Weekend Box Office (October 28 - 30, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers craved blood and carnage on the weekend before Halloween driving the horror sequel Saw II to the top of the North American box office in its opening frame. Another new sequel, The Legend of Zorro, enjoyed a respectable debut in second place while the Meryl Streep pic Prime delivered a modest launch in third. The new choices did not drive the overall marketplace above year-ago levels, but they did close the gap which had been much wider over the last couple of weeks. The top ten managed to post its best cume in five weeks.

Lions Gate saw its biggest opening weekend ever with the launch of Saw II which sliced up $31.7M in its first weekend in theaters, according to final studio figures. The R-rated serial killer hit attacked 2,949 theaters and averaged a savage $10,758 per venue. Both the gross and the average easily beat out the numbers posted by the first Saw exactly one year ago when it opened to $18.3M and a $7,895 average. The first film became a cult hit grossing $55.2M in theaters and winning over new fans on DVD. This time, the number of ticket buyers excited enough to show up on opening weekend was much greater.

The powerful launch represented the best opening of any film in over three months when Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Wedding Crashers opened on the same frame to $56.2M and $33.9M, respectively. For Lions Gate, the tally beat out the $23.9M debut of last year's controversy magnet Fahrenheit 9/11 which had stood as the company's best opening until now. The Saw II opening even beat out all debuts from Artisan which was recently folded into Lions Gate. Plus, it was the second best bow of the year for an R-rated film (after Wedding Crashers) and the fifth biggest ever in the month of October.

Swinging into second place this weekend was the action adventure sequel The Legend of Zorro which opened with $16.3M. The PG-rated film reunited Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones with director Martin Campbell and averaged a healthy $4,639 from 3,520 theaters. In July 1998, The Mask of Zorro opened to $22.5M on its way to a stellar $93.8M domestic tally and $233M worldwide haul. Since then, both foreign-born actors have become bigger stars in Hollywood, however the franchise has aged.

This new Zorro had much of its aim on the overseas market as the $75M action pic debuted at number one in 40 countries this weekend with an additional $27M in ticket sales for a worldwide launch of $43.5M. According to studio data from Sony, Legend's audience was 53% age 25 or older and 54% female. Reviews were not very positive.

Uma Thurman and Meryl Streep debuted in third place with their new comedy Prime which bowed to $6.2M. Averaging a moderate $3,405 from 1,827 theaters, the Universal release about a divorced woman dating her therapist's son carried a PG-13 rating and received mixed reviews. Prime is the latest in a glut of films this fall all aimed at adult women. Most have underperformed.

DreamWorks added 484 theaters to the run of its Dakota Fanning horse drama Dreamer and took in $6.1M in its second weekend moving the total to $17.4M after ten days. The PG-rated film's gross dropped only 33% while its per-theater average fell 46% to $2,462. With Zorro and Dreamer distracting families, the claymation film Wallace & Gromit suffered its worst drop yet falling 50% to $4.3M. With $49.7M after its fourth frame, the DreamWorks entry should continue to face stiff competition with the opening of Disney's Chicken Little this Friday.

Nicolas Cage made a quiet debut in sixth place with The Weather Man which collected $4.2M from 1,510 theaters for a weak $2,814 average. The R-rated film about the troubled personal and professional life of a meteorologist played mostly to mature adults as 76% of the audience was age 25 or older while females made up 51%, according to studio data. Weather delivered the worst wide opening for Cage since the $2.7M bow of the 1994 comedy flop Trapped in Paradise.

Universal's video game-inspired action film Doom suffered one of the worst sophomore weekend falls in box office history collapsing by an astounding 73% to $4.2M. With just $23M in ten days, the R-rated sci-fi flick looks to finish with only $26-28M. That makes a for a disappointing figure given the $60M production budget for the Mars-set pic starring The Rock. With Saw II stealing away the exact same audience, and the genre's tendency to pull in most fans on the opening frame, a steep second weekend drop was expected. But erosion this fast is even beyond industry norms.

Fellow sophomore North Country witnessed a moderate 45% drop to $3.6M pushing the ten-day tally to $12.1M. A modest $21-23M final seems likely for the Charlize Theron pic. Sony's thriller The Fog fell 53% to $3.1M lifting the cume to $25.3M. Jodie Foster spent her sixth, and possibly last, weekend in the top ten with her suspense flick Flightplan which grossed $2.7M, down 42%, for a $81.3M total.

