Weekend Box Office (October 7 - 9, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND After three weeks of blonde actresses topping the box office charts, a pair of claymation characters took over and debuted at number one. The family film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit led a five-pack of new releases that reshaped the top ten chart. But the overall marketplace remained sluggish with ticket sales failing to reach the Columbus Day weekend grosses from each of the last three years.

Opening in first place, DreamWorks saw its clay pic Wallace & Gromit collect $16M from an ultrawide 3,645 theaters, according to final studio figures. Averaging a reasonably strong $4,397 per playdate, the G-rated film faced little direct competition for families and connected with its core audience. According to studio research, 68% of sales came from families and 85% categorized the picture in the top two boxes of "excellent" or "very good." Helena Bonham Carter, who voiced the title role in this fall's competing toon Corpse Bride, collected another paycheck lending her voice to Wallace.

Though a top spot debut, Wallace & Gromit did not come close to the openings of the studio's higher profile digitally animated entries like May's Madagascar or last October's Shark Tale which both bowed to over $47M over three days. With only one kid-friendly movie opening during the rest of the month, the clay flick could hold up well in the long run. Reviews were among the best of any film released this year.

Despite all the new movies gunning for adult audiences, Jodie Foster kept flexing her box office muscle and finished the weekend in second place with her hit Flightplan which grossed $10.8M. Dipping only 27% in its third weekend, the Buena Vista action thriller continued to please moviegoers and boosted its cume to $60.9M after 17 days. Foster's home invasion thriller Panic Room, which also spent two weeks on top, slipped to the runnerup spot taking in a similar $10.6M in its third frame. Flightplan should soar to more than $90M domestically and may even approach the $95.3M cume of Panic Room despite a slower takeoff.

Fox landed in third place with its sister comedy In Her Shoes which grossed $10M in its opening weekend. The PG-13 title starred Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, and Shirley Maclaine and averaged a mediocre $3,568 from 2,808 locations. Reviews were good for the Curtis Hanson-directed film which played to a heavily female audience with 70% of those polled being women.

Al Pacino, Matthew McConaughey, and Rene Russo found themselves in fourth place with their new football betting film Two For the Money which opened to $8.7M. The R-rated film averaged a mild $3,640 for Universal from 2,391 theaters and did not reach the levels of Pacino's recent openers like The Recruit's $16.3M or Insomnia's $20.9M. Critics were underwhelmed by the $27M film. Money's gender appeal was mostly even with males making up 51%, but it did skew older with two-thirds of the crowd being of age 30 or over.

The past two weekends have seen a whopping ten films debut in wide release with only one, Wallace, reaching past $11M. With so much content jammed into the multiplexes, the box office pie, which is not that big this time of year, has been cut up into numerous slices making it difficult for any one picture to break out. Sixteen films did over $1M of business this weekend with none crossing the $20M mark. A year ago, only a dozen broke the million-dollar mark but two films generated over $20M a piece resulting in a stronger frame.

Sony exceeded expectations and witnessed a heavenly debut for its church drama The Gospel which opened in fifth place with $7.5M from only 969 theaters. The PG-rated film about a singer who returns to his community and family posted the best average of any wide release taking in a terrific $7,764 per location. Budgeted at under $4M, Gospel played primarily to an audience of African American adults with an encouraging 85% marking the film "excellent" or "very good" in exit polls. The studio hopes that positive word-of-mouth will spread and broaden the audience.

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride dropped only 35% to $6.5M in its third weekend of wide release. The animated film has grabbed $42.1M to date. Lions Gate saw a mild opening for its raunchy restaurant comedy Waiting which served up $6M from 1,652 sites. Averaging just $3,645 per location, the Ryan Reynolds starrer carried an R rating and was panned by critics.

The sci-fi adventure Serenity fell 47% in its second mission to $5.4M giving Universal just $18M in ten days. The $39M production looks to finish with a not-so-impressive $26-28M. New Line's mobster drama A History of Violence dropped 38% to $5.1M in its third weekend pushing the cume to $16.6M. Rounding out the top ten was the Sony actioner Into the Blue which took in $4.8M, off only 32%. With $13.9M collected so far, the Paul Walker-Jessica Alba pic should conclude with roughly $25M.

A pair of indie films blasted off with sensational results in limited release over the weekend. Warner Independent Pictures debuted its Edward R. Morrow film Good Night, and Good Luck in only eleven theaters but generated $421,446 in ticket sales for a scorching $38,313 average. Directed by George Clooney, the 1950s-set drama earned strong reviews from critics and was also well-liked by the public with exit polls showing that 90% marked the film in the top two boxes. Good Night expands further on Friday and expects to be in over 200 runs on October 21.

