Weekend Box Office (June 17 - 19, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The Caped Crusader began a new era in its cinematic life with the solid, though not spectacular, launch of Batman Begins which claimed the number one spot at the North American box office. However, overall ticket sales were an inch below last year's stretching the streak of down weekends to 17 consecutive frames. The only other new release, the Universal comedy The Perfect Man, opened poorly in eighth place while most existing films held up well.

Out of the cave and into the top spot, Batman Begins relaunched a key franchise for Warner Bros. with a five-day launch of $72.9M including $48.7M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion, according to final studio numbers. The figure was nearly $2M better than originally estimated. The super hero tale began its box office journey with a strong start, however given the size of today's big blockbuster openings and the fact that competition was not too fierce, the debut weekend gross came in somewhat below industry expectations. Playing in 3,858 theaters as of Friday, the PG-13 film averaged a muscular $12,635 per location.

Unlike the first three Batman films which each broke the all-time opening weekend record in their respective years, Batman Begins did not debut like some of today's largest comic book films like Spider-Man ($114.8M), X2: X-Men United ($85.6M), or even The Hulk which launched two years ago this weekend with $62.1M over three days. Director Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia) created a darker and more violent super hero film meant to be truer to the original comic book character and to please hard-core fans who had all but given up on the franchise after 1997's disastrous Batman & Robin starring George Clooney and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But unlike previous Batflicks which featured big stars as both heroes and villains, Begins opted for indie film actor Christian Bale in the title role and Cillian Murphy and Ken Watanabe as baddies Scarecrow and Ra's Al Ghul, respectively. Notable names were, however, added in supporting roles including Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Katie Holmes, and Gary Oldman. Reviews were very positive with many critics hailing Batman Begins as the best installment yet in the franchise. How the $150M film holds up during the week and in its sophomore frame will be crucial to the future of the franchise. Last June, the studio generated similar rave reviews and fan excitement for its dark Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but that did not prevent a steep 63% drop on the second weekend.

Overseas, Begins powered its way to $40.7M from 73 markets with approximately 8,000 screens. In many of the markets such as Japan, Germany, Italy, Brazil, and the United Kingdom, the Dark Knight bowed at number one.

Fox's power couple Mr. & Mrs Smith dropped to second place with $26M in its second weekend of release. Off a reasonable 48%, the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie action-comedy has grossed a sparkling $96.7M in its first ten days. The $110M film looks headed for a $160M finish from North America.

In its fourth weekend, the DreamWorks toon Madagascar slipped only 38% to $10.7M from 3,533 theaters. With $146.8M caged thus far, the zoo comedy is the first release of the year to remain in over 3,500 locations while in its fourth frame.

Dipping only 32% for the smallest decline in the top ten was Star Wars Episode III which took in $10M boosting the cume to $348.1M. George Lucas and company climbed up to number eleven on the all-time domestic blockbusters list this weekend right behind Jurassic Park which grossed $357.1M in 1993 when ticket prices were lower. Revenge of the Sith should crack the all-time top ten next weekend.

Placing fifth with a respectable 41% decline was Adam Sandler's The Longest Yard with $8.2M lifting the cume to a solid $132.1M. The Miramax kid actioner The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D dropped 47% in its second mission to $6.7M. After ten days, the Robert Rodriguez-helmed film has captured $24M and is headed for $35-40M.

Hilary Duff and Heather Locklear suffered a poor opening for their mother-daughter comedy The Perfect Man which bowed to only $5.3M. Playing in 2,087 locations, the PG-rated film averaged just $2,540 per theater. The story of a teenage girl trying to find Mr. Right for her mom opened similar to Duff's last film Raise Your Voice which bombed with a $4M debut last October.

Russell Crowe took another 43% fall for his boxing drama Cinderella Man which took in $5.6M giving Universal only $43.9M to date. Warner Bros. collected $3.1M for the teen girl tale The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, off 45%, for a $30.2M total. Rounding out the top ten was the Paramount flop The Honeymooners which fell 52% in its second weekend to $2.6M. The comedy remake should find its way to a disappointing $15M.

