Weekend Box Office (May 6 - 8, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Summer blockbusters were once again missing in action as the North American box office continued its slump with less-than-stellar openings for the big-budget epic Kingdom of Heaven and the horror remake House of Wax. The frame's other new release, the crime drama Crash, had a respectable debut in moderate release but overall the top ten dipped from last weekend's disappointing frame and delivered the worst first weekend of May in five years. Visit any multiplex and it felt more like April than May.

With a production budget of more than $140M, Fox's pricey Crusades epic Kingdom of Heaven captured the throne but with a lackluster $19.6M, according to final studio figures, from an ultrawide 3,216 theaters. Averaging $6,106 per site, the R-rated Ridley Scott film stars Orlando Bloom as a French blacksmith who embarks on a journey to Jerusalem to take part in the war between Christians and Muslims for the Holy Land. Following a flood of lavish period epic adventures, Kingdom failed to generate much excitement with moviegoers who have been bombarded with the same thing over and over again. In fact, in the last year and a half, studios have unleashed eight big epics and most consumers felt that a ninth was just not worth the money.

After the domestic failures of Alexander and King Arthur last year, Kingdom also found it hard to reach the box office heights of other R-rated violent war epics like Master and Commander ($25.1M), The Last Samurai ($24.3M), and last May's Troy ($46.9M). Even Scott's own Gladiator fared better five years ago this weekend when it bowed to $34.8M on its way to $187.7M and five Academy Awards including Best Picture. Oscar buzz is not surrounding his latest effort as reviews were mixed. Adult men made up the core crowd as studio research showed that the audience consisted of 52% males and 66% were of age 25 and over. Bloom, anchoring a major film for the first time, failed to draw a sizable paying audience.

Following recent industry trends of a globalized box office, Fox unveiled Heaven worldwide this weekend in about 100 markets with top spot debuts in almost all of them. The total international weekend estimate stood at $56M giving the film a $75.6M crusade around the planet. In some markets like Brazil, the 12th Century tale commanded over half of all ticket sales. The studio now sets its sights on overseas markets for the weeks ahead as films like these tend to perform much better outside of North America. Samurai, Troy, and even Alexander all generated international cumes that were three times domestic.

The first full weekend of May has been used since 1999 as the starting point of the summer movie season with studios scheduling their biggest action blockbusters on the frame hoping large turnouts will give a jumpstart to a long and lucrative season. But audiences are not buying it as the top ten grossed just $76.1M which was the lowest cume for the frame since 2000 when Gladiator launched and powered the top ten to $74M. Adjust for ticket price increases, and the current frame stands as the worst first weekend of May since Hollywood began programming high-profile films on it. For the eleventh straight session, the box office was down when compared to last year with the streak likely to continue until George Lucas takes us on a trip to the dark side.

House of Wax, the latest Hollywood remake of a classic fright flick, bowed in second place with a mediocre $12.1M. The Warner Bros. release played in 3,111 theaters and averaged a mild $3,882 per house. A loose redo of the 1953 Vincent Price favorite, Wax features boob tube stars Elisha Cuthbert (24), Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill), and hotel princess Paris Hilton (The Simple Life) as friends that come across a small town where serial killers encase their victims in wax for display.

The opening continued the diminishing returns seen by the industry from the recent trend of horror remakes. 2003's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre shocked the business with its $28.1M bow prompting all kinds of remakes to be greenlighted. Since then, Dawn of the Dead bowed to $26.7M last spring, this year's The Amityville Horror debuted to $23.5M, and House of Wax has now taken it to a new low as the novelty has begun to wear thin with fans. Reviews were understandably poor for the R-rated film which cost more than $30M to produce. Warner Bros. also launched House in Taiwan and Singapore and grossed an estimated $1.1M from 102 prints over the weekend to claim the runnerup spot in each territory behind Kingdom of Heaven.

Crumbling 54% from its top spot debut last weekend, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy placed third with $9.8M. With $35.8M after ten days of release, the PG-rated sci-fi adventure should find its way to about $55M domestically.

Smashing into fourth place with the second best average in the top ten was the Lions Gate thriller Crash with $9.1M from 1,864 theaters. Averaging a solid $4,886 per location in its opening weekend, the R-rated pic stars Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, and Ludacris and is written and directed by Paul Haggis who was the writer of Million Dollar Baby. Critics were generally pleased with Crash.

Universal's United Nations thriller The Interpreter dropped 44% to $7.8M in its third frame and boosted its domestic tally to $54.4M. Overseas, the Nicole Kidman-Sean Penn pic held up well and lifted its cume to $48.2M for a total worldwide figure to date of $102.6M. Sony's action flop XXX: State of the Union crashed 57% in its second flight and collected $5.5M. Produced for $87M, the Ice Cube film has grossed only $20.9M in ten days and looks to end its term with less than $30M.