Meanwhile, Samuel Goldwyn Films and Sony debuted its divorce drama The Squid and the Whale in four locations in New York and grossed $129,844 for a sizzling $32,461 average. Its five-day cume since Wednesday is $154,474. Starring Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney, the award-winning film out of Sundance opens in Los Angeles this Friday.

The five new releases booted half of last weekend's top ten out of the list. Disney's golf drama The Greatest Game Ever Played held up well in its second swing inching up 7% to $3.9M thanks to an additional 796 theaters. With the per-theater average falling 40% and the ten-day total sitting at $8.7M, look for a $17-19M final. Former number one Just Like Heaven dropped 44% to $3.5M in its fourth date pushing its cume to $43.6M. The $58M DreamWorks release seems headed for around $50M.

Sony saw its hit thriller The Exorcism of Emily Rose drop 44% to $2.4M in its fifth scare lifting the sum to a solid $72.1M. The $19M hit is set to end its run with around $77M making it a standout performer. The skating comedy Roll Bounce stumbled 57% to $1.7M for a $15.1M total. $18M seems likely for the final.

After a seven-week run in the top ten, Universal saw its surprise hit comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin drop off the list with $1.9M, down 40%. The Steve Carell smash upped its cume to $104.4M and has outgunned more prominent summer comedies like The Dukes of Hazzard, Bewitched, and Monster-in Law which all boasted more starpower. Produced for only $26M, Virgin should find its way to around $108M domestically giving the studio its only blockbuster of the year so far. Overseas, the pic opened in nine more territories this weekend grossing an estimated $6.6M from 22 markets boosting the international total to $27.7M and currently ranks number one in Australia, Germany, and Austria.

The top ten films grossed $80.8M which was down 15% from last year when Shark Tale stayed at number one with $31.3M; and down 14% from 2003 when Kill Bill Vol. 1 opened in the top spot with $22.1M.

Compared to projections, Wallace & Gromit, In Her Shoes, and Two For the Money all debuted a couple of notches below my respective forecasts of $19M, $13M, and $14M. The Gospel doubled my $4M prediction and Waiting opened a bit higher than my $4M projection.

For NEW reviews of Good Night, and Good Luck, Two For the Money, and A History of Violence visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Fog, Elizabethtown, and Domino all open.

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

# Title Oct 7 - 9 Sep 30 - Oct 2 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Wallace and Gromit $ 16,025,987 3,645 1 $ 4,397 $ 16,047,174 DreamWorks
2 Flightplan 10,764,440 14,805,739 -27.3 3,323 3 3,239 60,916,649 Buena Vista
3 In Her Shoes 10,017,575 2,808 1 3,568 10,017,575 Fox
4 Two For The Money 8,703,240 2,391 1 3,640 8,703,240 Universal
5 The Gospel 7,523,571 969 1 7,764 7,523,571 Sony
6 Corpse Bride 6,511,336 10,033,257 -35.1 3,004 4 2,168 42,116,028 Warner Bros.
7 Waiting 6,021,106 1,652 1 3,645 6,021,106 Lions Gate
8 Serenity 5,352,090 10,086,680 -46.9 2,189 2 2,445 18,020,875 Universal
9 A History of Violence 5,067,000 8,103,077 -37.5 1,340 3 3,781 16,638,684 New Line
10 Into the Blue 4,830,342 7,057,854 -31.6 2,789 2 1,732 13,903,087 Sony
11 The Greatest Game Ever Played 3,905,532 3,657,322 6.8 1,810 2 2,158 8,680,794 Buena Vista
12 Just Like Heaven 3,453,588 6,128,180 -43.6 2,307 4 1,497 43,621,756 DreamWorks
13 The Exorcism of Emily Rose 2,442,028 4,380,280 -44.2 1,827 5 1,337 72,130,811 Sony
14 The 40-Year-Old Virgin 1,867,805 3,120,045 -40.1 1,135 8 1,646 104,350,468 Universal
15 Roll Bounce 1,742,119 4,029,257 -56.8 888 3 1,962 15,139,600 Fox Searchlight
16 Proof 1,482,316 1,152,307 28.6 517 4 2,867 4,388,447 Miramax
17 The Constant Gardener 852,279 1,419,745 -40.0 469 6 1,817 31,252,269 Focus
18 Lord of War 680,766 2,462,153 -72.4 550 4 1,238 23,276,743 Lions Gate
19 March of the Penguins 473,074 1,114,959 -57.6 469 16 1,009 75,392,512 Warner Ind.
20 Magnificent Desolation (Imax) 438,226 428,597 2.2 82 3 5,344 1,782,797 Imax
Top 5 $ 53,034,813 $ 50,086,607 5.9
Top 10 80,816,687 71,401,691 13.2
Top 20 98,154,420 82,746,487 18.6
Top 20 vs. 2004 98,154,420 103,279,150 -5.0

Last Updated : October 10, 2005 at 7:45PM EDT