Weekend Box Office (May 19 - 21, 2006)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Despite worldwide protests and bad reviews, the heavily-hyped conspiracy thriller The Da Vinci Code attracted legions of fans into theaters generating the second largest global opening weekend in box office history. The North American marketplace was on fire helped also by a solid launch for the animated film Over the Hedge. The two new releases combined for an eye-popping $115M in ticket sales over the weekend driving the box office to a new high for the year finally giving the film industry a feeling that the summer movie season has arrived. With Code and Hedge playing well to different audiences, most holdovers suffered steep declines.

Sony faced numerous obstacles bringing The Da Vinci Code to the big screen but after all was said and done, the studio successfully launched its summer tentpole pic and captured $77.1M from North America, according to final studio figures, beating out most expectations. Attacking 3,735 theaters, the PG-13 film averaged a scorching $20,635 per location. Code is the much-anticipated film adaptation of the best-selling book by Dan Brown which has become a pop culture phenomenon since its publication. Many religious groups have encouraged people to not see the film, but the publicity may instead have just sparked more curiosity, especially from those who have not read the book. It carried a $125M pricetag.

Domestically, Code generated the thirteenth biggest Friday-to-Sunday opening ever and the second best bow for a non-franchise film after The Passion of the Christ which debuted to $83.8M following a Wednesday launch in February 2004. Code also marked new career-high openings for Hanks and director Ron Howard surpassing the $57.4M of Toy Story 2 and the $55.1M of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, respectively. In fact, Howard's last film Cinderella Man grossed less in its entire run than Code did in its first weekend punching up $61.6M last summer.

Worldwide, The Da Vinci Code was launched with one of the most aggressive distribution strategies ever planned invading over 12,000 theaters overseas. As a result, the film tallied a staggering $147M internationally putting its worldwide opening at a jaw-dropping $224M. That marked the second largest worldwide launch in history after the $253M of Star Wars Episode III this same weekend one year ago. With more appeal outside of North America than the Jedi flick, Code's overseas opening inched past Episode III to set a new international debut weekend record.

Controversy surrounded the film during its development, shooting, and pre-release stages which in turn led to endless media coverage and speculation over whether or not moviegoers would stay away. Code made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday, just ahead of its day-and-date global release, and was met by mostly harsh reviews from the world's top movie critics. Since Da Vinci skews to a mature adult audience which pays attention to critics, it seemed that the opening could take a hit from the bad buzz. Instead, the Hanks flick opened on the high end of the most optimistic expectations.

The road ahead will not be easy. The Memorial Day holiday weekend will certainly help give Da Vinci a solid second weekend. However, with so many fans of the book rushing theaters immediately to see the film, it may have already burned through much of its total audience. Code dipped 6% on Saturday from its opening Friday which is not too surprising given the upfront demand and media hysteria. But it does not necessarily indicate that the fan base is growing. Word-of-mouth will now be the main factor affecting future sales. The Yahoo Movies average grade from over 13,000 users is a not-so-impressive B-. Nevertheless, after Mission: Impossible III and Poseidon underwhelmed at the box office giving the summer season a sluggish start, The Da Vinci Code kicked things into high gear this weekend with true blockbuster numbers grossing more than the openings of both of those films combined.

Opening in second place with solid results was Paramount's release of the DreamWorks animated film Over the Hedge which collected $38.5M. Playing in a whopping 4,059 theaters, the PG-rated pic averaged a strong $9,475 per venue. An all-star cast featuring Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, Steve Carell, Nick Nolte, Wanda Sykes, and William Shatner provided voices to the story of a group of animals who venture into the zany world of suburban backyards. The opening weekend did not match up to those of other recent computer animated talking animal flicks like Shark Tale ($47.6M), Madagascar ($47.2M), or Chicken Little ($40M). However, with the long Memorial Day holiday weekend coming up, Hedge looks to continue gathering up grosses with kids and parents getting extra time off from school and work. Only four animated films have ever bowed in more than 4,000 theaters and all have been from the DreamWorks camp, which is now part of the Paramount stable.

After two weeks at number one, Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible III dropped down to third with $11.3M in its third weekend. Down a hefty 55%, the Paramount spy sequel crossed the $100M mark over the weekend with its cume climbing to $103.5M after 17 days. MI3 is only the second such blockbuster film of 2006 following Ice Age: The Meltdown, however Hollywood's other Tom will be joining the ranks by the end of the week. For box office titan Cruise, the latest Ethan Hunt film marks the actor's fourteenth $100M+ domestic grosser. MI3 also represents the studio's first film to join the century club since Cruise's last film War of the Worlds from last summer. Overseas, Mission III has upped its total to $163M pushing the global gross to $266M and counting.

