Weekend Box Office (September 30 - October 2, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND A-list superstar Jodie Foster easily retained the box office crown with her action thriller Flightplan fending off competition from a flood of new releases to stay at number one for the second straight weekend. Moviegoers yawned at most of the new films entering the multiplexes with the sci-fi action pic Serenity delivering the best performance among the freshman class. Following four consecutive frames when ticket sales beat 2004, the marketplace slumped and fell sharply versus last year to kick off the all-important fourth quarter. The session also saw the lowest gross for a number one film all year.

For the first time this year, Buena Vista spent back-to-back weeks at the top as Flightplan grossed $14.8M, according to final studio figures, in its sophomore journey dropping only 40%. The decline was nearly identital to the 39% second weekend drop for Foster's last chart-topping thriller Panic Room in 2002. After ten days, Flightplan has grossed $45.9M and seems headed for a final destination of $85-90M.

Generating the best opening among all the new films was the science fiction adventure Serenity with $10.1M. Launching moderately in 2,188 locations, the PG-13 film averaged a respectable $4,610 for Universal. Directed by Joss Whedon, Serenity connected with a sci-fi fan base of those who followed Whedon's short-lived Fox television series Firefly. However, the crowd was not big enough to push the film to impressive heights. The $39M production appealed to an adult male audience with 52% of the crowd being age 30 and older and a very high 61% being men. Exit polls were encouraging as 88% of those polled marked the space flick "excellent" or "very good." As expected for a sci-fi flick, Serenity was the only picture in the top ten to see Saturday sales fall from Friday.

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride dropped 48% in its second weekend of national release grossing $10M for third place. The Warner Bros. animated concoction has taken in $33.2M to date and is headed for a $55-60M final.

After a scorching debut in limited release last weekend, New Line expanded its drama A History of Violence nationwide and took over the number four spot with the best per-theater average of any wide release. The Viggo Mortensen-Ed Harris film grossed $8.1M from 1,340 sites for a strong $6,047 average putting the total at $8.9M to date.

Paul Walker and Jessica Alba limped into fifth place with their new action thriller Into the Blue which opened to $7.1M from 2,789 locations for a weak $2,531 average. The PG-13 pic about sunken treasure near the Bahamas was a leftover MGM title that Sony picked up distribution duties for after its takeover. Studio research indicated that Blue played to a younger crowd, as expected, with 71% of the audience being under age 25. Males slightly outnumbered females for the critically panned film.

Dropping only 36% to $6.1M was Reese Witherspoon's former chart-topper Just Like Heaven which has collected $38.4M for DreamWorks in 17 days. Sony followed with its supernatural thriller The Exorcism of Emily Rose with $4.4M, off 41%, for a $68.5M total. Rose is the top-grossing fall film to date. In its second weekend, Fox Searchlight's comedy Roll Bounce fell 47% to $4M putting its cume at $12.7M in ten days. Look for a final tally in the neighborhood of $20M.

Disney made a quiet debut in ninth place with its golf drama The Greatest Game Ever Played which opened to $3.7M from 1,014 theaters for a mediocre $3,607 average. Directed by Bill Paxton, the inspirational film tells of a young caddy who beats the odds to become a champion. Game boasted no starpower on screen but did find itself with good reviews.

Rounding out the top ten was Universal's comedy sensation The 40-Year-Old Virgin which finally made it into the $100M club in its seventh weekend. The Steve Carell hit dipped only 28% to $3.1M pushing its total to $101.4M making it the lucky thirteenth film of 2005 to cross the century mark. Last year at this point, the same number of pictures also had reached that milestone although two additional films were very close to joining as well. Currently there are no films in release likely to hit $100M.

Sony expanded its Roman Polanski-directed tale Oliver Twist nationwide, but was neglected finding only $888,721 in ticket sales for a poor $1,141 average. The PG-13 pic has grossed just under $1M to date.

More fall contenders debuted in limited release to mixed results from moviegoers. Sony Classics generated a sensational bow for its biopic Capote starring Philip Seymour Hoffman which premiered in a dozen houses to $324,857 for a sizzling $27,071 average. The critically acclaimed film about the controversial author has attracted early Oscar buzz for Hoffman who many expect will earn a Best Actor nomination.

Also performing well, but debuting in just a pair of New York theaters, was the kid love story Little Manhattan which grossed $36,397 for a $18,199 average. Fox will slowly expand the PG-rated film in the weeks ahead. DreamWorks, on the other hand, witnessed a slow start for its Julianne Moore drama The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio which grossed $159,056 from 41 theaters for a mild $3,879 average. The film widens on October 14.

