Weekend Box Office (July 29 - 31, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND After waiting patiently in second place for two weeks, grooms Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn stepped up into first place this weekend as moviegoers made their blockbuster comedy Wedding Crashers the most popular film in North America. Two-time champ Charlie and the Chocolate Factory swapped places and took the runner-up spot while three new releases debuted in the low teens failing to dislodge the dynamic Time Warner duo from the top positions. Overall, the box office was back into slump mode not living up to 2004 or 2003 numbers for this time of year.

Rarely does a hit film ascend to the head of the chart in its third weekend of release but that is exactly what Wedding Crashers did grossing $20M, according to final studio figures, to lead a sluggish frame. Off a slender 22%, the New Line sleeper hit has grossed an astonishing $115.6M in only 17 days. The word-of-mouth smash dropped just 24% last weekend and should smash through the $175M mark at this pace. The double century mark is not out of the question either.

Wedding Crashers has been enjoying a kind of success similar to 1998's There's Something About Mary, another R-rated raunchy comedy with likable characters that became a breakout hit in the second half of summer. The Farrelly Brothers film held up remarkably well each week grossing $60.1M by the end of its third weekend on its way to $176.5M. Mary finally reached the number one slot for the first time over the Labor Day session that year in its eighth frame.

Following a two-week stint at number one, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory settled for the silver ticket with $16.4M. Down a reasonable 42%, the Warner Bros. hit has raised its gross to $148.1M in 17 days and still has its eyes on the $200M mark. With little competition for the family crowd in August, Charlie seems set to hold up well in the weeks ahead. Internationally, Charlie debuted at number one in the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Israel this weekend lifting its tally to $36.3M from 15 countries.

Despite the good news for New Line and Warner Bros., the overall industry was looking gloomy once again. Ticket sales fell to their lowest point since before the opening of Star Wars Episode III and the gross for the number one film fell to its lowest amount since the summer season began at the beginning of May. To date, only five summer films have opened with more than $50M in three days compared to eight at this point last year.

Disney led the trio of new titles with its family comedy Sky High which debuted with $14.6M. The PG-rated entry about a high school for the kids of super heroes averaged a good $5,037 from 2,905 venues. Reviews were generally positive for the $40M pic which starred Kurt Russell, Kelly Preston, and Lynda Carter. Surprisingly, it was the biggest opening for the Mouse House since the summer season began.

For the second straight weekend, an A-list Hollywood action director crashed and burned with his newest $100M+ offering. Rob Cohen's Stealth failed to find paying customers in its launch opening to only $13.3M despite an ultrawide launch in a massive 3,495 theaters. The PG-13 film about a runaway fighter plane set on starting a war averaged a limp $3,792 per theater and failed to reach the $40M+ level of the director's previous efforts XXX and The Fast and the Furious. Those two hits also starred Vin Diesel who opted to babysit children this year with The Pacifier which made more money in its opening weekend than this year's XXX sequel did in its entire theatrical run. According to studio data, the audience for the critically-panned Stealth was 59% male and 56% over the age of 25.

For Sony, the Stealth numbers were painful and come after April's Cohen-less XXX: State of the Union also bombed. Together, the action films cost over $190M to produce plus tens of millions more invested into marketing and distribution with each film going out in nearly 3,500 theaters with loud ad campaigns. Stealth and State of the Union should combine for a domestic gross of less than $65M and make the studio think twice before greenlighting future big-budget action-adventures that don't have the firepower to lure in ticket buyers.

Counterprogramming to an adult female audience in a thousand fewer theaters was the Warner Bros. romantic comedy Must Love Dogs which opened to $12.9M from 2,505 locations. The Diane Lane-John Cusack pic averaged a solid $5,132 per site. The PG-13 release about a divorced woman getting back into the dating world was met with mixed reviews. The opening for Dogs came close to the $14.1M bow for Lane's 2002 drama with Richard Gere Unfaithful which earned the actress much praise. This time around, it was Lane who anchored the film which skewed 70% female.

Dropping 45% in its fourth weekend was Fox's Fantastic Four with $6.9M pushing the cume to $136.3M. The DreamWorks action flop The Island tumbled 52% from its weak debut to gross $6M putting the ten-day total at a pitiful $24.3M. Co-produced by Warner Bros., the $125M sci-fi film looks to finish with an embarrassing $35M making it Michael Bay's first film to gross less than $60M and stopping the director's nine-year streak of $100M+ blockbusters.

Paramount's baseball comedy Bad News Bears also saw audiences flee falling 51% to $5.6M. With only $22.7M in ten days, the $30M Billy Bob Thornton vehicle should find its way to just $32-35M. The studio's War of the Worlds followed with $5.5M, off 39%, bringing its tally to $218.4M. Over the weekend, the Tom Cruise-Steven Spielberg collaboration became Paramount's highest grossing film since 1997's Titanic.

