Weekend Box Office (July 9 - 11, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Fighting the forces of evil, the mega-blockbuster Spider-Man 2 remained the top-grossing film in North America in its second weekend of release and smashed through the quarter-billion mark in record time. Among a trio of new releases, Will Ferrell fared best as his new comedy Anchorman debuted in second place. However, teen actresses Keira Knightley and Alexa Vega, who each co-starred in number one hits last summer, headlined their own movies for the first time but saw disappointing results for King Arthur and Sleepover, respectively. Overall, the box office was strong with most holdovers experiencing relatively small declines.

Still the favorite choice among moviegoers, Spider-Man 2 easily held onto pole position at the box office with $45.2M, according to final figures, dropping 49% from the three-day portion of last weekend's holiday frame. The Sony smash averaged a sizzling $10,845 from 4,166 theaters and saw its 12-day cume skyrocket to $256.4M. That makes the Sam Raimi-helmed sequel the fastest film to break the $250M mark beating Shrek 2 by one day. The ogre sequel's speed record of 18 days to the triple-century mark will probably remain safe as the webslinger's third weekend is not expected to come close to Shrek 2's $37.9M take.

Still, on the strength of Spider-Man 2, Sony overtook Warner Bros. for the year-to-date market share crown with ticket sales of over $765M so far this year. Tobey Maguire and pals have quickly crawled up the list of all-time domestic blockbusters reaching number 28 just ahead of Monsters, Inc. which grossed $255.9M in 2001. With strong mid-week numbers and a very respectable sophomore hold, Spider-Man 2 looks on course to catch $375-400M in its North American web. Overseas, the super hero flick has collected an additional $115M to date with openings in lucrative markets such as France, Spain, and the U.K. coming up later this week.

Reporting the news in second place was Will Ferrell with Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy which took in $28.4M from 3,091 theaters. Averaging a solid $9,193, the PG-13 film about a chauvinistic television newsman of the 1970s opened close to the $31.1M bow and $9,324 average of the comedian's last picture Elf from last November. The DreamWorks release co-starred Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, and featured a number of notable celebrity cameos. According to studio research, the gender breakdown for Anchorman was fairly even with males making up 52% of the crowd. Those over the age of 21 made up 60% of the audience. Reviews were generally positive, but a troubling 11% Friday-to-Saturday decline puts in question the long-term strength of the TV news comedy.

The folks at Disney met with another big-budget flop this weekend as the historical adventure film King Arthur bowed to just $15.2M and a $23.6M tally since its Wednesday debut. Playing in 3,086 theaters, the PG-13 film averaged $4,923 over three days. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer reunited with his Pirates of the Caribbean heroine Keira Knightley and even launched the film at the exact same time of year, but was met with mostly indifference from moviegoers this time around. Despite the title, the marketing focused on the British actress' role of Guinevere. But the film did not draw the amount of girls the studio may have expected as males made up 56% of the audience. With a reported $110M+ production budget, the Antoine Fuqua-directed actioner drew lukewarm reviews and mediocre word-of-mouth which indicates that a durable run is probably not likely. Intense competition from the wildly popular Spidey sequel which is only in its second week also sealed Arthur's fate.

The disappointing performance of King Arthur comes as yet another bruise for Disney which is suffering a box office slump unlike any it has seen in years. The perennially powerful studio bet big on Around the World in 80 Days and The Alamo (both carried production budgets north of $100M) but ticket buyers were not impressed enough to open their wallets. Even the desert epic Hidalgo, the studio's top-grossing title of 2004 to date, took in a decent but not stellar $67.2M. The industry's number one studio last year has slumped to sixth place so far this year and will need to post some big late-summer numbers from M. Night Shyamalan's The Village and The Princess Diaries 2 in order to catch up to the other majors.

Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 held up well dropping 32% to $11M in its third weekend and watched its cume surge to $80.1M after only 17 days of national release. Adding 286 more theaters this weekend, the Lions Gate/IFC Films release averaged a solid $5,485 from 2,011 locations. Fahrenheit 9/11 has now grossed more than any of Disney's releases have this year.

The Notebook displayed the best legs in the top ten easing just 12% to $6.5M for a $43.1M cume. In sixth place, Sony's White Chicks dropped only 28% to $6.2M in its third weekend and raised its total to $56.9M.

Falling 30%, Fox's Dodgeball followed with $5.7M for a $97.9M sum in seventh place. The Tom Hanks airport flick The Terminal declined 37% to $5M giving the DreamWorks film $65.3M to date. The studio's Shrek 2 grossed $4.5M, off only 24%, giving the year's biggest film a massive $418.5M thus far. The animated sequel now has its sights on bumping Star Wars Episode I from the number four spot on the all-time domestic blockbusters list. The Jedi prequel collected $431.1M five years ago.

