Weekend Box Office (May 27 - 30, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers across North America signed up for a three-picture deal over the long Memorial Day holiday weekend spending over 80% of their ticket dollars on reigning champ Star Wars Episode III and the debuting comedies Madagascar and The Longest Yard. For the first time ever, two films opened with more than $40M on the same weekend. The holiday frame expanded to accommodate three very different films and helped to bring audiences back into the multiplexes where studios hope they will remain for the rest of summer.

Darth Vader still ruled the world with Revenge of the Sith holding onto the number one spot with a scorching four-day gross of $70M, according to final studio figures, to boost the megablockbuster's 12-day haul to a towering $270.5M. Averaging a sizzling $19,123 from 3,663 theaters over the Friday-to-Monday session, the George Lucas franchise finale set a new industry speed record breaking the $250M barrier on Sunday after only eleven days. That was one day faster than Spider-Man 2 from last summer.

Compared to Episode II, which opened on a similar mid-May calendar with a Thursday launch, Episode III is making much more money upfront, but declining faster. Sith's cume is a robust 34% stronger than Attack of the Clones' $201.3M after its Memorial Day weekend sophomore frame. However, the new chapter's three-day take of $55.2M saw a drop of 49% from the opening weekend which was larger than Episode II's 40% sophomore fall. The middle chapter took in $60M over the long weekend including $47.9M over three days. Clones captured 65% of its domestic total of $310.7M in its first 12 days. Should Episode III continue to depreciate at a somewhat faster pace, it could reach a stellar domestic cume of $380-400M putting it in the top seven on the all-time list.

Overseas, Revenge of the Sith continued its world dominance and vaulted its international cume to a stunning $250M putting the worldwide total at an eye-popping $521M after less than two weeks. Episode III's international total is running 94% higher than Episode II's at this point last time while the global gross is ahead by 58%. After its second weekend in 2002, Clones had amassed $330M around the planet. Back home in North America, Sith sped up the all-time domestic blockbusters chart to land at number 26 between last winter's Meet the Fockers ($279.2M) and 2001's Shrek ($267.7M).

Second place was a toss up with Madagascar edging out The Longest Yard over the four-day span by only $2M. Over the Friday-to-Sunday period, however, Yard led by $400,000.

The DreamWorks zoo toon Madagascar captured $61M over the long weekend including $47.2M over the three-day portion and a Memorial Day gross of $13.8M. The hefty sum was collected from a massive 4,131 theaters as the animated comedy became only the fourth film in box office history to bow in more than 4,000 locations. Previous super-saturation titles include Spider-Man 2 (4,152) and fellow DreamWorks toons Shrek 2 (4,163) and Shark Tale (4,016). Madagascar opened with near identical three-day sales as Shark which bowed last October, against much weaker competition, with $47.6M on its way to $160.8M. The new flick finds a foursome of New York City zoo animals on a journey to the wilds of Africa. Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, and David Schwimmer provided the main voices. Over four days, Madagascar averaged a muscular $14,769 per theater and played to a broad audience. Studio research indicated that 60% of the crowd consisted of families, 61% were under 25, and 55% were female. Reviews were mixed.

Adam Sandler scored the biggest opening of his career with the football comedy The Longest Yard which tackled $58.6M over four days. Kicking off in 3,634 theaters, the PG-13 film about a disgraced NFL player assigned to build a prison football team averaged a stellar $16,129 over the long weekend. The remake of the 1974 Burt Reynolds film was directed by Sandler collaborator Peter Segal (Anger Management, 50 First Dates) and featured an ensemble cast including Chris Rock, Nelly, James Cromwell, and Reynolds himself. Yard's bow, which included $47.6M over the Friday-to-Sunday span, rushed past the $42.2M of Anger to give Sandler his biggest debut ever. The film was produced for $82M with Paramount handling North America and Sony distributing overseas.

Studio research indicated that The Longest Yard skewed young but the gender balance was not as heavily male as one would expect from a football movie. Those under 25 represented 53% of the audience while males made up 52%. Given how well Star Wars is doing with men, Yard's performance truly stands as exceptional. Critics were not kind to the gridiron pic which now ranks as the second biggest opening weekend of the year, after Sith, when comparing three-day spans. Paramount hopes that Yard will benefit from positive word-of-mouth in the weeks ahead and approach the $163.5M of 1999's Big Daddy which still stands as Sandler's top-grossing film ever.

Dropping to fourth place was the Jennifer Lopez-Jane Fonda comedy Monster-in-Law with $12.8M over four days in its third catfight. The New Line hit has grossed $62.4M to date and seems headed for a solid $75M or so. Another comedy in its third weekend, Kicking and Screaming, fell to $6.5M to boost its 18-day total to $44.1M. Universal's Will Ferrell pic looks to end its season with a decent, but not spectacular, $52-55M.

The race relations drama Crash grossed $6.1M and was the only film in wide release to see its four-day take increase from last weekend's three-day figure. With $36.2M in the bank, the Lions Gate pic could find its way to about $50M which would exceed the expected final grosses of Kingdom of Heaven and House of Wax, the Hollywood films it opened against on the weekend of May 6, which boasted larger production and marketing budgets.

Universal's The Interpreter followed in seventh with $2.6M lifting the cume to $69.2M. The Nicole Kidman-Sean Penn thriller should convene with about $75M. Jet Li's action pic Unleashed punched up $2.5M in its third battle to raise its sum to $22.1M. Focus Features will reach roughly $25M on this title making it the highest grossing release yet for its new genre label Rogue Pictures.

