Weekend Box Office (July 21 - 23, 2006)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Johnny Depp made the frame's four new releases walk the plank as his megablockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest became the first film of the year to spend three consecutive weekends at number one and zoomed past the $300M mark in record time. Among the new offerings debuting in theaters, Sony's animated film Monster House posted the best results opening in second place while M. Night Shyamalan's latest supernatural thriller Lady in the Water stumbled in its first weekend settling for third place. The comedies Clerks II from Kevin Smith and My Super Ex-Girlfriend from Ivan Reitman debuted with more modest results outside the top five. Overall ticket sales were a healthy amount ahead of last year's.

Sailing past more box office records with ease, Pirates grossed $35.2M in its third weekend, according to final studio figures, to remain the top choice among summer moviegoers across North America. Off a moderate 44%, the Disney smash became the fastest film to break the $300M mark when it surpassed the milestone on Saturday, its 16th day of release. Star Wars Episode III previously held the record doing the deed in 17 days last summer. Pirates now stands at $321.9M after a mere 17 days and has soared up to number 16 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters ahead of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone which grossed $317.6M in 2001.

Dead Man's Chest also entered a very exclusive club of films that reached the triple-century mark while still at number one. It joins only 1982's E.T., 1997's Titanic, and 2003's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The third weekend hold for Pirates was commendable showing that the high seas adventure is not falling apart like many action sequels and instead still pleasing audiences. It now looks to be on course to reach $400M in box office treasure. Overseas, the cume vaulted to $217M putting the global gross at a staggering $538.7M in under three weeks.

Sony generated a solid debut for the animated film Monster House which opened in second place with $22.2M from 3,553 locations. The PG-rated tale about three kids who discover an evil home averaged an impressive $6,253 per theater. Oscar-winning directors Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis served as executive producers and had their names used prominently in the marketing. As the first toon for kids in over a month, Monster scored with children and parents who made up the bulk of the audience. The studio released the $75M production in 163 3-D theaters which collected $2.6M of the overall gross for a sizzling $16,012 average. Reviews were mostly positive.

Suffering his worst opening since becoming an A-list director, M. Night Shyamalan saw his latest thriller Lady in the Water struggle in its debut grossing $18M from 3,235 theaters. The PG-13 film about a mysterious creature from the water who must return to her world averaged $5,578 per site. The opening was less than half the size of the $50.7M bow of Shyamalan's last film The Village and less than one-third of the $60.1M that his previous film Signs took in when it opened in 2002. Critics panned Lady which was promoted as being a "bedtime story" as the Oscar-nominated filmmaker earned the worst reviews of his career.

Shyamalan's last four thrillers were all released by Disney but after The Village, the studio passed on the opportunity to make Lady. The project found itself over at Warner Bros. Village opened impressively based on the brand name of Shyamalan, however negative word-of-mouth led to it crashing 68% on the second weekend and quickly disappearing soon after. In fact, its final domestic tally of $114.2M remains the lowest gross ever for any film opening north of $50M. Many former fans may have decided to pass on his follow-up which was Lady. It could be rough seas ahead for Water as well since its Saturday sales were flat compared to Friday's. Plus, it has scored a weak B- average grade from over 3,000 users of Yahoo Movies which means ticket buyers have not been very thrilled.

Universal's hit comedy You, Me, and Dupree dropped a moderate 41% in its second weekend and placed fourth with $12.8M. With a solid $45.3M in ten days, the $54M picture should find its way to a sturdy $70-75M. Fellow sophomore comedy Little Man saw a larger drop and fell 49% to $11M for a total of $40.6M in ten days. Sony's $64M Wayans brothers film looks to find its way to $60-65M.

Fans showed support for Kevin Smith whose comedy sequel Clerks II debuted in sixth place with $10.1M from 2,150 theaters. Averaging a good $4,680 per site, the R-rated story of a pair of slackers still doing little with their lives in their thirties opened a bit weaker than Smith's 2001 late-summer pic Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back which bowed to $11M on its way to $30.1M. Ticket sales for Clerks II fell a sharp 18% on Saturday from Friday indicating that Smith's loyal fans rushed out on opening day and that there may not be much of an audience left for future weeks. The film earned favorable reviews and was released by MGM and The Weinstein Company.

Fox saw a disappointing opening for its romantic comedy My Super Ex-Girlfriend which debuted to $8.6M from 2,702 theaters for a mild $3,184 average. The PG-13 film stars Uma Thurman as a woman who is secretly a super hero that exacts revenge on her ex-boyfriend (Luke Wilson) for dumping her. Reviews were mixed for the Ivan Reitman-directed pic. Studio research showed that the audience was split evenly between men and women with those age 25 and older making up 59% of the crowd. With so many other comedies in the marketplace from Owen Wilson, the Wayans brothers, Kevin Smith, Meryl Streep, and Adam Sandler, plus Pirates still raking it in, audiences found no special reason to spend money on Ex-Girlfriend.

