Weekend Box Office (May 13 - 15, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Three new films targeting different audiences injected some well-needed cash into the marketplace taking over the top chart positions, but still could not prevent the North American box office from suffering its 12th consecutive down weekend versus last year. Jennifer Lopez scored the best debut of her career with Monster-in-Law which opened at number one and was followed by Will Ferrell's competing family comedy Kicking and Screaming which landed in second with a solid bow. Jet Li catered to the action audience with Unleashed which premiered in third. Overall ticket sales did, however, experience a healthy gain over the last several weeks when grosses were stuck in a fixed range.

J. Lo. conquered the box office starring opposite Jane Fonda in Monster-in-Law which opened with a mighty slap in first place with $23.1M, according to final studio figures. Playing in 3,424 theaters, the PG-13 pic about a woman at odds with her future mother-in-law averaged a strong $6,748 per site and surpassed the $18.7M bow of 2002's Maid in Manhattan to become the biggest opening ever for Lopez. With no other films speaking directly to adult women, Monster had its target audience mostly to itself this weekend and last Sunday's Mothers Day sneak preview helped to spread some pre-release buzz meant to counter the negative reviews. For struggling New Line Cinema, the performance came as great news and stood as the company's best opening since the final installment of The Lord of the Rings a year and a half ago. In fact, New Line has not debuted any film to more than $18M since then.

Winning his fourth straight silver medal, Will Ferrell missed the top spot and landed in second place with his latest comedy offering. The Universal family film Kicking and Screaming took in $20.2M from 3,455 theaters for a sturdy $5,835 average. Ferrell stars as an man who coachs his son's inept soccer team in order to compete with his father who heads the city's best squad. Robert Duvall and Mike Ditka co-star in the PG-rated film. Kicking cost roughly $45M to produce and reviews were mixed.

The opening did not approach the $31.1M of Ferrell's last family comedy Elf or the $28.4M of last summer's Anchorman but did exceed the $17.5M of Old School from two years ago. Elf bowed in November 2003 behind the opening of The Matrix Revolutions, Anchorman debuted behind the second frame of Spider-Man 2 last July, and Old School premiered behind the sophomore weekend of Daredevil in February 2003. The former Saturday Night Live star has become quite cozy in the runner-up position and will hit theaters again next month in Bewitched before popping up in a supporting role this July in The Wedding Crashers which stars pals Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.

Although both comedies scored solid debuts, they continued a six-week streak where new films bowing at number one have only managed openings in the high teens or low 20s. And for the first time in eight years, the first two weekends in May have failed to see any films open with more than $25M. The last time this occured was in 1997 when competing studios had hardly anything to open ahead of the much-anticipated dino-sequel The Lost World. This year, the field is not measuring up to early May films of the recent past leaving Fox's Star Wars Episode III clearance to monopolize the marketplce when it lands on Thursday in over 3,700 theaters.

Jet Li proved once again that he has a loyal fan following by opening his latest action tale Unleashed in third place with $10.9M. The R-rated story of a lethal fighting slave freed from his brutal master played in about 1,500 fewer theaters than the pair of new comedy openers and averaged a potent $5,570 from 1,957 locations. The Focus Features release is Li's sixth consecutive film over the last five years to open with an average of more than $5,000. Recent Oscar winner Morgan Freeman and Bob Hoskins co-star in the Glasgow-set film written and co-produced by French film giant Luc Besson. Jet Li also serves as producer. Reviews were generally good.

Losing its box office crown and tumbling 51% to fourth place was Ridley Scott's epic adventure Kingdom of Heaven which collected $9.6M in its second weekend of release. Produced for more than $130M, the R-rated Crusades pic has collected a disappointing $35.1M domestically after ten days and averaged a weak $2,990 from 3,219 kingdoms. The sophomore decline was a far cry from the 29% dip that Gladiator, another Scott-directed epic released on the first weekend of May, experienced in 2000. Instead, Kingdom played more like last May's big-budget historical epic Troy which witnessed a similar drop of 49% in its second weekend. The Brad Pitt starrer captured 65% of its total domestic take in its first ten days. Orlando Bloom's promotion to leading man should play out the same way over the weeks ahead and finish its North American run in the vicinity of $55M making it the worst summer kickoff film in over a decade. Overseas, Kingdom also saw sales get sliced in half but still hauled in an estimated $27.2M over the weekend to push the international tally to $88.9M and the worldwide sum to $124M. Foreign accounts for 72% of the global gross thus far.

Posting the best hold of any film in wide release was the ensemble drama Crash which slipped only 23% to $7M. Lions Gate has taken in a solid ten-day cume of $19.6M with its low-budget race relations tale which is generating strong word-of-mouth with adult audiences. The distributor had hoped it would play out as a mature dramatic alternative to the summer's popcorn fare and so far the magic is working. A total of $45M or more could result depending on how long Crash's legs will last.

Warner Bros. saw a 46% second weekend drop for its horror entry House of Wax which scared up $6.6M for sixth place. With $21.9M captured in ten days, the R-rated film's sophomore decline was identical to Boogeyman's from earlier this year. Wax should find its way to $35-40M trailing other Dark Castle-produced chillers like 2001's Thirteen Ghosts ($41.9M) and 1999's House on Haunted Hill ($40.8M) which played in fewer theaters and had with lower ticket prices.

