Weekend Box Office (July 4 - 6, 2003)

THIS WEEKEND Back in his signature role after a dozen years, Arnold Schwarzenegger took full control of the North American box office with the opening of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines which led the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Another of the summer's many sequels, Reese Witherspoon's Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde, showed muscle with its second-place bow but the animated adventure film Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas drowned instantly and found no treasure. Overall, the box office was down for the fourth straight weekend when compared to last year. The top ten was up only 8% versus 1997 (the last time the Independence Day holiday fell on a Friday) indicating lower attendance as ticket prices have increased by a much higher rate over the last six years.

Generating the biggest opening of his career, Schwarzenegger ruled the charts with Terminator 3 which opened with $44M over the Friday-to-Sunday span of the long holiday weekend, according to final studio figures, and a muscular $72.4M since debuting on Tuesday night with previews. The Warner Bros. release powered its way into 3,504 theaters and approximately 6,400 total screens averaging a stellar $12,569 per theater over three days. Among blockbuster films debuting over the extended holiday frame, T3 was no leader though, ranking fourth behind 1996's Independence Day ($96.1M over five days plus previews), 2002's Men in Black II ($87.2M over five days), and 1997's Men in Black ($84.1M over five days plus previews).

Produced by C2 Pictures and Intermedia Films, T3 carries a production pricetag that ranges from $150M to $200M, according to various sources, including a reported $30M just for Arnold. Warners has the R-rated film in the United States and Canada and Sony is handling most of the overseas release. In T3, the former bodybuilder returns as a cyborg from the future sent back in time to protect the human resistance leaders of tomorrow. Nick Stahl and Claire Danes co-star along with newcomer Kristanna Loken as the evil T-X. James Cameron, who directed the first two films in the series, did not return and was replaced by Jonathan Mostow (U-571, Breakdown). After a number of expensive action flops, Schwazenegger managed to headline his first true hit since 1996's Eraser which opened to $24.6M on its way to $101.3M.

Ticket buyers looking for more estrogen in their movies drove the Reese Witherspoon comedy sequel Legally Blonde 2 to a solid second place finish with $22.2M over the Friday-to-Sunday session and $38.5M over five days. Campaigning in 3,350 theaters, the MGM release averaged an encouraging $6,633 over three days. The opening outgrossed the first Legally Blonde which was a surprise number one hit from the summer 2001 opening to $20.4M from 2,620 theaters for a $7,778 average. However, it did not match Witherspoon's last hit Sweet Home Alabama which bowed to $35.6M over three days on its way to $127.2M. While T3 skewed adult male, LB2 went the opposite way pulling in young females lured by the perky smile of Witherspoon who was paid $15M to reprise her role as Elle Woods causing the film's production cost to approach $50M. Though it is too early to say if Legally Blonde 2 can outdo the $96.5M domestic take of its predecessor, it should at least reach the same vicinity.

With action fans lining up for Arnold and young girls giving their vote to Reese, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle suffered the worst fall in the top ten tumbling 63% to $14M in its second weekend. After ten days, the Sony release has grossed $67.1M and looks to finish in the vicinity of $100M. By comparison, the first Charlie's Angels grossed $125.3M in 2000. The McG-directed sequel cost a reported $120M to produce, including pay increases for all the returning talent. Overseas, Full Throttle opened at the top of the box office this weekend in the United Kingdom and Australia with estimated weekend grosses of $5.2M and $3.9M, respectively. As opposed to domestic where audiences are not as excited the second time around, Angels 2 is running about 30% ahead of its predecessor in international territories, according to the studio.

Disney and Pixar celebrated with fireworks over the holiday weekend as their unstoppable blockbuster Finding Nemo did the impossible and surpassed The Matrix Reloaded to become the top-grossing film of the year. The fish flick gobbled up $11.1M, off a mere 21%, and raised its cume to a towering $274.9M. Nemo also became the highest-grossing film ever for Pixar beating the $255.9M of 2001's Monsters, Inc. and is now on course to surpass the all-time biggest toon, Disney's The Lion King, which opened in 1994 and collected $312.9M domestically in its 35mm run. Of course, tickets were less expensive nine years ago so Simba's admissions record is still safe for now.

In a stunning show of longevity, Finding Nemo became the first film to gross over $10M for six consecutive weekends since last summer's megablockbuster Spider-Man. Nemo also broke into the all-time Top 20 and now sits at number 18 on the list of domestic blockbusters ahead of the Matrix sequel which has brought in $271.9M to date.

Stumbling another 56% was The Hulk which pulled in $8.2M in its third weekend. Negative word-of-mouth continues to plague the Universal release which has grossed $117M in 17 days.

Hinting once again that traditionally-animated films could be on their way out, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas flopped in its debut opening to a miserable $6.9M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Moviegoers showed little interest in paying to see the DreamWorks release which averaged a pitiful $2,228 from an ultrawide 3,086 theaters. With pricey stars like Brad Pitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Catherine Zeta-Jones contributing voices (and their names and faces being exploited in ads) the studio hoped that family audiences would turn out in solid numbers for Sinbad, but instead rival toon Finding Nemo saw significantly more traffic despite being in its sixth weekend of release.

