Weekend Box Office (August 8 - 10, 2003)

THIS WEEKEND Sony hit the top spot for the sixth time this year with the police action thriller S.W.A.T. which opened atop the North American box office followed by a strong debut by Disney's family comedy Freaky Friday in second. Catering to two different audiences, the pair found plenty of room to compete and pumped in nearly $60M over the weekend. However, the overall marketplace still dipped slighty from last year and was down significantly from 2001.

Rising star Colin Farrell enjoyed his fifth consecutive number-one opening with the cop flick S.W.A.T. which grossed $37.1M, according to final studio figures, to top the weekend box office. The Samuel L. Jackson film averaged a potent $11,575 from 3,202 theaters and represented the last major action film of the summer. Young guys made up much of the crowd as 54% of the audience was male and 55% under 25, according to studio data. The PG-13 film, which reportedly cost about $80M to produce, also starred Michelle Rodriguez and LL Cool J. Busy S.W.A.T. star Farrell also hit number one this year with January's The Recruit, February's Daredevil, and April's delayed Phone Booth and co-starred in last summer's Tom Cruise-Steven Spielberg hit Minority Report.

A solid second place bow was generated by the Disney comedy Freaky Friday which grossed $22.2M over the Friday-to-Sunday weekend and a hefty $33.1M since its Wednesday launch. Playing in 2,954 locations, the Jamie Lee Curtis-Lindsay Lohan remake averaged a freaky $7,516 over three days and performed much like the studio's previous late-summer girl pic The Princess Diaries which bowed to $22.9M in August 2001 on its way to a regal $108.2M. Young girls were the primary audience for the $20M Friday as Disney exit research showed that 68% of the crowd was female and over half was under 18. Ticket buyers were pleased with the PG-rated film with a whopping 97% of those polled categorizing the comedy as "excellent" or "very good."

Falling from the top spot, American Wedding dropped 54% in its second weekend to $15.5M pushing its ten-day prize to $65.2M. The decline for the Universal sequel was in line with the sophomore fall of American Pie 2 which fell 53% in August 2001. Produced for $55M, American Wedding should reach $100-105M domestically. Overseas, the gross-out comedy (titled American Pie: The Wedding) opened at number one in Australia with an estimated US$2.8M commanding half of the total marketplace. The studio hopes that Wedding will surpass $200M at the global box office just as the first two installments did.

The smallest decline in the top ten was registered by Disney's smash hit Pirates of the Caribbean which dipped only 31% to $13M lifting the cume to an amazing $232.8M. The Johnny Depp adventure now sits at number 35 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters right behind 2000's Cast Away which took in $233.6M. With remarkable staying power, Pirates became only the third movie released this year to maintain over 3,000 theaters into its fifth weekend joining the late-May pair Bruce Almighty and Finding Nemo. Later this week, the swashbuckling actioner will become producer Jerry Bruckheimer's top-grossing film surpassing the $234.8M of 1984's Beverly Hills Cop. Of course, ticket prices were much lower back then so the Eddie Murphy film's admissions total will remain far ahead.

Also displaying strong legs was Universal's Seabiscuit which eased 32% to $12M in its third race pushing the overall tally to $69.5M. Dropping 50% to sixth place was Miramax's family adventure Spy Kids 3-D with $9.8M boosting the cume to $87.1M. The third, and presumably last, installment in the Robert Rodriguez trilogy zoomed past the $85.8M of last summer's Spy Kids 2 after just 17 days and still aims to reach the $112.7M of the first Spy Kids.

Two more action sequels from July followed. Sony's Bad Boys II grossed $6M, off 53%, and raised its cume to $123.1M. Paramount saw its Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life tumble 54% to $5.2M putting its sum at $53.7M. With each sequel costing more than its predecessor, Boys II will end its run with more than twice the gross of 1995's Bad Boys while Cradle will finish with about half of the gross of the first Tomb Raider from 2001.

The Disney/Pixar wonder Finding Nemo became the first film in three years to spend its first eleven weeks in the top ten grossing $2.5M. Down just 35%, the fish flick has caught an enormous $324.9M and remains the highest grossing film of the year. The last movie to spend its first eleven weeks in the top ten was the suspense thriller What Lies Beneath which bowed in July 2000. Since then, there have been hits like Chicago and My Big Fat Greek Wedding that have spent more time in the top ten, but none have opened and stayed there for so long.

Actor-politician-publicity wizard Arnold Schwarzenegger rounded out the top ten with Terminator 3 which fell 46% to $1.6M giving the Warner Bros. hit $146M to date. This week, T3 will become the Governator's second-biggest grosser of all time passing the $146.3M of 1994's True Lies. However, past hits such as Lies, 1990's Total Recall, and 1988's Twins have all sold more tickets as prices were lower at the time.

