Weekend Box Office (July 23 - 25, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Reassuring the industry that he is one of today's top action hero draws, Matt Damon ruled supreme at the North American box office with his assassin sequel The Bourne Supremacy. Opening in the same level of theaters, but with less than one-third of the ticket sales, was the competing action film Catwoman which failed to connect with summer moviegoers. Action titles claimed the top four slots on the charts while the controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 cracked the $100M mark. Overall, grosses were relatively even with last weekend as off slightly from last year.

Scoring the best opening of his career, Damon attracted $52.5M to the debut of The Bourne Supremacy, according to final studio figures, exceeding the loftiest expectations going into the weekend. The followup to the hit The Bourne Identity attacked 3,165 theaters and averaged a sizzling $16,595 per location. The powerful launch nearly doubled the $27.1M premiere of Identity from June 2002 which was the actor's best opening in a leading role. Damon's previous top bow for any film was the $38.1M for the ensemble drama Ocean's Eleven. The Oscar winner will light up theaters again in December with that film's sequel Ocean's Twelve.

The stronger-than-expected opening for Supremacy was the fifth best ever in the month of July and came as welcome news to Universal which went into the weekend ranking seventh among distributors in year-to-date marketshare. After sluggish sales from titles like Two Brothers, Connie and Carla, and Peter Pan, the studio scored its best bow in over a year. Even more impressive was the fact that Supremacy generated some of the best results for an action movie not driven by special effects. Rarely does an actioner of this type ever debut north of $40M. The Damon sequel even bowed bigger than the top-ranking James Bond film Die Another Day, starring a pre-Catwoman Halle Berry, which opened to $47.1M in November 2002.

Reviews were generally very positive for The Bourne Supremacy which only added to its broad appeal. Studio research showed that the audience was nearly even gender-wise with males making up 51% of the crowd while those over age 30 consisted of 55%, according to Universal's distribution president Nikki Rocco. With a negative cost of $75M, the spy thriller could reach a domestic gross double its cost and excel in overseas territories. After a season of effects-driven action movies catering to younger moviegoers, Supremacy nailed its target audience by offering a more sophisticated product built around a brand name character. Identity went on to gross $121.7M and was the number one video rental of 2003. This weekend, Damon did wonders for his future salary demands as this franchise seems sure to continue.

Caught in Matt Damon's crosshairs was his Legend of Bagger Vance co-star Will Smith who plunged 58% to second place with the sci-fi actioner I, Robot which grossed $21.7M in its second weekend. The $100M+ Fox release has grossed $95.1M in ten days and is on course to reach the vicinity of $150M domestically. A year ago this weekend, Smith's action sequel Bad Boys II dropped 53% in its sophomore session and accumulated about two-thirds of its final $138.6M tally in the first ten days.

Clobbered by critics from coast to coast, Halle Berry's entry Catwoman settled for third place at the box office with $16.7M from 3,117 theaters. Averaging $5,367, the PG-13 film finds the Oscar-winning actress playing the leather-clad heroine/villainess who battles an evil cosmetics empire. Sharon Stone and Benjamin Bratt co-starred in the Warner Bros. production which carried a $85-90M pricetag. With the stronger-than-expected bow of The Bourne Supremacy and holdovers like I, Robot and Spider-Man 2 bringing in nearly $90M this weekend, the action audience made only so much room for Catwoman. Given its comic book origins and bad word-of-mouth, this feline's legs will unquestionably be short and studio hopes for a new franchise will quickly be crushed.

Peter Parker posted another potent payday as Spider-Man 2 dropped 39% to $15M in its fourth frame and boosted its stellar cume to $328.5M. Enjoying its smallest decline to date, the Sony smash now sits at number 14 on the all-time list of domestic blockbusters ahead of the first Harry Potter film which took in $317.6M in 2001. Spider-Man 2 continues to draw audiences overseas as its worldwide gross has surged to $595M and counting.

Off 43% in its second weekend, Hilary Duff's A Cinderella Story collected $7.8M and lifted its ten-day total to $29.6M. The Warner Bros. teen flick should find its way to a solid $50-55M. Will Ferrell placed sixth with Anchorman which grossed $7M, down 50%, for a $71.1M cume to date.

Michael Moore's hot topic doc Fahrenheit 9/11 smashed the magical $100M mark on Saturday, its 30th day of wide release. The Lions Gate title grossed $4.8M, off only 34%, and raised its cume to $103.1M. Fahrenheit is the eighth release of the summer movie season and the tenth this year to join the century club. For the third straight weekend, New Line's romance hit The Notebook suffered the smallest decline in the top ten dipping just 25% to $4.3M for a $62.3M cume.

Buena Vista watched its big-budget flop King Arthur get yanked from nearly one thousand theaters in its third round and tumble another 58% to $3M. The Keira Knightley actioner has grossed a disappointing $45.2M to date. Meanwhile, DreamWorks' own centuries-old tale Shrek 2 slipped just 28% and remained in the top ten for the tenth straight week with $2.3M giving the ogre sequel a towering $429.4M thus far.

