Weekend Box Office (September 3 - 6, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND With another summer movie season coming to an end, Miramax's Hero defended its position atop the North American box office charts over the Labor Day holiday weekend. Four new films entered the marketplace with mixed results while most films in the top ten fell within close proximity to each other. An overall lack of enthusiasm for the current crop of films drove the box office to the worst Labor Day showing in four years.

Holding onto the number one spot for the second straight weekend was Hero with $11.5M over the four-day Friday-to-Monday span, according to final studio figures. Averaging a solid $5,504 from 2,092 theaters over the long weekend, the Zhang Yimou-helmed epic has grossed $35.2M from 11 days of North American release. Since Labor Day weekend is typically not a frame studios use to launch major entries, it is not surprising to see the previous weekend's leader repeat over the holiday frame. Bring It On from 2000 and the M. Night Shyamalan duo Signs and The Sixth Sense all accomplished the same feat as Hero. The colorful Jet Li martial arts extravaganga did, however, drop 51% over the three-day portion of the frame so the weeks ahead could be rocky.

Climbing back up one notch was Paramount's wilderness adventure comedy Without A Paddle with $9M over four days for a cume to date of $39.9M after 18 days. Flip flopping chart positions with the teen comedy was the snake thriller Anacondas with $8M over the long weekend giving the Sony sequel $23.9M in 11 days.

Of the weekend's fresh batch of new pics, Fox's Paparazzi enjoyed the best opening weekend gross with $7.9M which was good for a fourth-place showing. The PG-13 film bowed in 2,115 theaters and averaged a mediocre $3,714 per location over four days. Paparazzi starred Cole Hauser as a Hollywood action hero who seeks revenge on a group of overzealous photographers. Charming audiences in fifth was The Princess Diaries 2 with $7.5M in its fourth weekend for a total of $85.5M.

Having the most playdates among the weekend's new releases did little to help MGM's romantic thriller Wicker Park which opened in sixth place with $6.8M. The Josh Hartnett remake of a hit French film averaged a poor $2,625 from as 2,598 locations and the PG-13 flick should erode quickly in the weeks ahead. Tom Cruise's Collateral held up well taking in $6.5M for seventh place and a cume to date of $88.9M.

Reese Witherspoon scored the best per-theater average in the Top 20 with her costume drama Vanity Fair which tied for eighth place with $6.3M from only 1,051 locations. Averaging a strong $5,965 over four days, the PG-13 pic has collected $7.4M since its Wednesday debut. Directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Mississippi Masala), the Focus Features title played to a mostly female audience and generated the best reviews of any of the new films launched this weekend.

Opening close behind with $6.2M was the urban comedy The Cookout starring Eve, Danny Glover, and Queen Latifah. The PG-13 film averaged a solid $4,773 from 1,303 sites over the long weekend. Rounding out the top ten was Universal's spy hit The Bourne Supremacy which grossed $5.3M and lifted its cume to $164.8M.

The South Korean blockbuster Tae Guk Ki: The Brotherhood of War opened with a bang grossing $363,439 from 29 theaters for an explosive $12,532 average. Distributed by Destination Films and Samuel Goldwyn Films, the Korean War saga attracted glowing reviews. Sony Pictures Classics had less luck with its competing Asian import Warriors of Heaven and Earth which bowed in four locations and grossed $17,850 giving the Chinese historical epic a mild $4,320 average.

Showing distributors how it's done, Fox Searchlight expanded its pair of arthouse hits into national play in more than 800 theaters each and attracted encouraging results. The R-rated coming-home comedy Garden State grossed $3.8M from 813 theaters for a sturdy $4,621 average over four days. Zach Braff's acclaimed New Jersey-set pic has taken in $15.9M thus far and should thrive as the remaining summer films fade away. Meanwhile, the indie hit of the season Napoleon Dynamite laughed up $3.7M from 886 playdates for a $4,225 average. With $27.2M to date, the low budget nerd comedy has already grossed more this summer than Disney's $100M-budgeted adventure film Around the World in 80 Days. At their current trajectories, State could surpass $30M while Napoleon could leap past $40M.

