Weekend Box Office (September 17 - 19, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Three new films generated moderate openings but failed to give a boost to the sluggish September box office which continued to struggle to attract large audiences. Leading the fleet was Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow which opened at number one followed in second place by the baseball comedy Mr. 3000. The tennis comedy Wimbledon finished fourth while most holdovers witnessed small declines. For the third straight weekend, the top ten failed to break the $60M mark as only one movie broke double digits in weekend sales.

Blasting off in the top spot was the innovative digitally-created Sky Captain with $15.6M, according to final studio figures. The Paramount title opened like a summer film in an ultrawide 3,170 locations and averaged a mediocre $4,915 per site. Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, and Angelina Jolie, the 1930s-set adventure film finds the human cast fighting a mechanical army set on destroying the world. Paramount wisely moved the PG-rated film out of its late June spot and into the less competitive mid-September launch pad. Had Sky Captain opened with the same gross on its original June 25-27 slot, it would have placed fourth behind Fahrenheit 9/11, White Chicks, and Dodgeball and then faced the opening of Spider-Man 2 just a couple of days later.

Written and directed by rookie Kerry Conran, Sky Captain was produced for $70M with Paramount investing roughly $40M and taking distribution rights in English-speaking territories. Studio research showed that 70% of the audience was over the age of 25 while 55% was male. Critics were very supportive of the all-bluescreen film with more praise given to the use of technology than to the storytelling.

Making his major league debut as a leading man, Bernie Mac was second in the weekend lineup with the comedy Mr. 3000 which opened to $8.7M. Batting a mild $3,172 from 2,736 stadiums, the PG-13 film about a retired slugger who must return to the game to get three more hits was met with mixed reviews from critics. Males made up 60% of the audience, according to exit polls, while ticket buyers of a broad age range were represented.

Falling from first to third place was Sony's video game sequel Resident Evil: Apocalypse which tumbled an understandable 62% to $8.7M. After ten days, the $44M production has grossed $37M and should finish with a domestic take of $50-55M which will outgun the original which shot up $39.5M in 2002.

Seeded fourth in this weekend's box office tournament was the tennis tale Wimbledon with $7.1M. Universal's romantic comedy starring Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany averaged a decent $3,500 from 2,034 courts giving it the second best average among wide releases. The PG-13 film scored with young women, as expected, with 70% of the audience being female and 52% being under age 30, according to studio research. Budgeted at $31M, Wimbledon is likely to perform better in the U.K. and in Europe. Reviews were mostly negative.

New Line's phone thriller Cellular dropped only 33% in its second call and grossed $6.8M for a ten-day tally of $19.7M. Budgeted at $25M, the Kim Basinger kidnapping pic looks to capture about $40M by the end of its North American run.

Holdovers with relatively small declines rounded out the top ten. Paramount's Without a Paddle slipped just 20% to $3.6M for a cume of $50.3M. The Jet Li epic Hero followed with $2.8M, off 36%, to a total of $46.1M. The Fox Searchlight comedy Napoleon Dynamite placed eighth with $2.3M, down a scant 9%, and has grossed $33.3M to date. Tom Cruise's assassin pic Collateral dropped only 17% in its seventh hit to $2.3M and a sum of $96M. The more cheery comedy The Princess Diaries 2 dipped 34% to $1.9M bringing the cume to $91.9M.

In limited release, the DreamWorks specialty division Go Fish opened the anime sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence in 48 theaters and grossed $317,722. Averaging $6,619, the subtitled animated film was the first anime title to compete at the Cannes Film Festival. On the other end of the spectrum, National Lampoon's Gold Diggers bowed nationwide in 899 theaters but laughed up just $375,000 for a pathetic $353 average.

Three releases fell from the top ten over the weekend. Snake chiller Anacondas fell 43% to $1.6M giving the PG-13 film $29.8M after its fourth frame. The $30M actioner looks to end with $33-35M. The Reese Witherspoon period piece Vanity Fair fell 40% to $1.6M pushing its 19-day purse to $13.6M. The $23M film should conclude with just under $20M domestically while playing in half as many theaters as its counterparts. Fox's Paparazzi tumbled 52% to $1.3M and has taken in $14.3M in 17 days. The $20M production is set to reach only about $17M.

The top ten films grossed $59.8M which was down 31% from last year when Underworld opened at number one with $21.8M; and down 8% from 2002 when Barbershop remained in the top spot with $12.8M.

Compared to projections, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Mr. 3000 both opened below my respective forecasts of $23M and $12M. Wimbledon was close to my prediction of $9M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Reese Witherspoon's Oscar chances. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Sky Captain would open with at least $20M. Of 2,349 responses, 81% said Yes while 19% correctly guessed No.

For a NEW review of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and an interview with star Gwyneth Paltrow, visit The Chief Report. Check back on Tuesday morning for results of the Ghost in the Shell 2 contest.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Forgotten, First Daughter, and Shaun of the Dead all open.

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

# Title Sep 17 - 19 Sep 10 - 12 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow $ 15,580,278 3,170 1 $ 4,915 $ 15,580,278 Paramount
2 Mr. 3000 8,679,028 2,736 1 3,172 8,679,028 Buena Vista
3 Resident Evil: Apocalypse 8,656,591 23,036,273 -62.4 3,284 2 2,636 37,031,262 Sony
4 Wimbledon 7,118,985 2,034 1 3,500 7,118,985 Universal
5 Cellular 6,792,821 10,100,571 -32.7 2,749 2 2,471 19,706,847 New Line
6 Without A Paddle 3,631,754 4,512,552 -19.5 2,610 5 1,391 50,325,875 Paramount
7 Hero 2,836,698 4,420,702 -35.8 1,926 4 1,473 46,090,351 Miramax
8 Napoleon Dynamite 2,286,541 2,516,879 -9.2 1,024 15 2,233 33,343,529 Fox Searchlight
9 Collateral 2,265,532 2,718,073 -16.6 1,605 7 1,412 95,970,209 DreamWorks
10 The Princess Diaries 2 1,943,265 2,932,938 -33.7 1,902 6 1,022 91,894,122 Buena Vista
11 The Bourne Supremacy 1,816,910 2,338,035 -22.3 1,236 9 1,470 170,449,120 Universal
12 Anacondas 1,590,970 2,807,475 -43.3 1,710 4 930 29,801,794 Sony
13 Garden State 1,588,655 1,950,981 -18.6 755 8 2,104 20,894,664 Fox Searchlight
14 Vanity Fair 1,564,804 2,613,777 -40.1 995 3 1,573 13,581,384 Focus
15 Paparazzi 1,330,394 2,771,056 -52.0 1,467 3 907 14,304,347 Fox
16 Wicker Park 1,005,718 2,508,355 -59.9 1,444 3 696 12,291,486 MGM
17 The Cookout 934,398 2,270,596 -58.8 851 3 1,098 10,604,975 Lions Gate
18 The Manchurian Candidate 563,061 1,012,147 -44.4 628 8 897 64,818,550 Paramount
19 I, Robot 541,457 345,281 56.8 978 10 554 143,011,482 Fox
20 Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 531,212 833,274 -36.3 941 4 565 8,685,555 Sony
Top 5 $ 46,827,703 $ 45,003,036 4.1
Top 10 59,791,493 58,430,296 2.3
Top 20 71,259,072 73,097,103 -2.5
Top 20 vs. 2003 71,259,072 97,514,415 -26.9

Last Updated : September 20, 2004 at 7:45PM 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.