Buena Vista's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy followed with $5M, down 48%, putting the space cume at $43.5M. Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn dropped 41% and uncovered $4.6M for the thriller The Interpreter which has taken in $61.2M to date. Overseas, the United Nations flick has grossed $54.5M to date pushing the worldwide cume to $115.5M. Sony's dismal sequel XXX: State of the Union tumbled another 61% to $2.1M and has crawled to a total of $24.3M after 17 days. The first XXX made more money in its first two days of release than the sequel is likely to make in its entire run.

Moviegoers ignored the long-delayed Miramax thriller Mindhunters which barely registered in the top ten with an opening of $1.9M. The distributor did not push the Val Kilmer-Christian Slater suspense pic too much and only debuted the R-rated pic in 1,040 locations resulting in a pitiful $1,838 average. Mindhunters became the third wide release of the year to open with less than $2,000 per theater following Alone in the Dark (another thriller starring Slater) and the Anthony Anderson comedy King's Ransom.

In a New York debut, Paramount Classics generated impressive numbers for its kid dance pic Mad Hot Ballroom which grossed $45,348 from a pair of sites for a stellar $22,674 average. The PG-rated film will add 14 new theaters in six markets, including Los Angeles, on Friday and slowly expand further from there.

Four new wide releases meant a quartet of holdovers fell sharply and were tossed out of the top ten over the weekend. Paramount's African adventure Sahara tumbled 47% to $1.8M in its sixth frame and pushed its tally to $64.4M. Costing over $120M, the Matthew McConaughey actioner should finish with about $67M domestically. Collecting nearly the same cash, but at a fraction of the cost, was the MGM remake The Amityville Horror with $1.6M, down 52%, leaving a cume of $63.1M. The $19M fright flick looks to end with a spooky $66M becoming yet another profitable horror film of late.

The Ashton Kutcher comedy A Lot Like Love crumbled 67% to $1.1M in its fourth date and pushed its cume to $20.8M. Look for a $23M final. Fox's $30M romantic comedy Fever Pitch took in $813,631 in its sixth at-bat giving the Drew Barrymore-Jimmy Fallon pic at $40.5M to date. The baseball flick should find its way to $42M.

The top ten films grossed $91.1M which was down 9% from last year when Troy opened at number one with $46.9M; and down 41% from 2003 when The Matrix Reloaded exploded in the top spot with a towering $91.8M.

Compared to projections, Monster-in-Law opened much better than my $16M forecast while Kicking and Screaming was close to my $23M prediction. Unleashed bowed near my $9M projection while Mindhunters was even weaker than my $4M forecast.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the opening weekend of Star Wars Episode III. In last week's survey, readers were asked which new comedy would open at number one over the weekend. Of 2,062 responses, 51% correctly picked Monster-in-Law while 49% selected Kicking and Screaming.

Be sure to read the annual BoxOfficeGuru.com Summer Box Office Preview highlighting the hits and misses of the upcoming movie season. For a 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 the much-anticipated Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith finally arrives.

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

# Title May 13 - 15 May 6 - 8 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Monster-in-Law $ 23,105,133 3,424 1 $ 6,748 $ 23,105,133 New Line
2 Kicking and Screaming 20,159,925 3,455 1 5,835 20,159,925 Universal
3 Unleashed 10,900,901 1,957 1 5,570 10,900,901 Focus
4 Kingdom of Heaven 9,625,509 19,635,996 -51.0 3,219 2 2,990 35,097,419 Fox
5 Crash 7,021,391 9,107,071 -22.9 1,876 2 3,743 19,614,256 Lions Gate
6 House of Wax 6,563,440 12,077,236 -45.7 3,111 2 2,110 21,946,754 Warner Bros.
7 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 5,049,938 9,792,648 -48.4 2,770 3 1,823 43,516,918 Buena Vista
8 The Interpreter 4,592,505 7,822,950 -41.3 2,602 4 1,765 61,161,945 Universal
9 XXX: State of the Union 2,134,772 5,520,628 -61.3 2,387 3 894 24,340,577 Sony
10 Mindhunters 1,911,358 1,040 1 1,838 1,911,358 Miramax
11 Sahara 1,806,454 3,427,881 -47.3 1,565 5 1,154 64,363,595 Paramount
12 The Amityville Horror 1,624,161 3,347,651 -51.5 1,133 4 1,434 63,084,329 MGM
13 A Lot Like Love 1,053,981 3,156,096 -66.6 1,522 3 692 20,824,529 Buena Vista
14 Fever Pitch 813,631 2,227,184 -63.5 975 5 834 40,538,872 Fox
15 Robots 622,702 1,108,031 -43.8 737 9 845 125,614,860 Fox
16 Kung Fu Hustle 501,981 1,197,805 -58.1 347 5 1,447 15,781,313 Sony Classics
17 Enron 372,405 404,998 -8.0 119 3 3,129 1,608,707 Magnolia
18 Guess Who 352,758 1,186,321 -70.3 545 7 647 67,761,238 Sony
19 Sin City 346,914 861,023 -59.7 343 6 1,011 72,951,893 Miramax
20 The Pacifier 327,536 817,575 -59.9 482 10 680 109,965,244 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 70,812,859 $ 58,435,901 21.2
Top 10 91,064,872 76,115,341 19.6
Top 20 98,887,395 83,493,333 18.4
Top 20 vs. 2004 98,887,395 106,981,870 -7.6

Last Updated : May 16, 2005 at 5:00PM EDT