Weekend Box Office (July 11 - 13, 2003)

THIS WEEKEND In a box office showdown between two big-budget period action adventure films, Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean came out the victor doubling the grosses of Fox's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Both pictures generated impressive numbers though and led the marketplace to its first year-to-year gain in over a month. Action fans were diverted away from Terminator 3 which became the fourth consecutive number-one opener to fall by more than 55% in its second weekend.

Exploding on the high seas with a bountiful $46.6M, according to final studio figures, Pirates of the Caribbean delivered a knock-out performance pleasing moviegoers hungry for fresh entertainment during this summer of sequels. Playing in 3,269 theaters, the PG-13 film averaged a powerful $14,265 per location and since its Wednesday debut has grossed a hearty $70.6M. The figure even eclipsed the five-day debut of last week's T3 which bowed to $68.4M from almost 250 additional theaters over its Wednesday-to-Sunday launch period.

But the real music to Disney's ears came from the exit polls which revealed that ticket buyers were extremely pleased with the Johnny Depp starrer which is something that the last few summer event films have not been able to do. According to Disney data, a whopping 98% of those polled found Pirates to be "excellent" or "very good" indicating that positive word-of-mouth could allow the film to have staying power. That would make the Gore Verbinski-directed adventure film the first number-one opener since May's Finding Nemo to not suffer a second weekend decline of more than 55%. Industry sources peg the budget of the Jerry Bruckheimer production in the area of $120-140M making the effects-heavy film one of the summer's more expensive films.

Settling for second place with half the sales of Pirates was Fox's competing action adventure film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, starring Sean Connery, with $23.1M from 3,002 theaters. The PG-13 film about a gang of nineteenth century literary characters that fight a devious mastermind set on world domination averaged a strong $7,687. Adult males were the core audience as an astounding 63% of the crowd was age 25 or over and 54% was males, according to studio exit polls. League did not win over too many critics, but it did manage to generate a solid opening weekend despite direct competition from Pirates and T3. The production cost of LXG is estimated to be just under $80M.

After its top spot bow, Terminator 3 dropped a hefty 56% in its sophomore frame to $19.5M and boosted its cume to $110.3M. Produced for more than $150M, the Warner Bros. release should find its way to the domestic neighborhood of $160M with plenty more from international territories. The sophomore decline for T3 exemplifies the lack of staying power that this summer's films have displayed. At this point last year, four summer films dropped 55% or more in their second weekends. This year, that number has more than doubled to nine.

Reese Witherspoon's comedy sequel Legally Blonde 2 dropped 46% in its second weekend and grossed $12M. The MGM release has watched its purse grow to $62.9M in 12 days and hopes to reach $95-100M by the end of its campaign. That would put Blonde 2 in the same neighborhood as the first Legally Blonde which grossed $96.4M two summers ago.

Swimming into fifth place was the remarkable animated blockbuster Finding Nemo with $8.5M in its seventh weekend. With the smallest decline in the top ten, the Disney blockbuster slipped 24% and has grossed a lofty $291.1M to date. The Pixar production has now floated up to number 16 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters ranking just below fellow Buena Vista release The Sixth Sense which scared up $293.5M in 1999.

Dropping 49% to sixth place was Sony's action sequel Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle with $7.1M. Now in its third weekend, the McG-helmed pic has taken in $81.5M and is still hoping to join the $100M club. Full Throttle is running 13% behind the pace of the first Angels which banked $93.3M in its first 17 days in November 2000 on its way to $125M.

Holding up moderately well in its second weekend was the animated adventure film Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas with $4.3M. The DreamWorks toon slid 37% and pushed its 12-day tally to $18.8M. Look for the $60M film to finish with around $35M before finding a larger audience on video.

Fox Searchlight's gritty virus thriller 28 Days Later dipped only 29% to $4.2M for a $28.4M cume thus far. The Hulk continued its freefall tumbling 55% to $3.7M giving the comic book character $124.7M worth of green. Overseas, Bruce Banner and pals have grossed an additional $56.5M through this weekend. Still making off with good money in its seventh weekend was Paramount's The Italian Job with $2.7M pushing the total to $88.8M on its way to nine-digit territory.

Opening well in platform release was the postwar drama Northfork with $61,481 from five theaters in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago for a solid $12,296 per venue. The Paramount Classics pic will add nine more theaters on Friday and slowly roll out over the next several weeks.

A pair of Universal blockbusters fell from the top ten over the weekend. Jim Carrey's hit comedy Bruce Almighty dropped 41% to $2.4M lifting the sum to $233.2M which puts it at number 34 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters after 2000's Cast Away which collected $233.6M. The $81M production should find its way to about $240M making it the comedian's second highest grossing film ever following How The Grinch Stole Christmas ($260M).

The street racing sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious fell 42% to $1.5M revving the total to $122.5M. Produced for $76M, the John Singleton-directed installment should finish with about $126M, or just 13% below the $144.5M of The Fast and the Furious. Not bad for a sequel that lost most of the major players from the first. Overseas, 2 Fast has already raced to $74M through this weekend.

The top ten films grossed $131.8M which was up 7% from last year when Men in Black II remained at number one with $24.4M; and up 28% from 2001 when Legally Blonde opened in the top spot with $20.4M.

Compared to projections, Pirates of the Caribbean surged much higher than my $41M forecast while LXG opened very close to my $22M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on whether this summer has had too many sequels. In last week's survey, readers were asked if they were more excited about seeing Pirates or LXG. Of 3,050 responses, the voting was even.

For reviews of Pirates and LXG visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Bad Boys II, How to Deal, and Johnny English all open.

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


Last Updated : July 14, 2003 at 8:30PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya

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