Weekend Box Office (June 29 - July 1, 2007)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Pixar scored its eighth consecutive number one opening with the animated feature Ratatouille which easily topped the North American box office chart. Bruce Willis got the action going in second place with the debut of his new shoot-em-up sequel Live Free or Die Hard. The Michael Moore documentary Sicko and the femme-driven drama Evening saw much smaller grosses in their national openings but still landed in the top ten. The overall box office was slightly better than last year's as the the first half of 2007 came to a close.

Ratatouille cooked up $47M in its premiere frame hitting the top spot, according to final studio figures, but the G-rated toon delivered the smallest opening for Pixar since 1998's A Bug's Life which bowed nationwide over the Thanksgiving session that year to $33.3M over three days (roughly $40M at today's ticket prices). The new entry about a rodent that secretly cooks up delicious meals in a Paris restaurant fell short of the debut numbers posted by recent Pixar offerings like last summer's Cars ($60.1M), 2004's The Incredibles ($70.5M), and 2003's Finding Nemo ($70.3M). With every company in Hollywood now producing computer-animated films for kids, and Cars driving into theaters just one year ago, Ratatouille lacked the event status that most Pixar pics carried with them.

Still, reviews were sensational and while the film may have been a bit of a tough sell upfront, strong word-of-mouth could give the rat pic solid legs in the weeks ahead, especially with the Independence Day holiday week coming up. Pixar films often go on to reach four or fives times their opening weekend numbers domestically so joining the $200M club is still possible. The French setting could also boost overseas sales. Most recent Pixar films earned more internationally than domestically except for Cars which boasted a very American NASCAR-type storyline.

Opening at number two with a similar gross, but spread out over five days, was the Bruce Willis action sequel Live Free or Die Hard which collected $33.4M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and $48.4M since its Wednesday launch. Playing in 3,408 theaters, the Fox release averaged a healthy $9,792 over three days. Studio research showed that the PG-13 film skewed a bit older and a bit more male, as expected. With the franchise being dormant for twelve years, it was a challenge to make this new Die Hard picture relevant to today's young summer moviegoers. Live Free earned strong reviews from critics and overseas, where its title is Die Hard 4.0, grosses are expected to be significantly stronger as evidenced by 1995's Die Hard With A Vengeance which collected a whopping 72% of its $361M worldwide total from outside of North America.

Steve Carell's comedy Evan Almighty dropped 52% in its second weekend to $15.1M and fell two spots to third place. Universal has collected $60.7M in ten days and seems headed for the $100M mark by the end of the run. That makes Evan the summer's biggest underachiever given its reported $175M production cost and the fact that it has grossed less than half as much as Bruce Almighty did in its first ten days four years ago.

The hotel room thriller 1408 declined by 48% in its sophomore frame and collected $10.7M. John Cusack's latest film has scared up a solid $40.4M after ten days and could finish with an impressive $70M for MGM making it the year's second biggest horror film after Disturbia.

Falling 54% to $9.1M was Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer which has banked $114.9M to date. The PG-rated Fox sequel is off 7% from the 17-day cume of its PG-13 predecessor from 2005.

Universal's comedy Knocked Up placed sixth with $7.3M, down only 34%, for a cume of $122.3M. Ocean's Thirteen followed falling 47% to $6.1M giving Warner Bros. $102.1M domestically. The international tally climbed to $124.1M boosting the worldwide total to $226M and counting.

Disney's Captain Jack saga Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End ranked eighth with $5M dipping only 31% in its sixth voyage. The North American cume stands at $295.7M putting it at number 25 the all-time domestic blockbusters list just behind 2003's first Pirates adventure which grossed $305.4M. Overseas, the third Pirates film surged to $608.9M raising the global gross to an astounding $904.6M allowing it to surpass Spider-Man 3 to become the top-grossing film worldwide in 2007. At World's End has also become the sixth biggest blockbuster of all-time overseas and only the ninth movie ever to break the $900M mark globally.

Michael Moore's new documentary Sicko opened nationwide over the weekend and placed ninth with $4.5M from only 441 theaters for a solid $10,208 average. Though it was an impressive debut, it was nowhere near the $23.9M opening and $27,558 average of the filmmaker's last release Fahrenheit 9/11 from June 2004. That controversial film went on to become the top-grossing doc ever with $119.2M. Sicko, a criticism of America's health care problems, failed to attract the same amount of controversy and has gotten off to a slower start for Lionsgate. Cume is $4.6M including an exclusive one-week run in New York City.

The dying-mother drama Evening bowed with weak results in tenth place with $3.5M from 977 sites for a mild $3,584 average. Focus saw poor reviews for its femme-driven drama which boasted performances from Claire Danes, Vanessa Redgrave, Meryl Streep, and Glenn Close.

