Weekend Box Office (July 2 - 5, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Sony provided the fireworks over the Fourth of July holiday weekend with the record launch of the super hero sequel Spider-Man 2 which took in more business than the rest of the films in release combined over the Friday-to-Monday extended frame. The Sam Raimi-directed hit grossed $115.8M over the four-day period, according to final studio figures, and a staggering $180.1M since its Wednesday launch setting a new opening week record in just six days. The previous record was set last summer by The Matrix Reloaded which took in $158.2M by the end of its seventh day of release.

Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and Alfred Molina, the PG-13 smash was helped by its ultrawide bow in 4,152 theaters making it the second-widest opening is history right behind Shrek 2's 4,163-playdate bow in May. Spider-Man 2 collected $88.2M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the weekend for a muscular three-day average of $21,232 and a potent four-day average of $27,894. The daily journey began with a record $40.5M opening on Wednesday, and continued with a 41% dip to $23.8M on Thursday, a 37% bounce back to $32.5M on Friday, a 4% uptick to $33.8M on Saturday, a 35% drop to $22M on the Sunday holiday, and a 25% jump on Monday's observed holiday to $27.5M.

With the first Spider-Man becoming an instant megablockbuster in 2002, it was expected that a gigantic audience was ready to turn out for the arrival of the newest Spidey story. The earlier opening on Wednesday coupled with the long Independence Day holiday weekend allowed the business to be spread across a six-day period. Reviews were glowing for the $200M-budgeted actioner and while there were a number of other successful titles in the marketplace, competing studios had already decided to stay away by not opening any major tentpole pictures in late June or over the holiday session.

Due to Spider-Man 2's mid-week release before a holiday weekend, its rankings in various box office categories vary. In addition to its record for the biggest opening week, the film also posted one of the two biggest opening days ever sitting aside the Matrix sequel which grossed $42.5M with $5M coming from night-before previews which started earlier than Spider-Man 2's did. The Friday-to-Sunday portion ranks seventh all-time behind the first Spider-Man, Shrek 2, The Matrix Reloaded, and the three Harry Potter films. Opening mid-week always diverts upfront demand from the weekend period thereby diluting down the Friday-to-Sunday figures making direct comparisons between these hits difficult.

The Spidey sequel's five-day opening tally of $152.6M ranks first among megahits opening on Wednesdays easily beating out the old record of $129M set by Shrek 2. And the Friday-to-Monday tally is the best ever for any movie opening over a four-day holiday weekend. Spider-Man 2 attracted a broad audience that was very pleased with the picture according to research issued by Sony. Males made up 52% of the crowd proving that the typical comic book audience of guys did not dominate the turnout. Those under 25 accounted for 55% and 91% categorized the film as "excellent" or "very good."

The new webslinger tale became the fastest film to break the $150M mark doing so in just five days (a day earlier than previous record-holder Reloaded) and now aims to break the $200M speed record of nine days currently held by the original Spider-Man. Although crushing all foes was easy this weekend, remaining a powerhouse will be a challenge in the weeks to come as a number of high-profile summer films are waiting in the wings for their chance to steal away audience attention and dollars. This Wednesday, Disney unleashes its Jerry Bruckheimer epic King Arthur followed on Friday by DreamWorks' Will Ferrell comedy Anchorman. The following week, Fox targets the sci-fi action audience with the Will Smith thriller I, Robot.

In order for Spider-Man 2 to approach the $403.7M of its predecessor, it will have to hold up better than recent Independence Day weekend event sequels. Last year, Terminator 3 opened to $72.4M over its Wednesday-to-Sunday launch accounting for 48% of its eventual domestic gross of $150.4M.. The year before that, Sony's Men in Black 2 took in $87.2M over its five-day holiday debut reaching 46% of its eventual total of $190.4M. Still, Spider-Man 2 looks to become the fourth movie of the past seven months to join the all-time top ten list following Shrek 2, The Passion of the Christ, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Far back in second place was a super hero of different sorts, Michael Moore, with the controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 which doubled its theater count and grossed $22M over the four-day holiday frame. The Lions Gate/IFC Films release averaged a strong $12,769 from 1,725 theaters over the long weekend. However, wider distribution and competition from the webslinger helped the R-rated film's per-theater average tumble. Over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the weekend, Fahrenheit grossed $16.3M and averaged $9,438, down an alarming 66% from its opening weekend average of $27,558. But with an astonishing $61.1M after only 11 days of wide release, the much-talked-about film is well on its way to grossing $90-100M domestically.

Sony's cross-dressing comedy White Chicks dropped one spot to third place with $11.5M in its second weekend. The Wayans brothers pic has taken in $46.7M in 13 days and looks on its way to around $70M. Another hit comedy, Fox's Dodgeball, followed in fourth with $11.4M in its third round. The Vince Vaughn-Ben Stiller film has lifted it cume to $87.6M after 18 days and is on a heading to join the century club. Declines from last weekend over the Friday-to-Sunday portion were heavy for both - 56% for Chicks and 57% for Dodgeball.

DreamWorks saw a sturdy $10.8M for The Terminal which has reached $57.2M after 18 days. The New Line romance The Notebook held up well in its second weekend of release collecting $10.4M over four days. With $31.7M in 11 days, the PG-13 picture should find its way to around $50M. Three-day drops from last weekend were 45% for the period tearjerker and 40% for the Tom Hanks pic.