Rounding out the top ten were Fox's Crusades epic Kingdom of Heaven and the Warner Bros. horror remake House of Wax which grossed four-day takes of $2.2M and $1.6M, respectively, in their fourth frames. The expensive Orlando Bloom period adventure has taken in just $45M and should finish its domestic run with a disappointing $48M. Paris Hilton's less pricey acting assignment has scared up $29.9M on its way to $32M.

Universal offered sneak previews of its Russell Crowe-Renee Zellweger drama Cinderella Man on Sunday and generated encouraging results. Of the 761 sneaks, capacity was at 90% with an extraordinarily high 98% of those polled calling the film "excellent" or "very good." Older women made up the bulk of the audience with females consisting of 54% of the crowd and a very high 71% being age 35 and older. The Ron Howard-directed boxing tale opens nationwide on Friday in about 3,000 theaters hoping to appeal to a mature crowd not interested in the trio of younger-skewing films dominating the multiplexes now.

Opening in 51 theaters in top markets was the new Bollywood musical Bunty aur Babli which grossed $435,767 for a four-day average of $8,549 for Yash Raj Films. Debuting with strength in New York and Los Angeles was the Asian American indie drama Saving Face which grossed $99,079 from only six sites for a powerful $16,513 average per theater. The Sony Classics release about inter-generational conflicts attracted solid reviews and will expand in the weeks ahead.

Two sci-fi films tumbled out of the top ten over the weekend. Buena Vista's comedy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fell to a four-day gross of $957,992 putting its total at $48.8M. The big screen adaptation of the popular books should end its domestic run with just under $50M. Miramax's action thriller Mindhunters was pulled from most of its theaters and collected $230,298. Crumbling by 77% from last weekend, the Renny Harlin pic has grossed $4.3M to date and is not likely to add much more.

Expanding from 15 to 57 theaters in the top ten markets was the Paramount Classics documentary Mad Hot Ballroom which collected $449,351 for a potent four-day average of $7,883. With $723,644 thus far, the PG-rated film widens to the top 20 markets on Friday.

The top ten films grossed a monster four-day tally of $224M which was still off 5% from last year's record frame when Shrek 2 remained at number one with a towering $95.6M over four days; but up 18% from 2003 when Bruce Almighty debuted in the top spot with $85.7M over the long weekend.

Compared to four-day projections, both Star Wars and Madagascar were on target with my respective forecasts of $70M and $60M. The Longest Yard powered well ahead of my $40M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on which comic book film will rule the summer box office. In last week's survey, readers were asked if Star Wars Episode III will outgross Episode I domestically. Of 4,694 responses, 73% said Yes while 27% voted No.

For NEW reviews of Madagascar and Bunty aur Babli, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Cinderella Man, Lords of Dogtown, and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants all open.

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

# Title May 27 - 30 May 20 - 22 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Star Wars Episode III $ 70,047,055 $ 108,435,841 -35.4 3,663 2 $ 19,123 $ 270,489,794 Fox
2 Madagascar 61,012,130 4,131 1 14,769 61,012,130 DreamWorks
3 The Longest Yard 58,613,245 3,634 1 16,129 58,613,245 Paramount
4 Monster-in-Law 12,789,837 14,350,134 -10.9 3,230 3 3,960 62,445,081 New Line
5 Kicking and Screaming 6,510,385 10,721,715 -39.3 2,966 3 2,195 44,123,965 Universal
6 Crash 6,059,909 5,546,006 9.3 1,680 4 3,607 36,197,686 Lions Gate
7 The Interpreter 2,605,475 2,910,580 -10.5 1,171 6 2,225 69,198,735 Universal
8 Unleashed 2,491,913 4,123,556 -39.6 1,419 3 1,756 22,103,027 Focus
9 Kingdom of Heaven 2,204,520 3,537,201 -37.7 1,327 4 1,661 45,028,751 Fox
10 House of Wax 1,628,319 3,288,419 -50.5 1,635 4 996 29,861,321 Warner Bros.
11 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 957,992 2,054,904 -53.4 801 5 1,196 48,776,566 Buena Vista
12 Ladies in Lavender 550,255 217,994 152.4 88 5 6,253 1,594,093 Roadside Attractions
13 Sahara 537,069 803,664 -33.2 387 7 1,388 66,465,178 Paramount
14 Mad Hot Ballroom 449,351 148,971 201.6 57 3 7,883 723,644 Paramount Classics
15 The Pacifier 448,317 189,333 136.8 401 12 1,118 110,789,946 Buena Vista
16 Bunty aur Babli 435,767 51 1 8,544 435,767 Yash Raj Films
17 Layer Cake 424,361 127,858 231.9 91 3 4,663 729,488 Sony Classics
18 Enron 422,004 331,007 27.5 146 5 2,890 2,650,410 Magnolia
19 Robots 417,023 401,692 3.8 450 11 927 126,705,348 Fox
20 Miss Congeniality 2 274,547 122,621 123.9 323 10 850 47,615,258 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 208,972,652 $ 143,177,252 46.0
Top 10 223,962,788 155,974,195 43.6
Top 20 228,879,474 160,206,921 42.9
Top 20 vs. 2004 228,879,474 242,106,362 -5.5

Last Updated : May 31, 2005 at 10:00PM EDT