The documentary March of the Penguins remained a hot ticket slipping a scant 8% to $4M from 778 theaters. The Warner Independent release added 83 more sites and averaged a solid $5,181 per location for the second best average in the top ten. Cume to date stands at an impressive $16.3M and the distributor will expand the G-rated film again on Friday to about 1,500 theaters nationwide. Parents are finding the educational film to be a great alternative for their children than the steady stream of mindless Hollywood kiddie flicks.

It was standing room only for the new comedy documentary The Aristocrats which debuted in only four theaters this weekend but generated a towering gross of $243,796 for a gut-busting average of $60,949 per site. The unrated film features dozens of veteran comics like George Carlin, Whoopi Goldberg, and Robin Williams interpreting the world's dirtiest joke. The ThinkFilm release sold out most shows in its New York and Los Angeles theaters and will add 4 to 6 more sites on Friday before expanding to the top fifteen markets on August 12.

Three films fell from the top ten over the weekend. The pimp-and-rap story Hustle & Flow dropped 50% in its second weekend collecting $4M boosting the ten-day sum to $14.6M. The $8M Sundance hit should reach a commendable $22-24M for Paramount Classics.

The super hero smash Batman Begins fell 48% to $2.4M in its seventh frame to boost its take to an impressive $195.9M. Well-received by critics and fans alike, the Christopher Nolan-directed winner should become the third summer film to crack the $200M mark in another week or so. Produced for about $150M, Batman Begins should finish its domestic run with a bit over $200M. Overseas grosses have kicked in an additional $156.2M as of this weekend.

Rob Zombie's horror sequel The Devil's Rejects got hacked by 60% in its second weekend grossing $2.8M for a total of $12.5M in ten days. The $7M Lions Gate release appealed mostly to a narrow segment of the moviegoing audience and should finish with about $16M.

The top ten films grossed $105.2M which was down 23% from last year when The Village opened at number one with $50.7M; and down 17% from 2003 when American Wedding debuted in the top spot with $33.4M.

Compared to projections, Sky High opened somewhat stronger than my $12M forecast, Stealth launched a bit lower than my $16M prediction, and Must Love Dogs bowed better than my $10M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on why Stealth and The Island failed at the box office. In last week's survey, readers were asked which summer super hero film they would most want to see a sequel to. Of 1,261 responses, 81% picked Batman Begins while 19% selected Fantastic Four.

For a NEW review of Sky High visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Dukes of Hazzard opens.

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

# Title Jul 29 - 31 Jul 22 - 24 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Wedding Crashers $ 20,023,159 $ 25,665,065 -22.0 3,030 3 $ 6,608 $ 115,622,139 New Line
2 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 16,384,332 28,253,338 -42.0 3,775 3 4,340 148,095,522 Warner Bros.
3 Sky High 14,631,784 2,905 1 5,037 14,631,784 Buena Vista
4 Stealth 13,251,545 3,495 1 3,792 13,251,545 Sony
5 Must Love Dogs 12,855,321 2,505 1 5,132 12,855,321 Warner Bros.
6 Fantastic Four 6,912,725 12,646,871 -45.3 2,744 4 2,519 136,257,616 Fox
7 The Island 5,963,223 12,409,070 -51.9 3,138 2 1,900 24,319,260 DreamWorks
8 Bad News Bears 5,634,919 11,382,472 -50.5 3,183 2 1,770 22,667,038 Paramount
9 War of the Worlds 5,481,239 8,925,605 -38.6 2,324 5 2,359 218,369,264 Paramount
10 March of the Penguins 4,030,894 4,382,340 -8.0 778 6 5,181 16,330,241 Warner Ind.
11 Hustle and Flow 4,029,764 8,017,808 -49.7 1,015 2 3,970 14,589,913 Par. Classics
12 The Devil's Rejects 2,797,808 7,067,335 -60.4 1,757 2 1,592 12,537,942 Lions Gate
13 Batman Begins 2,448,225 4,727,469 -48.2 1,601 7 1,529 195,875,532 Warner Bros.
14 Mr. & Mrs. Smith 1,833,400 3,701,842 -50.5 1,142 8 1,605 178,540,329 Fox
15 Herbie: Fully Loaded 653,560 2,020,307 -67.7 771 6 848 62,658,313 Buena Vista
16 Star Wars Episode III 573,122 1,046,982 -45.3 429 11 1,336 377,080,716 Fox
17 Madagascar 565,142 1,199,205 -52.9 663 10 852 188,238,726 DreamWorks
18 Bewitched 410,265 1,012,771 -59.5 405 6 1,013 60,717,928 Sony
19 Dark Water 396,415 1,795,925 -77.9 434 4 913 24,411,534 Buena Vista
20 Me and You and Everyone We Know 271,321 340,728 -20.4 138 7 1,966 2,371,096 IFC Films
Top 5 $ 77,146,141 $ 90,356,816 -14.6
Top 10 105,169,141 123,477,373 -14.8
Top 20 119,148,163 135,967,911 -12.4
Top 20 vs. 2004 119,148,163 150,486,979 -20.8

Last Updated : August 1, 2005 at 7:15PM EDT