Weekend Box Office (October 21 - 23, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The action thriller Doom and the family drama Dreamer enjoyed solid openings to lead an otherwise sluggish North American box office which continued its October slump. The courtroom drama North Country and the suspense thriller Stay both disappointed in their bows while most holdovers witnessed respectable declines. Only two films in the top ten managed to average more than $3,000 per theater as moviegoers remained mostly apathetic to the titles that Hollywood studios have been offering.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson scored the fourth number-one opener of his career this weekend with the launch of Doom which topped the charts with $15.5M, according to final studio figures. Based on the wildly successful video game, the R-rated futuristic actioner averaged a solid $5,090 from 3,043 theaters. Universal targeted and connected with young men, according to studio data. Males made up a staggering 69% of the crowd while those under the age of 25 consisted of 61% of the audience. The $60M film finds a military-style unit investigating a scientific lab on Mars where people have been turned into killer creatures.

With so many female-skewing films in release, Doom went after the underserved young male audience with a brand that was recognizable and an action star with proven clout. The opening did, however, rank as weakest bow of The Rock's career and also did not match the debuts of some other notable video game-inspired action films like Lara Croft Tomb Raider ($47.7M), Resident Evil ($17.7M) and even Mortal Kombat ($23.3M) which made studios look in a new direction for source material when it opened a decade ago. Doom also came in below the $18.5M bow of The Rock's The Rundown from September 2003 and instead matched the $15.5M debut of the wrestler-turned-actor's 2004 action remake Walking Tall.

Those movie fans looking for tame animals instead of killer zombies opted for the Kurt Russell-Dakota Fanning pic Dreamer which debuted in second with $9.2M, exceeding expectations. The PG-rated film about a girl who inspires a horse and her father to become winners again averaged a healthy $4,573 from 2,007 stables. Budgeted at $32M, Dreamer played broadly with family audiences making up 56% of the crowd. Studio exit polls showed that an amazing 100% of children polled found the film to be "excellent" or "very good." DreamWorks hopes that will translate into strong word-of-mouth as the picture expands into 400 to 600 additional runs on Friday.

For the first time all year, the top ten suffered back-to-back weekends where ticket sales failed to reach at least $70M. In fact, grosses for the top ten these last two weekends have been the worst for any October frame in the last six years. Of the 17 new wide releases opening over the past four frames, none has debuted to more than $17M. By contrast, four films did the deed over the corresponding weekends in each of the last two years. Also, the average cumulative gross for the top ten over the last four frames has been $71.2M representing a 24% drop from last year, a 26% fall from 2003, and a 17% decline from 2002. October is normally not this slow.

Holding up strong once again was the critically-acclaimed claymation comedy Wallace & Gromit with $8.6M slipping a mere 26%. The DreamWorks hit has grossed $43.9M to date and is on course to outperform its fall animation competitor Corpse Bride which has collected just over $50M to date. Sony's suspense thriller The Fog dropped from first to fourth place, and lost 43% of its business with a weekend take of $6.7M. The $18M remake has grossed $20.9M in ten days and should finish with $35-40M.

North Country, the true tale of a woman's sexual harassment lawsuit against a Minnesota mining company, lacked muscle in its fifth-place debut. The Charlize Theron starrer grossed $6.4M from 2,555 locations for a disappointing $2,514 average. The R-rated entry co-stars Frances McDormand, Sissy Spacek, and Woody Harrelson and was well-received by critics.

In its second weekend, Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown dropped 47% to $5.6M lifting the ten-day total to $18.8M. Paramount looks to reach $30-33M with the Orlando Bloom-Kirsten Dunst tale. Jodie Foster's hit thriller Flightplan slipped only 27% to $4.7M in its fifth flight pushing its total to $77.3M. The Buena Vista release has now become the top-grossing movie of the fall season. Following in eighth place was yet another top Hollywood blonde, Cameron Diaz in the Fox comedy In Her Shoes, which grossed $3.9M, off 36%, for a $26.2M total.

Enjoying one of the best holds yet again was New Line's mob drama A History of Violence which took in $2.7M, off only 25%, for a cume to date of $26.3M. Rounding out the top ten was the Al Pacino gambling flick Two For the Money which fumbled 48% to $2.4M for a $20.7M total.

Fox saw a miserable start for its Ewan McGregor thriller Stay which opened to $2.2M from 1,684 theaters for a pitiful $1,299 average. The R-rated pic was backed by little marketing support and not surprisingly failed to make the top ten. Stay is the sixth national release of the past two months to debut with a per-theater average of under $2,000.

A pair of R-rated star vehicles debuted impressively in limited release launching in eight theaters a piece. Buena Vista grossed $229,685 for a sparkling $28,711 average with Shopgirl. The R-rated comedy about a woman choosing between a successful older man and a younger man more her age stars Steve Martin, Claire Danes, and Jason Schwartzman and is adapted from Martin's own novel. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. debuted the Val Kilmer-Robert Downey Jr. caper pic Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang to the tune of $180,660 for a strong $22,583 average. Shopgirl will see further expansions on the next two Fridays and Kiss will go wide on November 11.

