Weekend Box Office (October 5 - 7, 2007)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Ben Stiller's new comedy The Heartbreak Kid stumbled in its opening frame and forced the overall box office to plunge to the worst October weekend in eight years. Incumbent family comedy The Game Plan posted a strong sophomore hold and retained its position as North America's most popular film. But two other new releases did nothing to energize the multiplexes as the top ten films together grossed what just the top three pictures did a year ago on this same weekend. The calendar may say October but the dismal box office grosses make it seem like September never ended.

Surprising industry watchers once again, Disney's The Game Plan held onto the number one spot for a second time grossing $16.6M for a slim 28% decline, according to final studio figures. That gave The Rock's first entry into the world of kid's movies a solid $43.2M in only ten days allowing the PG-rated comedy to already surpass the total grosses of his last two films Gridiron Gang ($38.4M) and Doom ($28M). All three pics were number one openers. Last weekend, many expected Game Plan to debut in second place behind The Kingdom while this weekend Heartbreak was widely seen as debuting on top. In both cases the quarterback daddy flick swiped the top spot and with little family competition in the weeks ahead, a trip to the $100M club could be in the works.

Disney is still benefiting from the fall season's shocking lack of product for families. For the third consecutive weekend, seven of the top ten films carried R ratings giving parents few other options for their children. The studio has virtually no foes to deal with until Jerry Seinfeld's animated pic Bee Movie hits theaters on November 2. Game Plan's second weekend drop was even smaller than the 40% decline that the studio's Vin Diesel family film The Pacifier experienced in March 2005 on its way to a stunning $113.1M tally. The Game Plan now looks certain to surpass the $90.5M of 2002's The Scorpion King to become The Rock's highest grossing film in a lead role.

The weekend's big disappointment came from the Ben Stiller-Farrelly brothers collaboration The Heartbreak Kid which debuted in second place with $14M from 3,229 theaters. Averaging a mediocre $4,343 per site, the R-rated film marked the first reteaming of the actor with the filmmakers since the 1998 sleeper smash There's Something about Mary which grossed a stunning $176.5M that year. Heartbreak was universally expected to open at number one and was thought to have the potential to capture at least $20M in opening weekend business for DreamWorks and Paramount. The budget was more than $60M, according to the studios.

For Stiller, Heartbreak's opening was half the size of the bows of his other recent comedies like Night at the Museum ($30.4M), Starsky and Hutch ($28.1M), and Along Came Polly ($27.7M). Those were PG or PG-13 films but the comedian was still expected to draw a large crowd this weekend. However for the Farrelly brothers, the performance was better than the $12.4M of their last pic Fever Pitch in 2005 and the $9.4M of 2003's Stuck on You. Reviews were mostly negative which is par for the course with these types of comedies.

The Heartbreak Kid put Stiller's box office power to the test and the results were discouraging. Most of the comedian's hits feature other big stars to help bring in a paying audience. This time Stiller was the only major name and audiences did not bite. In fact the launch was very similar to that of rival R-rated romantic comedy Good Luck Chuck which debuted to $13.7M and a better $5,227 average just two weeks ago. That film offered some star wattage from both genders with Dane Cook and Jessica Alba.

Universal's Middle East drama The Kingdom dropped 43% in its second weekend to $9.7M and placed third. The Jamie Foxx pic has taken in $31.7M in ten days and should find its way to $50-55M. Sony's action-horror sequel Resident Evil: Extinction fell 44% to $4.5M and pushed its 17-day cume to $43.7M.

Failing to find an audience on opening weekend was the fantasy adventure film The Seeker: The Dark is Rising which bowed to $3.7M from a very wide 3,141 theaters for a dismal $1,192 average. The PG-rated pic from the new venture between Fox and Walden Media targeted young boys but got nowhere at the box office. Seeker's debut was even worse than the $5M launch of Dragon Wars from just two weeks ago which went after the same audience. But thanks to a sluggish marketplace, Seeker's weak opening still landed the film in the top five even though its nearly $40M budget will take much time to recoup.

The Lionsgate comedy Good Luck Chuck grossed $3.7M, off 41%, for a $29.3M sum. The long-lasting Western 3:10 to Yuma enjoyed a small decline once again sliding only 24% to $3.2M in its fifth frame for a solid cume of $48.7M for Lionsgate.

The dance drama Feel the Noise delivered an eighth place debut with $3.2M from just 1,015 theaters. Averaging a mild $3,140 per site, the PG-13 film played to urban teens and came from the new Sony/BMG film division.

Mr. Woodcock claimed the ten spot for New Line with $2.3M, down 21%, and a new total of $22.6M. The Warner Bros. vigilante thriller The Brave One dropped 38% to $2.3M giving Jodie Foster and her gun $34.4M to date.

The weekend's most notable fireworks came in limited release as the increasingly crowded arthouse scene saw some red hot numbers from awards hopefuls. George Clooney led the way with his legal thriller Michael Clayton which bowed in only 15 theaters but grossed $719,910 for an astounding $47,994 average. Powered by strong reviews and starpower from the Oscar-winning actor, the R-rated film is hoping to keep the momentum going when it expands nationally on Friday into more than 2,400 theaters.

