Weekend Box Office (July 15 - 17, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND A lethal one-two punch from a pair of debuting comedies led the North American box office to a busy weekend. Warner Bros. went after families with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory while corporate cousin New Line connected with adults with the raunchy Wedding Crashers which together injected over $90M in new business into the marketplace to lead the box office to a healhty gain over last year. With four different films grossing over $15M, some much needed depth returned to the charts.

Director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp reunited for the fourth time and generated their best opening yet with the $56.2M debut for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this weekend, according to final figures. Playing in 3,770 theaters, the PG-rated adaptation of the popular children's story averaged a super sweet $14,901 per site. In the fifteen years since Edward Scissorhands, Burton and Depp have attracted a large fan following and nearly doubled the opening of their last collaboration, 1999's Sleepy Hollow, which bowed to $30.1M. The quirky men reteam in September's Corpse Bride which Warner Bros. will also release.

Charlie's powerful launch marks a career best for Depp beating the $46.6M of 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean but ranks second best for Burton after 2001's Planet of the Apes which debuted to $68.5M. Chocolate's opening also ranks third among 2005 titles and is the fifth best ever for the month of July. The studio also generated its fifth largest opening in company history after The Matrix Reloaded and the Harry Potter films which all premiered in the $88-94M range over three days. Warner Bros. was able to tap into a broad audience appealing to the family crowd with a magical kid tale but also to teens and young adults who were drawn by the talent. Critics were mostly upbeat, however the $150M film's 9% drop in sales on Saturday could indicate a rocky road ahead.

Crashing into the number two spot without an invitation was the Owen Wilson-Vince Vaughn comedy Wedding Crashers which grossed a stellar $33.9M. The New Line release averaged a potent $11,590 from 2,925 locations. Directed by David Dobkin (Shanghai Knights), the R-rated hit opened a better than recent PG-13 comedy hits from the actors. Last year, Wilson's Starsky & Hutch bowed to $28.1M while Vaughn's Dodgeball debuted to $30.1M. Wedding Crashers, which tells the story of a pair of lady-chasing scam artisits who fall for a pair of bridesmaids from a powerful political family, co-stars Christopher Walken and Rachel McAdams.

In a summer of remakes, sequels, and effects-heavy action films, Wedding Crashers offered something new and different and connected with its audience. Since the American Pie trilogy, there have been few successful R-rated comedies but with a unique concept, good starpower, solid marketing, and little direct competition, the $40M film surged to a powerful debut. Reviews were generally positive and Saturday sales increased a healthy 17% so Wedding may stick around in the top ten for some time. For New Line, it was the biggest opening in company history for a non-franchise film inching ahead of Rush Hour which bowed to $33M in 1998.

Fox's super hero flick Fantastic Four took a beating from all the new competition and dropped 59% in its second weekend to $22.8M. After ten days, the effects-heavy actioner has grossed $100.2M matching its production cost. The decline was slightly larger than the 57% fall for 2000's X-Men but not as steep as the horrendous 70% drop for 2003's The Hulk. It was also nearly identical to the 58% sophomore fall a year ago for the sci-fi actioner I, Robot which banked $95.1M in its first ten days. X-Men cumed $99.3M in its first ten July days on its way to $157.3M. Fantastic Four looks to stretch itself to around $150M domestically which should open the door for a sequel.

Fox also broke the $1 billion mark in year-to-date box office over the weekend. It is the second-fastest any studio has reached the mark after Sony in 2002 when it was powered by Spider-Man. With Star Wars Episode III, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and Four all posting solid summer numbers, it could be a record year for Fox which has a comfortable lead over number two Warner Bros. by a cool $350M.

In its third weekend, Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds dropped to fourth place with $15.2M. Down 50%, the Paramount release boosted its tally to $192.4M and is less than a week away from crossing the double century mark. The Tom Cruise alien invasion pic now stands as the studio's highest grossing film since the actor's Mission: Impossible 2 from more than five years ago. The long-delayed M:I3 is now shooting in Italy hoping to make its May 5, 2006 release date. War should finish with $225-230M from North America. Overseas, the total has rapidly surged to $256.5M for a worldwide tally of $449M.

Batman Begins dropped only 40% to $6M in its fifth frame and boosted its cume to a solid $183.1M. A final domestic tally of $195-200M seems likely which will make Warner Bros. very happy as its return to the comic book genre will continue next June with Superman Returns. Fox's action hit Mr. & Mrs. Smith continued to hold up well grossing $5.2M, off 34%, for a total of $168.3M. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie should end up adopting about $180M overall. Global grosses stand at $325.5M for Batman and $293.5M for Smith.

Buena Vista claimed the next two chart positions. The supernatural thriller Dark Water tumbled a disturbing 54% in its second weekend taking in $4.6M. The Jennifer Connelly ghost flick has scared up only $18.9M in ten days and looks to end with a disappointing $25-30M. The G-rated comedy Herbie: Fully Loaded fell 40% to $3.6M pushing its sum to a respectable $56M. The Lindsay Lohan comedy should cross the finish line with around $65M. Surprisingly, Herbie is already Disney's second biggest grosser of the year after The Pacifier ($112M). Ordinarily a top contender, the studio has been struggling in 2005 and ranks last among the big six studios in market share for the year thus far.