MGM/UA failed to attract its target young girl crowd to its comedy Sleepover which opened poorly in tenth place with a miserable $4.2M. The PG-rated film starred Spy Kids gal Alexa Vega and averaged a drowsy $1,890 from 2,207 playdates.

Three kid-oriented films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban eased 32% to $4.1M in its sixth spell pushing the cume to $232.8M. The $130M Warner Bros. franchise flick now sits at number 40 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters behind Cast Away which grossed $233.6M in 2000/2001. Azkaban should find its way to $245-250M domestically putting it behind the first two Potter pics which collected $317.6M and $262M, respectively, but it would rank third all-time among third-parts of franchises behind The Return of the King ($377M) and Return of the Jedi ($309.1M lifetime). Overseas, Prisoner has locked up $403.8M to date putting the worldwide tally at over $636M.

Fox's Garfield: The Movie dropped 38% to $1.9M giving the Bill Murray-voiced comedy $68M to date. The $50M production should end its run with $70-73M. On the other hand, Universal's tiger adventure Two Brothers has taken in just $15.7M and is set to close with not much more.

The top ten films grossed $131.9M which was even with last year when Pirates of the Caribbean opened at number one with $46.6M; and up 7% from 2002 when Men in Black 2 remained on top with $24.4M.

Compared to projections, Anchorman opened a few notches below my $34M forecast. King Arthur and Sleepover also debuted below my predictions of $22M and $7M respectively.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the opening of I, Robot. In last week's survey, readers were asked what kind of impact Fahrenheit 9/11 would have on the upcoming presidential election. Of 2,426 responses, 63% said None, 19% said Somewhat, and 18% said Significant.

For a review of King Arthur visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when I, Robot and A Cinderella Story both open.

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

# Title Jul 9 - 11 Jul 2 - 4 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Spider-Man 2 $ 45,180,743 $ 88,156,227 -48.7 4,166 2 $ 10,845 $ 256,438,326 Sony
2 Anchorman 28,416,365 3,091 1 9,193 28,416,365 DreamWorks
3 King Arthur 15,193,907 3,086 1 4,923 23,623,758 Buena Vista
4 Fahrenheit 9/11 11,030,898 16,282,043 -32.3 2,011 3 5,485 80,121,002 Lions Gate / IFC
5 The Notebook 6,538,093 7,441,973 -12.1 2,288 3 2,858 43,083,691 New Line
6 White Chicks 6,231,112 8,667,872 -28.1 2,201 3 2,831 56,912,356 Sony
7 Dodgeball 5,709,817 8,114,758 -29.6 2,444 4 2,336 97,865,599 Fox
8 The Terminal 4,974,197 7,868,718 -36.8 2,313 4 2,151 65,262,144 DreamWorks
9 Shrek 2 4,450,316 5,838,371 -23.8 2,142 8 2,078 418,517,158 DreamWorks
10 Sleepover 4,171,226 2,207 1 1,890 4,171,226 MGM/UA
11 Harry Potter and the Prisoner... 4,052,317 5,938,474 -31.8 2,002 6 2,024 232,795,692 Warner Bros.
12 Garfield: The Movie 1,885,403 3,032,114 -37.8 1,681 5 1,122 67,969,942 Fox
13 Two Brothers 1,235,320 2,682,630 -54.0 1,272 3 971 15,672,875 Universal
14 The Clearing 1,160,785 472,781 145.5 261 2 4,447 1,923,128 Fox Searchlight
15 The Stepford Wives 1,094,144 2,306,090 -52.6 1,033 5 1,059 56,604,531 Paramount
16 The Day After Tomorrow 1,078,274 2,033,557 -47.0 728 7 1,481 182,109,550 Fox
17 Napoleon Dynamite 554,769 513,387 8.1 141 5 3,935 2,980,362 Fox Searchlight
18 The Chronicles of Riddick 535,605 1,343,160 -60.1 520 5 1,030 55,727,340 Universal
19 Before Sunset 484,967 219,425 121.0 63 2 7,698 885,392 WIP
20 Around the World in 80 Days 343,070 1,015,138 -66.2 318 4 1,079 22,271,008 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 106,360,006 $ 129,089,618 -17.6
Top 10 131,896,674 154,023,180 -14.4
Top 20 144,321,328 162,862,788 -11.4
Top 20 vs. 2003 144,321,328 140,799,231 2.5

Last Updated : July 12, 2004 at 6:00PM 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.