Weekend Box Office (October 13 - 15, 2006)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers were in the mood to be spooked as the horror sequel The Grudge 2 scared its way to a number one opening after its release on Friday the 13th. Last week's chart-topper, the mob thriller The Departed, remained strong in its second weekend taking the runnerup spot while the new Robin Williams political comedy Man of the Year finished third in the polls with a respectable voter turnout. The weekend's other new releases, the action film The Marine and the historical epic One Night with the King, generated low-to-moderate ticket sales. Overall, the North American box office remained vibrant with one of the best October showings in recent years.

With Halloween around the corner, teens and young adults were craving a good scare and powered the horror flick The Grudge 2 to the top of the charts with $20.8M in its opening weekend, according to final studio figures. Averaging a creepy $6,486 from 3,211 locations, the PG-13 film gave Sony its 12th number one opener of 2006 even though it debuted with about half of the $39.1M launch of its predecessor two years ago. Sarah Michelle Gellar, who anchored the first Grudge, only appears briefly in the sequel which instead stars the lesser-known television actress Amber Tamblyn as the sister who comes across a supernatural curse. Takashi Shimizu, the director behind the first Grudge as well as the Japanese Ju-On pics which inspired it, once again helms.

After the 2004 surprise smash went on to gross $110.2M from a measly $10M production budget, a sequel was developed. Once again, young women led the way in buying tickets. Studio research showed that 52% of the audience was female and 54% was under the age of 21. The PG-13 rating of the $20M sequel was key to bringing in the high school set, but arriving in the marketplace just seven days after the R-rated horror pic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning made it a bit difficult to get the college crowd. Fall's fright film festival continues on its merry way with the October 27 launch of Saw III and the November 10 arrival of Gellar in a full starring role in the supernatural thriller The Return.

Enjoying a powerful second weekend was Martin Scorsese's crime thriller The Departed which slipped from first place grossing $19M. Dropping only 29%, the Warner Bros. hit posted a terrific hold thanks to strong word-of-mouth and lifted its cume to an impressive $57M after ten days. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson, The Departed looks to be on course to become the director's top-grossing film ever as it should beat the $102.6M of 2004's The Aviator. The vicinity of $110M could be reached domestically for the $90M production with much more on tap overseas. Asian cinema inspired both of the top films in North America as Departed is a Hollywood remake of the Hong Kong blockbuster Infernal Affairs.

Robin Williams returned to making mainstream comedies for adults with his political satire Man of the Year which debuted in third place with $12.3M. Playing in 2,515 sites, the Universal film about a popular talk show host who runs for president averaged an encouraging $4,890. For the Oscar winning funnyman, it was his second best opening this decade for a non-family film after the $20.9M bow of 2002's cop thriller Insomnia. Williams scored recent hits with last spring's RV which grossed $71.4M and last year's animated film Robots which took in $128.2M. Man of the Year did not fare well with critics and The Departed continued to pull away adult audiences. But the Barry Levinson-directed comedy performed well as the only funny option for grown ups in the current marketplace.

In its third weekend, Sony's hit toon Open Season eased only 29% and grossed $11.1M pushing the 17-day total to a solid $59.3M. The horror prequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning tumbled an understandable 60% to $7.5M in its second weekend. New Line's $16M fright flick has grossed $30.2M in ten days and should finish with $40-45M. Its predecessor, 2003's remake of Chainsaw, held up better dropping 49% in its sophomore frame on its way to a $80.1M final.

Wrestling superstar John Cena made a quiet debut on the big screen as his action film The Marine opened in sixth place with only $7.1M. Averaging a mild $2,805 from 2,545 theaters, the PG-13 pic appealed mostly to the entertainer's core audience of young males. The Fox title about a discharged jarhead who sets out to save his kidnapped wife suffered horrendous reviews.

The Ashton Kutcher-Kevin Costner Coast Guard adventure The Guardian continued to play well slipping 39% to $5.9M. Cume stands at $41.1M. Lionsgate's Jessica Simpson comedy Employee of the Month fell 54% in its second weekend to $5.3M. With $19.6M in ten days, the PG-13 pic could reach $28-30M.

Connecting with Christian audiences in moderate national release was the historical epic adventure One Night with the King which bowed to $4.1M from 909 theaters. The 8X release averaged a good $4,518 per site. The PG-rated film about the rise of the Queen of Persia stars Tiffany Dupont, Omar Sharif, and Peter O'Toole and was given a church-based marketing campaign. King ranked ninth but had the fourth best per-theater average in the top ten.

Rounding out the top ten was a film not targeting churchgoers. Former number one Jackass: Number Two grossed $3.3M in its fourth outing falling 49%. Paramount has captured $68.4M thus far.