Sony's Bewitched crumbled 54% to $2.6M lifting the cume to $57M. DreamWorks rounded out the top ten with Madagascar which took in $2.3M, down 42%, for a total of $184.1M. Final grosses should reach about $60M and $189M, respectively.

A pair of Fox titles dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The year's biggest hit Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith dropped only 35% in its ninth mission to $1.7M to boost its total to $373.9M. The George Lucas series finale inched ahead of Spider-Man 2 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters reaching the number eight spot behind The Return of the King which pulled in $377M over a year ago. The $113M Sith should finish its regular run with around $378M stateside. Worldwide, Episode III has already grossed $782M. That puts the final chapter above the $650M of Episode II but behind the $923M of Episode I. Together, the new trilogy has grossed over $2.3 billion at theaters around the globe.

The Martin Lawrence comedy flop Rebound crashed 57% in its third period and grossed $1.3M for a weak $14.5M cume. Look for a $16M final.

Proving to be one of the strongest limited-release titles of the summer, the G-rated documentary March of the Penguins expanded again from 64 to 132 theaters and grossed $1.5M. Averaging a promising $11,478 per location, the Warner Independent release has upped its sum to $4M and will widen to about 600 theaters nationwide on Friday. The distributor reported that Penguins is tapping into both arthouse and family audiences and posting strong numbers at multiplexes as well as indie houses. The Antarctic pic seems on course to join the list of the top five docs of all-time.

Paramount Classics reported that its documentary Mad Hot Ballroom entered the list of top ten docs of all-time with its cume rising to $5.4M after a weekend take of $416,802. Miramax launched its Indian period drama The Warrior in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles and bowed to $14,170 for an average of $3,543. The Hindi-language revenge tale will expand to the top ten markets on July 29.

The top ten films grossed $152.5M which was up 13% from last year when I, Robot opened at number one with $52.2M; and up 13% from 2003 when Mr. July Will Smith's Bad Boys II debuted in the top spot with $46.5M.

Compared to projections, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory opened stronger than my $45M forecast while Wedding Crashers also debuted above my $26M prediction.

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For reviews of Fantastic Four and The Warrior plus a NEW book review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Island, Bad News Bears, The Devil's Rejects and Hustle and Flow all open.

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# Title Jul 15 - 17 Jul 8 - 10 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory $ 56,178,450 3,770 1 $ 14,901 $ 56,178,450 Warner Bros.
2 Wedding Crashers 33,900,720 2,925 1 11,590 33,900,720 New Line
3 Fantastic Four 22,783,303 56,061,504 -59.4 3,619 2 6,295 100,195,795 Fox
4 War of the Worlds 15,244,749 30,469,118 -50.0 3,724 3 4,094 192,435,922 Paramount
5 Batman Begins 6,035,300 10,012,444 -39.7 2,810 5 2,148 183,140,850 Warner Bros.
6 Mr. & Mrs. Smith 5,234,822 7,872,275 -33.5 2,370 6 2,209 168,276,570 Fox
7 Dark Water 4,609,754 9,939,251 -53.6 2,657 2 1,735 18,885,278 Buena Vista
8 Herbie: Fully Loaded 3,619,074 6,060,511 -40.3 2,481 4 1,459 55,966,221 Buena Vista
9 Bewitched 2,556,432 5,583,833 -54.2 2,290 4 1,116 57,026,688 Sony
10 Madagascar 2,308,169 4,009,053 -42.4 1,779 8 1,297 184,083,054 DreamWorks
11 Star Wars Episode III 1,703,393 2,600,800 -34.5 988 9 1,724 373,926,219 Fox
12 March of the Penguins 1,515,059 1,019,357 48.6 132 4 11,478 4,011,328 Warner Ind. Pictures
13 Rebound 1,293,760 3,024,349 -57.2 1,033 3 1,252 14,517,002 Fox
14 Cinderella Man 982,305 1,802,435 -45.5 747 7 1,315 58,913,425 Universal
15 The Longest Yard 951,318 2,067,385 -54.0 1,012 8 940 154,391,858 Paramount
16 Crash 428,624 623,199 -31.2 275 11 1,559 51,379,460 Lions Gate
17 Mad Hot Ballroom 416,802 482,279 -13.6 180 10 2,316 5,363,384 Paramount Classics
18 Me and You and Everyone We Know 357,847 369,577 -3.2 97 5 3,689 1,425,216 IFC Films
19 The Adventures of Sharkboy... 328,552 902,712 -63.6 657 6 500 37,717,364 Miramax
20 Monster-in-Law 298,395 311,208 -4.1 302 10 988 81,514,658 New Line
Top 5 $ 134,142,522 $ 114,354,592 17.3
Top 10 152,470,773 135,633,138 12.4
Top 20 160,746,828 144,784,085 11.0
Top 20 vs. 2004 160,746,828 148,329,839 8.4

Last Updated : July 17, 2005 at 10:45PM EDT