A pair of films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The Lopez-Fonda battle pic Monster-in-Law fell 57% in its sixth session to $1.1M putting its total at a solid $78.7M. Of the nine early summer contenders released before Star Wars, Monster has been the top grosser and is now on its way to a bit more than $80M. The French horror flick High Tension collapsed 66% in its second scare tumbling to $637,724. With only $3.2M in the bank, Lions Gate will limp off with only $4M.

In limited release, Buena Vista's Howl's Moving Castle expanded from 36 to 202 theaters and collected $864,761 for a moderate $4,280 average. The Japanese animated adventure lifted the sum to $1.5M to date.

The top ten films grossed $127.1M which was down less than 1% from last year when Dodgeball opened at number one with $30.1M; and down 8% from 2003 when The Hulk debuted in the top spot with $62.1M.

Compared to projections, Batman Begins opened below my $56M three-day forecast while The Perfect Man debuted a couple of notches under my $8M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the opening weekend of Batman Begins. In last week's survey, readers were asked how the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes relationship would affect their summer films. Of 4,123 responses, 9% said it would help, 76% thought it would hurt, and 15% said it would have no effect.

For a review of Batman Begins, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Herbie: Fully Loaded, Bewitched, Land of the Dead, and Rize all open.

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

# Title Jun 17 - 19 Jun 10 - 12 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Batman Begins $ 48,745,440 3,858 1 $ 12,635 $ 72,896,986 Warner Bros.
2 Mr. & Mrs. Smith 26,037,023 50,342,878 -48.3 3,451 2 7,545 96,697,986 Fox
3 Madagascar 10,737,325 17,180,801 -37.5 3,533 4 3,039 146,831,846 DreamWorks
4 Star Wars Episode III 10,038,498 14,851,474 -32.4 2,923 5 3,434 348,140,685 Fox
5 The Longest Yard 8,239,853 13,878,482 -40.6 3,312 4 2,488 132,144,471 Paramount
6 The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D 6,692,907 12,582,088 -46.8 2,655 2 2,521 24,015,408 Miramax
7 Cinderella Man 5,572,285 9,728,955 -42.7 2,610 3 2,135 43,893,695 Universal
8 The Perfect Man 5,300,980 2,087 1 2,540 5,300,980 Universal
9 The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 3,127,232 5,711,420 -45.2 2,206 3 1,418 30,160,110 Warner Bros.
10 The Honeymooners 2,648,330 5,538,835 -52.2 1,912 2 1,385 9,551,584 Paramount
11 Crash 1,297,689 1,876,639 -30.9 651 7 1,993 46,422,459 Lions Gate
12 Monster-in-Law 1,125,250 2,624,376 -57.1 1,165 6 966 78,697,168 New Line
13 Howl's Moving Castle 864,761 427,987 102.1 202 2 4,281 1,482,895 Buena Vista
14 High Tension 637,724 1,897,705 -66.4 1,209 2 527 3,237,331 Lions Gate
15 Lords of Dogtown 431,348 1,851,630 -76.7 843 3 512 10,654,437 Sony
16 Kicking and Screaming 419,540 821,855 -49.0 482 6 870 50,450,160 Universal
17 Mad Hot Ballroom 416,004 405,192 2.7 154 6 2,701 2,325,917 Paramount Classics
18 Ladies in Lavender 251,403 291,347 -13.7 96 8 2,619 2,950,209 Roadside Attractions
19 House of Wax 217,803 134,929 61.4 112 7 1,945 31,282,267 Warner Bros.
20 The Interpreter 206,995 385,825 -46.4 276 9 750 71,542,675 Universal
Top 5 $ 103,798,139 $ 108,835,723 -4.6
Top 10 127,139,873 134,337,014 -5.4
Top 20 133,008,390 141,260,143 -5.8
Top 20 vs. 2004 133,008,390 133,739,030 -0.5

Last Updated : June 20, 2005 at 6:00PM EDT