Weekend Box Office (July 16 - 18, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Will Smith rang up a new career-best with the number one opening of the sci-fi action film I, Robot which led the North American box office grossing as much as the next three biggest films combined. The Fox hit debuted with $52.2M from 3,420 theaters, according to final figures, for a scorching $15,257 average per location. Directed by Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City), the PG-13 film about a Chicago detective who fights a robot-led revolution in the year 2035 inched past the $52.1M debut of Men in Black II to become the actor's new high mark. In fact it was the fourth time the former Fresh Prince opened a picture in the $50-53M range with all four being sci-fi action films opening in July.

The big numbers were helped by extremely broad appeal across the board. Studio data showed that 51% of the audience was male and 51% was over the age of 25. Clearly, all audience segments were excited to see this film. For Smith, the key accomplishment came from opening a blockbuster without the help of any big co-stars - something all his previous hits have had. With a budget of more than $100M, I, Robot comes as yet another success story for Fox which is having a red hot summer after better-than-expected grosses for The Day After Tomorrow and Dodgeball.

After two weeks at number one, Spider-Man 2 fell to second place but held up well given the robot competition with $24.8M in its third frame. With $302.3M in 19 days, the Sony sequel dropped 45% and has become the second fastest film in history to reach the triple century mark needing just one day more than record holder Shrek 2. Overseas, the super hero flick set off explosive number one debuts in numerous territories sending the international cume soaring to over $200M.

Will Ferrell's Anchorman suffered a 51% drop in the box office ratings in its second weekend grossing $13.8M. After ten days, the DreamWorks comedy has collected $57M and looks to find its way to $90-100M. By comparison, the comedian's last hit Elf dropped a mere 15% in its second weekend for a ten-day total of $70.4M on its way to a stunning $173.4M.

Singer-actress Hilary Duff generated a solid $13.6M debut for her fairy tale update A Cinderella Story. The Warner Bros. release averaged a charming $5,190 from 2,625 venues. The PG-rated pic slipped a disturbing 19% on Saturday from Friday so the long-term picture could be shaky.

The top ten's only R-rated film, Fahrenheit 9/11, slipped 35% to $7.2M in its fourth frame pushing the cume for the Lions Gate/IFC Films title to $94M. The Michael Moore pic continues to hold up well and should crack the $100M mark next weekend. More bad news for the Mouse House came from the medieval pic King Arthur which tumbled 53% in its second weekend to $7.2M. The $110M adventure tale has taken in just $38.1M in 12 days and should struggle to reach $50-55M. Overseas prospects may be a bit brighter, but overall, the Buena Vista film has turned into yet another disappointment for the studio.The New Line romance The Notebook has become the sleeper hit of the summer dipping a slim 14% in its fourth weekend to $5.7M for a total of $53.9M. For the second weekend in a row, the film posted the lowest decline in the top ten.

Three very different comedies rounded out the top ten. Fox's Dodgeball dropped 33% to $3.8M giving the sports-themed pic $105.2M to date. Falling 45%, Sony's White Chicks grossed $3.4M putting its cume at $63.5M. The year's biggest blockbuster Shrek 2 dipped just 27% to $3.2M giving the DreamWorks sequel an amazing $425M to date.

Debuting in limited release, Focus Features' The Door in the Floor opened to a weekend take of $456,876 from 47 theaters for a $9,720 average. Since its Wednesday debut, the Jeff Bridges-Kim Basinger drama has taken in $584,171. Fine Line's Sundance winner Maria Full of Grace bowed to $139,066 from only 7 locations for a lethal $19,866 average. Net Effect Media's romantic comedy Flavors opened to $56,000 from 14 venues for a $4,000 per-theater average.

