Weekend Box Office (September 22 - 24, 2006)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Young men returned to theaters in droves and powered the crude new stunts sequel Jackass: Number Two to the number one spot with the biggest opening weekend of any film in the past seven weeks. The martial arts actioner Fearless debuted impressively in second place playing to young men as well, but the new older-skewing period dramas Flyboys and All the King's Men were mostly ignored. Holdovers enjoyed small declines as the overall marketplace bounced back after two dismal weeks, even though ticket sales failed to reach last year's levels for the third consecutive weekend.

Paramount scored a major victory with the chart-topping performance of Jackass: Number Two which grossed $29M in its first weekend in theaters, according to final studio figures. Crashing into 3,059 locations, the R-rated comedy averaged a stellar $9,481 per theater. Its predecessor, Jackass: The Movie, was a surprise number one hit in October 2002 with a $22.8M bow from 2,509 theaters and a similar $9,073 average. It went on to gross a fantastic $64.3M from a slim $5M budget. Number Two was produced for just under $12M and looks to become another highly profitable title for the studio proving that the franchise is still alive and well. The films are based on the popular MTV prank series.

With six historical films in the top ten, young movie fans were not in the mood to learn about yesterday and instead chose the immature and outrageous antics of present day jokester Johnny Knoxville and pals. Studio research showed that young men were the core audience, as expected. Those under the age of 25 made up a hefty 70% of the crowd and males accounted for 65%. Jackass also delivered the biggest opening of the year for an R film edging out the $29M bow of March's Inside Man. Critics were surprisingly upbeat with their reviews of Number Two.

Jet Li's Fearless flew into the number two spot over the weekend opening to $10.6M from 1,808 theaters with a solid $5,857 average. The PG-13 film about China's most famous fighter from a century ago was marketed as the action star's final martial arts picture ever and helped to get his loyal fan base out into the theaters. The Focus release marks Li's seventh consecutive film to debut with an opening weekend average of more than $5,000. Critics were quite pleased with the Mandarin-language picture. Fearless opened in Hong Kong and most of Asia early this year and has kicked its way into other major markets like Australia, New Zealand, and France in recent weeks.

Dropping from first to third was The Rock's football drama Gridiron Gang which grossed $9.5M in its second play. The Sony sports flick held up exceptionally well considering the weekend's formidable competition for male dollars and slipped only 34%. The Rock's movies usually fall by at least 45% in their sophomore frames. After ten days, the $30M feel-good film has grossed $27M and should rush past the $50M mark domestically. Even though Gridiron began with the weakest opening ever for the actor, it looks to become his highest grossing film since 2002's The Scorpion King ($90.5M) thanks to strong legs and positive word-of-mouth.

MGM's Flyboys took off in fourth place with $6M from 2,033 theaters. The PG-13 pic about American fighter pilots during World War I averaged a mild $2,953 per theater. Starring James Franco, the adventure film skewed older as a very high 73% of the audience was over the age of 30. Men made up 59% of the crowd and reviews were not too favorable. Flyboys is the third consecutive period drama in as many weeks that has failed to excite today's moviegoing public following disappointing results from competing Los Angeles-based murder mysteries The Black Dahlia and Hollywoodland.

A pair of not-so-strong sophomores followed. The animated baseball flick Everyone's Hero grossed $4.7M, down just 23%, and raised its ten-day tally to $11.5M. Fox could finish with around $25M. Universal's crime thriller The Black Dahlia crumbled 56% to $4.4M dropping from second place to sixth. The $60M Brian De Palma entry has taken in just $17.3M and might end up with a disappointing $25M as well.

Sony saw low voter turnout for its political thriller All the King's Men which was defeated in a landslide this weekend opening to a poor $3.7M. Averaging a weak $2,426 from 1,514 locations, the PG-13 film stars Sean Penn as an outspoken politician who runs for governor of Louisiana. Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins and James Gandolfini co-star. The studio had high hopes for this remake of a Best Picture Oscar winner, but instead met with awful reviews across the board from critics which helped to fuel negative buzz. Only older adults had interest as studio research showed that a whopping 75% of the audience was 35 or older and 53% were women. All the King's Men is just the latest in a series of historical films that Hollywood has been rolling out this fall that have had moviegoers yawning.

The supernatural chiller The Covenant dropped only 34% to $3.2M with a sum of $20.2M for Sony. The long-lasting hits The Illusionist and Little Miss Sunshine enjoyed great holds once again. Yari Film Group's Vienna-set mystery eased a scant 8% to $3.3M pushing its total to $27.6M. Fox Searchlight's comedy smash slipped just 15% to $2.8M lifting the cume to $50.3M.

