Weekend Box Office (July 1 - 4, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers across North America joined the fight against alien invasion and powered the Steven Spielberg-Tom Cruise hit War of the Worlds to a powerful number one debut over the long Independence Day holiday weekend. Action is what audiences craved as Batman Begins and Mr. & Mrs. Smith followed in second and third. However, overall ticket sales were down from last year for the 19th consecutive weekend extending a streak the industry is certainly not proud of.

Paramount generated its biggest opening weekend ever with the launch of War which grossed $77.1M over the four-day Friday-to-Monday holiday session, according to final studio figures, and $112.7M during its six-day bow starting from its Wednesday debut. The Friday-to-Sunday tally reached a potent $64.5M. Though it did not come close to Spider-Man 2's record opening of $180.1M over six days a year ago this weekend, the H.G. Wells sci-fi adventure did deliver the second largest opening ever over the Fourth of July weekend. The PG-13 film invaded a massive 3,908 theaters and averaged an astounding $19,719 per site over four days.

For the studio, the story of extra terrestrials attempting to conquer the third rock from the sun exceeded Mission Impossible 2, another Cruise vehicle launching over a holiday frame, to break the company's five-year-old opening weekend record. The spy sequel bowed to $70.8M over four days and $57.8M over three days over Memorial Day weekend in 2000. Adjust for ticket price increases over the last half-decade and MI2 would still lead by admissions, however.

As expected for a sci-fi vehicle, men outnumbered women as studio research showed that 53% of the audience was male. However, those under and over the age of 25 were split evenly showing broad appeal across many age groups. War of the Worlds was budgeted at $132M and co-produced with DreamWorks. The effects-driven film generated the fourth largest opening weekend in July with its three-day July 1-3 figure trailing Spider-Man 2 ($88.2M), Austin Powers in Goldmember ($76.6M), and Planet of the Apes ($68.5M). Cruise enjoyed his best bow ever while blockbuster-maker Spielberg witnessed his second best after The Lost World which shattered records in 1997 with $92.7M over four days including previews.

War needed to make as much money quickly since on its second weekend it will face the opening of the big-budget super hero adventure Fantastic Four which will be targeting much of the same audience. Fox had originally programmed Four into the Fourth of July weekend slot only to push it back a week after Paramount planted its Cruise-Spielberg flag on the same long weekend.

Overseas, the sci-fi adventure conquered much of the world with a five-day international opening of $102.5M. As with most tentpole titles, War opened day and date in most major markets around the world.

Far back in second place with a quarter of the sales of War was former two-time box office champ Batman Begins which grossed $19.3M in its third weekend. The Warner Bros. comic flick bumped its cume up to $154.8M after 20 days and continued to hold up well dropping only 43% over the Friday-to-Sunday portion despite facing direct competition for its sci-fi action audience. Internationally, Batman Begins grossed $15.7M from 86 markets boosting the overseas tally to $114.2M and the worldwide haul to $269M.

Fox held steady in third place with the action sensation Mr. & Mrs. Smith which took in $12.7M in its fourth mission. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have collected $146.1M to date making the assassin pic the biggest live action film ever for the actress and the second best career hit for the actor after 2001's Ocean's Eleven which took in $183.4M.

Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell proved to be a far less popular couple as their comedy Bewitched fell sharply in its second weekend to $11.1M. Down more than 50% from its debut, the Sony remake brought its 11-day total to $40.6M. A final domestic tally in the area of $60M seems likely for the $80M comedy.

Another remake, Disney's Herbie: Fully Loaded, found its way to fifth place with $10.8M in its second weekend. The Lindsay Lohan family pic posted a strong hold as its Friday-to-Sunday portion dipped only 25%. After 13 days, Herbie has taken in a solid $37.1M and could cross the finish line with $70-80M. DreamWorks followed with its animated hit Madagascar which grabbed $6.7M pushing its total to $172.1M making it the studio's top-grossing non-ogre toon.

Hollywood's summer line-up this year continued to give moviegoers less excitement compared to last year. The four-day box office trailed last year's four-day holiday frame with the top ten coming up a substantial 25% short. Of course, much of the defecit is due to Spider-Man 2 exploding with record levels a year ago as War of the Worlds reached two-thirds of the webslinger's weekend haul from last year. However, a lack of depth from holdovers also factored in as the rest of the top ten was off 13% from a year ago.