Four fall films with twentysomething totals dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Paramount's romantic comedy Elizabethtown tumbled 57% to $2.4M putting the cume at $22.7M. The $57M Cameron Crowe film stars Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst and should end its run with roughly $27M making it the director's lowest-grossing movie in thirteen years. Fox's Cameron Diaz comedy In Her Shoes grossed $1.7M, down 56%, giving the sister flick $29.2M to date. A $33M final should result.

New Line's mob drama A History of Violence has been quietly making some decent money at the box office. This weekend, the Ed Harris film dropped 50% to $1.4M for a $28.5M total. History should be remembered with around $31M overall. The Al Pacino-Matthew McConaughey sports betting flick Two for the Money has won only $22.2M to date. The $27M Universal dud should reach $24M.

Among films in limited release, Warner Independent Pictures saw another solid performance for its Edward R. Murrow pic Good Night, and Good Luck which grossed $2M from 272 locations (up 47) for a $7,366 average. The George Clooney-directed film has taken in $7.2M thus far and will expand to 550-600 playdates this Friday. The distributor also debuted its suicide bomber drama Paradise Now in just four houses but grossed $48,023 for an encouraging $12,006 per theater. Palestine's first official entry to the Oscars will widen to the top ten markets next weekend.

Aloha Releasing went wide with its hip hop romance thriller G which went from 8 to 495 theaters this weekend grossing $1.3M. Averaging $2,588 per site, the R-rated film upped its sum to $1.9M. Buena Vista expanded its Steve Martin pic Shopgirl from 8 to 42 sites and doubled its gross to $463,555 for a solid $11,037 average. Total stands at $775,200.

The top ten films grossed $82.6M which was down 7% from last year when The Grudge stayed at number one with $21.8M; and down 5% from 2003 when Scary Movie 3 remained in the top spot with $20M.

Compared to projections, Saw powered past my $22M forecast while The Legend of Zorro was very close to my $16M prediction. Both Prime and The Weather Man also debuted close to my projections of $6M and $5M, respectively.

For NEW reviews of Saw II and the Unleashed DVD, visit The Chief Report. Also, read the 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 Chicken Little and Jarhead both open nationwide.

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

# Title Oct 28 - 30 Oct 21 - 24 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Saw II $ 31,725,652 2,949 1 $ 10,758 $ 31,725,652 Lions Gate
2 The Legend of Zorro 16,328,506 3,520 1 4,639 16,328,506 Sony
3 Prime 6,220,935 1,827 1 3,405 6,220,935 Universal
4 Dreamer 6,132,856 9,178,233 -33.2 2,491 2 2,462 17,374,339 DreamWorks
5 Wallace & Gromit 4,302,316 8,584,304 -49.9 2,935 4 1,466 49,694,983 DreamWorks
6 The Weather Man 4,248,465 1,510 1 2,814 4,248,465 Paramount
7 Doom 4,228,385 15,488,870 -72.7 3,042 2 1,390 23,034,930 Universal
8 North Country 3,560,238 6,422,455 -44.6 2,555 2 1,393 12,109,718 Warner Bros.
9 The Fog 3,108,668 6,665,475 -53.4 2,587 3 1,202 25,311,280 Sony
10 Flightplan 2,727,697 4,724,629 -42.3 1,766 6 1,545 81,277,639 Buena Vista
11 Elizabethtown 2,382,813 5,600,000 -57.4 2,137 3 1,115 22,699,053 Paramount
12 Good Night, and Good Luck 2,003,682 2,259,196 -11.3 272 4 7,366 7,239,225 Warner Independent
13 In Her Shoes 1,717,152 3,885,189 -55.8 1,402 4 1,225 29,225,030 Fox
14 A History of Violence 1,351,883 2,699,962 -49.9 1,011 6 1,337 28,542,075 New Line
15 G 1,280,851 10,594 495 4 2,588 1,922,579 Aloha
16 Capote 1,096,902 614,527 78.5 165 5 6,648 3,492,551 Sony Classics
17 Corpse Bride 942,360 1,910,316 -50.7 1,176 7 801 51,905,641 Warner Bros.
18 Two For The Money 632,145 2,421,835 -73.9 629 4 1,005 22,151,385 Universal
19 The Gospel 623,898 1,448,763 -56.9 506 4 1,233 15,033,775 Sony
20 Stay 486,627 2,188,199 -77.8 1,684 2 289 3,349,167 Fox
Top 5 $ 64,710,265 $ 46,339,337 39.6
Top 10 82,583,718 65,670,952 25.8
Top 20 95,102,031 80,640,981 17.9
Top 20 vs. 2004 95,102,031 97,127,480 -2.1

Last Updated : October 31, 2005 at 9:00PM EST