Weekend Box Office (September 23 - 25, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Jodie Foster flexed her box office muscle and beat out the tag team of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp to claim the number one spot in North America with her new action thriller Flightplan. Burton's animated film Corpse Bride still generated a strong opening in second place while the frame's other new national release, the skating comedy Roll Bounce, enjoyed a solid start of its own. Moviegoers showed much interest in the collection of new films and drove overall ticket sales to one of the best September performances ever.

Buena Vista captured the number one spot for the first time since April with Flightplan which opened with $24.6M, according to final studio figures. Playing ultrawide in 3,424 theaters, the PG-13 film averaged a strong $7,193 per site. The hit action entry featured Foster as a recent widow whose daughter mysteriously disappears during a trans-Atlantic flight. For the two-time Oscar-winning actress, it was the second biggest opening of her career after the $30.1M bow of her last major film Panic Room in March 2002. Foster proved once again that she can single-handedly open a film, especially in the suspense and action genres. Flightplan also registered the fourth-best September opening ever.

Warner Bros. settled for second place with Corpse Bride but still attracted a large audience grossing $19.1M. The PG-rated film which features stop-motion animation averaged a solid $5,975 from 3,204 playdates after a scorching platform launch last weekend. Cume stands at $19.7M. Bride offers the voices of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter and tells the fictional tale of a young man engaged to be wed who is transported to the more lively land of the dead where he finds himself with another wife-to-be. Filled with musical numbers, the well-reviewed film hopes to play throughout the fall season and benefit from Halloween which puts moviegoers in the mood for creepy and spooky films.

With the one-two punch that Jodie Foster and Tim Burton delivered, the top ten surged to its third best performance ever in the month of September with a combined $84.5M in ticket sales. That trails by a small margin the $88.8M from September 27-29, 2002 and the $86.2M of September 19-21, 2003. The 2002 frame was when Sweet Home Alabama set a new opening weekend record for the month with $35.6M which to this date has still not been beaten.

Speaking of Reese Witherspoon, her new romantic comedy Just Like Heaven dropped from first to third place but only witnessed a 41% decline to $9.6M. The solid sophomore frame pushed the ten-day cume for the DreamWorks release to $29.8M. Budgeted at $58M, Heaven could reach a respectable $55-60M.

Rolling into fourth place in its first weekend was Fox Searchlight's comedy Roll Bounce with $7.6M from only 1,625 locations. Averaging $4,659 per theater, the PG-13 film about roller skating life in the 1970s starred Bow Wow, Nick Cannon, Charlie Murphy, and Mike Epps and played primarily to an urban audience.

Sony's hit thriller The Exorcism of Emily Rose followed in fifth with $7.4M, off 50%, putting the 17-day tally at $62.3M. Nicolas Cage saw his action film Lord of War drop 46% in its second weekend to $5M giving Lions Gate $17.4M in ten days. A $27-30M final seems likely.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin stepped closer to joining the century club by collecting $4.3M, off only 28%, bringing its total to $96.9M to date. Focus saw its conspiracy thriller The Constant Gardener decline only 36% to $2.3M for a $27.7M sum.

Former chart-topper Transporter 2 took in $2.2M, down 45%, for a $39.9M cume. Rounding out the top ten was the horror entry Cry Wolf which tumbled 51% to $2.2M. The Focus title has grossed $7.5M in ten days and should conclude with around $12M.

A pair of films started off their runs with a bang in limited release ahead of national rollouts on Friday. New Line's Viggo Mortensen-Ed Harris drama A History of Violence scored $515,992 from only 14 sites for a sizzling $36,856 per-theater average. Meanwhile, Oliver Twist launched in just five locations but collected $68,447 for a strong $13,689 average for Sony. Both films expand next weekend with Violence widening to about 1,200 theaters and Oliver reaching approximately 800 playdates.

