Weekend Box Office (May 16 - 18, 2008)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Could moviegoers be saving their dollars for Indy? Disney's heavily-hyped fantasy sequel The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian seized control of the box office throne, but attracted far less business than expected and even fell short of matching its predecessor's bow. Iron Man continued to show off its super strength and finished in second place shattering the $200M barrier in the process. Overall, the box office slumped to the worst performance in seven years for the usually-potent weekend before the Memorial Day holiday frame.

Landing in first place was Prince Caspian with $55M from 3,929 locations for a strong $14,007 average according to final studio figures. Though good enough for first place, the PG-rated adventure tale posted a debut that was 16% weaker than the $65.6M opening of the first installment in the franchise, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, which launched in December 2005. Factor in today's higher multiplex prices and the new Narnia sold about 24% fewer tickets despite playing in 313 more theaters.

With a massive Disney marketing push and no other new releases this weekend to steal away business, Prince was expected to flex much more muscle. Reviews were generally good and the built-in audience was huge considering Lion went on to gross $291.7M from North America and $745M worldwide. Studio research showed that audiences were split evenly between males and females while 52% were age 25 or older, so it did play to a broad crowd. Caspian began its journey on Friday with $19.3M, inched up 5% on Saturday to $20.3M, and slipped 24% on Sunday to $15.4M.

Most industry forecasts before the film's release saw the opening landing in the $75-85M range given the strength of the initial Narnia. But the massive audiences that turned out for the first film may have been driven more by The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe than by The Chronicles of Narnia. Moviegoers may have been more excited by that particular story than by the franchise in general making Prince Caspian an installment that generated less enthusiasm. Lion had Biblical parallels that were key in bringing out Christian moviegoers. Caspian did not seem to retain a large share of that crowd hence the smaller numbers.

Disney is moving ahead with its next Narnia tale The Voyage of the Dawn Treader which currently is slated for release on May 7, 2010. But with Marvel Studios recently planting its flag one weekend earlier on April 30 for Iron Man 2, it would not be surprising if Dawn Treader's date were to change as the sophomore frame of the super hero sequel will undoubtedly be gargantuan and a tough act to fight.

Overseas the news was better for Prince Caspian with openings that were stronger than those of Lion's and even Iron Man's in major markets. The new Narnia grossed $20.7M from only twelve countries with Mexico, Russia, and South Korea being the big standouts. Most international markets will open the fantasy epic next month after the hype of the global launch of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull dies down. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe amassed 61% of its worldwide tally from international markets.

In its third weekend, Iron Man remained a formidable contender and grossed $31.8M slipping only 38%. That makes for a fantastic hold for a super hero film facing a new effects-driven action sequel. After 17 days, the Paramount juggernaut has boosted its tally to an amazing $223.1M. Iron Man beat out the third-weekend declines of most other summer super hero movies that were non-sequels or reboots such as Batman Begins (43%), Superman Returns (44%), Fantastic Four (45%), X-Men (46%), and The Hulk (56%). The metal man even came within striking distance of the incredible 37% decline that the first Spider-Man enjoyed in its third frame in May 2002. Iron Man also delivered the best third-weekend gross of any film since Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest's $35.2M in July 2006.

Looking at other tentpole pics opening on the first weekend of May, the granddaddy of them all is Spider-Man which grossed $285.6M in its first 17 days representing 71% of its final tally of $403.7M. 2003's X2: X-Men United and 2001's The Mummy Returns captured 81% and 72% of the overall totals respectively in the first 17 days. Iron Man is not depreciating as quickly as the X-Men sequel did five years ago so its trajectory should be more in line with those of the first webslinger pic and the Brendan Fraser sequel. On that course, Iron Man has a legitimate shot at reaching the $300M mark.

Roughly 30 million moviegoers have now seen Iron Man which bodes well for Paramount's other big summer offering Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull which had its trailer attached to the comic book behemoth. That film opens this Wednesday night at 12:01 a.m. ahead of the long Memorial Day holiday weekend and is arguably the year's most anticipated film. Paramount could conceivably become the first studio in history to generate two $300M+ summer blockbusters two years in a row.

Overseas, Iron Man ruled again for the third straight frame with $25.6M allowing the international cume to join the double-century club as well. Offshore sales climbed to $206M with the global gross soaring to $429M. The worldwide total should shatter the half-billion mark next weekend.

Dropping a spot to third place was the Cameron Diaz-Ashton Kutcher comedy What Happens in Vegas with $13.9M in its second weekend. The Fox hit is the top choice for moviegoers not interested in action and special effects. It enjoyed a strong hold and dipped only 31%. Cume sits at a solid $40.3M in ten days. With its sturdy legs and a major holiday frame coming up, the $35M-budgeted film could go on to reach $75-80M domestically. Vegas will become Diaz's top-grossing live-action comedy since 1998's surprise hit There's Something About Mary. Overseas, the make-your-marriage-work comedy has zoomed to a stunning $55.1M already pushing the worldwide sum to $95.4M. That figure should double by the end of the run.

