Weekend Box Office (July 8 - 10, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The fantastic opening for the super hero flick Fantastic Four has led the industry to its first gain over 2004 in 20 weeks breaking a box office slump plaguing the film business for months. The $100M Fox actioner debuted with a spectacular $56.1M over the Friday-to-Sunday period, according to final studio figures, generating the third largest opening of the year. Fighting doom in 3,602 theaters, the PG-13 film averaged a potent $15,564 per site.

The performance was very similar to the debut of X-Men, another Marvel Comics flick from Fox, which bowed to $54.5M in July 2000. Fantastic Four tells the story of a quartet of astronauts who develop super powers after a space mission and was mostly panned by critics. But fans didn't care. They turned out in big numbers anyway to see some of their favorite heroes get the big-screen treatment thanks to actors such as Jessica Alba and Michael Chiklis. The opening was especially impressive given the amount of action competition currently in the marketplace.

The studio also enjoyed having four of the top ten films of the weekend helping to extend an already wide lead over competing distributors for the market share lead in 2005. The billion dollar mark is on the horizon for Fox. The studio reported an opening day of $21.3M on Friday, an understandable 5% dip on Saturday to $20.1M, and a slim 27% decline on Sunday to $14.7M.

The Four debut helped to propel the top ten to $135.6M moving ahead of the $131.9M from a year ago for the first weekend-to-weekend gain since the Presidents' Day session in February. The overall strength of this summer still lags as the top five blockbusters have collected $1.05 billion to date, off 14% from the five biggest hitters at this point last year. But having a stronger weekend than 2004 certainly does not hurt.

Last week's top film War of the Worlds fell 53% in its sophomore frame to $30.5M to finish in second place. Paramount's Tom Cruise alien invasion pic now stands at $165M after 12 days and has become the studio's top-grossing film since 2000's What Women Want. Averaging a potent $7,793 per location, the $132M Steven Spielberg film looks to reach $230-240M domestically. With War and The Longest Yard, Paramount is currently in its best shape in years.

In its fourth weekend, Batman Begins delivered another solid hold slipping only 36% to an estimated $10M in its fourth mission. The Warner Bros. franchise flick has been profiting from strong word-of-mouth raising its total to $171.9M and now seems likely to reach $200M in North America. The overseas cume climbed to $132.3M with several key markets dropping by less than 40%.

Buena Vista debuted the horror film Dark Water in the number four spot with $9.9M from 2,657 theaters. The latest remake of a hit Japanese fright flick averaged a mediocre $3,741 per site. In the PG-13 release, Jennifer Connelly stars as a divorced mother who faces creepy events in her new home. According to studio research, 53% of the audience was female and half the crowd consisted of couples.

After four weeks of wreaking havoc in the top three, Fox's Mr. & Mrs. Smith dropped to fifth with $7.9M, off 26%, for a sturdy $158.7M. Also showing strong legs was Disney's Herbie: Fully Loaded which grossed $6.1M in its third lap slipping 31% for a total to date of $48.3M.

The Nicole Kidman-Will Ferrell comedy Bewitched declined 39% and took in $5.6M pushing its cume to $50.9M. The toon hit Madagascar eased just 26% to $4M putting the DreamWorks blockbuster's sum at $179.3M.

Fox rounded out the top ten with a pair of films with drastically different fates. The Martin Lawrence flop Rebound posted $3M in its second weekend dropping 40% from its opening. The basketball family comedy has scored a weak $11.5M in ten days and looks headed for a $18-20M finish. Star Wars Episode III brought in $2.6M in its eighth weekend dropping 36%. With $370.8M in the Jedi bank, the series finale inched ahead of The Passion of the Christ to swipe the number nine spot on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters.

Still sizzling in limited release was the documentary March of the Penguins which expanded from 20 to 64 theaters and grossed $1M. The Warner Independent Pictures release averaged a strong $15,927 and boosted its total to $1.9M. This Friday, the red hot pic widens to 125 theaters before going nationwide on July 22 in over 500 sites.

Two films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The Adam Sandler hit The Longest Yard fell 38% to $2.1M to boost its cume to $152.3M. Paramount's $82M remake should find its way to about $156M making it the comedian's third biggest career blockbuster after Big Daddy ($163.5M) and football pic The Waterboy ($161.5M). Universal's zombie pic Land of the Dead continued to show some of the worst legs ever of any film crumbling again in its third weekend by two-thirds. With $19.1M in the bank, the $15M film should die a quick death with about $20M.

The top ten films grossed $135.6M which was finally up 3% from last year when Spider-Man 2 remained at number one with $45.2M; and up 3% from 2003 when Pirates of the Caribbean debuted on top with $46.6M.

Compared to projections, Fantastic Four was on target with my $55M forecast while Dark Water debuted a bit lower than my $13M prediction.

For NEW reviews of Fantastic Four, Dark Water, and The Warrior visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Wedding Crashers both open.

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

# Title Jul 8 - 10 Jul 1 - 3 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Fantastic Four $ 56,061,504 3,602 1 $ 15,564 $ 56,061,504 Fox
2 War of the Worlds 30,469,118 64,878,725 -53.0 3,910 2 7,793 164,978,282 Paramount
3 Batman Begins 10,012,444 15,609,638 -35.9 3,344 4 2,994 171,901,777 Warner Bros.
4 Dark Water 9,939,251 2,657 1 3,741 9,939,251 Buena Vista
5 Mr. & Mrs. Smith 7,872,275 10,572,608 -25.5 2,781 5 2,831 158,669,309 Fox
6 Herbie: Fully Loaded 6,060,511 8,818,055 -31.3 3,002 3 2,019 48,292,675 Buena Vista
7 Bewitched 5,583,833 9,156,580 -39.0 3,014 3 1,853 50,934,671 Sony
8 Madagascar 4,009,053 5,443,338 -26.3 2,162 7 1,854 179,259,220 DreamWorks
9 Rebound 3,024,349 5,033,848 -39.9 2,464 2 1,227 11,513,266 Fox
10 Star Wars Episode III 2,600,800 4,082,150 -36.3 1,355 8 1,919 370,819,889 Fox
11 The Longest Yard 2,067,385 3,342,445 -38.1 1,226 7 1,686 152,324,184 Paramount
12 Cinderella Man 1,802,435 2,424,310 -25.7 1,030 6 1,750 57,066,155 Universal
13 March of the Penguins 1,019,357 412,011 147.4 64 3 15,927 1,940,706 Warner Ind. Pictures
14 Land of the Dead 933,295 2,714,865 -65.6 1,098 3 850 19,114,540 Universal
15 The Adventures of Sharkboy... 902,712 1,650,457 -45.3 1,075 5 840 36,766,260 Miramax
16 Crash 623,199 767,622 -18.8 317 10 1,966 50,619,511 Lions Gate
17 The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 493,243 682,849 -27.8 420 6 1,174 36,799,602 Warner Bros.
18 Mad Hot Ballroom 482,279 501,864 -3.9 190 9 2,538 4,670,589 Paramount Classics
19 The Perfect Man 457,465 841,635 -45.6 414 4 1,105 14,667,745 Universal
20 Me and You and Everyone We Know 369,577 241,829 52.8 57 4 6,484 917,763 IFC Films
Top 5 $ 114,354,592 $ 109,035,606 4.9
Top 10 135,633,138 129,652,252 4.6
Top 20 144,784,085 138,196,842 4.8
Top 20 vs. 2004 144,784,085 144,321,328 0.3

Last Updated : July 11, 2005 at 7:30PM EDT