Weekend Box Office (September 10 - 12, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Video gamers and zombie fans stalked the multiplexes powering the new action thriller Resident Evil: Apocalypse to the number one spot at the North American box office during an otherwise sluggish post Labor Day frame. The kidnapping drama Cellular bowed in second place while most holdovers saw heavy declines coming off of the holiday session. With students going back to class and a new football season commencing, ticket sales for the top ten films failed to break the $60M mark for the second consecutive weekend.

Apocalypse took advantage of the lethargic marketplace and generated a strong $23M opening weekend, according to final studio figures, improving upon the $17.7M bow of the first Resident Evil from March 2002. Playing much wider this time, the sequel averaged a healthy $7,015 from 3,284 theaters which nearly cloned the $7,004 opening average of its predecessor from 2,528 locations. Resident Evil: Apocalypse, which finds Milla Jovovich as a human heroine who battles infected zombies, was the fifth top spot debut of the year for market share leader Sony and was the tenth sequel to open at number one in 2004. Produced for $44M, the R-rated actioner appealed mostly to young men and despite being likely to see large declines in the weeks ahead, should outgun the $39.5M gross of the first Resident Evil keeping the franchise alive.

While Jovovich was out saving humanity from the walking undead, Kim Basinger played a damsel in distress in the New Line kidnapping thriller Cellular which opened in second place with $10.1M. Playing in 2,749 theaters, the PG-13 film averaged a decent $3,674 per location. Chris Evans and William H Macy co-starred in the $25M production. Cellular did manage to attract better reviews from critics than Resident Evil did and appealed to a more adult crowd.

Sinking only 36% was the Paramount hit comedy Without A Paddle which dropped a spot to third with $4.5M in its fourth weekend. The Seth Green title has collected a hearty $45.5M to date. Two-term chart-topper Hero fell 50% to $4.4M in its third outing. Ranking fourth, the subtitled Miramax film has grossed $41.7M in 17 days and already ranks as the fourth highest-grossing foreign language film of all-time after The Passion of the Christ, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Life is Beautiful.

Moviegoers sprinkled their dollars around spending between $2-3M each on a whopping nine different films this weekend proving that audiences only have real excitement for a couple of choices in the marketplace at this time. Disney's The Princess Diaries 2 grossed $2.9M, off 47%, and pushed its cume to $89.3M. Pulling in $2.81M, but tumbling 56% in the process, was Sony's Anacondas which has collected $27.6M to date.

Fox's Paparazzi followed with $2.77M, down 55%, for a ten-day total of $12M. The Tom Cruise assassin thriller Collateral shot up $2.72M in its sixth weekend, down 46%, giving the DreamWorks entry $92.7M to date.

The period piece Vanity Fair dropped 46% to $2.61M in its second weekend putting its 12-day total at $11.1M. With $2.52M in its 14th weekend of release, the Fox Searchlight sleeper hit Napoleon Dynamite finally reached the top ten. Averaging $2,733 from 921 theaters, the low budget high school comedy has lifted its cume to an amazing $30.3M and should be able to surpass the $40M mark as well.

Three releases fell from the top ten over the weekend but stayed within the popular $2-3M range. MGM's romantic drama Wicker Park crumbled 54% in its second weekend to $2.51M giving the Josh Hartnett film just $10.4M in ten days. Lions Gate took in $2.27M for the comedy The Cookout, off 55%, for a cume of only $9.2M in ten days.

Universal's The Bourne Supremacy, the number five film of the summer box office, slipped 43% to $2.34M in its eighth weekend of release. Produced for $75M, Matt Damon's action sequel has grossed $167.9M domestically and an additional $45M overseas with many more markets still to open. In the coming days, Supremacy will surpass the $214M worldwide gross of The Bourne Identity from two years ago and is hoping to reach the $300M global barrier.

