Weekend Box Office (June 22 - 24, 2007)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Steve Carell took over the number one spot with his new comedy Evan Almighty, but it failed to generate the flood of business needed to recoup its mammoth production cost. The John Cusack thriller 1408 debuted to strong results while Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer fell sharply in its second mission. Overall, the North American box office posted solid, but not spectacular results for this time of year.

Audiences lined up two by two for Evan Almighty which captured the top spot this weekend with $31.2M, according to final studio figures. The PG-rated sequel bowed to less than half of the $68M Friday-to-Sunday debut of its 2003 predecessor Bruce Almighty while costing more than twice as much. Playing in 3,604 locations, Evan averaged a solid $8,655 per ark. Morgan Freeman returned to play God and director Tom Shadyac (Liar, Liar, The Nutty Professor) was also back behind the camera, but Jim Carrey did not take part again. Universal spent a reported $175M producing its big summer comedy offering which was aimed at family audiences with its storyline involving animals and its PG rating. Reviews were mostly negative.

Thanks to a heavy special effects budget and a production that went behind schedule but still needed to be completed in time for its set release date, Evan Almighty turned into one of the priciest comedies in history reaching a budget common usually only seen for high-profile action sequels. The film will need good legs, a strong international run, and hefty video sales in order to break even. According to studio research, 52% of the audience was over the age of 25, 45% consisted of families, and moviegoers polled by CinemaScore gave the pic an encouraging A- grade. However, the film scored a weaker B average grade from over 2,000 votes on Yahoo Movies.

It was still a milestone weekend for struggling Universal Pictures which has released a number of turkeys over the past year. The studio scored its first number one opener since last August's Miami Vice and its first $100M grosser since last June's The Break-Up with Knocked Up.

Opening surprisingly well in second place was the psychological thriller 1408 with $20.6M for MGM and The Weinstein Co. The John Cusack hit averaged a frighteningly strong $7,699 from 2,678 theaters. Rated PG-13, 1408 tells of a writer who checks into a haunted hotel room that dozens of others have died in. Samuel L. Jackson co-stars in the film which is based on a Stephen King short story. With so many horror films, even from proven franchises, failing at the box office in recent months, 1408 energized audiences and delivered a solid opening. It was the second biggest debut of the year for a fright flick behind the $22.2M bow of Disturbia, another PG-13 psychological thriller set mostly indoors.

Following close behind was last weekend's winner Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer which tumbled 66% in its sophomore frame to $20M. Fox's super hero sequel suffered a big blow, but it wasn't a total surprise considering the 59% second-weekend drop of the first Fantastic pic and the fact that sequels often erode quicker. Silver Surfer has captured $97.5M in ten days and seems on a course to finish with $135-140M which would be slightly behind the $154.7M of its predecessor.

Ocean's Thirteen ranked fourth with $11.4M in its third caper, off just 42%, giving Warner Bros. a healthy $91.1M to date. The George Clooney-Brad Pitt heist pic is running 5% behind the pace of 2001's Ocean's Eleven at the same point in its run but 5% ahead of 2004's Ocean's Twelve. Thirteen looks headed for the $125M mark in North America. Overseas, the new chapter grossed an estimated $21.3M from 49 markets to raise the international tally to a cool $100M and the global gross to $191M.

For the second straight weekend, Universal's sleeper hit Knocked Up dipped by less than 30% and remained in double digit millions. The Judd Apatow-directed smash grossed $11M, off only 22%, and pushed its cume to $109.3M joining the century club on Friday in its 22nd day of release. Knocked Up continues to show the same great legs that made fellow R-rated summer comedies like Wedding Crashers and The 40-Year-Old Virgin such big hits two summers ago. A final tally of $140-150M might result.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End followed in sixth with $7.2M, down 42%, boosting the cume to $287M. The Johnny Depp high seas adventure rose to number 29 on the all-time domestic blockbusters list after 2005's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire which grossed $290M.. A final North American tally of around $305M seems likely for the expensive Buena Vista sequel. Overseas, At World's End collected an estimated $20.4M pushing the international tally to $584.6M and the worldwide haul to a jaw-dropping $871.6M. Captain Jack will swing past Spider-Man 3's $879M global haul by the end of the week on its way to possibly $950M. The two juggernauts have combined for a towering $1.75 billion in worldwide box office so far.

Sony's animated comedy Surf's Up held up well despite the arrival of Evan and grossed $6.6M dipping only 29%. The penguin pic has captured $47.2M to date. Rival toon Shrek the Third followed with $5.7M, off 37%, for a $307.8M total. That put the latest ogre tale at number 22 on the all-time domestic list passing Independence Day which grossed $306.2M in 1996 when ticket prices were much lower. Look for Donkey and his pals to finish with roughly $330M from North America. Warner Bros. placed ninth with Nancy Drew which fell 36% to $4.4M giving the sleuth pic $16.1M in ten days.