Expanding into wider release, UA's De-Lovely starring Kevin Kline grossed $1.5M from 185 playdates for a $8,073 average and $2.5M cume. Fox Searchlight widened both The Clearing and Napoleon Dynamite and collected grosses of $1.3M and $750,491 respectively. The Robert Redford-Willem Dafoe kidnapping drama averaged a weak $2,882 reaching a total of $3.7M while the nerd comedy averaged a good $4,192 for a $4.2M sum.

Dropping out of the top ten, Tom Hanks saw The Terminal decline 36% to $3.2M leaving the DreamWorks release with $71.2M thus far on its way to $80-83M. MGM's tween comedy Sleepover plunged an alarming 72% in its second weekend to $1.2M and put its weak cume at just $8.1M in ten days.

The top ten films grossed $134.9M which was even with last year when Bad Boys II opened at number one with $46.5M; but up 43% from 2002 when The Road to Perdition rose to the top spot in its second weekend with $15.4M.

Compared to projections, I, Robot opened better than my $45M forecast while A Cinderella Story also bowed above my $9M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on whether or The Bourne Supremacy or Catwoman will open bigger. In last week's survey, readers were asked if I, Robot would open with at least $40M. Of 1,904 responses, 81% correctly voted Yes while 19% said No.

For reviews of I, Robot and Flavors visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Catwoman and The Bourne Supremacy both open nationally.

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

# Title Jul 16 - 18 Jul 9 - 11 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 I, Robot $ 52,179,887 3,420 1 $ 15,257 $ 52,179,887 Fox
2 Spider-Man 2 24,775,450 45,180,743 -45.2 4,058 3 6,105 302,287,882 Sony
3 Anchorman 13,849,313 28,416,365 -51.3 3,104 2 4,462 56,956,256 DreamWorks
4 A Cinderella Story 13,623,350 2,625 1 5,190 13,623,350 Warner Bros.
5 Fahrenheit 9/11 7,175,674 11,030,898 -34.9 2,004 4 3,581 93,984,261 Lions Gate / IFC
6 King Arthur 7,161,648 15,193,907 -52.9 3,086 2 2,321 38,110,849 Buena Vista
7 The Notebook 5,651,212 6,538,093 -13.6 2,089 4 2,705 53,880,561 New Line
8 Dodgeball 3,813,719 5,709,817 -33.2 1,945 5 1,961 105,165,752 Fox
9 White Chicks 3,436,328 6,231,112 -44.9 1,730 4 1,986 63,470,104 Sony
10 Shrek 2 3,230,786 4,450,316 -27.4 1,857 9 1,740 425,011,646 DreamWorks
11 The Terminal 3,162,067 4,974,197 -36.4 1,804 5 1,753 71,210,710 DreamWorks
12 Harry Potter and the Prisoner... 2,758,045 4,052,317 -31.9 1,460 7 1,889 238,344,679 Warner Bros.
13 De-Lovely 1,493,513 341,090 337.9 185 3 8,073 2,530,024 MGM/UA
14 The Clearing 1,294,334 1,160,785 11.5 449 3 2,883 3,718,329 Fox Searchlight
15 Sleepover 1,170,307 4,171,226 -71.9 2,207 2 530 8,070,311 MGM/UA
16 Garfield: The Movie 1,057,301 1,885,403 -43.9 1,028 6 1,029 70,486,628 Fox
17 Napoleon Dynamite 750,491 554,769 35.3 179 6 4,193 4,214,677 Fox Searchlight
18 The Day After Tomorrow 617,208 1,078,274 -42.8 487 8 1,267 183,304,973 Fox
19 Before Sunset 581,261 484,967 19.9 123 3 4,726 1,709,920 WIP
20 Two Brothers 547,945 1,235,320 -55.6 562 4 975 17,247,970 Universal
Top 5 $ 111,603,674 $ 106,360,006 4.9
Top 10 134,897,367 131,896,674 2.3
Top 20 148,329,839 144,321,328 2.8
Top 20 vs. 2003 148,329,839 145,856,279 1.7

Last Updated : July 19, 2004 at 5:30PM 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.