The summer's biggest hits were also more powerful in 2004. At the season's midpoint, the top five summer blockbusters have grossed $988.2M to date, down 12% from a year ago. Four hits had already surpassed the $180M mark at this point a year ago. Only Episode III has crossed that mark so far this summer.

Martin Lawrence fouled out with his latest comedy Rebound which debuted in seventh with a poor $6M over four days. Averaging a Clippers-like $2,436 from 2,464 theaters, the PG-rated film features the comedian playing a disgraced basketball coach assigned to teach a bunch of misfit school children. With so many better options like action films and other family pics, moviegoers saw little reason to spend money on Fox's first flop of the summer.

The year's biggest hit Star Wars Episode III claimed eighth with $5M over four days pushing the cume to $366.5M. Adam Sandler followed with The Longest Yard which locked up $4M giving Paramount $148.7M to date. Rounding out the top ten was the zombie thriller Land of the Dead which completely fell apart on its second weekend plunging to $3.3M. Crashing a troubling 74% over the three-day span, Universal's $15M horror flick has scared up $16.8M in 11 days and should end its run quickly with around $20M.

Two month-old titles dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Universal's acclaimed boxing drama Cinderella Man punched up $3.1M over the long weekend in its fifth round. The Russell Crowe pic has grossed an underwhelming $54.4M to date and should conclude with roughly $60M. The Miramax kid action flick The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl collected $2.1M boosting the total to a respectable $34.9M. Look for a $38-40M final.

The top ten films grossed $156M over four days which was down 25% from last year when Spider-Man 2 opened at number one with a colossal $180.1M.

Compared to projections, War of the Worlds opened very close to my $115M six-day forecast while Rebound was weaker than my $10M four-day prediction.

For a NEW review of War of the Worlds, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Fantastic Four and Dark Water both open.

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

# Title Jul 1 - 4 Jun 24 - 26 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 War of the Worlds $ 77,061,953 3,908 1 $ 19,719 $ 112,744,353 Paramount
2 Batman Begins 19,339,432 27,589,389 -29.9 3,765 3 5,137 154,800,369 Warner Bros.
3 Mr. & Mrs. Smith 12,723,583 16,825,209 -24.4 2,985 4 4,263 146,082,474 Fox
4 Bewitched 11,076,523 20,131,130 -45.0 3,188 2 3,474 40,583,013 Sony
5 Herbie: Fully Loaded 10,762,050 12,709,221 -15.3 3,521 2 3,057 37,093,838 Buena Vista
6 Madagascar 6,701,584 7,434,917 -9.9 2,526 6 2,653 172,131,077 DreamWorks
7 Rebound 6,003,237 2,464 1 2,436 6,003,237 Fox
8 Star Wars Episode III 5,031,463 6,113,071 -17.7 1,759 7 2,860 366,502,577 Fox
9 The Longest Yard 4,004,317 5,527,359 -27.6 1,790 6 2,237 148,692,427 Paramount
10 Land of the Dead 3,255,585 10,221,705 -68.2 2,253 2 1,445 16,750,380 Universal
11 Cinderella Man 3,052,415 3,446,235 -11.4 1,174 5 2,600 54,371,070 Universal
12 The Adventures of Sharkboy... 2,055,768 3,496,044 -41.2 1,616 4 1,272 34,857,744 Miramax
13 The Perfect Man 1,027,080 2,622,865 -60.8 951 3 1,080 13,644,535 Universal
14 Crash 949,472 1,030,658 -7.9 424 9 2,239 49,689,153 Lions Gate
15 The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 835,041 1,535,355 -45.6 703 5 1,188 35,837,449 Warner Bros.
16 Rize 645,736 1,574,787 -59.0 352 2 1,834 2,668,383 Lions Gate
17 Mad Hot Ballroom 623,903 512,119 21.8 202 8 3,089 3,976,480 Paramount Classics
18 March of the Penguins 525,391 137,492 282.1 20 2 26,270 745,480 Warner Ind. Pictures
19 Howl's Moving Castle 483,539 581,654 -16.9 187 4 2,586 3,319,360 Buena Vista
20 Monster-in-Law 399,413 496,923 -19.6 366 8 1,091 80,507,361 New Line
Top 5 $ 130,963,541 $ 87,476,654 49.7
Top 10 155,959,727 113,494,280 37.4
Top 20 166,557,485 123,406,386 35.0
Top 20 vs. 2004 166,557,485 219,175,591 -24.0

Last Updated : July 5, 2005 at 9:30PM EDT