Dropping out of the top ten were a pair of successful summer comedies. Fox's Dodgeball fell 47% to $2M pushing its sum to $109.3M. The $20M Vince Vaughn-Ben Stiller hit should conclude its match with around $113M making it one the surprise winners of the season. The Wayans brothers saw their cross-dressing laugher White Chicks drop 53% to $1.6M giving the Sony title $66.8M to date. Budgeted at $35M, the Keenan Ivory Wayans film looks to end with about $70M which puts it in the same neighborhood as the director's last venture with his younger brothers Scary Movie 2 which grossed $71.3M three summers ago.

Among limited release holdovers, Fox Searchlight added new footage to the end of Napoleon Dynamite and doubled its theater count generating a solid frame. The PG-rated nerd comedy grossed $1.6M from 389 locations for a $4,135 average. The cume reached $6.5M and should reach double digits in the next couple of weeks. On Wednesday, the distributor will bow Garden State starring Zach Braff and Natalie Portman in eight theaters in New York, New Jersey, and Los Angeles.

Focus Features expanded its Jeff Bridges-Kim Basinger drama The Door in the Floor from 47 to 119 theaters and grossed $571,825. Averaging $4,805 per venue, the R-rated pic has taken in $1.4M to date. Fine Line's critically-acclaimed drug drama Maria Full of Grace smuggled $136,932 from only seven theaters for a sparkling $19,562 average and $365,456 total to date.

The top ten films grossed $135.2M which was down 5% from last year when Spy Kids 3-D opened at number one with $33.4M; but up 4% from 2002 when Austin Powers in Goldmember debuted in the top spot with $73.1M.

Compared to projections, The Bourne Supremacy shot well past my $30M forecast while Catwoman opened a few notches below my $21M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the opening of The Village. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether The Bourne Supremacy or Catwoman would open bigger. Of 2,478 responses, 71% correctly picked the former while 29% chose the latter.

For NEW reviews of The Manchurian Candidate, The Bourne Supremacy, Catwoman, and Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Village, The Manchurian Candidate, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, and Thunderbirds all open nationwide.

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

# Title Jul 23 - 25 Jul 16 - 18 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Bourne Supremacy $ 52,521,865 3,165 1 $ 16,595 $ 52,521,865 Universal
2 I, Robot 21,728,525 52,179,887 -58.4 3,494 2 6,219 95,123,749 Fox
3 Catwoman 16,728,411 3,117 1 5,367 16,728,411 Warner Bros.
4 Spider-Man 2 15,015,872 24,775,450 -39.4 3,753 4 4,001 328,468,763 Sony
5 A Cinderella Story 7,834,289 13,623,350 -42.5 2,625 2 2,984 29,608,773 Warner Bros.
6 Anchorman 6,974,614 13,849,313 -49.6 2,936 3 2,376 71,060,084 DreamWorks
7 Fahrenheit 9/11 4,759,921 7,175,674 -33.7 1,855 5 2,566 103,115,645 Lions Gate / IFC
8 The Notebook 4,268,634 5,651,212 -24.5 2,003 5 2,131 62,318,684 New Line
9 King Arthur 3,036,114 7,161,648 -57.6 2,104 3 1,443 45,169,967 Buena Vista
10 Shrek 2 2,316,663 3,230,786 -28.3 1,559 10 1,486 429,441,294 DreamWorks
11 Dodgeball 2,022,019 3,813,719 -47.0 1,373 6 1,473 109,335,049 Fox
12 Harry Potter and the Prisoner... 1,677,458 2,758,045 -39.2 1,008 8 1,664 241,770,359 Warner Bros.
13 The Terminal 1,650,183 3,162,067 -47.8 1,254 6 1,316 74,491,946 DreamWorks
14 De-Lovely 1,630,062 1,493,513 9.1 333 4 4,895 4,952,195 MGM/UA
15 White Chicks 1,622,797 3,436,328 -52.8 1,152 5 1,409 66,811,304 Sony
16 Napoleon Dynamite 1,608,412 750,491 114.3 389 7 4,135 6,517,812 Fox Searchlight
17 Garfield: The Movie 683,554 1,057,301 -35.3 680 7 1,005 71,926,472 Fox
18 The Clearing 642,731 1,294,334 -50.3 429 4 1,498 4,933,892 Fox Searchlight
19 The Door in the Floor 571,825 456,876 25.2 119 2 4,805 1,363,123 Focus
20 Before Sunset 522,434 581,261 -10.1 140 4 3,732 2,527,918 WIP
Top 5 $ 113,828,962 $ 111,603,674 2.0
Top 10 135,184,908 134,897,367 0.2
Top 20 147,816,383 148,329,839 -0.3
Top 20 vs. 2003 147,816,383 154,058,775 -4.1

Last Updated : July 26, 2004 at 9:30PM 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.