Tumbling 56% in its second weekend was the summer box office's first major casualty Speed Racer which collected just $8.1M. The Warner Bros. release has banked a mere $30.3M in ten days and is decelerating at the turnstiles. With a reported budget in between $120M and $160M, the colorful Wachowski Brothers flick looks to limp to a $40-45M finish from North America. Overseas audiences are not feeling the excitement either so it will be difficult to salvage the enormous costs. Internationally the Mach 5 took in a measly $7M from 39 countries this weekend for a puny $24.4M cume.

The spring comedy quartet followed. Sony's Made of Honor fell 42% to $4.7M boosting its total to $33.9M. Baby Mama eased by a mere 25% to a similar $4.7M giving Universal a sturdy $47.3M.

The studio's R-rated offering Forgetting Sarah Marshall slipped by only 27% and took in $2.8M for a $55.3M total. New Line's stoner sequel Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay grossed $2M, down 36%, for a $34.1M sum.

Lionsgate captured $1.1M for its Jackie Chan-Jet Li actioner The Forbidden Kingdom which dropped 51%. Cume is $50.4M. Indie sensation The Visitor has been slowly building its audience over the last five weeks and was rewarded with a spot in the top ten. The Overture release played in only 224 sites in its sixth frame and grossed $672,448 for a respectable $3,002 average. In roughly the same number of theaters as last weekend, Visitor dipped by a scant 8% and its total is now $3.4M and counting.

Opening with impressive results in limited release was Miramax's award-winning Norwegian film Reprise which took in $49,060 from only three houses for a potent $16,353 average. Overwhelmingly praised by critics, the R-rated film expands to more markets over the holiday weekend.

The top ten films grossed $124.8M which was down 27% from last year when Shrek the Third opened in the top spot with $121.6M; and down 18% from 2006 when The Da Vinci Code debuted at number one with $77.1M.

Compared to projections, Prince Caspian fell well below my $83M forecast while Iron Man was close to my $28M prediction.

For a NEW review of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian plus a NEW DVD review of Indiana Jones - The Adventure Collection visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when the fourth coming of Indiana Jones takes over the box office across the planet known as Earth.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title May 16 - 18 May 9 - 11 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian $ 55,034,805 3,929 1 $ 14,007 $ 55,034,805 Buena Vista
2 Iron Man 31,838,996 51,190,629 -37.8 4,154 3 7,665 223,124,385 Paramount
3 What Happens in Vegas 13,883,874 20,172,474 -31.2 3,255 2 4,265 40,341,516 Fox
4 Speed Racer 8,117,459 18,561,337 -56.3 3,606 2 2,251 30,284,073 Warner Bros.
5 Made of Honor 4,702,950 8,116,323 -42.1 2,816 3 1,670 33,903,519 Sony
6 Baby Mama 4,680,610 6,225,790 -24.8 2,503 4 1,870 47,343,255 Universal
7 Forgetting Sarah Marshall 2,786,220 3,837,240 -27.4 1,601 5 1,740 55,313,405 Universal
8 Harold & Kumar Escape From... 1,997,450 3,106,424 -35.7 1,403 4 1,424 34,098,389 New Line
9 The Forbidden Kingdom 1,073,856 2,169,323 -50.5 997 5 1,077 50,368,985 Lionsgate
10 The Visitor 672,448 729,212 -7.8 224 6 3,002 3,388,821 Overture
11 Nim's Island 588,856 1,463,622 -59.8 894 7 659 45,256,360 Fox
12 Then She Found Me 469,018 467,577 0.3 147 4 3,191 1,518,703 ThinkFilm
13 Prom Night 452,088 1,012,986 -55.4 567 6 797 43,470,267 Sony
14 21 413,607 851,385 -51.4 462 8 895 81,159,365 Sony
15 Horton Hears A Who 411,616 605,347 -32.0 543 10 758 151,267,226 Fox
16 Redbelt 376,569 1,012,435 -62.8 932 3 404 1,982,802 Sony Classics
17 Young @ Heart 332,329 388,928 -14.6 170 6 1,955 1,927,222 Fox Searchlight
18 Drillbit Taylor 297,565 508,095 -41.4 279 9 1,067 32,116,677 Paramount
19 College Road Trip 283,582 62,778 351.7 163 11 1,740 43,878,095 Buena Vista
20 88 Minutes 258,707 534,104 -51.6 294 5 880 16,930,884 Sony
Top 5 $ 113,578,084 $ 104,266,553 8.9
Top 10 124,788,668 115,856,148 7.7
Top 20 128,672,605 121,630,884 5.8
Top 20 vs. 2007 128,672,605 177,398,781 -27.5

Last Updated: May 19, 2008 at 4:45PM ET

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