Weekend Box Office (July 30 - August 1, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND For the third consecutive weekend, a new summer film opened to more than $50M in ticket sales from North American audiences. This time it was M. Night Shyamalan's turn to scare up grosses as his latest thriller The Village bowed at the number one spot grossing more than the frame's other three new releases combined. Among the other new films, The Manchurian Candidate performed best in its debut while a number of holdovers dropped by more than 50% each due in part to a very competitive session. Overall, the top ten was relatively flat when compared to the last three weekends as the marketplace did not expand to accommodate all the new product.

Disgruntled Disney board members should probably look to the city of brotherly love for a replacement for CEO Michael Eisner. Scoring the second largest opening of his career, the Philadelphia-based Shyamalan spooked up $50.7M over the weekend, according to final studio figures, for the suspense drama The Village giving the Mouse House a desperately-needed hit. Playing in an ultrawide 3,730 theaters, the PG-13 film about a rural Pennsylvania town that encounters creatures inhabiting the surrounding woods averaged a terrifying $13,605 per location. The director's previous effort, the 2002 hit Signs starring Mel Gibson, still claims a career-best for the filmmaker bowing this very weekend two years ago with a towering $60.1M on its way to $228M. The Village featured well-respected actors not on the A-list including William Hurt, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, and Sigourney Weaver.

The performance of The Village this weekend managed to outdo the openings for Disney's last four films combined and marked the studio's best bow since Finding Nemo over a year ago. In fact, before the Shyamalan chiller, the studio had failed to open any movie to more than $25M for twelve straight months. On Friday, upfront demand for the summer's first scary movie led to a powerful $20.8M opening, but sales fell a disturbing 15% on Saturday to $17.7M hinting at shaky legs in the weeks to come. Studio demographic research showed that the audience was relatively split even with males making up 52% of the crowd. Couples made up 57% while teens accounted for 38%. Reviews from critics were mixed.

Dropping 54% in its second weekend, the Matt Damon spy thriller The Bourne Supremacy grossed $24.2M pushing its ten-day tally to a robust $98.8M. The $75M sequel should shoot its way to $145-155M surpassing The Bourne Identity's $121.7M from 2002.

Denzel Washington debuted in third place with the political thriller The Manchurian Candidate which grossed $20M from 2,867 theaters. Directed by Jonathan Demme, the R-rated picture averaged $6,982 for Paramount. The opening came in below the Oscar-winning actor's last film Man on Fire which debuted to $22.8M last April but above the $16.2M debut of last fall's Out of Time. A loose remake of the 1962 Frank Sinatra film, The Manchurian Candidate was not surprisingly the oldest-skewing film in the top ten. Studio research indicated that 85% of the audience was over age 25 and 54% was female. Meryl Streep co-starred in the $80M production. With political conventions underway, Paramount wanted to offer mature moviegoers a quality choice at a time before people were sick of election and campaign coverage. Good reviews and a healthy Friday-to-Saturday increase could mean a promising road ahead.

Will Smith's futuristic actioner I, Robot fell another 52% to $10.4M in its third weekend. The Fox title has taken in $115M after 17 days and looks headed for the $135-140M range. Clinging to the fifth spot in its fifth weekend was Spider-Man 2 with $8.6M falling 43%. The Sony smash has grossed $344.4M and now sits at number ten on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters moving ahead of The Two Towers which grossed $340.7M including re-releases. Halle Berry's comic book pic Catwoman got clawed in its second weekend tumbling 62% to $6.4M. With $29.8M in ten days, the $90M Warner Bros. action film should finish with a dismal $40M.

New Line Cinema's stoner comedy Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle opened in seventh place with $5.5M from 2,135 theaters. Directed by Danny Leiner (Dude, Where's My Car?), the R-rated film about two roommates on an all-night trip to find their favorite burgers averaged $2,567 per joint.

The teen flick A Cinderella Story dropped 38% to $4.9M giving Warner Bros. a solid $40.3M in 17 days. Will Ferrell's Anchorman followed with $3.1M, down 55%, putting the DreamWorks film at $78.2M to date. The political documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 spent one more frame in the top ten with $3.1M, off only 35%, lifting the cume for the Lions Gate release to $109.4M.

Opening poorly in eleventh place was Universal's family adventure Thunderbirds with $2.8M from 2,057 locations for a poor $1,345 average. Starring Bill Paxton and Ben Kingsley, the $57M misfire has also grossed $5.5M internationally from its native U.K., Netherlands, and Israel.

Among limited-release openers, Fox Searchlight saw a solid start for its Zach Braff pic Garden State which grossed $201,115 from nine venues for a sparkling $22,346 average. The Sundance acquisition has grossed $283,069 since bowing Wednesday. Garden State will add six more markets on Friday playing in about 30 theaters and expands weekly leading to national play on August 20.

