Weekend Box Office (July 20 - 22, 2007)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Adam Sandler scored the ninth number one opening of his career with his latest comedy I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry which edged out former champ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the top spot at the North American box office. The frame's only other wide opener Hairspray enjoyed a magical debut of its own with a strong third place bow. Overall, moviegoers spread their dollars around as for first time in more than three years, four films grossed over $20M each over the same weekend.

Universal won a slim box office victory with the launch of Chuck and Larry which grossed $34.2M, according to final studio figures, to lead the frame. Debuting in 3,495 theaters, the PG-13 pic about two straight firefighters who pretend to be gay for the domestic partner benefits averaged an impressive $9,795 per location. Though a solid first place performance, Chuck and Larry also delivered the worst opening for one of Sandler's broad live-action comedies since the 2000 flop Little Nicky. His more dramatic turns in films like Spanglish and Reign Over Me have attracted modest openings, but his mainstream laughers typically debut near the $40M mark. Sandler still stands a good chance of earning a $100M blockbuster for the sixth consecutive year.

Falling down one spot to the runnerup position was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which grossed $32.5M in its sophomore session. Down a steep 58%, the Warner Bros. release lifted its 12-day cume to a stunning $207.9M. Second weekend declines are typically large for high-profile tentpole films. Phoenix's drop was a bit smaller than the 62% for both Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End which each debuted on a Friday in May. However, it was larger than the drops for fellow midweek openers Live Free or Die Hard and Transformers which witnessed sophomore declines of 47% and 48%, respectively.

The new Potter film had to compete with the arrival of the seventh and final wizard book on Saturday which appealed to the exact same audience and probably kept many away from the multiplexes. Still the gross to date compares favorably to the $201M that the last film Goblet of Fire generated by the end of its second weekend in November 2005. That tally however was over two fewer days but did have the benefit of the Thanksgiving holiday. With the summer playing period, Phoenix stands a good chance of matching the $290M of Goblet and could even crack the $300M mark. Together with Transformers, that would give this summer a record five megablockbusters crossing the $300M threshold.

Helped by monster openings in Japan and Russia, the fifth wizard tale grossed a staggering $102.5M overseas this weekend from 58 territories to boost the international tally to $353.2M. That puts the global box office for Order of the Phoenix at a towering $561M after only 12 days. This weekend the Harry Potter movie franchise also crossed a major milestone as the global box office for all five films combined shattered the $4 billion mark.

New Line attracted a large audience to its musical comedy Hairspray which opened better than expected at number three with $27.5M. Playing in 3,121 houses, the PG-rated film averaged a stellar $8,804 and gave the studio its best opening in two years. Hairspray earned rave reviews from critics and starred a diverse cast that allowed the marketing team to target different audiences. Hollywood veterans John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer helped bring in adult moviegoers, Amanda Bynes and Zac Efron caught the attention of teens, Queen Latifah helped give the film appeal to African American moviegoers, and newcomer Nikki Blonsky hit the talk show circuit making everyday Americans feel they too can win their shot at movie stardom. Many audience segments found something here to like.

Transformers banked another $20.5M and saw its total soar to $263M. Off 45% in its third weekend, the Paramount/DreamWorks production climbed to number 34 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters passing the $262M of 2002's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

The animated rodent film Ratatouille dropped 40% to fifth place with $10.9M in its fourth outing to boost the cume to $165.5M. Although the acclaimed comedy is on its way past the $200M mark, it will end up being Pixar's lowest-grossing film since 1998's A Bug's Life. Fox's action sequel Live Free or Die Hard followed in sixth with $7.1M, off 37%, lifting the total to $116.3M. By Tuesday the new installment will become the top-grossing Die Hard film edging past the $117.3M of 1990's Die Hard 2, however ticket prices were much lower when all previous John McClane pics were released.

The Warner Bros. comedy License to Wed fell 51% to $3.6M and gave the Robin Williams film $38.5M to date. The hit thriller 1408 scared up $2.6M, down 47%, giving MGM a cume of $67.5M.