Opening in tenth place was Angelina Jolie's A Mighty Heart with $3.9M from 1,355 theaters for a mild $2,914 average. The Paramount Vantage release earned strong reviews and has sparked Oscar buzz for Jolie's performance as Mariane Pearl, widow of the slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The R-rated film skewed to an audience of mature women with studio research showing that over 60% of the crowd was female and more than 60% was over 30.

Lionsgate saw sensational results for the new Michael Moore documentary Sicko which platformed in only one Manhattan theater but still grossed $68,969 over the weekend. The distributor will open the PG-13 look at the U.S. health care system on Friday across the country. Sicko's average was especially notable since it only occupied one screen at its theater. Often, when specialty films platform to such astonishing averages, they play in two or three screens within the same theater.

Three very different films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. MGM's Kevin Costner thriller Mr. Brooks fell 44% to $1.6M for a cume to date of $26.7M. A $30M final seems likely. Hostel Part II grossed $901,485, down 70%, for a $16.9M total. The torture sequel should end with about $18M which would be a 62% fall from the $47.4M of the first Hostel flick.

Also dropping down was the year's biggest blockbuster Spider-Man 3. After seven weeks in the top ten, the webslinger tale declined by 51% to $1.2M and boosted its incredible cume to $332.5M. Sony now finds itself at number 15 on the all-time domestic chart behind Finding Nemo which gobbled up $339.7M four years ago. Spider-Man 3 should finish in the friendly neighborhood of $337M making it the lowest-grossing installment of the series in North America. However, its international tally of $547M already makes it the biggest Spidey overseas and the combined global gross of $879M makes it the biggest Peter Parker pic ever worldwide. The first two Spider-Man films grossed $822M and $784M respectively and while the third chapter lost audience members domestically, it more than made up for it with gains internationally.

The top ten films grossed $122M which was down 2% from last year when Click opened at number one with $40M; but up 8% from 2005 when Batman Begins remained in the top spot with $27.6M in its second weekend.

Compared to projections, Evan Almighty opened below my $40M forecast while 1408 debuted stronger than my $12M prediction. A Mighty Heart bowed below my $7M projection.

For NEW reviews of Evan Almighty and A Mighty Heart, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Ratatouille, Live Free or Die Hard, Sicko, and Evening all open nationwide.

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

# Title Jun 22 - 24 Jun 15 -17 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Evan Almighty $ 31,192,615 3,604 1 $ 8,655 $ 31,192,615 Universal
2 1408 20,617,667 2,678 1 7,699 20,617,667 MGM
3 Fantastic Four: Rise of the SS 20,009,476 58,051,684 -65.5 3,963 2 5,049 97,463,035 Fox
4 Ocean's Thirteen 11,411,268 19,724,405 -42.1 3,450 3 3,308 91,079,577 Warner Bros.
5 Knocked Up 10,977,595 14,069,880 -22.0 2,975 4 3,690 109,323,845 Universal
6 Pirates of the Caribbean: AWE 7,202,086 12,411,786 -42.0 2,802 5 2,570 287,001,716 Buena Vista
7 Surf's Up 6,580,743 9,254,793 -28.9 3,309 3 1,989 47,193,723 Sony
8 Shrek the Third 5,652,585 9,003,044 -37.2 2,822 6 2,003 307,807,439 Paramount
9 Nancy Drew 4,379,447 6,832,318 -35.9 2,612 2 1,677 16,067,041 Warner Bros.
10 A Mighty Heart 3,948,863 1,355 1 2,914 3,948,863 Par. Vantage
11 Mr. Brooks 1,624,261 2,902,024 -44.0 1,290 4 1,259 26,677,320 MGM
12 Spider-Man 3 1,237,774 2,505,151 -50.6 1,031 8 1,201 332,486,258 Sony
13 Waitress 941,899 1,258,470 -25.2 528 8 1,784 15,763,789 Fox Searchlight
14 Hostel Part II 901,485 3,026,131 -70.2 1,048 3 860 16,942,356 Lionsgate
15 La Vie En Rose 773,896 660,278 17.2 118 3 6,558 3,917,931 Picturehouse
16 Once 474,135 543,334 -12.7 126 6 3,763 3,227,004 Fox Searchlight
17 Wild Hogs 366,949 502,325 -26.9 339 17 1,082 166,471,706 Buena Vista
18 Paris Je T'aime 363,192 487,780 -25.5 164 8 2,215 3,406,007 First Look
19 Blades of Glory 261,498 99,246 163.5 301 13 869 117,518,497 Paramount
20 You Kill Me 233,709 35 1 6,677 233,709 IFC
Top 5 $ 94,208,621 $ 113,512,548 -17.0
Top 10 121,972,345 137,781,216 -11.5
Top 20 129,151,143 142,676,876 -9.5
Top 20 vs. 2006 129,151,143 137,087,863 -5.8

Last Updated: June 25, 2007 at 10:00PM ET

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