With a budget of $60M, the PG-rated Sinbad stands as DreamWorks' only major film during the lucrative summer season. The film follows other animated adventure pics like Treasure Planet and Titan A.E. that have failed at the box office putting another nail in the coffin of traditional animation. Toons that today's audiences flock to have mostly been computer-animated ones with comedy like Nemo, Shrek, and Ice Age. Sinbad also showed Hollywood how difficult it is to launch a successful kids movie over the Fourth of July weekend. Last year's The Powerpuff Girls opened to just $6.1M over five days while 2000's The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle bowed to only $6.8M over three days.

Fox Searchlight's hit virus thriller 28 Days Later fell 40% to seventh place with $6M in its second weekend. The distributor boosted the run of the Danny Boyle-directed horror flick by 147 playdates and averaged $4,270 from 1,407 locations. After ten days, the $8M film has grossed $20.6M and should find its way to about $35M.

Three summer box office winners rounded out the top ten over the holiday weekend. Slipping only 24% was Paramount's The Italian Job with $4.2M for a solid cume of $83.9M. Universal's Bruce Almighty and 2 Fast 2 Furious followed with $4M and $2.6M, respectively. The Jim Carrey comedy has powered its way to a divine $228.6M while the racing sequel has reached $119.4M.

Shining bright in its limited release bow was the suspense pic Swimming Pool from Focus Features which opened to $286,950 from just thirteen theaters for a sparkling $22,073 average over three days. With $376,610 collected since Wednesday, the R-rated thriller widens to roughly 50 venues on Friday.

A trio of underachievers fell from the top ten over the weekend. Paramount's Rugrats Go Wild dropped 59% to $1.5M for a total to date of $34.8M. The $30M animated sequel looks to conclude with $37-39M or about half of the $76.5M that the last film in the series, 2000's Rugrats in Paris, grossed.

The Harrison Ford action-comedy Hollywood Homicide plunged 77% to $716,324 for a cume of just $29.2M. Sony's buddy cop flop will finish with just a bit over $30M making it Ford's lowest-grossing film since 1988's Frantic. Warner Bros. has collected just $13.3M for its romantic comedy Alex & Emma which should find its way to just $15M.

The top ten films grossed $123.3M which was down 8% from last year when Men in Black II debuted at number one with $52.1M; but up 7% from 2001 when Cats & Dogs opened in the top spot with $21.7M.

Compared to projections, T3 was right on target with my long-weekend forecast of $73M. Legally Blonde 2 opened a bit stronger than my $36M five-day prediction while Sinbad debuted with less than half of my $28M five-day projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on next weekend's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Pirates of the Caribbean. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of this summer's Marvel films they most wanted to see a sequel to. Of 7,800 responses, 59% chose X2 while 41% picked The Hulk.

For a review of T3 visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when LXG and Pirates of the Caribbean both open.

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

# Title Jul 4 - 6 Jun 27 - 29 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 T3: Rise of the Machines $ 44,041,440 3,504 1 $ 12,569 $ 72,387,461 Warner Bros.
2 Legally Blonde 2 22,220,670 3,350 1 6,633 38,507,400 MGM
3 Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle 14,010,022 37,634,221 -62.8 3,485 2 4,020 67,068,572 Sony
4 Finding Nemo 11,059,141 13,968,116 -20.8 2,902 6 3,811 274,936,974 Buena Vista
5 The Hulk 8,227,520 18,847,620 -56.3 3,291 3 2,500 117,012,585 Universal
6 Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas 6,874,477 3,086 1 2,228 10,056,980 DreamWorks
7 28 Days Later 6,007,796 10,061,858 -40.3 1,407 2 4,270 20,557,346 Fox Searchlight
8 The Italian Job 4,172,641 5,462,902 -23.6 1,584 6 2,634 83,876,915 Paramount
9 Bruce Almighty 4,012,320 6,190,085 -35.2 1,929 7 2,080 228,646,570 Universal
10 2 Fast 2 Furious 2,641,820 6,225,570 -57.6 1,779 5 1,485 119,437,965 Universal
11 The Matrix Reloaded 1,554,421 2,575,427 -39.6 801 8 1,941 271,936,550 Warner Bros.
12 Rugrats Go Wild 1,478,598 3,639,293 -59.4 2,021 4 732 34,795,965 Paramount
13 Whale Rider 1,242,123 977,791 27.0 209 5 5,943 4,140,861 Newmarket
14 X2: X-Men United 1,143,724 932,196 22.7 1,100 10 1,040 213,097,408 Fox
15 Hollywood Homicide 716,324 3,061,550 -76.6 685 4 1,046 29,207,423 Sony
16 Alex & Emma 663,486 2,622,483 -74.7 1,005 3 660 13,281,771 Warner Bros.
17 Daddy Day Care 583,587 2,302,668 -74.7 532 9 1,097 99,376,464 Sony
18 Bend It Like Beckham 487,450 566,929 -14.0 219 17 2,226 24,700,910 Fox Searchlight
19 Winged Migration 439,461 348,597 26.1 108 12 4,069 4,698,634 Sony Classics
20 Dumb and Dumberer 351,078 1,665,283 -78.9 610 4 576 25,190,179 New Line
Top 5 $ 99,558,793 $ 86,737,385 14.8
Top 10 123,267,847 107,713,698 14.4
Top 20 131,928,099 118,800,362 11.1
Top 20 vs. 2002 131,928,099 148,712,952 -11.3

Last Updated : July 7, 2003 at 6:00PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya