Weekend Box Office (July 27 - 29, 2007)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers across North America embraced The Simpsons Movie which beat out all industry expectations for an explosive number one opening and grossed more than the next four biggest hits combined. The Fox release collected $74M in its first weekend in theaters, according to final studio figures, and averaged a spectacular $18,877 per site from 3,922 locations. The PG-13 comedy enjoyed the third largest debut ever for an animated film trailing only Shrek the Third and Shrek 2 which bowed to $121.6M and $108M, respectively.

The Simpsons Movie delivered the fifth biggest July opening weekend ever after the megasequels Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($135.6M in 2006), Spider-Man 2 ($88.2M in 2004), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ($77.1M in 2007), and Austin Powers in Goldmember ($76.6M in 2002). It also ranks fifth among the biggest non-sequel opening weekends in history following Spider-Man ($114.8M in 2002), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone ($90.3M in 2001), The Passion of the Christ ($83.8M in 2004), and The Da Vinci Code ($77.1M in 2006). The magic number five is also where The Simpsons Movie stands in Fox's company history behind the debuts of the last two installments in both the Star Wars and X-Men franchises.

After building up an enormous fan base over the last 18 years, The Simpsons Movie was finally ready to capitalize on the popularity of the television series by jumping to the big screen and the audience certainly followed. Fox reported that the audience for the $75M production was solid in all four quadrants. Strong reviews from critics also helped the cause and probably encouraged many fans who have given up on watching the weekly series to return for the theatrical fun. The studio's marketing department also deserves a gold medal for its unorthodox campaign which really commanded the attention of the public. From the contest between different towns named Springfield to host the premiere to the conversion of a dozen 7-11 stores into Kwik-E-Marts, the studio was able to generate massive amounts of excitement with creative new ideas.

Overseas, Krusty and company were just as powerful. The animated smash grossed an additional $96M from 71 territories, according to estimates, putting the global cume at a towering $170M. Latin American bows were especially explosive and major markets like Italy and Japan have yet to open.

Dropping a notch from its top spot debut, Adam Sandler and Kevin James cuddled up in second place with the comedy I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry which fell 44% to $19.1M. The Universal release has laughed up a solid $71.7M in its first ten days and should find its way to the neighborhood of $125M. Chuck is performing much like Sandler's 2002 summer comedy Mr. Deeds which bowed in late June to $37.2M, tallied $73.6M in ten days, and finished with $126.3M.

Another former number one followed. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix dropped 46% to $17.7M in its third weekend and boosted its 19-day cume to $242.4M. Phoenix posted the smallest third-weekend gross of any Potter film to date, however a final domestic cume close to the $290M of the last installment Goblet of Fire still seems possible.

The hot musical Hairspray posted a decent hold in its second weekend dropping 42% to $15.9M for New Line. The ensemble pic featuring John Travolta and Queen Latifah watched its total soar to $59.7M after only ten days which already makes it the studio's top grossing film in two years. The PG-rated entry looks to pass the $103.3M of last winter's Dreamgirls and may reach about $110M.

Catherine Zeta-Jones headlined the new romantic dramedy No Reservations and found moderate success with an opening of $11.7M. The Warner Bros. release debuted in 2,425 locations as an alternative choice for adult women and averaged a good $4,827. Aaron Eckhart and Abigail Breslin co-star in the story of a chef whose life changes after her sister's death leaves the woman to care for her niece. Reviews were mixed.

The action smash Transformers placed sixth in its fourth weekend with $11.6M. Down 43%, the Paramount/DreamWorks co-production boosted its cume to $284.7M putting it at number 31 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters after The Matrix Reloaded which grossed $281.5M in 2003. Transformers is now the third biggest hit ever for Paramount after Titanic ($600.8M) and Forrest Gump ($329.7M) and also the third largest in DreamWorks history trailing the last two Shrek installments.

In their fifth weekends, Disney's Ratatouille and Fox's Live Free or Die Hard held up well grossing $7.5M and $5.6M, respectively. The Pixar toon dipped 32% and has banked $179.9M to date while the Bruce Willis sequel slipped only 21% pushing the cume to $125.4M. The new John McClane adventure is the actor's highest grossing live-action film since 1999's The Sixth Sense.

Two new flops rounded out the top ten. Sony's Lindsay Lohan horror flick I Know Who Killed Me bowed to $3.5M from 1,320 theaters for a weak $2,656 average. The R-rated torture pic was never tracking well and its star's recent arrests put the nail in the coffin for the film's release. MGM opened the golf comedy Who's Your Caddy? with $2.8M averaging only $2,705 from 1,019 sites.

Four films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The Warner Bros. romantic comedy License to Wed tumbled 64% to $1.3M lifting its cume to $41.7M. A mediocre $44M final should result for the Robin Williams pic. Rival comedy Knocked Up has been one of the year's top comedy performers and fell 47% to $1.2M giving Universal a superb $145.2M to date. The low-cost $30M production should finish its domestic run with just under $150M.

Horror hit 1408 dropped 57% to $1.1M giving MGM $70M thus far. As the year's second biggest fright flick after Disturbia, the John Cusack film should reach about $73M.

The Steve Carell epic comedy Evan Almighty grossed $1.1M, down 55%, pushing the tally to $96.3M. Produced for $175M, the PG-rated pic will have to work hard with second-run business in order to crack the $100M mark for Universal. It will also have to soar internationally and on video if it wants reach break-even.

A handful of films expanded into wider release this weekend. MGM's military drama Rescue Dawn grossed $1.7M from 500 locations for a $3,301 average and $3M cume. The sci-fi thriller Sunshine grossed $1.3M for Fox Searchlight resulting in a $2,746 average and a total of $1.6M. The Don Cheadle film Talk To Me averaged $6,971 from 115 playdates for a weekend take of $801,709. Total sits at $1.9M for Focus.

The top ten films grossed $169.5M which was up a potent 56% from last year when Miami Vice opened at number one with $25.7M; and up 61% from 2005 when Wedding Crashers rose to the top spot for the first time with $20M in its third frame.

Compared to projections, The Simpsons Movie flew much higher than my $54M forecast. No Reservations opened a couple of notches above my $9M predicton. I Know Who Killed Me and Who's Your Caddy? were both very close to my projections of $4M and $2M.

For a NEW review of The Simpsons Movie visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Bourne Ultimatum, Hot Rod, Underdog, and Bratz all open.

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

# Title Jul 27 - 29 Jul 20 - 22 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Simpsons Movie $ 74,036,787 3,922 1 $ 18,877 $ 74,036,787 Fox
2 I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry 19,132,965 34,233,750 -44.1 3,501 2 5,465 71,680,080 Universal
3 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 17,733,085 32,511,350 -45.5 4,005 3 4,428 242,439,214 Warner Bros.
4 Hairspray 15,899,890 27,476,745 -42.1 3,121 2 5,094 59,657,287 New Line
5 No Reservations 11,704,357 2,425 1 4,827 11,704,357 Warner Bros.
6 Transformers 11,643,129 20,514,497 -43.2 3,349 4 3,477 284,677,134 Paramount
7 Ratatouille 7,455,594 10,899,179 -31.6 2,934 5 2,541 179,904,396 Buena Vista
8 Live Free or Die Hard 5,618,728 7,101,638 -20.9 2,271 5 2,474 125,396,389 Fox
9 I Know Who Killed Me 3,506,291 1,320 1 2,656 3,506,291 Sony
10 Who's Your Caddy 2,756,661 1,019 1 2,705 2,756,661 MGM
11 Rescue Dawn 1,650,282 349,842 371.7 500 4 3,301 2,954,746 MGM
12 License to Wed 1,287,411 3,577,230 -64.0 1,610 4 800 41,707,459 Warner Bros.
13 Sunshine 1,262,996 242,964 419.8 461 2 2,740 1,625,497 Fox Searchlight
14 Knocked Up 1,227,605 2,292,640 -46.5 792 9 1,550 145,162,955 Universal
15 Sicko 1,173,740 1,945,723 -39.7 850 6 1,381 21,493,605 Lionsgate
16 Evan Almighty 1,146,335 2,552,890 -55.1 1,010 6 1,135 96,333,065 Universal
17 1408 1,139,669 2,621,194 -56.5 981 6 1,162 69,926,874 MGM
18 Talk to Me 801,709 355,680 125.4 115 3 6,971 1,884,170 Focus
19 Shrek the Third 634,797 384,110 65.3 455 11 1,395 319,835,929 Paramount
20 Fantastic Four: Rise of the SS 467,792 751,826 -37.8 390 7 1,199 129,757,156 Fox
Top 5 $ 138,507,084 $ 125,635,521 10.2
Top 10 169,487,487 143,781,113 17.9
Top 20 180,279,823 150,703,013 19.6
Top 20 vs. 2006 180,279,823 126,756,154 42.2

Last Updated: July 30, 2007 at 8:15PM ET

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