The adventure tale Sahara followed with $3.4M, off 40%, giving Paramount $61.6M to date. MGM's spookfest remake The Amityville Horror got hit hard by House of Wax and suffered the worst decline in the top ten tumbling 57% to $3.3M pushing the total to $60.3M.

A pair of spring comedies targeting young women held up well and rounded out the top ten. Ashton Kutcher's A Lot Like Love fell 38% to $3.2M and raised its sum to $18.9M. Fox saw its Drew Barrymore pic Fever Pitch slide 37% to $2.2M pushing the cume to $39.2M.

Three films tumbled out of the top ten over the weekend. The quirky martial arts flick Kung Fu Hustle witnessed a steep 64% fall to $1.2M in its third weekend of wide release. The Sony Pictures Classics title has taken in $14.7M to date and should finish with around $17M. Sony's Bernie Mac-Ashton Kutcher comedy Guess Who also collected $1.2M, off 45%, to put its cume at $67.1M. It looks to reach $69M.

Fox's animated comedy Robots fell 51% and laughed up $1.1M giving the Ewan McGregor-Robin Williams pic $124.8M to date. The PG-rated picutre stands as the second biggest film of 2005, after Hitch, and is set to conclude its run with roughly $126M.

The top ten films grossed $76.1M which was down a disturbing 23% from last year when Van Helsing opened at number one with $51.7M; and down 24% from 2003 when X2: X-Men United remained in the top spot with $40M.

Compared to projections, Kingdom of Heaven and House of Wax both opened below my respective forecasts of $26M and $19M. Crash, on the other hand, debuted a few notches above my $6M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on which film will open at number one this coming weekend. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether or not Kingdom of Heaven would open with at least $25M. Of 1,635 responses, 71% thought Yes while 29% correctly guessed No.

Be sure to read the annual BoxOfficeGuru.com Summer Box Office Preview highlighting the hits and misses of the upcoming movie season.

For a NEW review of House of Wax, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Kicking and Screaming, Monster-in-Law, Unleashed, and Mind Hunters all open.

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

# Title May 6 - 8 Apr 29 - May 1 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Kingdom of Heaven $ 19,635,996 3,216 1 $ 6,106 $ 19,635,996 Fox
2 House of Wax 12,077,236 3,111 1 3,882 12,077,236 Warner Bros.
3 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 9,792,648 21,103,203 -53.6 3,133 2 3,126 35,782,098 Buena Vista
4 Crash 9,107,071 1,864 1 4,886 9,107,071 Lions Gate
5 The Interpreter 7,822,950 13,833,815 -43.5 2,814 3 2,780 54,403,865 Universal
6 XXX: State of the Union 5,520,628 12,712,272 -56.6 3,480 2 1,586 20,902,584 Sony
7 Sahara 3,427,881 5,708,332 -39.9 2,516 5 1,362 61,664,541 Paramount
8 The Amityville Horror 3,347,651 7,862,157 -57.4 2,478 4 1,351 60,308,453 MGM
9 A Lot Like Love 3,156,096 5,084,727 -37.9 2,153 3 1,466 18,912,009 Buena Vista
10 Fever Pitch 2,227,184 3,532,813 -37.0 1,541 5 1,445 39,248,456 Fox
11 Kung Fu Hustle 1,197,805 3,317,955 -63.9 904 5 1,325 14,725,074 Sony Classics
12 Guess Who 1,186,321 2,151,446 -44.9 1,127 7 1,053 67,130,114 Sony
13 Robots 1,108,031 2,269,605 -51.2 1,306 9 848 124,758,041 Fox
14 Sin City 861,023 2,011,933 -57.2 1,002 6 859 72,212,418 Miramax
15 The Pacifier 817,575 1,351,787 -39.5 834 10 980 109,447,891 Buena Vista
16 Miss Congeniality 2 531,333 1,037,380 -48.8 570 7 932 46,741,786 Warner Bros.
17 Millions 470,699 600,918 -21.7 297 9 1,585 5,232,003 Fox Searchlight
18 Beauty Shop 422,098 901,489 -53.2 458 6 922 36,048,754 MGM
19 Enron 404,998 411,960 -1.7 98 3 4,133 1,079,756 Magnolia
20 Constantine 378,109 189,138 99.9 291 12 1,299 75,162,258 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 58,435,901 $ 61,219,779 -4.5
Top 10 76,115,341 77,576,325 -1.9
Top 20 83,493,333 86,123,248 -3.1
Top 20 vs. 2004 83,493,333 106,175,969 -21.4

Last Updated : May 9, 2005 at 6:30PM EDT