A pair of arthouse films debuted with powerful results. Artisan averaged a stellar $27,197 from the surfing documentary Step Into Liquid which grossed $135,985 from five theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Maui. The unrated doc which explores wave culture around the world expands into ten to fifteen theaters this Friday. With documentaries like Spellbound and Winged Migration performing so well at the box office this summer, Step Into Liquid aims to be the next big non-fiction hit.

Back in the fictional world, Fox Searchlight launched the ensemble comedy Le Divorce in ten cities with a promising average of $15,201. Collecting $516,834 from 34 theaters, the PG-13 film attracted largely adult women and widens into sixteen additional markets this Friday. The distributor will continue to roll the picture out reaching 400-500 runs on Aug 22 and about 800 sites nationwide over Labor Day weekend.

Two films fell from the top ten over the weekend. Fox's Sean Connery adventure film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen dropped 53% to $1.5M in its fifth frame to reach a cume of $62.2M. Produced for just under $80M, the period action film should conclude its domestic run with around $66M.

Sony's Ben-and-Jen pic Gigli experienced what could be the worst second-weekend fall in history collapsing 82% to a pitiful $678,640. The $54M comedy, which the press loves to hate, averaged an embarrassing $306 per theater and has grossed a pathetic $5.7M in ten days. Look for theater owners to dump their Gigli prints as soon as contractually possible as the year's most notorious flop should find its way to only $6-7M.

The top ten films grossed $124.9M which was down 3% from last year when XXX opened at number one with $44.5M; and down 13% from 2001 when American Pie 2 debuted in the top spot with $45.1M.

Compared to projections, S.W.A.T. and Freaky Friday both opened above my respective forecasts of $28M and $19M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the opening gross of Freddy vs. Jason. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Pirates of the Caribbean would outgross The Matrix Reloaded. Of 2,086 responses, 81% said Yes while 19% thought No.

For reviews of S.W.A.T. and Koi Mil Gaya visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Freddy vs. Jason, Uptown Girls, Grind, and Open Range all debut.

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

# Title Aug 8 - 10 Aug 1 - 3 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 S.W.A.T. $ 37,062,535 3,202 1 $ 11,575 $ 37,062,535 Sony
2 Freaky Friday 22,203,007 2,954 1 7,516 33,100,977 Buena Vista
3 American Wedding 15,462,250 33,369,440 -53.7 3,175 2 4,870 65,213,715 Universal
4 Pirates of the Caribbean 13,022,470 18,844,044 -30.9 3,170 5 4,108 232,750,629 Buena Vista
5 Seabiscuit 11,957,955 17,636,985 -32.2 2,428 3 4,925 69,509,360 Universal
6 Spy Kids 3-D 9,794,079 19,500,260 -49.8 3,388 3 2,891 87,100,407 Miramax
7 Bad Boys II 6,040,845 12,734,526 -52.6 2,449 4 2,467 123,093,425 Sony
8 Lara Croft Tomb Raider II 5,221,055 11,339,464 -54.0 3,036 3 1,720 53,719,839 Paramount
9 Finding Nemo 2,512,275 3,860,462 -34.9 1,502 11 1,673 324,916,113 Buena Vista
10 T3: Rise of the Machines 1,624,345 2,985,446 -45.6 1,275 6 1,274 145,987,605 Warner Bros.
11 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1,542,272 3,266,798 -52.8 1,326 5 1,163 62,179,376 Fox
12 Johnny English 1,055,340 2,603,370 -59.5 902 4 1,170 26,006,685 Universal
13 Whale Rider 928,293 1,105,383 -16.0 434 10 2,139 12,837,852 Newmarket
14 Bend It Like Beckham 915,047 1,813,118 -49.5 849 22 1,078 30,106,873 Fox Searchlight
15 28 Days Later 890,918 1,664,030 -46.5 647 7 1,377 42,074,271 Fox Searchlight
16 Legally Blonde 2 861,960 1,408,958 -38.8 1,207 6 714 86,883,446 MGM
17 Swimming Pool 835,809 1,008,571 -17.1 259 6 3,227 6,546,260 Focus
18 Gigli 678,640 3,753,518 -81.9 2,215 2 306 5,660,084 Sony
19 Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle 558,116 555,156 0.5 673 7 829 95,438,695 Sony
20 Le Divorce 516,834 34 1 15,201 516,834 Fox Searchlight
Top 5 $ 99,708,217 $ 102,085,255 -2.3
Top 10 124,900,816 127,290,943 -1.9
Top 20 133,684,045 139,259,045 -4.0
Top 20 vs. 2002 133,684,045 137,323,020 -2.6

Last Updated : August 11, 2003 at 7:45PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya

Gitesh Pandya can be seen each Friday on "The Biz" airing at 12:30pm and 9:30pm ET on CNNfn.