Three summer films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The unstoppable documentary March of the Penguins slipped 31% to $1.7M pushing its total gross to an amazing $72.8M. Warner Independent Pictures enjoyed a nine-week run in the top ten with the G-rated film which has become the second biggest doc of all time after Fahrenheit 9/11 which took in $119.2M last year. The French-made Penguins should find its way to roughly $80M from North America.

Another surprise sensation, Wedding Crashers, finally vacated the top ten after a ten-week stretch grossing $1.3M. Off 50%, the New Line blockbuster has taken in a stunning $205.5M and seems headed for around $210M making it the distributor's sixth largest film ever and its highest grossing non-franchise pic. Also falling from the top ten was the DreamWorks thriller Red Eye which grossed $1.1M, down 61%, for a $57M cume. Look for a $59M final on the Wes Craven pic.

The top ten films grossed $84.5M which was up a remarkable 52% from last year when The Forgotten debuted at number one with $21M; and up 14% from 2003 when The Rundown opened in the top spot with $18.5M.

Compared to projections, Flightplan opened a couple of notches above my $21M forecast while Corpse Bride was close to my $22M prediction. Roll Bounce also opened close to my $9M projection.

For NEW reviews of Serenity, Flightplan, and Corpse Bride, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Serenity, Into the Blue, and The Greatest Game Ever Played all debut.

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

# Title Sep 23 - 25 Sep 16 - 18 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Flightplan $ 24,629,938 3,424 1 $ 7,193 $ 24,629,938 Buena Vista
2 Corpse Bride 19,145,480 3,204 2 5,975 19,656,451 Warner Bros.
3 Just Like Heaven 9,621,591 16,408,718 -41.4 3,509 2 2,742 29,818,607 DreamWorks
4 Roll Bounce 7,570,366 1,625 1 4,659 7,570,366 Fox Searchlight
5 The Exorcism of Emily Rose 7,448,102 14,851,719 -49.9 3,045 3 2,446 62,256,212 Sony
6 Lord of War 5,034,906 9,390,144 -46.4 2,814 2 1,789 17,382,050 Lions Gate
7 The 40-Year-Old Virgin 4,310,270 5,967,005 -27.8 2,581 6 1,670 96,944,308 Universal
8 The Constant Gardener 2,324,326 3,618,254 -35.8 1,282 4 1,813 27,662,007 Focus
9 Transporter 2 2,227,033 4,012,866 -44.5 1,726 4 1,290 39,902,491 Fox
10 Cry Wolf 2,189,343 4,428,209 -50.6 1,787 2 1,225 7,454,801 Focus
11 March of the Penguins 1,747,832 2,518,327 -30.6 1,405 14 1,244 72,846,145 Warner Ind.
12 An Unfinished Life 1,680,867 2,052,066 -18.1 888 3 1,893 5,693,881 Miramax
13 Wedding Crashers 1,266,247 2,527,642 -49.9 1,225 11 1,034 205,540,048 New Line
14 Red Eye 1,117,525 2,859,529 -60.9 1,575 6 710 56,999,383 DreamWorks
15 Four Brothers 882,659 1,877,892 -53.0 814 7 1,084 72,526,233 Paramount
16 Proof 835,210 193,840 330.9 84 2 9,943 1,093,229 Miramax
17 The Brothers Grimm 637,445 1,970,306 -67.6 996 5 640 37,357,723 Miramax
18 A History of Violence 515,992 14 1 36,857 515,992 New Line
19 Sky High 431,016 805,146 -46.5 526 9 819 62,279,496 Buena Vista
20 The Man 381,622 2,009,547 -81.0 870 3 439 8,063,150 New Line
Top 5 $ 68,415,477 $ 51,045,795 34.0
Top 10 84,501,355 66,582,413 26.9
Top 20 93,997,770 78,445,597 19.8
Top 20 vs. 2004 93,997,770 65,258,351 44.0

Last Updated : September 26, 2005 at 6:00PM EDT