A pair of blockbuster summer sequels followed. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban grossed $8.5M in its fifth session for a cume of $225.7M while the DreamWorks smash Shrek 2 took in $8.4M in its seventh frame for a towering $410.7M total. On the all-time domestic blockbusters list, the wizard tale now sits at number 42 just below 2001's Rush Hour 2 ($226.1M) while the ogre comedy replaced Spider-Man for the number five spot. Friday-to-Sunday declines were 48% for Azkaban and 43% for Shrek 2.

Rounding out the top ten were the feline flicks Garfield: The Movie and Two Brothers with grosses of $4.3M and $3.9M. The Universal tiger tale has grossed an embarrassing $12.9M after its second weekend while Fox's cat comedy has eaten up $64.2M to date. Three-day drops were steep - 57% for Brothers and 64% for Garfield.

Dropping out of the top ten after just three weeks was Paramount's Nicole Kidman pic The Stepford Wives with $3.2M over four days and a cume to date of $54.4M. Off 53% over three days, the $90M dark comedy opened well but showed no legs this summer and looks to finish with a disappointing $60M.

Four arthouse films opened in limited release over the holiday weekend looking to give adult audiences some alternatives to the effects-driven blockbusters. Scoring the biggest opening weekend gross was the Robert Redford-Willem Dafoe kidnapping drama The Clearing with a four-day take of $618,674 from 56 theaters. Averaging $11,048 per theater, the Fox Searchlight release will expand to about 200 theaters on Friday. Generating the most impressive average was the Kevin Kline-Ashley Judd film De-Lovely with $400,001 from 16 sites for a potent four-day average of $25,000.

Warner Independent Pictures debuted its first title Before Sunset and captured $311,194 from 20 playdates for a strong $15,560 average. Buena Vista, however, could not find an audience for its documentary America's Heart & Soul which opened in 98 theaters and grossed just $184,917 for a dismal $1,886 four-day average. Fox Searchlight's holdover Napoleon Dynamite widened again in its fourth frame and took in $794,558 from 142 sites for a $5,595 four-day average and a cume of $2M.

The top ten films grossed a towering $207M over four days which was up from last year when Terminator 3 opened at number one with a three-day gross of $44M; and up from 2002 when Men in Black 2 debuted on top with $52.1M over three days.

Compared to projections, Spider-Man 2 opened higher than my six-day forecast of $160M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Fahrenheit 9/11's impact on the upcoming presidential election. In last week's survey, readers were asked if Spider-Man 2 would open with at least $150M over the six-day period. Of 2,606 responses, 89% correctly said Yes while 11% thought No.

For reviews of Spider-Man 2 and The Clearing visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Anchorman and King Arthur both open.

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

# Title Jul 2 - 5 Jun 25 - 27 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Spider-Man 2 $ 115,817,364 4,152 1 $ 27,894 $ 180,072,888 Sony
2 Fahrenheit 9/11 22,027,125 23,920,637 -7.9 1,725 2 12,769 61,118,488 Lions Gate / IFC
3 White Chicks 11,544,456 19,676,748 -41.3 2,800 2 4,123 46,664,718 Sony
4 Dodgeball 11,355,165 18,787,419 -39.6 2,950 3 3,849 87,609,589 Fox
5 The Terminal 10,750,087 13,135,148 -18.2 2,782 3 3,864 57,209,326 DreamWorks
6 The Notebook 10,362,521 13,464,745 -23.0 2,323 2 4,461 31,674,074 New Line
7 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 8,541,177 11,247,412 -24.1 2,725 5 3,134 225,719,716 Warner Bros.
8 Shrek 2 8,387,681 10,216,452 -17.9 2,609 7 3,215 410,688,506 DreamWorks
9 Garfield: The Movie 4,283,154 7,526,987 -43.1 2,458 4 1,743 64,235,505 Fox
10 Two Brothers 3,882,180 6,144,160 -36.8 2,181 2 1,780 12,876,545 Universal
11 The Stepford Wives 3,195,536 5,056,343 -36.8 1,447 4 2,208 54,368,456 Paramount
12 The Day After Tomorrow 2,702,881 4,755,505 -43.2 1,518 6 1,781 180,215,404 Fox
13 The Chronicles of Riddick 1,822,825 4,531,765 -59.8 1,476 4 1,235 54,609,765 Universal
14 Around the World in 80 Days 1,511,503 4,274,941 -64.6 1,271 3 1,189 21,473,814 Buena Vista
15 Napoleon Dynamite 794,558 388,112 104.7 142 4 5,595 2,025,709 Fox Searchlight
16 The Clearing 618,674 56 1 11,048 618,674 Fox Searchlight
17 Troy 501,411 957,313 -47.6 375 8 1,337 131,811,689 Warner Bros.
18 De-Lovely 400,001 16 1 25,000 400,001 MGM/UA
19 NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience 366,098 267,702 36.8 57 15 6,423 14,568,461 Warner Bros.
20 Before Sunset 311,194 20 1 15,560 311,194 WIP
Top 5 $ 171,494,197 $ 88,984,697 92.7
Top 10 206,950,910 129,176,051 60.2
Top 20 219,175,591 145,954,221 50.2
Top 20 vs. 2003 219,175,591 131,928,099 66.1

Last Updated : July 6, 2004 at 10:45PM EDT

Gitesh Pandya can be seen each Friday on "The Biz" airing live at 12:30pm ET on CNNfn with replays at 4:30pm and 9:30pm.