Weekend Box Office (September 1 - 4, 2006)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers had football on their minds for the second straight weekend as Disney's true-life NFL tale Invincible remained atop the North American box office over the long Labor Day holiday weekend finishing off another summer movie season. New releases Crank and The Wicker Man opened in second and third, respectively, while the critically acclaimed films Little Miss Sunshine and The Illusionist both scored strong per-theater averages in moderate release. The holiday frame marked the first weekend in six long months where no new film debuted with at least $15M. Hollywood was happy to close the books on a summer movie season that was slightly better than than last year's.

Retaining its first-place position, Mark Wahlberg's Invincible grossed $15.4M over the four-day Friday-to-Monday holiday weekend, according to final studio figures, and remained the most popular movie in North America. After 11 days of release, the feel-good drama about a 30-year-old bartender who earned a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles starting lineup has grossed a solid $38.1M and could be headed for the neighborhood of $60-70M.

It was only fitting that Disney topped the box office charts as the summer came to an end. Since the summer movie season kicked off on May 5 with Mission: Impossible III, Buena Vista has grossed $786M at the multiplexes beating out all other studios. Disney's success was powered by the summer's two highest grossing hits, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($414M) and Cars ($242M), but also included surprise late-summer winners like Invincible and Step Up. It was a drastic turnaround from last summer when the Mouse House's biggest film was Herbie: Fully Loaded with $66M.

Opening in second place was action star Jason Statham's new thriller Crank with $12.9M over four days from 2,515 theaters. Averaging a commendable $5,128 per site, the R-rated film features a poisoned hitman who will die if he can't keep his adrenaline up constantly. The Lionsgate release opened better than Statham's 2002 film The Transporter ($9.1M in three days) but did not reach the $20.1M bow of his action sequel Transporter 2 which ruled the Labor Day frame a year ago. That number one hit carried a commercially friendly PG-13 rating and kicked its way into 800 more theaters. Over the Friday-to-Sunday span, Crank grossed $10.5M and averaged $4,157.

Nicolas Cage opened his new suspense thriller The Wicker Man close behind in third place with $11.7M in ticket sales over the Friday-to-Monday holiday session. The Warner Bros. remake about a cop who investigates a missing girl averaged a mediocre $4,217 from 2,784 theaters over four days. The PG-13 film grossed $9.6M in three days for a mild average of $3,451. Cage appeared twice in the top ten as his previous film World Trade Center finished further down in ninth place.

Two smaller films successfully expanding into national release followed and scored the best averages among all the wide releases. Fox Searchlight's road comedy Little Miss Sunshine ranked fourth for the weekend with $9.6M over four days with $7.6M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion. It was the second weekend in a row that actor Greg Kinnear had two films in the top five. He plays a supporting role in Invincible as well. Sunshine averaged a strong $6,009 from 1,602 theaters over four days pushing its total to $35.7M and counting. At its current rate, it should eventually surpass Miami Vice as the top-grossing R-rated film to come out of the summer.

Rookie distributor Yari Film Group did an excellent job expanding its period mystery The Illusionist into national release and jumped into fifth place with a four-day gross of $8.1M. Expanding from 144 to 971 theaters, the Edward Norton-Paul Giamatti drama scored the best average in the top ten with a sturdy $8,362 per venue. Cume now stands at $12.2M. The distributor scored excellent averages during its two weeks in limited release allowing positive word-of-mouth to spread for a film that was not easy to sell at a time when there were plenty of good choices for mature adults. Another 400 theaters will be added on Friday.

A pair of comedies followed. Sony's Will Ferrell hit Talladega Nights grossed $7.6M over four days and lifted its cume to a stellar $138.3M making it the top-grossing comedy of the summer. Paramount's animated pic Barnyard took in $6.6M pushing its total to $63.8M. The studio's 9/11 drama World Trade Center followed with $5.9M over four days giving the Oliver Stone film a solid $63.8M as well.

The teen flick Accepted placed ninth and collected $5.6M giving Universal $29.1M to date. Rounding out the top ten was the dance saga Step Up with $5.6M. Buena Vista's surprise hit has taken in $58.5M.