Four thrillers fell from the top ten over the weekend. Former chart topper Exorcist: The Beginning took in $4.5M over four days to bring its cume to $38M. Warner Bros should find its way to a final gross of about $45M. The Fox actioner Alien vs. Predator collected $3.2M pushing its total up to $77M. An $80M final seems likely putting it close to last August's franchise combo Freddy vs. Jason which hacked up $82.6M.

Lions Gate's lost-at-sea pic Open Water netted $3.1M this weekend putting the sum at $28.2M. The low budget drama should go on to reach $32-34M. Paramount saw its Ben Kingsley crime film Suspect Zero catch $2.5M in its second weekend leaving a cume of $7.2M. A $12M conclusion is in the works.

The top ten films grossed $75M over the Friday-to-Monday period which was down 23% from last year's Labor Day weekend when Jeepers Creepers 2 opened at number one with $18.4M over the four days; and down 11% from 2002 when Signs remained in the top spot with $17M.

Compared to projections, Paparazzi was close to my four-day forecast of $7M while Wicker Park came in below my $9M prediction. Vanity Fair and The Cookout both opened two notches below my projection of $8M for each.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Resident Evil: Apocalypse. In last week's survey, readers were asked how this past summer's films compared to 2003's. Of 2,717 responses, 52% said Better, 20% thought Worse, and 28% thought Same.

For a review of Vanity Fair visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Resident Evil and Cellular both open.

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

# Title Sep 3 - 6 Aug 27 - 29 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Hero $ 11,514,779 $ 18,004,319 -36.0 2,092 2 $ 5,504 $ 35,237,282 Miramax
2 Without A Paddle 9,014,918 8,582,417 5.0 2,756 3 3,271 39,854,910 Paramount
3 Anacondas 8,008,188 12,812,287 -37.5 2,905 2 2,757 23,860,466 Sony
4 Paparazzi 7,855,111 2,115 1 3,714 7,855,111 Fox
5 The Princess Diaries 2 7,537,330 8,084,138 -6.8 3,139 4 2,401 85,500,804 Buena Vista
6 Wicker Park 6,819,393 2,598 1 2,625 6,819,393 MGM
7 Collateral 6,480,801 6,470,109 0.2 2,348 5 2,760 88,897,193 DreamWorks
8 Vanity Fair 6,268,925 1,051 1 5,965 7,406,660 Focus
9 The Cookout 6,219,794 1,303 1 4,773 6,219,794 Lions Gate
10 The Bourne Supremacy 5,314,115 4,646,125 14.4 1,717 7 3,095 164,769,215 Universal
11 Exorcist: The Beginning 4,511,507 7,081,057 -36.3 2,452 3 1,840 38,046,687 Warner Bros.
12 Garden State 3,756,822 2,791,539 34.6 813 6 4,621 15,878,904 Fox Searchlight
13 Napoleon Dynamite 3,742,949 2,083,493 79.6 886 13 4,225 27,199,631 Fox Searchlight
14 Alien vs. Predator 3,178,806 4,907,613 -35.2 1,944 4 1,635 77,030,348 Fox
15 Open Water 3,146,443 4,759,727 -33.9 1,929 5 1,631 28,224,140 Lions Gate
16 The Manchurian Candidate 2,591,543 2,838,802 -8.7 1,085 6 2,389 62,499,110 Paramount
17 Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 2,521,192 3,251,856 -22.5 1,276 2 1,976 6,803,510 Sony
18 Suspect Zero 2,521,192 3,446,375 -26.8 1,501 2 1,680 7,227,348 Paramount
19 Spider-Man 2 1,520,116 1,574,837 -3.5 807 10 1,884 369,888,512 Sony
20 The Village 1,064,344 1,889,981 -43.7 751 6 1,417 112,179,413 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 43,930,326 $ 54,564,218 -19.5
Top 10 75,033,354 78,794,167 -4.8
Top 20 103,588,268 97,068,683 6.7
Top 20 vs. Labor Day 2003 103,588,268 121,586,593 -14.8

Last Updated : September 7, 2004 at 6:00PM 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.