A pair of acclaimed filmmakers enjoyed encouraging sophomore expansions with their latest efforts and delivered the next best averages. Wes Anderson's comedy The Darjeeling Limited widened from two New York houses to 19 locations in seven markets and grossed $561,628 for a powerful $29,559 average. Fox Searchlight will continue to open in more cities over the next two weekends before going nationwide into more than 800 playdates at the end of the month. Ang Lee's NC-17 romantic thriller Lust, Caution also held up very well as it entered new cities. The Focus release went from a solo Manhattan house to 17 venues and collected $362,808 for a potent $21,342 average. Totals stand at $$471,158 for Lust and $790,245 for Darjeeling.

Also expanding and still generating good averages in their third frames were Sean Penn's Into the Wild and Brad Pitt's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Paramount Vantage widened Wild from 33 to 135 houses and grossed $1.3M for an impressive $9,476 average. Warner Bros. made a leap from five to 61 locations with Jesse and made off with $420,331 for a respectable $6,891 average. Cumes are $2.5M and $758,529 respectively and each film will continue to add more cities and theaters in the weeks ahead.

Not faring well in its national expansion was the drama The Jane Austen Book Club which grossed $1.3M from 1,232 sites for a weak $1,091 average. Last weekend, the Sony Classics release averaged $4,700 from only 41 venues. Total sits at $1.8M.

Three films fell out of the top ten over the weekend. The Focus mob thriller Eastern Promises dipped 29% to $2.1M giving the David Cronenberg pic $14.5M overall. A decent $20M final seems likely which would put it about one-third below the $31.5M of the director's last film A History of Violence which also starred Viggo Mortensen.

Sony's Beatles-themed musical feature Across the Universe continued to have great legs easing a scant 4% in its fourth outing to $1.9M. With $8.1M in the bank from limited release, the Julie Taymor-directed pic goes wide on Friday into more than 700 sites. Universe joins the music-themed films Hairspray and Once as movies with some of the best legs at the box office over the last several months. But it was a sad tune for Universal's teen comedy Sydney White which tumbled 47% to $1.4M for a weak total of just $10.3M. Look for a poor $13M finish.

The top ten films grossed a disappointing $63.3M which was down a substantial 36% from last year when The Departed debuted in first place with $26.9M; and off 22% from 2005 when Wallace & Gromit opened in the top spot with $16M.

Compared to projections, both The Heartbreak Kid and The Seeker opened well below my respective forecasts of $27M and $9M. Feel the Noise was close to my $5M prediction.

For a NEW review of The Heartbreak Kid, plus DVD reviews of 1408 and Fantastic Four 2, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when We Own the Night, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Why Did I Get Married?, and The Final Season all open.

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

# Title Oct 5 - 7 Sep 28 - 30 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Game Plan $ 16,609,377 $ 22,950,971 -27.6 3,105 2 $ 5,349 $ 43,158,823 Buena Vista
2 The Heartbreak Kid 14,022,105 3,229 1 4,343 14,022,105 Paramount
3 The Kingdom 9,722,940 17,135,055 -43.3 2,802 2 3,470 31,746,270 Universal
4 Resident Evil: Extinction 4,521,301 8,036,405 -43.7 2,848 3 1,588 43,695,477 Sony
5 The Seeker: The Dark is Rising 3,745,315 3,141 1 1,192 3,745,315 Fox
6 Good Luck Chuck 3,657,516 6,244,066 -41.4 2,476 3 1,477 29,255,442 Lionsgate
7 3:10 to Yuma 3,215,469 4,208,366 -23.6 2,562 5 1,255 48,728,753 Lionsgate
8 Feel the Noise 3,187,153 1,015 1 3,140 3,187,153 Sony
9 Mr. Woodcock 2,331,445 2,947,402 -20.9 1,950 4 1,196 22,613,590 New Line
10 The Brave One 2,321,359 3,719,285 -37.6 2,358 4 984 34,380,387 Warner Bros.
11 Eastern Promises 2,079,579 2,938,847 -29.2 1,212 4 1,716 14,455,384 Focus
12 Across the Universe 1,945,219 2,016,224 -3.5 364 4 5,344 8,078,951 Sony
13 Sydney White 1,369,980 2,569,515 -46.7 1,593 3 860 10,261,815 Universal
14 The Jane Austen Book Club 1,343,596 192,719 597.2 1,232 3 1,091 1,819,721 Sony Classics
15 In the Valley of Elah 1,338,190 1,512,310 -11.5 978 4 1,368 5,354,603 Warner Ind.
16 Into the Wild 1,279,208 631,451 102.6 135 3 9,476 2,447,444 Par. Vantage
17 The Bourne Ultimatum 1,184,685 1,745,475 -32.1 975 10 1,215 224,476,438 Universal
18 Transformers (w/ Imax) 933,617 1,200,730 -22.2 421 14 2,218 316,476,438 Paramount
19 Superbad 882,942 1,633,952 -46.0 756 8 1,168 120,338,762 Sony
20 Feast of Love 750,258 1,707,967 -56.1 1,203 2 624 3,021,180 MGM
Top 5 $ 48,621,038 $ 58,574,863 -17.0
Top 10 63,333,980 72,766,136 -13.0
Top 20 76,441,254 84,970,501 -10.0
Top 20 vs. 2006 76,441,254 104,889,505 -27.1

Last Updated: October 8, 2007 at 7:45PM ET

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