Three very different films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Tony Scott's bounty hunter pic Domino fell 51% in its second shot to $2.3M giving the Keira Knightley actioner only $8.6M in ten days. The New Line release should end its run with a weak $13-14M. Sony's low-budget hit The Gospel tumbled 54% to $1.4M putting its collection plate at $14.1M. The $4M picture looks to reach around $16-17M.

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride fell 47% to $1.9M in its fifth weekend of wide release. The Warner Bros. stop-motion animated pic has scared up $50.5M thus far and should finish with about $55M. The director's last such offering, The Nightmare Before Christmas, grossed $50M in the fall of 1993 while playing in half as many theaters with much lower ticket prices.

A number of arthouse holdovers continued to perform well in limited release. Warner Independent Pictures' George Clooney-directed Good Night, and Good Luck flirted with the top ten by expanding from 68 to 225 theaters for a weekend gross of $2.3M. Averaging a still-solid $10,040, the PG-rated pic is holding up very well as it widens to additional markets and bumped its cume to $4.5M. The distributor is taking its time rolling the film out and its patience is paying off. Good Night widens to 500-700 playdates on November 4.

Sony Classics took in $614,527 for its biopic Capote averaging $11,818 from 52 locations. Total sits at $2.2M. Samuel Goldwyn Films and Sony Pictures Entertainment grossed $315,339 from 40 sites for a $7,883 average for its Jeff Daniels-Laura Linney starrer The Squid and the Whale which has grossed $915,485 to date.

The top ten films grossed $65.7M which was down a disturbing 31% from last year when The Grudge debuted at number one with $39.1M; and down an alarming 43% from 2003 when Scary Movie 3 opened in the top spot with an October record $48.1M.

Compared to projections, Doom opened close to my $17M forecast while Dreamer exceeded my $7M prediction. North Country and Stay both debuted a couple of notches below my respective projections of $9M and $4M.

For NEW reviews of Doom and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang visit The Chief Report. Also, read the NEW review of the South Park - The Complete Sixth Season DVD set.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Saw II, The Legend of Zorro, The Weatherman, and Prime all open.

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

# Title Oct 21 - 23 Oct 14 - 16 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Doom $ 15,488,870 3,043 1 $ 5,090 $ 15,488,870 Universal
2 Dreamer 9,178,233 2,007 1 4,573 9,178,233 DreamWorks
3 Wallace & Gromit 8,584,304 11,527,216 -25.5 3,472 3 2,472 43,918,009 DreamWorks
4 The Fog 6,665,475 11,752,917 -43.3 2,972 2 2,243 20,913,919 Sony
5 North Country 6,422,455 2,555 1 2,514 6,422,455 Warner Bros.
6 Elizabethtown 5,621,009 10,618,711 -47.1 2,517 2 2,233 18,848,975 Paramount
7 Flightplan 4,724,629 6,492,315 -27.2 2,513 5 1,880 77,294,514 Buena Vista
8 In Her Shoes 3,885,189 6,105,949 -36.4 2,237 3 1,737 26,179,382 Fox
9 A History of Violence 2,699,962 3,600,474 -25.0 1,308 5 2,064 26,300,395 New Line
10 Two For The Money 2,421,835 4,686,110 -48.3 1,693 3 1,430 20,706,660 Universal
11 Domino 2,275,531 4,670,120 -51.3 2,223 2 1,024 8,593,003 New Line
12 Good Night, and Good Luck 2,259,196 1,244,707 81.5 225 3 10,041 4,545,341 Warner Independent
13 Stay 2,188,199 1,684 1 1,299 2,188,199 Fox
14 Corpse Bride 1,910,316 3,577,465 -46.6 1,702 6 1,122 50,534,702 Warner Bros.
15 Waiting 1,553,539 2,991,569 -48.1 1,048 3 1,482 14,538,300 Lions Gate
16 The Gospel 1,448,763 3,118,704 -53.5 866 3 1,673 14,121,382 Sony
17 Serenity 1,051,095 2,443,870 -57.0 887 4 1,185 24,177,785 Universal
18 The Greatest Game Ever Played 1,045,148 2,196,956 -52.4 1,017 4 1,028 14,066,869 Buena Vista
19 The 40-Year-Old Virgin 623,715 1,025,870 -39.2 462 10 1,350 107,010,258 Universal
20 Capote 614,527 363,876 68.9 52 4 11,818 2,185,181 Sony Classics
Top 5 $ 46,339,337 $ 46,497,108 -0.3
Top 10 65,670,952 66,149,981 -0.7
Top 20 80,640,981 81,954,469 -1.6
Top 20 vs. 2004 80,640,981 101,841,772 -20.8

Last Updated : October 24, 2005 at 8:45PM EDT