Weekend Box Office (June 30 - July 2, 2006)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The Man of Steel conquered the North American box office as the super hero adventure Superman Returns claimed the number one spot over the long five-day Independence Day holiday frame. Second place was taken with style by Meryl Streep whose new comedy The Devil Wears Prada opened with more muscle than expected. Most holdovers suffered substantial declines over the three-day period, however the overall marketplace remained better than last year's. But for the first time in five years, Hollywood reached the Fourth of July without a single summer film passing the $250M mark.

Flying to the top of the charts, Superman Returns collected $76M over the five-day Friday-to-Tuesday holiday period, according to final studio figures, and $108.1M since its launch last Tuesday night. The PG-13 film was the first new installment for the beloved comic book character in nearly two decades and averaged a strong $12,924 over three days from a massive 4,065 theaters. Its Friday-to-Sunday gross was $52.5M putting its five-day start at $84.6M. The total week-long gross included about $3M from Tuesday night previews which began at 10:00pm and a record $6.7M from 76 Imax theaters where the film was presented with special 3D footage.

Following the weekend period, Superman dropped 27% from Sunday to $13M on Monday when a large number of moviegoers had the day off. The gross fell 19% on Tuesday to $10.5M. Although Tuesday was a national holiday, the Fourth of July is filled every year with outdoor distractions such as parades, barbecues, and fireworks at night which cut into national moviegoing.

Reviews were mostly positive for the Bryan Singer-directed film which saw newcomer Brandon Routh stepping into the title role following the late Christopher Reeve. Kevin Spacey plays arch-nemesis Lex Luthor while Kate Bosworth takes the role of Lois Lane. The pricey film carried a colossal production budget in the neighborhood of $250M which included about $40M in early development costs before the current cast and crew were in place.

Though a strong number one bow, the opening of Superman Returns did not match up to the debuts of similar action and sci-fi films. One year ago, the Tom Cruise alien invasion film War of the Worlds opened over the same holiday weekend with the same Wednesday start but grossed a higher $100.6M over its first five days. Four years ago, Men in Black II also premiered the same way and grossed $87.2M over its Wednesday-to-Sunday launch which at today's ticket prices would be close to a nine-digit gross. The Kryptonian hero's five-day opening even fell short of the three-day bow of Singer's last film X2: X-Men United which opened to $85.6M three years ago.

However, Superman Returns did manage to open better than last summer's Batman Begins which was another Warner Bros. film attempting to restart a dormant super hero franchise. That film captured $72.9M in its five-day debut including $48.7M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. The new Clark Kent pic is off to a 16% better start than the new Bruce Wayne flick over five days, and only 8% better over the weekend portion. The studio hopes to have long legs again like it did with Batman which went on to gross $205.3M domestically.

But that will be a tough task for Superman which has a very different road ahead of it. Batman Begins had little direct competition in its second weekend plus had the Fourth of July holiday help its third frame. Superman, on the other hand, has already taken advantage of its only holiday which boosted its opening week. Plus it has a juggernaut in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest opening on its second weekend which is aiming to steal away the same audience.

Competition was also a major factor for Superman Returns this weekend especially with The Devil Wears Prada stealing away a larger-than-expected female audience. The super hero film's next four competitors stole a combined $101.5M in ticket sales over the five-day weekend. After seven days, last year's War of the Worlds grossed $121.2M, or 52% of its eventual $234.3M domestic total. Should Superman follow a similar trajectory over the weeks ahead, it will be a challenge for it to reach the $200M mark.

Internationally, the new Superman film took flight in the Asia/Pacific region and opened at number one in eleven countries grossing an estimated $19.8M from 1,750 theaters by Sunday night. Key markets included Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and India. The studio is holding back the film in Europe and Latin America until after the World Cup final which takes place on July 9.

Fox countered the super hero adventure with the femme-driven comedy The Devil Wears Prada and scored a terrific second place debut with $40.1M over five days. Playing in 2,847 locations, the PG-13 film grossed $27.5M in three days and averaged a stunning $9,672 per theater. It was Meryl Streep's best opening ever in a lead role. Devil was based on the best-selling novel about a small-town gal who lands a job as the assistant to the evil editor-in-chief of the fashion industry's top magazine. Anne Hathaway co-stars. The Prada audience was immensely female as studio research showed that a whopping 79% were women. Those over the age of 25 made up 61% of the crowd.

With both The Lake House and The Break-Up aging, Devil found an opportunity to score with adult women with extra leisure time over of the long holiday weekend - especially those who had little interest in seeing Superman. The counter-programming move worked like a charm for Fox which spent only $35M on Prada which managed to tap into a built-in audience of fans of the book. Starpower from Streep and Hathaway also allowed for a broad age range to take interest. Reviews were mostly good. After recent duds like Elizabethtown, North Country, and Streep's own Prime, Prada proved that the right female-oriented film could attract large audiences.

Dropping from first to third was Adam Sandler's comedy Click which grossed $19.9M over the Friday-to-Sunday period in its sophomore frame. Falling 50%, the Sony release has laughed up a solid $87.6M in the twelve days up to the Fourth of July. Ten-day cumes of the studio's previous Sandler comedies opening on the weekend before the Independence Day frame were $73.6M for 2002's Mr. Deeds and $83.7M for 1999's Big Daddy. Those films ended their runs with $126.3M and $163.5M, respectively. The $83M Click looks to find its way to about $130M.

Cars enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten slipping 37% to $14.6M over the Friday-to-Sunday span for fourth place. The Disney/Pixar hit upped its cume to $190.5M as of Independence Day. Paramount's Nacho Libre fell 48% to $6.6M giving the Jack Black comedy $68.5M as of Tuesday.

