Weekend Box Office (October 8 - 10, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Three new releases could not unseat the toon titan Shark Tale from the top of the North American box office charts as the underwater comedy remained the most popular catch for the second weekend in a row. Among the debuting films, the football drama Friday Night Lights opened powerfully in second, the buddy comedy Taxi saw a mediocre debut in fourth, and the teen story Raise Your Voice was mostly silent bowing in sixth place.

Still king of the sea, the DreamWorks animated spectacle Shark Tale easily held onto the number one spot with $31.3M dropping only 34%. The PG-rated fish tale has captured an impressive $87.4M in its net in just ten days and seems headed for a domestic haul of $170-180M. Playing in an ultrawide 4,070 theaters, Shark averaged a meaty $7,698 per location. Thus far, the performance has mirrored that of March 2002's Ice Age, another computer-animated film that was not a sequel and played during the school year. The frosty pic opened with a similar $46.3M and dropped 35% in its second weekend to $30.1M for a ten-day tally of $87.3M. Ice Age went on to reach $176.4M. Overseas, Shark Tale is also biting big remaining at number one for the third week in Australia and dominating the U.K. box office with its previews this weekend.

Opening with strength in the runnerup spot was Universal's football drama Friday Night Lights with $20.3M from 2,667 theaters. Averaging a menacing $7,600 per site, the Billy Bob Thornton story about a high school squad and its importance to the town of Odessa, Texas earned mostly strong reviews from critics. Directed by Peter Berg (The Rundown), the PG-13 film comes as good news for Universal which after clunkers like Wimbledon and Thunderbirds, has dropped to sixth place in market share for the year. The Brian Grazer-produced Lights appealed to adult men as demographic data showed that 54% of the audience was over 25 and 56% was male. A solid season could lie ahead for the pic.

Ladder 49's box office fire was lessened by 41% in its second weekend as the Buena Vista release placed third with $13.1M. The moderate hold gave the Joaquin Phoenix-John Travolta drama $41M in ten days on course for a final gross in the vicinity of $75M which would make it Travolta's biggest hit in more than five years.

Opening in fourth place was the Queen Latifah-Jimmy Fallon buddy comedy Taxi with $12M from 3,001 theaters. Averaging a mediocre $4,009 per location, the Fox film about a cop and a cab driver who team up to battle supermodel bank robbers has collected $12.7M in receipts since its Wednesday bow in 609 sites. Critics tore apart Taxi which marked the debut of former Saturday Night Live star Fallon in the lead role of a film.

Off 36%, Sony's supernatural thriller The Forgotten took fifth with $7.6M in its third scare. The Julianne Moore hit stands at $48.7M after 17 days. Over the weekend, the studio crossed the $1 billion sales mark both internationally and domestically for the third consecutive year. Since January 2002, Sony has opened 22 films at number one in the North American market, far more than any other distributor. The company ranks number one in market share for 2004 with Warner Bros. trailing in second by more than $100M.

Hilary Duff fans failed to show up to show their support for the actress-singer's latest offering Raise Your Voice which debuted with a poor $4M. Playing in 2,521 theaters, the PG-rated film averaged a miserable $1,596. Of the six films that Duff has appeared in over the last year and a half, Voice is the first drama and the first to not open in the top five. Young girls made up most of the audience, but apparently did not find the New Line release to be as appealing as her previous films like The Lizzie McGuire Movie ($17.3M opening) and A Cinderella Story ($13.6M) which were comedic and more upbeat.

The computer-enhanced adventure Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow followed with $2.3M, off 29%, putting the cume for the Paramount experiment at just $33.9M. The Focus comedy Shaun of the Dead enjoyed another good hold dipping 31% to $1.7M for a $9.5M total from just 675 theaters.

The Che Guevara tale The Motorcycle Diaries continued to flex its muscles as the hottest indie film around by entering the top ten at number nine despite playing in a remarkably low 167 theaters. The Focus Features title grossed $1.5M and averaged a sizzling $9,042 per site boosting its weekend take by 39% by adding 100 venues. With a cume of $3.3M after its third weekend, the critically acclaimed Spanish-language drama looks to be a major box office force for weeks to come.

Rounding out the top ten was Sony's action sequel Resident Evil: Apocalypse which tumbled 46% to $1.3M in its fifth frame for a $49M total.

