Weekend Box Office (September 8 - 10, 2006)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Tumbleweeds blew through North American theaters as movie fans forgot that there were films playing at their local cinemas. For the first time in three years, no film managed to generate at least $9M in weekend ticket sales. The new supernatural teen thriller The Covenant was able to top the charts while the murder mystery Hollywoodland debuted in the runnerup spot. The overall top ten crawled to its worst performance in three years as not a single wide release was able to generate at least $4,000 per theater.

Limping into first place with a not-so-impressive debut was The Covenant with $8.9M from 2,681 theaters, according to final studio figures. The Sony thriller averaged a sluggish $3,302 per playdate, but was big enough to lead the pack over such a weak frame. Budgeted at only $20M, the PG-13 pic features a group of young prep school warlocks who unleash supernatural powers when evil strikes. It was the studio's ninth number one opening of 2006, but also the worst gross for a number one film since Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star debuted this very weekend in 2003 with a puny $6.7M.

Most of the box office deficit when compared to last year can be blamed on the mediocre debut of Covenant which took in less than one-third of the $30.1M bow the studio saw in 2005 this weekend with its last post-Labor Day scarefest The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The rest of the top ten this weekend grossed a combined $40.1M which was almost identical to the $40.6M from the corresponding films from last year.

Opening in second place was the crime thriller Hollywoodland with $5.9M from only 1,548 theaters for Focus. The R-rated tale examining the investigation behind the death of Superman actor George Reeves averaged a mild $3,828 per site. That was good enough to be the best average among all wide releases. Starring Adrien Brody, Diane Lane, and Ben Affleck, Hollywoodland received mixed reviews from critics, but did manage to win the best actor prize over the weekend at the Venice International Film Festival for Affleck's portrayal of Reeves.

Dropping from first to third place, Mark Wahlberg's two-time box office champ Invincible took in $5.6M falling a steep 54%. After 17 days, the Disney sports drama has scored $45.5M.

Bowing in fourth place was Thai action star Tony Jaa's The Protector with $5M from 1,541 sites. Averaging a lukewarm $3,267, the R-rated pic from The Weinstein Co. generated an opening weekend average similar to the $3,449 figure that Jaa's Ong Bak posted last year when it opened to $1.3M from only 387 theaters.

Action star Jason Statham's Crank dropped a hefty 53% in its second weekend to $4.9M pushing its cume to $20M. After ten days, the Lionsgate release is running slightly ahead of the $17.2M that Statham's 2002 film The Transporter made during the same time period, but behind the $30.3M of its sequel from last year. Look for Crank to finish up with $27-30M. Enjoying the smallest decline in the top ten was the Edward Norton-Paul Giamatti mystery The Illusionist which dipped just 27% to $4.5M. Yari Film Group expanded the pic by 391 theaters and has collected $18M thus far.

Following close behind with $4.3M was Fox Searchlight's Little Miss Sunshine which dropped 44%. Total to date is a solid $41.5M. Nicolas Cage's suspense thriller The Wicker Man fell 58% in its second weekend to $4.1M. With only $17.4M in ten days, the Warner Bros. release looks on course to reach a disappointing $25M.

Talladega Nights, the highest-grossing film since Johnny Depp's Pirates sequel set sail, dropped 51% in its sixth lap to $3M boosting Sony's total to $142.2M. Rounding out the top ten was Paramount's hit toon Barnyard, the only major kidpic in release, which grossed $2.7M. Off 45%, the PG-rated comedy has grossed a healthy $67M to date.

Three August releases dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Paramount's World Trade Center took in $2.6M, down 44%, for a $67.2M sum. The $65M Nicolas Cage drama should end with a solid $71-74M final. Buena Vista's surprise hit dance drama Step Up dropped 44% in its fifth weekend to $2.5M. With $61.7M in the bank, the teen pic looks to finish with around $65M. Universal's teen comedy Accepted collected $2.5M, off 45%, and upped its total to $32.2M. A $35-37M final grade is in store for the $23M production.

The top ten films grossed a puny $48.9M which was down 31% from last year when The Exorcism of Emily Rose debuted at number one with $30.1M; and down 16% from 2004 when Resident Evil: Apocalypse opened in the top spot with $23M.

Compared to projections, The Covenant, Hollywoodland, and The Protector all opened a bit below my respective forecasts of $11M, $8M, and $6M.

For NEW reviews of Al Franken: God Spoke and Hollywoodland visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Gridiron Gang, The Black Dahlia, The Last Kiss, and Everybody's Hero all open.

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

# Title Sep 8 - 10 Sep 1 - 3 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Covenant $ 8,852,485 2,681 1 $ 3,302 $ 8,852,458 Sony
2 Hollywoodland 5,926,177 1,548 1 3,828 5,926,177 Focus
3 Invincible 5,630,126 12,151,426 -53.7 2,987 3 1,885 45,500,634 Buena Vista
4 The Protector 5,034,180 1,541 1 3,267 5,034,180 Weinstein Co.
5 Crank 4,904,308 10,457,367 -53.1 2,515 2 1,950 19,962,812 Lionsgate
6 The Illusionist 4,514,306 6,189,133 -27.1 1,362 4 3,314 17,963,845 Yari Film Group
7 Little Miss Sunshine 4,273,545 7,621,579 -43.9 1,560 7 2,739 41,494,873 Fox Searchlight
8 The Wicker Man 4,062,271 9,610,204 -57.7 2,784 2 1,459 17,433,396 Warner Bros.
9 Talladega Nights 3,012,596 6,100,545 -50.6 2,617 6 1,151 142,193,465 Sony
10 Barnyard 2,715,092 4,891,459 -44.5 2,506 6 1,083 67,014,342 Paramount
11 World Trade Center 2,565,386 4,609,685 -44.3 2,674 5 959 67,152,063 Paramount
12 Step Up 2,519,702 4,504,140 -44.1 2,279 5 1,106 61,650,612 Buena Vista
13 Accepted 2,511,445 4,599,915 -45.4 2,381 4 1,055 32,243,035 Universal
14 Pirates of the Caribbean: DMC 1,994,611 3,785,298 -47.3 1,589 10 1,255 416,591,183 Buena Vista
15 How to Eat Fried Worms 1,482,722 2,951,683 -49.8 1,793 3 827 11,288,764 New Line
16 Beerfest 1,401,073 3,657,918 -61.7 1,911 3 733 17,214,314 Warner Bros.
17 Crossover 1,314,112 3,767,567 -65.1 1,023 2 1,285 6,024,124 Sony
18 Idlewild 958,510 2,330,620 -58.9 856 3 1,120 11,430,900 Universal
19 Snakes on a Plane 824,211 2,446,662 -66.3 1,151 4 716 33,001,501 New Line
20 Cars 478,322 849,014 -43.7 478 14 1,001 242,618,740 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 30,347,276 $ 46,029,709 -34.1
Top 10 48,925,086 70,735,453 -30.8
Top 20 64,975,180 93,189,487 -30.3
Top 20 vs. 2005 64,975,180 81,021,863 -19.8

Last Updated : September 11, 2006 at 10:30PM EDT

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