In limited release, Warner Independent Film met with disappointing results from the opening of its caper pic Criminal which debuted to an estimated $283,209 from 77 theaters. The George Clooney-produced dud averaged just $3,678 per theater. The Korean War saga Tae Guk Ki took in $168,589 in its second weekend, off 35%, for a ten-day tally of $605,229. Distributed by Destination Films & Samuel Goldwyn Films, the subtitled picture averaged a solid $5,438 from 31 bunkers.

The top ten films grossed $58.4M which was down 17% from last year when Once Upon A Time in Mexico opened at number one with $23.4M; and down 16% from 2002 when Barbershop debuted in the top spot with $20.6M.

Compared to projections, Resident Evil opened a few notches above my $20M forecast while Cellular debuted on target with my $10M prediction.

Test your box office predicting skills by entering the NEW Ghost in the Shell 2 contest for your chance to win a DVD or movie posters.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the opening of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Resident Evil: Apocalypse would open with more or less than the original's $17.7M. Of 2,782 responses, 43% correctly guessed More while 57% picked Less.

Read the NEW Summer Box Office Wrapup which includes the projected final grosses of the Top 20 movies of the season. For a NEW review of Resident Evil: Apocalypse and an interview with Gwenyth Paltrow of Sky Captain, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Sky Captain, Wimbledon, and Mr. 3000 all open nationwide.

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

# Title Sep 10 - 12 Sep 3 - 5 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Resident Evil: Apocalypse $ 23,036,273 3,284 1 $ 7,015 $ 23,036,273 Sony
2 Cellular 10,100,571 2,749 1 3,674 10,100,571 New Line
3 Without A Paddle 4,512,552 7,087,228 -36.3 2,754 4 1,639 45,518,563 Paramount
4 Hero 4,420,702 8,807,757 -49.8 2,175 3 2,033 41,652,507 Miramax
5 The Princess Diaries 2 2,932,938 5,552,475 -47.2 2,452 5 1,196 89,259,246 Buena Vista
6 Anacondas 2,807,475 6,421,560 -56.3 2,544 3 1,104 27,578,480 Sony
7 Paparazzi 2,771,056 6,146,262 -54.9 2,153 2 1,287 12,005,971 Fox
8 Collateral 2,718,073 5,011,582 -45.8 2,024 6 1,343 92,691,776 DreamWorks
9 Vanity Fair 2,613,777 4,833,900 -45.9 1,054 2 2,480 11,096,102 Focus
10 Napoleon Dynamite 2,516,879 2,811,411 -10.5 921 14 2,733 30,294,397 Fox Searchlight
11 Wicker Park 2,508,355 5,467,281 -54.1 2,598 2 965 10,431,279 MGM
12 The Bourne Supremacy 2,338,035 4,112,215 -43.1 1,494 8 1,565 167,854,655 Universal
13 The Cookout 2,270,596 5,000,900 -54.6 1,303 2 1,743 9,163,752 Lions Gate
14 Garden State 1,950,981 2,901,067 -32.7 800 7 2,439 18,545,992 Fox Searchlight
15 Exorcist: The Beginning 1,302,383 3,623,328 -64.1 1,603 4 812 40,084,790 Warner Bros.
16 Alien vs. Predator 1,054,921 2,510,325 -58.0 1,205 5 875 78,588,468 Fox
17 The Manchurian Candidate 1,012,147 2,008,527 -49.6 886 7 1,142 63,884,343 Paramount
18 Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 833,274 1,787,386 -53.4 1,276 3 653 7,928,512 Sony
19 Open Water 822,497 2,485,983 -66.9 1,007 6 817 29,632,780 Lions Gate
20 Spider-Man 2 573,618 1,165,913 -50.8 476 11 1,205 370,651,825 Sony
Top 5 $ 45,003,036 $ 34,015,282 32.3
Top 10 58,430,296 58,441,160 0.0
Top 20 73,097,103 80,507,176 -9.2
Top 20 vs. 2003 73,097,103 79,675,871 -8.3

Last Updated : September 13, 2004 at 6:00PM EDT

Gitesh Pandya can be seen each Friday on "The Biz" airing live at 12:30pm ET on CNNfn with a replay at 4:30pm.