A number of films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Magnolia's abuse drama Woman Thou Art Loosed fell 48% to $1.1M for a ten-day cume of $4.1M. The low-budget film should reach $6-7M. The baseball comedy Mr. 3000 was a strike out for Buena Vista and dropped 63% to $945,806. The Bernie Mac pic has grossed just $20.7M and looks to finish with $22M. Fox's First Daughter stumbled 72% to $603,094 giving the Katie Holmes drama a dismal $8.3M.

Fox Searchlight saw an encouraging expansion to its ensemble comedy I Heart Huckabees which widened from four to 44 theaters in a dozen new cities and grossed $901,123. Averaging a stellar $20,480, the Dustin Hoffman-Lily Tomlin film has raised its cume to $1.3M and is well positioned to capitalize on its next expansion into ten more markets this Friday. RBC Radio's Guiana 1838 grossed $18,710, down 50%, in its third weekend and raised its total to $125,590 from a single theater.

The top ten films grossed $95.2M which was up 2% from last year when Kill Bill Vol. 1 opened at number one with $22.1M; and up 9% from 2002 when Red Dragon remained in the top spot with $17.7M.

Compared to projections, Friday Night Lights opened stronger than my $14M forecast while Taxi was slower than my $15M prediction. Raise Your Voice also was weaker than my $9M projection.

For a review of The Motorcycle Diaries, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Team America: World Police and Shall We Dance both open.

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

# Title Oct 8 - 10 Oct 1 - 3 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Shark Tale $ 31,330,299 $ 47,604,606 -34.2 4,070 2 $ 7,698 $ 87,350,275 DreamWorks
2 Friday Night Lights 20,269,025 2,667 1 7,600 20,269,025 Universal
3 Ladder 49 13,105,177 22,088,204 -40.7 3,261 2 4,019 41,025,820 Buena Vista
4 Taxi 12,029,832 3,001 1 4,009 12,650,911 Fox
5 The Forgotten 7,605,742 11,820,733 -35.7 2,981 3 2,551 48,721,387 Sony
6 Raise Your Voice 4,022,693 2,521 1 1,596 4,022,693 New Line
7 Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow 2,341,872 3,278,417 -28.6 1,743 4 1,344 33,932,601 Paramount
8 Shaun of the Dead 1,708,113 2,481,020 -31.2 675 3 2,531 9,457,504 Focus
9 The Motorcycle Diaries 1,510,020 1,085,460 39.1 167 3 9,042 3,293,132 Focus
10 Resident Evil: Apocalypse 1,253,117 2,310,267 -45.8 1,217 5 1,030 49,010,903 Sony
11 Woman Thou Art Loosed 1,147,388 2,225,000 -48.4 428 2 2,681 4,057,836 Magnolia
12 Napoleon Dynamite 1,056,903 1,391,097 -24.0 715 18 1,478 39,092,405 Fox Searchlight
13 Cellular 953,657 2,014,074 -52.7 1,152 5 828 29,667,077 New Line
14 Mr. 3000 945,806 2,526,420 -62.6 1,386 4 682 20,657,685 Buena Vista
15 I Heart Huckabees 901,123 292,177 208.4 44 2 20,480 1,311,304 Fox Searchlight
16 Wimbledon 715,615 1,739,075 -58.9 800 4 895 16,082,295 Universal
17 Hero 657,625 1,235,134 -46.8 667 7 986 52,199,022 Miramax
18 First Daughter 603,094 2,158,637 -72.1 1,023 3 590 8,293,916 Fox
19 Garden State 569,160 802,063 -29.0 344 11 1,655 24,553,316 Fox Searchlight
20 Without A Paddle 552,889 1,288,613 -57.1 905 8 611 56,246,366 Paramount
Top 5 $ 84,340,075 $ 87,318,380 -3.4
Top 10 95,175,890 98,507,378 -3.4
Top 20 103,279,150 108,023,723 -4.4
Top 20 vs. 2003 103,279,150 104,240,379 -0.9

Last Updated : October 11, 2004 at 7:30PM EDT

Gitesh Pandya can be seen each Friday on "The Biz" airing live at 12:30pm ET on CNNfn with a replay at 4:30pm.