a 62% Fresh rating on RottenTomatoes.com compared to 90% for the first Spidey flick and 93% for the second installment. Moviegoers, however, did not care as they showed up anyway in unprecedented numbers proving that SM3 was indeed a critic-proof blockbuster. The film's long-term success will rely more on word-of-mouth from fans, rather than a thumbs up or down from reviewers. Users of Yahoo Movies have given it a mild B grade from over 23,000 votes which could mean that fans are not exactly ecstatic.

Spider-Man 3 carries a reported production cost of $258M, although many industry watchers believe it to be much higher. Despite its sky high budget, the PG-13 film has enjoyed such a strong start that it has a good chance of surging past the $822M worldwide gross of the first Spider-Man and could even approach the $1 billion mark. Buzz from fans will of course be a major factor in helping the Venom pic spread.

Competition, or a lack of it, was a key contributor to the record opening. There were absolutely no other films that energized audiences as every wide release failed to reach an average of even $1,900. That allowed the newest Spider-Man pic to account for a jaw-dropping 80% of the entire box office pie and dominate the marketplace with ease. Led almost exclusively by Peter Parker and friends, the top ten powered its way to an incredible $178.5M - its highest level since the Pirates sequel bowed last summer. It was an astonishing reversal from the previous weekend when the box office slumped to a seven-month low.

With nothing else worthy to program, multiplexes had no problem opening up screens. Sony did not report its official screen count but industry insiders note that it was over 10,000. By comparison, screen counts for previous blockbuster openers were 9,400 for Star Wars Episode III, 8,500 for Dead Man's Chest, and 7,500 for the first Spider-Man which opened five years ago this same weekend and also broke the all-time opening weekend record. The extra screens for the new film allowed Sony to absorb all demand right away and leave almost nothing on the table.

Next weekend, Spider-Man 3 will have little to worry about as nothing huge is opening, but the week after that is when Shrek the Third launches followed seven days later by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End over the lucrative Memorial Day holiday frame. Peter Parker will grasp tightly onto his records for now since Captain Jack Sparrow would like nothing more than to swipe them once again.

A few moviegoers did in fact choose to see other films this weekend in auditoriums which offered plenty of empty space. Three-time chart-topper Disturbia was bumped to the number two spot, but held up well considering the new competition. The Paramount thriller dropped by only 35% to $5.8M and boosted its 24-day cume to $60M, or about what Spidey did in its first day. New Line's courthouse thriller Fracture followed with $3.7M in its third weekend, down 46%, and lifted its sum to $26.7M.

The teen horror flick The Invisible ranked fourth and tumbled 58% in its sophomore frame to $3.3M. Buena Vista has scared up $12.5M in ten days and looks headed for a $16-18M finish. Nicolas Cage suffered the worst drop in the top ten as his latest action film Next crashed 60% and took in $2.9M this weekend. With a poor ten-day tally of $12M, Paramount will sputter to a horrendous $15-17M for the pricey star vehicle.

The much-delayed poker drama Lucky You had the unlucky fortune of opening against Spider-Man 3 and suffered an embarrassing debut. The Curtis Hanson-directed pic bowed to $2.7M from 2,525 locations for a dismal $1,073 average. The Warner Bros. release starring Eric Bana and Drew Barrymore met with bad marks from critics and total apathy from ticket buyers.

3D toon Meet the Robinsons fell 46% to seventh with $2.6M in its sixth frame for an impressive cume of $91.9M. Also in its sixth weekend, fellow spring hit Blades of Glory collected $2.4M, down 53%, giving Paramount $111.7M to date.

The action-comedy Hot Fuzz tumbled 55% in its third weekend to $2.2M. Focus has grossed $16.3M thus far. Rounding out the top ten was Sony's Ice Cube sequel Are We Done Yet? which dropped 49% to $1.7M leading to a total of $46.2M.