Folowing in sixth place was the Keanu Reeves-Sandra Bullock romance The Lake House with $4.8M, off 46%, leaving Warner Bros. with $41.4M thus far. Close behind with $4.5M was the street racing sequel The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift which dropped 54% in its third lap. Total to date stands at $53.5M.

The Tyrese Gibson actioner Waist Deep suffered the worst decline in the top ten tumbling 64% to $3.4M in its second weekend. The Focus release has grossed $16.6M in twelve days and should finish up with around $22M. Universal's comedy The Break-Up crumbled 55% to $3M while Sony's religious thriller The Da Vinci Code rounded out the top ten with $2.4M, off 40%. Cumes for each are $111.7M and $211.2M, respectively, as of Tuesday.

Although overall ticket sales continue to inch ahead of last year each weekend, the season's top blockbusters remain weaker than those from 2005. The cumulative gross for the top five summer films this year reached $900M, down 8% from last summer's five biggest hits at this same point.

Two Fox sequels fell from the top ten over the weekend. The year's highest-grossing film X-Men: The Last Stand dropped 54% to $2.2M to boost its sum to $229.8M. The $165M film currently stands at number 47 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters ahead of The Lost World which grossed $229.1M in 1997. The final mutant adventure is the top-grossing installment in the trilogy surpassing the $157.3M of 2000's X-Men and the $214.9M of 2003's X2 and should complete its domestic run with around $235M. Overseas, it has already grossed over $195M.

The studio has not had as much luck with its kidpic Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties which tumbled 59% to $2.2M in only its third weekend. Family audiences have rejected the cat flick spending only $22.8M on it thus far. The Garfield sequel looks to end up with only $25M or one-third of the $75.4M of its 2004 predecessor.

In limited release, ThinkFilm released its indie comedy Strangers With Candy on Wednesday in just two New York theaters and grossed $45,138 over three days and $63,496 over five days. That gave the Amy Sedaris-Stephen Colbert pic a sparkling average of $21,570 over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Candy will expand to the rest of the top ten markets on Friday.

Among limited release holdovers, the global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth grossed another $1.7M over three days to boost its cume to $13.4M for Paramount Vantage as of Tuesday. The three-day drop was a slender 16%. The Road to Guantanamo collected $52,173 from 18 sites for a $2,899 average in its second weekend. The Roadside Attractions release has taken in $167,163 to date.

The top ten films grossed $139.3M over the Friday-to-Sunday period which was up 7% from last year when War of the Worlds debuted at number one with $64.9M; but down 10% from 2004 when Spider-Man 2 opened in the top spot with $88.2M.

Compared to projections, Superman Returns fell far short of my $78M three-day forecast while The Devil Wears Prada almost doubled my $14M prediction.

For reviews of Superman Returns and the Failure to Launch DVD, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel sets sail.

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

# Title Jun 30 - Jul 2 Jun 23 - 25 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cume - Jul 4 Distributor Jun 30 - Jul 4
1 Superman Returns $ 52,535,096 4,065 1 $ 12,924 $ 108,091,711 Warner Bros. $ 76,033,267
2 The Devil Wears Prada 27,537,244 2,847 1 9,672 40,135,062 Fox 40,135,062
3 Click 19,919,470 40,011,365 -50.2 3,764 2 5,292 87,627,835 Sony 29,110,313
4 Cars 14,569,356 23,285,367 -37.4 3,706 4 3,931 190,506,108 Buena Vista 22,484,325
5 Nacho Libre 6,600,962 12,699,864 -48.0 3,082 3 2,142 68,493,525 Paramount 9,720,352
6 The Lake House 4,811,192 8,832,259 -45.5 2,645 3 1,819 41,371,251 Warner Bros. 7,145,534
7 The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift 4,485,585 9,801,835 -54.2 2,670 3 1,680 53,535,225 Universal 6,301,040
8 Waist Deep 3,431,691 9,404,180 -63.5 1,006 2 3,411 16,571,365 Focus 4,708,766
9 The Break-Up 2,990,680 6,596,625 -54.7 1,911 5 1,565 111,720,225 Universal 4,481,075
10 The Da Vinci Code 2,425,158 4,050,844 -40.1 1,384 7 1,752 211,239,443 Sony 3,746,611
11 X-Men: The Last Stand 2,207,609 4,841,950 -54.4 1,558 6 1,417 229,805,892 Fox 3,322,498
12 Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties 2,162,661 5,209,818 -58.5 2,150 3 1,006 22,785,753 Fox 3,273,359
13 An Inconvenient Truth 1,690,035 2,016,408 -16.2 587 6 2,879 13,364,881 Par. Vantage 2,602,878
14 A Prairie Home Companion 1,421,929 2,300,426 -38.2 717 4 1,983 15,665,194 Picturehouse 2,183,569
15 Over the Hedge 1,261,089 2,889,574 -56.4 1,208 7 1,044 148,513,534 Paramount 2,075,200
16 Poseidon 1,096,212 427,467 156.4 340 8 3,224 59,083,889 Warner Bros. 1,384,379
17 The Omen 522,474 2,256,627 -76.8 625 4 836 53,693,730 Fox 728,470
18 RV 511,010 380,777 34.2 457 10 1,118 68,152,367 Sony 752,118
19 Mission: Impossible III 491,007 719,349 -31.7 507 9 968 132,556,364 Paramount 725,604
20 Krrish 370,266 643,000 -42.4 58 2 6,384 1,409,762 Adlabs 559,762
Top 5 $ 121,162,128 $ 95,202,611 27.3 $ 177,483,319
Top 10 139,306,434 124,734,107 11.7 203,866,345
Top 20 151,040,726 137,087,863 10.2 221,474,182
Top 20 vs. 2005 151,040,726 138,196,842 9.3

Last Updated : July 5, 2006 at 6:45PM EDT

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