Universal rounded out the top ten with a pair of comedies from the men behind The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Steve Carell's Evan Almighty grossed $2.6M, down 48%, for a $93.6M sum. But director Judd Apatow has been the bigger winner with Knocked Up which slipped 38% to $2.3M raising the stellar total to $142.7M and counting. Final domestic grosses should be roughly $100M and $150M, respectively.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight's sci-fi thriller Sunshine opened well with $242,964 from only ten locations for a scorching $24,296 average. The Danny Boyle-directed pic expands on Friday to over 400 theaters nationwide. Also posting a solid average was Don Cheadle's Talk to Me with $355,680 from 36 sites for a commendable $9,880 average. The total sits at $909,289 with an expansion set for Friday as well.

A pair of films fell from the top ten over the weekend. Michael Moore's health care documentary Sicko dipped 25% to $1.9M pushing the overall cume to $19.2M. A final take of about $25M seems likely for the Lionsgate release. The caper sequel Ocean's Thirteen grossed $1M in its seventh heist, down 49%, for a $114.5M cume to date. A final North American tally of approximately $118M seems likely which would be just 6% less than the $125.5M of 2004's Ocean's Twelve.

The top ten films grossed $143.8M which was up 5% from last year when Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest remained at number one for the third time with $35.2M; and up 16% from 2005 when Johnny Depp also ruled with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which took in $28.3M in its sophomore session.

Compared to projections, Chuck and Larry opened a couple of notches below my $37M forecast while Hairspray surged past my $19M prediction.

For a NEW review of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Simpsons Movie, No Reservations, and I Know Who Killed Me all open nationwide.

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

# Title Jul 20 - 22 Jul 13 - 15 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry $ 34,233,750 3,495 1 $ 9,795 $ 34,233,750 Universal
2 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 32,511,350 77,108,414 -57.8 4,285 2 7,587 207,866,865 Warner Bros.
3 Hairspray 27,476,745 3,121 1 8,804 27,476,745 New Line
4 Transformers 20,514,497 37,027,901 -44.6 3,762 3 5,453 262,978,000 Paramount
5 Ratatouille 10,899,179 18,012,196 -39.5 3,402 4 3,204 165,519,955 Buena Vista
6 Live Free or Die Hard 7,101,638 11,279,135 -37.0 2,727 4 2,604 116,267,866 Fox
7 License to Wed 3,577,230 7,311,297 -51.1 2,525 3 1,417 38,495,133 Warner Bros.
8 1408 2,621,194 4,934,516 -46.9 1,451 5 1,806 67,453,524 MGM
9 Evan Almighty 2,552,890 4,895,055 -47.8 1,779 5 1,435 93,567,015 Universal
10 Knocked Up 2,292,640 3,676,500 -37.6 1,288 8 1,780 142,698,885 Universal
11 Sicko 1,945,723 2,604,139 -25.3 1,117 5 1,742 19,185,853 Lionsgate
12 Ocean's Thirteen 1,012,427 1,984,323 -49.0 750 7 1,350 114,533,366 Warner Bros.
13 Fantastic Four: Rise of the SS 751,826 1,633,612 -54.0 601 6 1,251 128,879,368 Fox
14 Pirates of the Caribbean: AWE 730,059 1,396,749 -47.7 517 9 1,412 306,034,458 Buena Vista
15 Partner 584,245 58 1 10,073 584,245 Eros
16 La Vie En Rose 410,954 543,470 -24.4 178 7 2,309 7,598,240 Picturehouse
17 Evening 397,034 1,156,407 -65.7 396 4 1,003 12,004,435 Focus
18 Shrek the Third 384,110 662,041 -42.0 408 10 941 318,937,940 Paramount
19 Talk to Me 355,680 402,000 -11.5 36 2 9,880 909,289 Focus
20 Rescue Dawn 349,842 363,093 -3.6 57 3 6,138 1,117,279 MGM
Top 5 $ 125,635,521 $ 150,738,943 -16.7
Top 10 143,781,113 168,833,476 -14.8
Top 20 150,703,013 177,549,382 -15.1
Top 20 vs. 2006 150,703,013 146,482,090 2.9

Last Updated: July 23, 2007 at 7:45PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Friday at 9:50am ET.