Opening to weak results in limited release was the indie drama Infamous which grossed $452,966 from 179 theaters for a disappointing $2,530 average. The Warner Independent release about writer Truman Capote failed to generate interest with arthouse moviegoers who recently spent $28.8M on Capote which went on win an Oscar for Best Actor for Philip Seymour Hoffman earlier this year. Toby Jones, Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig, and Gwenyth Paltrow star in Infamous which will not be given a wider release.

Still generating muscular numbers in limited release was Miramax's acclaimed drama The Queen which expanded from 11 to 46 locations and grossed $1M. Jumping into the Top 20, the Helen Mirren film averaged a sensational $22,227 and boosted its sum to $1.9M with more markets set to open in the weeks ahead.

Another world leader pic, The Last King of Scotland, also expanded into more cities this weekend while in its third conquest. The Fox Searchlight film grossed $611,129 from 104 locations for a solid $5,876 average. Total is $1.3M.

Four films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Leggy hit The Illusionist witnessed another of its under-30% drops in its ninth weekend of release. The Edward Norton drama slipped only 27% to $1.4M giving Yari Film Group a respectable $36.2M to date. A final tally of $40-42M could result. MGM's comedy School for Scoundrels crumbled 62% to $1.3M giving the Billy Bob Thornton pic $16.4M. A $18M final gross is likely.

Also falling hard were the male-skewing action films Fearless and Gridiron Gang with weekend tallies of $969,162 and $772,551, respectively. Jet Li's martial arts epic dropped 58% and has grossed $23.5M for Focus - a solid figure for a subtitled film. $25M may be reached. The Rock's football flick stumbled 66% and raised its cume to $38M. Sony's final take should fall into the $39-40M range.

The top ten films grossed $96.5M which was up a stellar 46% from last year when The Fog debuted at number one with $11M; and up 12% from 2004 when Shark Tale stayed in the top spot for a third consecutive weekend with $22M.

Compared to projections, The Grudge 2 opened below my $27M forecast. Man of the Year debuted a bit higher than my $11M prediction while The Marine was a notch below my $8M projection. One Night with the King was on target with my $4M forecast.

For a review of The Departed visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Flags of Our Fathers, The Prestige, Flicka, and Marie Antoinette all open.

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

# Title Oct 13 - 15 Oct 6 - 8 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Grudge 2 $ 20,825,300 3,211 1 $ 6,486 $ 20,825,300 Sony
2 The Departed 19,034,294 26,887,467 -29.2 3,017 2 6,309 56,985,185 Warner Bros.
3 Man of the Year 12,299,380 2,515 1 4,890 12,299,380 Universal
4 Open Season 11,112,795 15,625,324 -28.9 3,687 3 3,014 59,267,065 Sony
5 Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Beginning 7,485,290 18,508,228 -59.6 2,820 2 2,654 30,192,411 New Line
6 The Marine 7,138,774 2,545 1 2,805 7,138,774 Fox
7 The Guardian 5,866,998 9,568,092 -38.7 3,044 3 1,927 41,132,922 Buena Vista
8 Employee of the Month 5,271,088 11,407,751 -53.8 2,579 2 2,044 19,581,504 Lionsgate
9 One Night with the King 4,106,862 909 1 4,518 4,106,862 8X
10 Jackass: Number Two 3,329,091 6,516,968 -48.9 2,330 4 1,429 68,377,686 Paramount
11 The Illusionist 1,374,959 1,886,165 -27.1 825 9 1,667 36,242,974 Yari Film Group
12 School for Scoundrels 1,301,346 3,433,587 -62.1 1,406 3 926 16,367,023 MGM
13 The Queen 1,022,475 401,978 154.4 46 3 22,228 1,861,414 Miramax
14 Fearless 969,162 2,289,887 -57.7 886 4 1,094 23,526,734 Focus
15 Little Miss Sunshine 872,422 1,278,904 -31.8 505 12 1,728 56,362,905 Fox Searchlight
16 Facing the Giants 840,768 1,006,207 -16.4 347 3 2,423 4,055,153 Goldwyn
17 Gridiron Gang 772,551 2,236,784 -65.5 1,174 5 658 37,973,797 Sony
18 The Last King of Scotland 611,129 292,730 108.8 104 3 5,876 1,270,711 Fox Searchlight
19 The Science of Sleep 497,940 680,420 -26.8 243 4 2,049 3,481,693 Warner Ind.
20 Infamous 452,966 179 1 2,531 452,966 Warner Ind.
Top 5 $ 70,757,059 $ 81,996,862 -13.7
Top 10 96,469,872 98,360,253 -1.9
Top 20 105,185,590 104,889,505 0.3
Top 20 vs. 2005 105,185,590 81,954,469 28.3

Last Updated : October 16, 2006 at 7:15PM EDT

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