At 2007's halfway point, the top five summer films (led by Spider-Man 3's $333.7M) have collectively grossed $1.18 billion, up 31% from last year. The top five blockbusters of the overall year have combined for $1.32 billion, up an encouraging 37% from this point in 2006, so the marketplace has certainly been healthy with some big hits, even if some have not met the industry's high expectations.

Four films tumbled out of the top ten over the weekend. Paramount's Shrek the Third fell 53% to $2.7M giving the DreamWorks toon $313.7M to date. That allowed the $170M-budgeted ogre tale to crack the Top 20 on the all-time domestic list at number 20 right behind The Fellowship of the Ring which took in $314.2M. Look for a final of about $320M which would be substantially behind the $436.7M of Shrek 2 which currently ranks number three all-time. Worldwide, Shrek the Third has grossed over $500M with many major markets yet to open.

Rival toon Surf's Up grossed $2.4M, off a steep 63%, giving Sony $53.8M thus far. A mediocre $60M final could result. The teen girl pic Nancy Drew fell 57% to $1.9M for a $21.2M sum. Warner Bros. should end its run with only $25M or so. Paramount Vantage's A Mighty Heart dropped 60% to $1.6M giving the Angelina Jolie pic just $7M in ten days. A $10M final seems likely.

The top ten films grossed $141.7M which was up a scant 2% from last year when Superman Returns opened at number one with $52.5M; and up 9% from 2005 when War of the Worlds debuted on top with $64.9M over three days.

Compared to projections, Ratatouille opened below my $57M forecast while Live Free or Die Hard was on target with my five-day prediction of $48M. Sicko bowed below my $7M projection but Evening was very close to my $3M forecast.

Be sure to check BoxOfficeGuru.com all week for daily Transformers box office updates.

For NEW reviews of Ratatouille, Live Free or Die Hard, and License to Wed visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Wednesday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Transformers and License to Wed both open midweek for the Fourth of July holiday.

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

# Title Jun 29 - Jul 1 Jun 22 - 24 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Ratatouille $ 47,027,395 3,940 1 $ 11,936 $ 47,027,395 Buena Vista
2 Live Free or Die Hard 33,369,559 3,408 1 9,792 48,398,130 Fox
3 Evan Almighty 15,143,945 31,192,615 -51.5 3,636 2 4,165 60,679,545 Universal
4 1408 10,662,804 20,617,667 -48.3 2,733 2 3,902 40,442,058 MGM
5 Fantastic Four: Rise of the SS 9,143,876 20,009,476 -54.3 3,424 3 2,671 114,944,684 Fox
6 Knocked Up 7,302,225 10,977,595 -33.5 2,686 5 2,719 122,291,755 Universal
7 Ocean's Thirteen 6,085,959 11,411,268 -46.7 2,903 4 2,096 102,120,537 Warner Bros.
8 Pirates of the Caribbean: AWE 4,960,368 7,202,086 -31.1 2,162 6 2,294 295,703,075 Buena Vista
9 Sicko 4,501,712 68,969 441 2 10,208 4,616,786 Lionsgate
10 Evening 3,501,971 977 1 3,584 3,501,971 Focus
11 Shrek the Third 2,673,877 5,652,585 -52.7 2,066 7 1,294 313,739,703 Paramount
12 Surf's Up 2,446,757 6,580,743 -62.8 2,503 4 978 53,760,658 Sony
13 Nancy Drew 1,876,247 4,379,447 -57.2 1,932 3 971 21,210,986 Warner Bros.
14 A Mighty Heart 1,587,323 3,948,863 -59.8 1,350 2 1,176 7,005,463 Par. Vantage
15 La Vie En Rose 617,080 773,896 -20.3 142 4 4,346 4,933,571 Picturehouse
16 Spider-Man 3 602,153 1,237,774 -51.4 609 9 989 333,693,426 Sony
17 Waitress 469,384 941,899 -50.2 314 9 1,495 16,761,797 Fox Searchlight
18 Mr. Brooks 431,611 1,624,261 -73.4 602 5 717 27,730,576 MGM
19 Once 381,336 474,135 -19.6 128 7 2,979 3,842,578 Fox Searchlight
20 Wild Hogs 283,459 366,949 -22.8 310 18 914 166,943,052 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 115,347,579 $ 94,208,621 22.4
Top 10 141,699,814 121,972,345 16.2
Top 20 153,069,041 129,151,143 18.5
Top 20 vs. 2006 153,069,041 151,040,726 1.3

Last Updated: July 2, 2007 at 6:30PM ET

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