In its second weekend, Poseidon became a sinking ship film in more than one way. The ocean liner disaster pic sank a troubling 58% to $9.2M putting its ten-day catch at just $36.8M. That's a rough start for a film with a production cost reported to be a hefty $160M or more. At its current pace, Poseidon looks to reach $55-60M domestically making it director Wolfgang Petersen's lowest grossing film in fifteen years.

With a big new toon in the marketplace, the Robin Williams hit RV finally saw a sizable decline dropping 50% to $5M in its fourth frame. Sony's family comedy has grossed a solid $50.3M to date.

Wrestling superstar Kane anchored the new horror film See No Evil and was met with a mild sixth place opening with $4.6M. Playing in only 1,257 locations, the R-rated scarefest averaged a mediocre $3,645 per site.

The Lindsay Lohan flop Just My Luck grossed $3.4M in its second weekend dropping 41%. With only $10.5M in ten days, the Fox release should stumble to an unlucky final of just $16-18M. The horror flick An American Haunting followed with $1.5M, off 59%, for a total of $13.4M.

Universal's 9/11 pic United 93 fell 60% to $1.4M pushing its cume to $28.3M. Rounding out the top ten was the Lionsgate release Akeelah and the Bee with $1M, off 58%, for a $15.7M total.

Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. The year's highest-grossing film Ice Age: The Meltdown took a hit from the arrival of a rival digital toon and tumbled 69% to $987,965. Budgeted at $80M, the Fox smash has grossed $189.3M to date and is heading for a final gross of a little more than $190M. The first Ice Age banked $176.4M in 2002.

Buena Vista's gymnastics pic Stick It grossed $974,655 plunging 69% in its fourth frame. With $23.9M to date, the teen flick should finish with a better-than-expected $25M. New Line's endangered owl film Hoot collapsed 82% in its third weekend and collected $423,650. Cume sits at a puny $7.4M and it will be a struggle to hit $8M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $153M which was off only 2% from last year when Star Wars Episode III opened at number one with a colossal $108.4M; and down 6% from 2004 when Shrek 2 debuted in the top spot with a massive $108M.

Compared to projections, The Da Vinci Code opened much better than my $60M forecast while both Over the Hedge and See No Evil debuted on target with my respective predictions of $38M and $4M.

For NEW reviews of The Da Vinci Code and Over the Hedge, plus DVD reviews of Nanny McPhee and The Producers, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when X-Men: The Last Stand opens.

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

# Title May 19 - 21 May 12 - 14 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Da Vinci Code $ 77,073,388 3,735 1 $ 20,635 $ 77,073,388 Sony
2 Over the Hedge 38,457,003 4,059 1 9,475 38,457,003 Paramount
3 Mission: Impossible III 11,349,570 25,008,971 -54.6 3,450 3 3,290 103,535,579 Paramount
4 Poseidon 9,224,340 22,155,410 -58.4 3,555 2 2,595 36,801,887 Warner Bros.
5 RV 5,003,489 9,950,858 -49.7 2,925 4 1,711 50,320,183 Sony
6 See No Evil 4,581,233 1,257 1 3,645 4,581,233 Lionsgate
7 Just My Luck 3,384,371 5,692,285 -40.5 2,543 2 1,331 10,467,641 Fox
8 An American Haunting 1,478,785 3,564,379 -58.5 1,265 3 1,169 13,438,985 Freestyle
9 United 93 1,400,200 3,508,125 -60.1 1,308 4 1,070 28,256,480 Universal
10 Akeelah and the Bee 1,006,653 2,403,420 -58.1 751 4 1,340 15,728,889 Lionsgate
11 Ice Age: The Meltdown 987,965 3,150,490 -68.6 1,156 8 855 189,298,746 Fox
12 Stick It 974,655 3,166,426 -69.2 1,100 4 886 23,852,516 Buena Vista
13 Goal! The Dream Begins 673,136 1,921,838 -65.0 1,007 2 668 3,017,149 Buena Vista
14 Scary Movie 4 653,124 1,952,572 -66.6 752 6 869 87,735,902 Weinstein Co.
15 Silent Hill 513,023 2,183,549 -76.5 588 5 872 45,857,337 Sony
16 Thank You for Smoking 506,644 915,420 -44.7 315 9 1,608 22,212,603 Fox Searchlight
17 Art School Confidential 476,149 1,118,080 -57.4 458 3 1,040 2,331,491 Sony Classics
18 Friends With Money 427,315 783,904 -45.5 260 6 1,644 11,818,567 Sony Classics
19 Hoot 423,650 2,292,677 -81.5 818 3 518 7,378,171 New Line
20 Keeping Up with the Steins 383,442 653,723 -41.3 138 2 2,779 1,208,865 Miramax
Top 5 $ 141,107,790 $ 66,371,903 112.6
Top 10 152,959,032 80,893,041 89.1
Top 20 158,978,135 94,604,219 68.0
Top 20 vs. 2005 158,978,135 160,206,921 -0.8

Last Updated : May 22, 2006 at 6:00PM EDT