Weekend Box Office (October 19 - 21, 2007)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Bloodthirty vampires flew high, depressing dramas sank, and many holdovers held up well at the North American box office. The new horror flick 30 Days of Night easily ruled the charts while a handful of adult dramas were met with opening weekend sales that ranged from mild to embarrassing. Oscar-winning actresses Reese Witherspoon and Halle Berry both failed miserably with their new serious stories which were both shunned by ticket buyers. With so many fall offerings eating into each others' business, the overall marketplace remained sluggish as for the fifth consecutive weekend the top ten slumped below year-ago levels.

Sony commanded the top spot with its R-rated gorefest 30 Days of Night which opened with $16M over the Friday-to-Sunday period, according to final studio figures. Attacking 2,855 theaters, the vampires-in-Alaska pic averaged a solid $5,587 and tapped into a pre-Halloween box office that offered no major scary movies. The lack of competition helped the $30M Josh Hartnett starrer which brought out older teens, young adults, and genre fans. Days was based on a popular graphic novel and earned mixed reviews which is above average by horror picture standards.

Tyler Perry followed up his muscular top spot debut for his latest comedy Why Did I Get Married? with a strong second weekend hold dropping only 43% to $12.2M. After just ten days in theaters, the Lionsgate release has already collected a sturdy $39M which is just ahead of the $38.1M that Perry's first film Diary of a Mad Black Woman took in during its first ten days in 2005. Married suffered a smaller drop than his other films witnessed indicating that the filmmaker's latest entry could be reaching beyond its core African American audience. Diary fell 50% in its sophomore session while Madea's Family Reunion and Daddy's Little Girls tumbled by about 57% each. Married looks on course to reach a remarkable $65-70M which would be a new career high for Perry.

Posting the smallest decline in the top ten once again was The Rock's hit family comedy The Game Plan which ranked third in its fourth weekend with $8.2M. That represented a slim drop of only 26% and boosted Disney's cume to $69.2M. The durable sensation ranks as the actor's second biggest hit in a lead role after The Scorpion King which took in $90.5M in 2002. Game Plan should easily surpass that mark and has not yet seen a drop of more than 35%.

Also holding up well was George Clooney's legal thriller Michael Clayton which remained in fourth place with $6.7M. The Warner Bros. title dropped by only 36% and boosted its total gross to $21.6M nearly matching its production budget of $22M. The marketplace was crowded with adult dramas targeting Clayton's audience so the strong hold was an impressive performance. Powerful reviews and good word-of-mouth contributed to the success. A final tally of $40-50M may result.

Aiming for teens and young adults with a dose of immature spoof comedy was The Comebacks which opened to $5.6M for Fox. The PG-13 sports film enjoyed a wide release in 2,812 venues but generated a dull $1,975 average. The debut was nowhere near the numbers that the studio has seen in the recent past with its other spoof comedies. Both Epic Movie from earlier this year and Date Movie from 2006 debuted to about $19M. Comebacks will be lucky to reach that amount overall.

Miramax's kidnapping thriller Gone Baby Gone bowed close behind with $5.5M over the weekend from 1,713 theaters for a mild $3,212 average. The directorial debut of Ben Affleck stars his brother Casey Affleck along with Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris and was greeted with stellar reviews from film critics. Produced for $19M, Gone faced tough competition from other adult dramas but could have legs in the weeks ahead.

Falling hardest among holdover titles was the Mark Wahlberg-Joaquin Phoenix crime thriller We Own the Night which dropped by 50% to $5.4M in its second weekend. The Sony release has banked $19.7M in ten days and looks headed for a mediocre finish of $30-33M.

Generating the hottest average in the top ten was the latest re-release of Tim Burton's creepy animated hit The Nightmare Before Christmas which debuted to $5.3M from only 564 theaters for a potent $9,451 average. The special 3D version was given a wider launch by Disney compared to this weekend a year ago when it opened in 168 theaters for a $3.3M weekend and sizzling $19,506 average. That re-release bagged $8.7M while its original 1993 run brought in $50M. With no other good options for parents other than the studio's own The Game Plan, Nightmare proved to be an exciting pre-Halloween option for families. The PG-rated film will only play for a limited three-week engagement and goes back into the Mouse House's vault soon after the pumpkin holiday.

Moviegoers ignored the terrorism drama Rendition despite its acclaimed cast allowing it to barely debut in the top ten. The New Line release opened to a mere $4.1M from 2,250 locations for a horrible $1,804 average. It was Reese Witherspoon's first film since winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for 2005's Walk the Line, but fans were not biting. Jake Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep, and Alan Arkin also starred in the R-rated story of a woman in search of her Egyptian-born husband who is captured by the CIA after being suspected of being a terrorist. Rendition was the third film in recent weeks dealing with Middle East issues and entered a marketplace flooded with serious adult dramas. Plus lukewarm reviews helped to make this a non-priority among ticket buyers this weekend.

Rounding out the top ten was the Ben Stiller comedy The Heartbreak Kid with $3.8M, off 48%, for a $32M cume for Paramount.