A pair of well-reviewed arthouse films aimed at adult women debuted to solid results in limited release as alternatives to the Spidey action. Fox Searchlight opened its Sundance acquisition Waitress to $92,034 from only four theaters in New York and Los Angeles averaging a potent $23,009 per location. The Keri Russell starrer directed by the late Adrienne Shelly will expand to 21 cities on Friday for a total of 62 theaters. Cume since the Wednesday launch is $111,708. The Alzheimer's drama Away From Her from actress-turned-director Sarah Polley bowed to $53,267 from four locations for a sturdy $13,317 average for Lionsgate.

A pair of underachievers fell out of the top ten this weekend. Sony's motel terrorfest Vacancy dropped a steep 62% to $1.5M upping its cume to only $16.5M. The Lionsgate action pic The Condemned crumbled even further collapsing 67% in its second weekend to $1.3M for a weak ten-day sum of $6.2M. Final grosses should end up with disappointing totals of $19M and $7M, respectively.

The top ten films soared to $178.5M which was up an astounding 90% from last year when Mission: Impossible III opened at number one with $47.7M; and up a staggering 135% from 2005 when Kingdom of Heaven debuted on top with just $19.6M.

Compared to projections, Spider-Man 3 opened north of my $140M forecast while Lucky You debuted below my $7M prediction.

For a NEW review of Spider-Man 3 visit The Chief Report.

Visit BoxOfficeGuru.com this week for daily Spider-Man 3 box office updates.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Georgia Rule, 28 Weeks Later, The Ex, and Delta Farce all open.

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

# Title May 4 - 6 Apr 27 - 29 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Spider-Man 3 $ 151,116,516 4,252 1 $ 35,540 $ 151,116,516 Sony
2 Disturbia 5,844,363 9,023,835 -35.2 3,132 4 1,866 60,007,779 Paramount
3 Fracture 3,696,060 6,814,714 -45.8 2,365 3 1,563 26,728,823 New Line
4 The Invisible 3,261,374 7,717,309 -57.7 2,019 2 1,615 12,482,712 Buena Vista
5 Next 2,892,335 7,133,049 -59.5 2,733 2 1,058 11,958,976 Paramount
6 Lucky You 2,710,445 2,525 1 1,073 2,710,445 Warner Bros.
7 Meet the Robinsons 2,619,654 4,840,972 -45.9 2,107 6 1,243 91,925,051 Buena Vista
8 Blades of Glory 2,409,106 5,164,364 -53.4 2,113 6 1,140 111,738,387 Paramount
9 Hot Fuzz 2,219,346 4,876,867 -54.5 1,266 3 1,753 16,310,098 Focus
10 Are We Done Yet? 1,744,619 3,450,922 -49.4 1,704 5 1,024 46,150,924 Sony
11 Vacancy 1,546,033 4,112,502 -62.4 1,698 3 911 16,531,942 Sony
12 The Condemned 1,263,036 3,807,595 -66.8 2,310 2 547 6,210,481 Lionsgate
13 Wild Hogs 909,524 1,840,994 -50.6 960 10 947 160,102,549 Buena Vista
14 Kickin' It Old Skool 834,239 2,541,419 -67.2 1,585 2 526 3,750,677 Yari
15 In the Land of Women 778,297 2,657,425 -70.7 1,008 3 772 10,087,134 Warner Bros.
16 Perfect Stranger 575,757 2,172,323 -73.5 625 4 921 22,892,481 Sony
17 The Namesake 486,033 721,024 -32.6 282 9 1,724 11,482,531 Fox Searchlight
18 Black Book 430,815 391,356 10.1 153 5 2,816 1,758,018 Sony Classics
19 300 419,317 1,387,466 -69.8 433 9 968 207,871,046 Warner Bros.
20 The Reaping 302,141 712,294 -57.6 476 5 635 24,675,635 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 166,810,648 $ 35,853,271 365.3
Top 10 178,513,818 56,942,129 213.5
Top 20 186,059,010 71,063,278 161.8
Top 20 vs. 2006 186,059,010 106,534,327 74.6

Last Updated: May 7, 2007 at 10:30PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Friday at 9:50am ET.