Paramount Classics platformed its French tale Intimate Strangers in five New York and Los Angeles sites and grossed $55,836. Averaging $11,167, the R-rated film will widen to about 15-20 additional theaters on Friday. Opening mildly with a $5,001 average was Spike Lee's She Hate Me with $55,016 from eleven theaters for Sony Pictures Classics. Since its Wednesday launch, the total has reached $81,367.

Three films fell from the top ten over the weekend. New Line's sleeper hit The Notebook declined 37% to $2.7M and raised its impressive sum to $68.3M. The leggy romance should find its way to about $80M overall making it a bigger hit than other more expensive star-driven summer releases like The Stepford Wives, The Chronicles of Riddick, and Around the World in 80 Days.

The year's reigning box office champ Shrek 2 finally departed the top ten after a ten-week run and grossed $1.3M off 43%. With a colossal $432.5M, the DreamWorks megahit surpassed Star Wars Episode I to become the fourth biggest domestic blockbuster of all-time. Look for Shrek 2 to reach $435M before jumping into the home video market where it undoubtedly will rake in plenty more green. Disney's medieval bomb King Arthur crumbled 52% to $1.4M giving the action-adventure $48.5M thus far. Produced for $110M, the Jerry Bruckheimer film should end its run with only $50M

The top ten films grossed $136.9M which was up 8% from last year when American Wedding opened at number one with $33.4M; but even with 2002 when Signs debuted in the top spot with $60.1M.

Compared to projections, The Village was on target with my $50M forecast. The Manchurian Candidate, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, and Thunderbirds all opened below my predictions of $24M, $12M, and $9M respectively.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the biggest films of August. In last week's survey, readers were asked if The Village would open with more than $40M. Of 4,231 responses, 82% correctly said Yes while 18% thought No.

For NEW reviews of The Village, The Manchurian Candidate, 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 Collateral and Little Black Book both open.

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

# Title Jul 30 - Aug 1 Jul 23 - 25 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Village $ 50,746,142 3,730 1 $ 13,605 $ 50,746,142 Buena Vista
2 The Bourne Supremacy 24,167,895 52,521,865 -54.0 3,180 2 7,600 98,830,075 Universal
3 The Manchurian Candidate 20,018,620 2,867 1 6,982 20,018,620 Paramount
4 I, Robot 10,355,190 21,728,525 -52.3 3,204 3 3,232 115,039,036 Fox
5 Spider-Man 2 8,613,693 15,015,872 -42.6 3,001 5 2,870 344,440,594 Sony
6 Catwoman 6,445,488 16,728,411 -61.5 3,117 2 2,068 29,776,003 Warner Bros.
7 Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle 5,480,378 2,135 1 2,567 5,480,378 New Line
8 A Cinderella Story 4,868,485 7,834,289 -37.9 2,350 3 2,072 40,322,944 Warner Bros.
9 Anchorman 3,132,946 6,974,614 -55.1 2,032 4 1,542 78,167,043 DreamWorks
10 Fahrenheit 9/11 3,109,038 4,759,921 -34.7 1,217 6 2,555 109,442,647 Lions Gate / IFC
11 Thunderbirds 2,766,810 2,057 1 1,345 2,766,810 Universal
12 The Notebook 2,688,124 4,268,634 -37.0 1,506 6 1,785 68,257,495 New Line
13 King Arthur 1,447,745 3,036,114 -52.3 1,134 4 1,277 48,539,266 Buena Vista
14 Napoleon Dynamite 1,402,563 1,608,412 -12.8 423 8 3,316 9,315,870 Fox Searchlight
15 Shrek 2 1,317,270 2,316,663 -43.1 1,019 11 1,293 432,493,392 DreamWorks
16 De-Lovely 1,182,329 1,630,062 -27.5 385 5 3,071 6,946,903 MGM/UA
17 Harry Potter and the Prisoner... 989,449 1,677,458 -41.0 605 9 1,635 243,910,542 Warner Bros.
18 White Chicks 605,273 1,622,797 -62.7 561 6 1,079 68,272,150 Sony
19 Dodgeball 589,971 2,022,019 -70.8 555 7 1,063 111,093,939 Fox
20 The Terminal 559,570 1,650,183 -66.1 580 7 965 75,918,719 DreamWorks
Top 5 $ 113,901,540 $ 113,828,962 0.1
Top 10 136,937,875 135,184,908 1.3
Top 20 150,486,979 147,816,383 1.8
Top 20 vs. 2003 150,486,979 139,259,045 8.1

Last Updated : August 2, 2004 at 8:45PM 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.