Among holdovers in limited release, Miramax's Proof continued its solid expansion grossing $1.2M from 240 theaters for an encouraging $4,801 average. Up 156 theaters from last weekend, the Gwenyth Paltrow-Anthony Hopkins drama has taken in $2.5M to date and will keep adding playdates. Warner Independent Pictures grabbed $185,076 from 60 for Everything is Illuminated for a $3,085 average and $457,646 total. Fox Searchlight widened Separate Lies from two to 25 theaters and took in $65,295 for a $2,612 average. Cume stands at $128,792. Aloha Releasing's hip hop tale G claimed $87,951 from 40 theaters for a $2,199 average putting the sum at $550,693.

Four films were booted from the top ten over the weekend. Nicolas Cage's action entry Lord of War grossed $2.5M, down 51%, boosting its sum to just $21.6M for Lions Gate. The international thriller The Constant Gardner took in $1.4M, off 39%, putting the cume for the Focus title at an encouraging $29.9M. Final tallies should reach about $26M and $33M, respectively.

Fox's action sequel Transporter 2 fell 48% shooting up $1.2M and put its cume at $41.8M since its top spot debut. The Focus horror entry Cry Wolf tumbled 56% to $974,433 for a total of only $9M. Final takes of $44M and $11M, respectively, are likely.

The top ten films grossed $71.4M which was down a sharp 28% from last year when Shark Tale debuted at number one with $47.6M; and down 6% from 2003 when School of Rock opened in the top spot with $19.6M.

Compared to projections, Serenity and Into the Blue opened weaker than my respective forecasts of $16M and $11M. A History of Violence was close to my $7M prediction and The Greatest Game Ever Played teed off on target with my $4M projection.

For reviews of Serenity and Greatest Game, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Two For the Money, In Her Shoes, Wallace and Gromit, Waiting, and The Gospel all cram into theaters.

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

# Title Sep 30 - Oct 2 Sep 23 - 25 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Flightplan $ 14,805,739 $ 24,629,938 -39.9 3,424 2 $ 4,324 $ 45,912,018 Buena Vista
2 Serenity 10,086,680 2,188 1 4,610 10,086,680 Universal
3 Corpse Bride 10,033,257 19,145,480 -47.6 3,204 3 3,131 33,188,109 Warner Bros.
4 A History of Violence 8,103,077 515,992 1,340 2 6,047 8,871,781 New Line
5 Into the Blue 7,057,854 2,789 1 2,531 7,057,854 Sony
6 Just Like Heaven 6,128,180 9,621,591 -36.3 3,543 3 1,730 38,424,283 DreamWorks
7 The Exorcism of Emily Rose 4,380,280 7,448,102 -41.2 3,004 4 1,458 68,502,023 Sony
8 Roll Bounce 4,029,257 7,570,366 -46.8 1,661 2 2,426 12,677,124 Fox Searchlight
9 The Greatest Game Ever Played 3,657,322 1,014 1 3,607 3,657,322 Buena Vista
10 The 40-Year-Old Virgin 3,120,045 4,310,270 -27.6 2,152 7 1,450 101,405,778 Universal
11 Lord of War 2,462,153 5,034,906 -51.1 2,125 3 1,159 21,642,637 Lions Gate
12 The Constant Gardener 1,419,745 2,324,326 -38.9 1,004 5 1,414 29,869,811 Focus
13 Transporter 2 1,160,986 2,227,033 -47.9 1,056 5 1,099 41,761,272 Fox
14 Proof 1,152,307 835,210 38.0 240 3 4,801 2,497,410 Miramax
15 An Unfinished Life 1,115,083 1,680,867 -33.7 805 4 1,385 7,485,496 Miramax
16 March of the Penguins 1,114,959 1,747,832 -36.2 1,078 15 1,034 74,515,363 Warner Ind.
17 Cry Wolf 974,433 2,189,343 -55.5 1,038 3 939 8,981,491 Focus
18 Oliver Twist 888,721 68,447 779 2 1,141 981,198 Sony
19 Wedding Crashers 590,352 1,266,247 -53.4 676 12 873 206,542,642 New Line
20 Four Brothers 466,057 882,659 -47.2 455 8 1,024 73,310,603 Paramount
Top 5 $ 50,086,607 $ 68,415,477 -26.8
Top 10 71,401,691 84,501,355 -15.5
Top 20 82,746,487 93,997,770 -12.0
Top 20 vs. 2004 82,746,487 108,023,723 -23.4

Last Updated : October 3, 2005 at 8:00PM EDT