Opening quietly outside of the top ten was the street basketball drama Crossover with $4.4M over four days from a moderate release in 1,023 theaters. Sony averaged a decent $4,303 over the long weekend on the $6M film which played mostly to a young urban audience.

Platforming to muscular numbers was the IFC Films doc This Film Is Not Yet Rated which grossed $37,785 from solo houses in New York and Los Angeles for a potent $18,892 average. The unrated expose that examines the ratings board of the MPAA will continue to expand throughout September.

Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. The raunchy comedy Beerfest tumbled to $4.6M over four days giving Warner Bros. only $14.7M in 11 days. A $20M final seems likely. Universal's OutKast pic Idlewild took in $3M in its sophomore session giving the music-driven film only $10M in 11 days. Look for a $14M conclusion. New Line's buzzworthy action-horror pic Snakes on Plane has scared up $31.6M to date and is set to end with a final domestic gross close to its $35M production budget.

The top ten films grossed $89.2M over four days which was down 3% from last year when Transporter 2 debuted at number one with $20.1M; but up 19% from 2004 when Hero remained in the top spot with $11.5M.

Compared to projections, both Crank and The Wicker Man were on target with my respective forecasts of $13M and $12M. The Illusionist was stronger than my $5M prediction while Crossover debuted very close to my $5M projection.

For reviews of Hollywoodland, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, The Illusionist, plus 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 The Covenant, Hollywoodland, and The Protector all open.

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

# Title Sep 1 - 4 Aug 25 - 27 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Invincible $ 15,427,370 $ 17,031,122 -9.4 2,921 2 $ 5,282 $ 38,068,213 Buena Vista
2 Crank 12,896,635 2,515 1 5,128 12,896,635 Lionsgate
3 The Wicker Man 11,740,235 2,784 1 4,217 11,740,235 Warner Bros.
4 Little Miss Sunshine 9,626,655 7,371,263 30.6 1,602 6 6,009 35,734,630 Fox Searchlight
5 The Illusionist 8,119,745 1,835,240 342.4 971 3 8,362 12,179,427 Yari Film Group
6 Talladega Nights 7,627,791 8,122,642 -6.1 3,001 5 2,542 138,301,172 Sony
7 Barnyard 6,588,882 5,652,932 16.6 2,907 5 2,267 63,777,644 Paramount
8 World Trade Center 5,884,341 6,473,299 -9.1 2,902 4 2,028 63,769,986 Paramount
9 Accepted 5,629,945 6,344,475 -11.3 2,822 3 1,995 29,140,145 Universal
10 Step Up 5,610,172 6,163,436 -9.0 2,553 4 2,197 58,490,967 Buena Vista
11 Pirates of the Caribbean: DMC 4,915,911 3,979,260 23.5 1,786 9 2,752 414,013,957 Buena Vista
12 Beerfest 4,584,937 7,031,228 -34.8 2,964 2 1,547 14,736,888 Warner Bros.
13 Crossover 4,402,123 1,023 1 4,303 4,402,123 Sony
14 How to Eat Fried Worms 3,961,697 4,003,537 -1.0 1,870 2 2,119 9,533,010 New Line
15 Snakes on a Plane 3,025,915 6,167,366 -50.9 2,505 3 1,208 31,561,108 New Line
16 Idlewild 2,993,495 5,745,780 -47.9 975 2 3,070 10,048,140 Universal
17 Material Girls 1,296,194 2,202,582 -41.2 1,188 3 1,091 10,511,816 MGM
18 Monster House 1,117,787 1,141,933 -2.1 568 7 1,968 70,900,220 Sony
19 Superman Returns 1,115,228 780,405 42.9 281 10 3,969 196,817,144 Warner Bros.
20 Cars 1,084,719 734,162 47.7 555 13 1,954 241,979,000 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 57,810,640 $ 46,029,554 25.6
Top 10 89,151,771 76,103,543 17.1
Top 20 117,649,777 94,507,935 24.5
Top 20 vs. Labor Day 2005 117,649,777 109,704,765 7.2

Last Updated : September 5, 2006 at 6:15PM EDT

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