Weekend Box Office (August 25 - 27, 2006)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Football season was back in swing at the North American box office as Disney's real-life pigskin drama Invincible scored a number-one opening by more than doubling the ticket sales of its nearest competitor. The rest of the films in the top ten were packed into a tight range and were separated by a mere $2.5M. The frame's other newcomers - the raunchy comedy Beerfest, the music-driven drama Idlewild, and the kidpic How to Eat Fried Worms - all generated more modest grosses in their debuts. Overall, the marketplace slumped to levels typical of the last weekend of August.

Mark Wahlberg was the most valuable player this weekend as his new football pic Invincible easily beat all foes and grossed $17M over the weekend, according to final studio figures, finishing in first place. Averaging a solid $5,839 from 2,917 theaters, the PG-rated pic tells the true story of a 30-year-old bartender who landed a spot on the roster of the Philadelphia Eagles. Disney set up a sizable marketing campaign with the NFL promoting Invincible during the current pre-season and it seemed to have paid off handsomely. Reviews were generally favorable for the feel-good drama.

Sony's hit NASCAR comedy Talladega Nights stayed put in second place again with $8.1M in its fourth lap. The Will Ferrell smash dropped 41% and upped its cume to $127.8M making it the summer's second biggest comedy.to date after Adam Sandler's Click ($135.9M) which was also a Sony release. Talladega could race past Click by Labor Day.

Making its way up to the number three position was Fox Searchlight's hit road comedy Little Miss Sunshine which more than doubled its theater count and grossed $7.4M from 1,430 sites. The R-rated pic averaged a solid $5,155 and boosted its cume to $22.9M. Sunshine has steadily grown over the past month into a pop culture phenomenon becoming the "it" movie of the moment and looks certain to charm its way past the $50M mark domestically in the weeks ahead.

Another R-rated laugher followed in fourth. The new Warner Bros. comedy Beerfest debuted with $7M from 2,964 playdates for a mild $2,372 average. The Broken Lizard concoction opened much like the comedy troupe's 2002 hit Super Troopers which bowed to $6.2M over three days on its way to $18.5M. Beerfest tells of a group of American beer chuggers who must train and compete in a secret drinking tournament in Germany.

Paramount's World Trade Center fell 41% to $6.5M putting its sum at $55.6M. Universal's Accepted dropped only 37% to $6.3M and upped its ten-day total to a respectable $21M. Fellow sophomore Snakes on a Plane was an inch behind with $6.2M tumbling 59% in its second weekend. Total stands at $26.3M. Final grosses look to reach $36-39M each. Buena Vista's dance drama Step Up captured $6.2M as well, off 39%, for a $50.4M total.

Universal's music-filled drama Idlewild bowed in ninth place but generated the best average in the top ten. The OutKast pic grossed $5.7M from only 973 locations for a solid $5,905 average. Studio research showed that 55% of the audience was over age 30, 61% was female, and 82% was African American.

Rounding out the top ten was Paramount's animated comedy Barnyard with $5.7M in its fourth weekend. Down only 25%, the PG-rated toon has taken in an encouraging $54.9M to date.

Debuting poorly just outside the top ten was New Line's kidpic How to Eat Fried Worms with $4M from 1,870 sites for an average of only $2,141 per theater. Yari Film Group widened its period mystery The Illusionist and grossed $1.8M from just 144 theaters for a strong $12,745 per venue. Cume is $3.2M and the Edward Norton-Paul Giamatti drama will go national on Friday.

Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. The summer juggernaut Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest enjoyed a seven-week run in the top ten, but dipped to $4M this weekend for a slim decline of only 24%. With a colossal $407.5M from North America alone, the Johnny Depp adventure surpassed Spider-Man ($403.7M in 2002) to claim the number six spot on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters. Chest looks to reach about $420M stateside. Worldwide, the Pirates sequel has soared to an astounding $972M in global box office.

The teen comedy Material Girls starring Hilary and Haylie Duff dropped by 52% to $2.2M in its sophomore session. The MGM title has collected just $8.4M in ten days and should end up with around $13M before finding a bigger audience on DVD. The horror flick Pulse grossed $1.6M, down 54%, for a total of $17.8M. A final tally of about $21M could result.

ThinkFilm's drug-addicted teacher drama Half Nelson expanded from three to 21 theaters and grossed $210,762 for a strong $10,036 average. Cume is now $389,972. Fox Searchlight's relationship film Trust the Man did not have as much luck during its expansion. The David Duchovny-Julianne Moore pic grossed $280,325 from 158 sites (up from 38 last weekend) and averaged a poor $1,774. Total is $536,152 with another widening up to 300 theaters set for Friday.

The top ten films grossed $76.1M which was off 2% from last year when The 40-Year-Old Virgin remained at number one with $16.3M; and down 3% from 2004 when Hero opened in the top spot with $18M.

Compared to projections, Invincible bowed a few notches higher than my $14M forecast while Beerfest opened below my $11M prediction. Little Miss Sunshine and Idlewild were both close to my projection of $7M for each. How to Eat Fried Worms debuted a bit below my $6M prediction.

For reviews of This Film Is Not Yet Rated, The Illusionist, Looking For Kitty, plus NEW DVD reviews of Poseidon and Beavis & Butt-head Vol. 3, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Crank, The Wicker Man, and Crossover all debut.

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Last Updated : August 28, 2006 at 6:30PM EDT

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