Weekend Box Office (September 21 - 23, 2007)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Two new films were met with enthusiasm from North American moviegoers who powered each film past the openings of their respective predecessors. Fans of action and horror lined up for the threequel Resident Evil: Extinction which bowed at number one while those in search of a laugh spent their dollars on the romantic comedy Good Luck Chuck. Both opened with averages of more than $5,000 each and helped to fill the entire Top Five with R-rated fare as the overall marketplace bounced back after recent sluggish weeks.

Gamers still love to go to the movies. That's what Sony learned with its $23.7M opening weekend, accorsing to final studio figures, for Resident Evil: Extinction, the third and supposedly final chapter of the popular movie franchise starring Milla Jovovich. It was the best debut of the series. 2002's original premiered with $17.7M while its 2004 sequel Resident Evil: Apocalypse bowed to $23M. Final grosses reached $39.5M and $50.7M, respectively. In a world where third parts rarely become the top grossers in a series (The Bourne Ultimatum is the only one of this year's other six threequels to do so), Extinction's performance is noteworthy in that it generated its strong gross from 456 fewer theaters than Apocalypse had three years ago.

Dane Cook and Jessica Alba made a popular couple as their new romantic comedy Good Luck Chuck opened in second place with a solid $13.7M. Lionsgate released the R-rated pic in 2,612 locations and averaged a commendable $5,227 per site. Critics trashed the film but moviegoers paid no attention. The debut was 20% better than the $11.4M opening of Cook's last comedy Employee of the Month which the distributor bowed last October. In Chuck, the actor plays a man who women find lucky since all his ex-girlfriends go on to get engaged after dating him.

Jodie Foster dropped two spots with her vigilante thriller The Brave One which fell 46% to $7.3M in its second weekend. The Warner Bros. release has grossed $25M in ten days and should reach the vicinity of $44M, or a little less than half of the grosses of the last starring roles for the actress - $89.7M for Flightplan and $95.3M for Panic Room. The Lionsgate Western 3:10 to Yuma continued to have good legs easing only 31% to $6.2M for a 17-day cume of $37.7M.

The mob thriller Eastern Promises starring Viggo Mortensen expanded into nationwide release and jumped into fifth place with $5.6M. Widening from 15 to 1,404 venues, the Focus title averaged a respectable $4,018 per site. Eastern did not show the same strength as director David Cronenberg's last film A History of Violence (another Viggo pic that opened limited in September) which grossed $8.1M and averaged $6,047 when it expanded nationally in its sophomore frame two years ago. Cume for Eastern stands at $6.4M.

Stumbling into sixth place was the new Amanda Bynes teen comedy Sydney White which bowed to $5.2M from 2,104 locations for a weak $2,470 average. The Universal release sets the classic Snow White story on a modern-day college campus and attracted half the business of Bynes' last comedy She's the Man (an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Twelfth Night) which opened to $10.7M in March 2006. Sydney skewed to a young female audience, as expected.

New Line's Billy Bob Thornton comedy Mr. Woodcock dropped 44% in its second weekend to $4.9M putting the ten-day total at $15.6M. A $25-28M final seems likely. Fellow comedy Superbad grossed $3.1M, off 39%, giving Sony $116.2M to date. The studio also crossed the $1 billion mark in domestic tickets sales for the sixth year in a row.

Universal's assassin smash The Bourne Ultimatum dipped only 30% to $2.9M pushing the domestic haul to $220.2M. Universal can now claim the only two summer films to spend eight weeks in the top ten as the Matt Damon smash joined studio stablemate Knocked Up. Rounding out the top ten was the fantasy adventure Dragon Wars with $2.6M, down 49%, for a ten-day cume of only $8.7M.

Debuting to scorching results in limited release was Sean Penn's latest directorial effort Into the Wild which banked an estimated $207,000 from only four theaters for a potent $51,649 per site. The Paramount Vantage release stars Emile Hirsch, earned strong reviews, and helped critics get the bad taste of Penn's All the King's Men out of their mouths. Wild expands to the top dozen markets next weekend.

Warner Bros. got off to a solid start with its Old West tale The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford which made off with $147,812 from 5 reported theaters for a $29,562 average. Ten additional theaters in Austin played the film, with most double-screening the nearly-three-hour outlaw tale, but the studio left that portion out of its reporting. The Brad Pitt-Casey Affleck starrer earned generally good notices from reviewers and will widen on Friday.