Halle Berry joined fellow Oscar-winning actress Reese in striking out with audiences with her new adult drama. The former Storm headlined the Paramount release Things We Lost in the Fire with Benicio Del Toro and attracted a measly $1.6M in business on opening weekend. Debuting in 1,142 locations, the R-rated film about a woman who befriends her dead husband's heroin-addicted pal averaged a pathetic $1,367. Reviews were generally favorable and studio research indicated that two-thirds of the audience consisted of women over 30. Fire cost a relatively low $16M to produce, but has a long road ahead of it in order to reach profitability.

Two additional films risked going nationwide and met with embarrassing results. The teen thriller Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour bowed to $586,283 from 1,121 theaters for a disastrous $523 average for Freestyle Releasing. Meanwhile, Rocky Mountain Pictures unleashed its animated pic The Ten Commandments in 830 sites and was met with only $478,910 for a horrible $577 average. Both films should find their primary audiences on DVD.

Focus saw a soft bow for its downbeat drama Reservation Road which debuted in just fourteen theaters for a weak $36,269 for a poor average of $2,789. The arthouse crowd was just not in the mood for this depressing drama about the death of a young boy which starred Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Connelly, and Mira Sorvino. Also hurting Road's performance were reviews that were far from glowing.

With all the new content in the multiplexes, five films were tossed out of the top ten over the weekend. The costume drama sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age dropped 49% in its sophomore session to $3.2M giving Universal a weak $11.2M in ten days. Look for the Cate Blanchett pic to end its domestic run with a dismal $16-18M. Overseas prospects do look brighter though.

Sony's durable musical extravaganza Across the Universe dipped by 31% to $2.7M for a solid $16.7M total from less than 1,000 theaters. A $25-30M final could result. The Saudi Arabia-set political thriller The Kingdom fell by 50% in its fourth outing to $2.3M. Universal has taken in $43.9M thus far and should end up with just under $50M which means that the $70M production will need to still work hard overseas and on video in order to break even.

The Milla Jovovich threequel Resident Evil: Extinction tumbled 62% to $1M and raised its sum to a cool $50M. Fox's fantasy adventure The Seeker: The Dark is Rising saw its weekend gross nosedive by an alarming 79% to $466,531 lifting the dull total to $8.2M with little left to go.

The top ten films grossed $72.7M which was down 11% from last year when The Prestige debuted in first place with $14.8M; but up 11% from 2005 when Doom opened in the top spot with $15.5M.

Compared to projections, 30 Days of Night opened below my $19M forecast while Gone Baby Gone was on target with my $6M prediction. The Comebacks, Rendition, and Things We Lost in the Fire all debuted below my respective projections of $11M, $9M, and $3M.

For a review of Elizabeth: The Golden Age and DVD reviews of Transformers, Planet Terror and A Mighty Heart visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Saw IV and Dan in Real Life both open.

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

# Title Oct 19 - 21 Oct 12 - 14 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 30 Days of Night $ 15,951,902 2,855 1 $ 5,587 $ 15,951,902 Sony
2 Why Did I Get Married? 12,186,011 21,353,789 -42.9 2,034 2 5,991 38,950,821 Lionsgate
3 The Game Plan 8,178,646 11,037,505 -25.9 3,301 4 2,478 69,206,626 Buena Vista
4 Michael Clayton 6,677,272 10,373,422 -35.6 2,585 3 2,583 21,563,586 Warner Bros.
5 The Comebacks 5,554,594 2,812 1 1,975 5,554,594 Fox
6 Gone Baby Gone 5,501,406 1,713 1 3,212 5,501,406 Miramax
7 We Own the Night 5,420,793 10,826,287 -49.9 2,362 2 2,295 19,704,516 Sony
8 The Nightmare Before Christmas - 3D 5,330,101 564 1 9,451 5,330,101 Buena Vista
9 Rendition 4,060,012 2,250 1 1,804 4,060,012 New Line
10 The Heartbreak Kid 3,814,636 7,280,450 -47.6 2,782 3 1,371 32,025,396 Paramount
11 Elizabeth: The Golden Age 3,150,180 6,153,075 -48.8 2,006 2 1,570 11,224,145 Universal
12 Across the Universe 2,653,475 3,824,988 -30.6 960 6 2,764 16,720,931 Sony
13 The Kingdom 2,326,630 4,608,025 -49.5 1,730 4 1,345 43,897,695 Universal
14 Into the Wild 2,138,403 928,678 130.3 658 5 3,250 6,490,408 Par. Vantage
15 Things We Lost in the Fire 1,561,949 1,142 1 1,368 1,561,949 Paramount
16 The Darjeeling Limited 1,292,778 1,085,337 19.1 201 4 6,432 3,875,451 Fox Searchlight
17 Resident Evil: Extinction 1,004,389 2,646,261 -62.0 1,183 5 849 49,962,808 Sony
18 Good Luck Chuck 738,143 2,032,380 -63.7 852 5 866 34,274,118 Lionsgate
19 Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour 586,283 1,121 1 523 586,283 Freestyle
20 Lust, Caution 579,908 609,623 -4.9 125 4 4,639 2,097,595 Focus
Top 5 $ 48,548,425 $ 60,871,453 -20.2
Top 10 72,675,373 80,316,757 -9.5
Top 20 88,707,511 91,309,026 -2.8
Top 20 vs. 2006 88,707,511 99,969,407 -11.3

Last Updated: October 22, 2007 at 8:30PM ET

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