Superman Returns dipped 40% in its fourth flight to $7.4M and pushed its cume to $178.3M. The pricey Warner Bros. film is still ahead of the $171.9M that its last super hero film Batman Begins collected after the same amount of time. The Caped Crusader pic, however, held up better grossing $10M in its fourth frame. The $200M domestic mark still seems reachable for Superman. Oversaes, the international cume climbed to $110M.

Meryl Streep's hit comedy The Devil Wears Prada enjoyed another solid hold suffering the smallest decline in the top ten. The Fox release took in $7.4M, off only 29%, to lift its sum to $97.5M. Devil opened on the same weekend as Superman Returns with a much smaller gross, but is now doing nearly identical weekend business.

Disney bookended the top ten with its Pixar smash Cars which dropped 37% to $4.9M in its seventh lap. The animated hit has now grossed $229.5M putting it at number 49 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters after X-Men: The Last Stand which opened two weeks earlier and has taken in $232.8M to date.

The weekend's four new releases tossed a quartet of summer pictures out of the top ten. Adam Sandler's latest winner Click grossed $4M in its fifth frame, off 44%, for a total of $128.2M. The $83M Sony title should finish with $135-140M. Fellow comedy Nacho Libre with Jack Black tumbled 69% to $502,060 for a cume of $78.7M to date. Paramount looks to end its run with just under $80M.

Keanu Reeves grossed $678,030 for his sci-fi toon A Scanner Darkly and $580,465 for his sci-fi romance The Lake House this weekend. Warner Independent Pictures has taken in $3.2M with Scanner and is shooting for the $5M mark. Parent company Warner Bros. has grossed $50.6M with its Sandra Bullock tale and is heading for $52M.

The global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth remains a popular summer flick slipping just 14% to $1M in its ninth weekend. Paramount Vantage has collected $18.8M to date and is enjoying remarkable momentum.

The top ten films grossed $137.6M which was up 12% from last year when Johnny Depp's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remained at number one for the second time with $28.3M; and up 2% from 2004 when Matt Damon's The Bourne Supremacy opened in the top spot with $52.5M.

Compared to projections, Monster House opened close to my $25M forecast while Lady in the Water bowed well below my $33M prediction. Clerks II was close to my $12M projection and My Super Ex-Girlfriend came in below my $13M forecast.

For a NEW review of Clerks II visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Miami Vice, The Ant Bully, and John Tucker Must Die all open.

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

# Title Jul 21 - 23 Jul 14 - 16 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Pirates of the Caribbean: DMC $ 35,215,201 $ 62,345,264 -43.5 4,133 3 $ 8,520 $ 321,899,233 Buena Vista
2 Monster House 22,217,226 3,553 1 6,253 22,217,226 Sony
3 Lady in the Water 18,044,396 3,235 1 5,578 18,044,396 Warner Bros.
4 You, Me, and Dupree 12,767,590 21,525,560 -40.7 3,137 2 4,070 45,299,080 Universal
5 Little Man 11,025,108 21,613,176 -49.0 2,533 2 4,353 40,636,230 Sony
6 Clerks II 10,061,132 2,150 1 4,680 10,061,132 MGM
7 My Super Ex-Girlfriend 8,603,460 2,702 1 3,184 8,603,460 Fox
8 Superman Returns 7,375,213 12,288,317 -40.0 2,826 4 2,610 178,342,711 Warner Bros.
9 The Devil Wears Prada 7,361,991 10,386,386 -29.1 2,248 4 3,275 97,508,460 Fox
10 Cars 4,947,198 7,840,985 -36.9 2,410 7 2,053 229,485,636 Buena Vista
11 Click 4,035,847 7,261,361 -44.4 2,312 5 1,746 128,224,427 Sony
12 An Inconvenient Truth 1,000,372 1,165,480 -14.2 440 9 2,274 18,790,273 Par. Vantage
13 A Scanner Darkly 678,030 1,266,427 -46.5 219 3 3,096 3,238,799 Warner Ind.
14 The Lake House 580,465 1,665,485 -65.1 603 6 963 50,617,228 Warner Bros.
15 Nacho Libre 502,060 1,615,331 -68.9 505 6 994 78,689,879 Paramount
16 The Da Vinci Code 470,930 900,448 -47.7 322 10 1,463 215,874,848 Sony
17 The Break-Up 446,600 888,135 -49.7 406 8 1,100 117,060,980 Universal
18 A Prairie Home Companion 405,183 683,858 -40.8 297 7 1,364 18,725,144 Picturehouse
19 The Fast and the Furious 3 378,675 1,168,360 -67.6 405 6 935 60,866,515 Universal
20 Deep Sea 3-D 365,413 308,075 18.6 38 21 9,616 14,776,341 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 99,269,521 $ 105,484,000 -5.9
Top 10 137,618,515 135,999,688 1.2
Top 20 146,482,090 152,922,648 -4.2
Top 20 vs. 2005 146,482,090 135,967,911 7.7

Last Updated : July 24, 2006 at 10:15PM EDT

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