With all the new films in wide release, four pictures dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. New Line's Rush Hour 3 took in $2.2M, off 33%, giving the Jackie Chan-Chris Tucker vehicle $136.1M to date. Look for a final domestic gross of about $142M. Fellow franchise flick Halloween tumbled 55% to $2.2M as well giving MGM $54.6M to date. A finish of $58M seems likely.

A weekend take of $1.8M greeted Mr. Bean's Holiday from Universal which eased 35% and has gathered $30.8M to date. The ping pong comedy Balls of Fury from Focus fell 49% to $1.7M for a cume of $31.3M. A final domestic tally of $35M should result for each.

Expanding successfully was the Sony musical saga Across the Universe with $2M from only 276 theaters for an impressive $7,068 average. The Julie Taymor-directed pic expanded from its platform debut in 23 venues last weekend and has raised its total to $2.9M.

Paramount launched the summer megahit Transformers in Imax theaters over the weekend and saw its weekend take jump 203% to $1.4M (including sales from standard-format screens). That pushed the cume to $313.6M putting the robots in disguise at number 21 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters and less than $1 million away from tossing The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring ($314.2M) out of the Top 20.

The top ten films grossed $75.1M which was off 3% from last year when Jackass: Number Two debuted in first place with $29M; and down 11% from 2005 when Flightplan opened in the top spot with $24.6M.

Compared to projections, Resident Evil: Extinction debuted higher than my $20M forecast while Good Luck Chuck was close to my $12M prediction. Eastern Promises performed below my $8M projection and Sydney White bowed very close to my $6M forecast.

For a NEW review of The Assassination of Jesse James, and a NEW DVD review of Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Kingdom, The Game Plan, and Feast of Love all open.

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

# Title Sep 21 - 23 Sep 14 - 16 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Resident Evil: Extinction $ 23,678,580 2,828 1 $ 8,373 $ 23,678,580 Sony
2 Good Luck Chuck 13,652,001 2,612 1 5,227 13,652,001 Lionsgate
3 The Brave One 7,313,437 13,471,488 -45.7 2,755 2 2,655 25,003,347 Warner Bros.
4 3:10 to Yuma 6,157,624 8,930,889 -31.1 2,902 3 2,122 37,718,878 Lionsgate
5 Eastern Promises 5,641,788 547,092 931.2 1,404 2 4,018 6,443,748 Focus
6 Sydney White 5,196,380 2,104 1 2,470 5,196,380 Universal
7 Mr. Woodcock 4,923,896 8,761,369 -43.8 2,237 2 2,201 15,648,584 New Line
8 Superbad 3,110,322 5,105,184 -39.1 2,305 6 1,349 116,181,146 Sony
9 The Bourne Ultimatum 2,872,565 4,125,380 -30.4 2,009 8 1,430 220,239,735 Universal
10 Dragon Wars 2,596,278 5,041,239 -48.5 2,274 2 1,142 8,657,527 Freestyle
11 Rush Hour 3 2,203,545 3,303,341 -33.3 1,620 7 1,360 136,092,570 New Line
12 Halloween 2,189,266 4,867,522 -55.0 2,338 4 936 54,612,033 MGM
13 Across the Universe 1,950,871 667,784 192.1 276 2 7,068 2,896,771 Sony
14 Mr. Bean's Holiday 1,778,595 2,726,475 -34.8 1,702 5 1,045 30,793,175 Universal
15 Balls of Fury 1,703,394 3,324,001 -48.8 1,832 4 930 31,271,300 Focus
16 Transformers (w/ Imax) 1,436,280 473,968 203.0 385 12 3,731 313,588,051 Paramount
17 In the Valley of Elah 1,266,869 133,557 848.6 317 2 3,996 1,449,030 Warner Ind.
18 Shoot 'Em Up 784,491 2,602,115 -69.9 1,208 3 649 12,145,633 New Line
19 The Nanny Diaries 783,302 2,104,054 -62.8 1,325 5 591 25,223,334 MGM
20 Hairspray 712,875 1,231,798 -42.1 758 10 940 117,445,257 New Line
Top 5 $ 56,443,430 $ 41,310,169 36.6
Top 10 75,142,871 59,656,888 26.0
Top 20 89,952,359 70,802,850 27.0
Top 20 vs. 2006 89,952,359 91,325,003 -1.5

Last Updated: September 24, 2007 at 10:45PM ET

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