In limited release action, Warner Independent saw stellar results from its surreal drama The Science of Sleep which bowed to $347,925 from only 14 theaters for a sparkling $24,852 average. Directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), the R-rated film scored good reviews and will expand to over 200 theaters on Friday in most major markets. Miramax saw a so-so start for its animated noir Renaissance which debuted to $10,800 from a pair of solo engagements in New York and Los Angeles for a mild $5,400 average.

Four more pictures were pushed out of the top ten this weekend. Two-time chart-topper Invincible grossed $2.5M in its fifth session. Off 38%, the Mark Wahlberg football pic has collected a solid $54.7M to date and might end up with around $60M for Buena Vista. The Zach Braff comedy The Last Kiss grossed $2.5M, down 46%, putting its ten-day total at a puny $8.4M. A final take of roughly $15M seems likely.

The murder mystery Hollywoodland fell 46% in its third frame to $1.5M for Focus. With only $12.9M in the bank, look for a weak $16M conclusion to its case. Lionsgate's action thriller Crank tumbled 54% to $1.2M for a $26.7M cume. The Jason Statham pic should reach about $29M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $77.2M which was down 9% from last year when Flightplan debuted at number one with $24.6M; but up a healthy 39% from 2004 when The Forgotten opened in the top spot with $21M.

Compared to projections, Jackass: Number Two opened stronger than my $23M forecast while Fearless debuted a bit higher than my $9M prediction. Flyboys premiered a notch below my $7M projection while All the King's Men was weaker than my $7M forecast.

For NEW reviews of Fearless, The Last King of Scotland, and The Science of Sleep, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Guardian, Open Season, and School for Scoundrels all open.

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

# Title Sep 22 - 24 Sep 15 - 17 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Jackass: Number Two $ 29,002,002 3,059 1 $ 9,481 $ 29,002,002 Paramount
2 Fearless 10,590,244 1,808 1 5,857 10,590,244 Focus
3 Gridiron Gang 9,456,617 14,414,630 -34.4 3,510 2 2,694 26,957,657 Sony
4 Flyboys 6,004,219 2,033 1 2,953 6,004,219 MGM
5 Everyone's Hero 4,690,466 6,061,762 -22.6 2,898 2 1,619 11,534,837 Fox
6 The Black Dahlia 4,449,985 10,005,895 -55.5 2,236 2 1,990 17,270,675 Universal
7 All the King's Men 3,672,366 1,514 1 2,426 3,672,366 Sony
8 The Illusionist 3,333,383 3,623,084 -8.0 1,432 6 2,328 27,592,197 Yari Film Group
9 The Covenant 3,178,953 4,777,554 -33.5 2,678 3 1,187 20,183,768 Sony
10 Little Miss Sunshine 2,821,315 3,319,124 -15.0 1,384 9 2,039 50,286,378 Fox Searchlight
11 Invincible 2,546,945 4,114,921 -38.1 2,331 5 1,093 54,696,472 Buena Vista
12 The Last Kiss 2,509,999 4,627,989 -45.8 1,359 2 1,847 8,446,291 Paramount
13 Hollywoodland 1,476,804 2,722,954 -45.8 1,263 3 1,169 12,911,180 Focus
14 Barnyard 1,303,545 1,652,321 -21.1 1,205 8 1,082 70,706,226 Paramount
15 Crank 1,227,145 2,680,225 -54.2 1,228 4 999 26,650,843 Lionsgate
16 Talladega Nights 1,182,868 1,973,922 -40.1 1,167 8 1,014 146,693,645 Sony
17 The Wicker Man 1,103,407 2,141,978 -48.5 1,451 4 760 22,504,179 Warner Bros.
18 The Protector 955,185 2,475,333 -61.4 1,217 3 785 10,896,001 Weinstein Co.
19 Accepted 951,300 1,443,420 -34.1 885 6 1,075 35,426,885 Universal
20 Pirates of the Caribbean: DMC 868,255 1,282,394 -32.3 706 12 1,230 419,654,338 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 59,743,548 $ 39,887,830 49.8
Top 10 77,199,550 56,348,138 37.0
Top 20 91,325,003 70,930,811 28.8
Top 20 vs. 2005 91,325,003 93,997,770 -2.8

Last Updated : September 25, 2006 at 11:45PM EDT

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