Weekend Box Office (November 4 - 6, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND After struggling for much of 2005, Buena Vista and Universal each generated its biggest opening of the year with the launches of the animated kidpic Chicken Little and the war drama Jarhead which captured the top spots at the North American box office. Overall ticket sales surged to their best level since mid-July as the promising November frame closed the door on a forgettable October.

Disney got off to a wonderful start for its G-rated computer-generated toon Chicken Little which opened to an $40M over the weekend, according to final numbers. Playing in 3,654 theaters, the Zach Braff-voiced comedy averaged a stellar $10,961 per location. For the studio, it was a chance to show former partner Pixar that while it may not have the muscle yet to reach the heights of Finding Nemo or The Incredibles, which both bowed to over $70M, it is in fact ready to be a formidable player in the world of computer animation in the near future. Chicken Little beat out the $36M bow of Fox's digital toon Robots from last March, but did not reach the $47M neighborhood of the DreamWorks duo Madagascar and Shark Tale. With Veterans Day and Thanksgiving approaching, Disney is hoping for the type of longevity from Little that the studio's other recent early November family titles enjoyed reaching four to fives times their opening weekend grosses.

Universal invaded second place with one of the year's biggest surprises, the Gulf War saga Jarhead, which debuted to $27.7M. Doubling expectations, the R-rated pic starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Jamie Foxx averaged a sensational $11,500 per theater from 2,411 locations. That was the biggest opening weekend average for any wide release since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in mid-July. Directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty), the $72M production pulled in young men and played especially well in larger urban markets. Overlap with the frame's other new release was practically zero so both films had room to breathe and find their target audience. According to studio data, 52% of the crowd was over 25 and 57% was male. A strong marketing effort on the part of Universal helped to distinguish the Marine film from any other choice in the marketplace.

Last week's top film Saw II dropped 47% to $16.8M and witnessed a sophomore decline that was unusually low for a horror sequel. The Lions Gate pic has chopped up $60.1M in just ten days and has already surpassed the $55.2M total gross of last fall's Saw. Saw II may find its way to $95-100M.

Sony's adventure sequel The Legend of Zorro followed in fourth with $10M, off 39%, for a $30.3M cume. The Antonio Banderas-Catherine Zeta-Jones pic is also doing much better internationally where it is the market leader and has taken in $90.4M worldwide in ten days. The $75M production should reach a domestic tally of about $55M which would trail the $93.8M gross of 1998's The Mask of Zorro.

Another sophomore, Universal's comedy Prime, followed in fifth with a remarkable hold collecting $5.1M. Dipping a mere 17%, the Meryl Streep-Uma Thurman film has taken in $13.3M in ten days and could be headed for $28-30M. DreamWorks saw $4.8M for its family drama Dreamer, down only 22%, for a $23.8M cume after its third frame.

Jumping into the top ten for the first time was George Clooney's McCarthy era drama Good Night, and Good Luck which grossed $3M after expanding nationally from 272 to 657 locations. The average of $4,667 per theater remained solid as the total climbed to $11M. Nicolas Cage's The Weather Man dipped 32% to $2.8M for a weak sum of $8.6M for Paramount.

Buena Vista saw its Steve Martin-Claire Danes comedy Shopgirl widen from 42 to 493 theaters and leap into the top ten with $2.5M. The love triangle pic averaged a strong $5,113 per location and will continue to expand throughout November. Cume stands at $3.5M. The Mouse House's hit thriller Flightplan hovered in the top ten for one more week claiming the ten spot once again. The Jodie Foster actioner took in $2.3M, off a slim 16%, and raised its total to $84.4M.

Four fall films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Charlize Theron's latest entry North Country fell 39% to $2.1M for a $15.6M total. The Warner Bros. mining saga should conclude with a disappointing $20M. DreamWorks saw a 51% drop for its claymation flick Wallace & Gromit which grossed $2.1M. With $52.8M in the bank, the kidpic should reach around $57M.

Universal's Doom tumbled 53% in its third attack to $1.9M boosting the cume to $26.4M. The $60M sci-fi actioner is set to end with an underwhelming $30M making it the lowest-grossing starring vehicle for The Rock.  Sony's horror remake The Fog declined 36% to $1.9M for a $28M total. An underwhelming $32M final should result.

The top ten films grossed $115M which was down 12% from last year when The Incredibles debuted at number one with $70.5M; and down 18% from 2003 when The Matrix Revolutions opened in the top spot with $48.5M.

Compared to projections, Chicken Little opened a bit higher than my $37M forecast while Jarhead almost doubled my $15M prediction.

For NEW reviews of Chicken Little and The Kumars at Number 42 DVD, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Monday night for final figures and again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Get Rich or Die Tryin', Zathura, and Derailed all open.

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

# Title Nov 4 - 6 Oct 28 - 30 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Chicken Little $ 40,049,778 3,654 1 $ 10,961 $ 40,049,778 Buena Vista
2 Jarhead 27,726,210 2,411 1 11,500 27,726,210 Universal
3 Saw II 16,853,399 31,725,652 -46.9 2,949 2 5,715 60,121,241 Lions Gate
4 The Legend of Zorro 10,023,822 16,328,506 -38.6 3,520 2 2,848 30,311,466 Sony
5 Prime 5,143,630 6,220,935 -17.3 1,837 2 2,800 13,336,830 Universal
6 Dreamer 4,794,741 6,132,856 -21.8 2,617 3 1,832 23,821,719 DreamWorks
7 Good Night, and Good Luck 3,066,046 2,003,682 53.0 657 5 4,667 10,972,902 Warner Independent
8 The Weather Man 2,870,706 4,248,465 -32.4 1,510 2 1,901 8,639,482 Paramount
9 Shopgirl 2,520,844 463,555 443.8 493 3 5,113 3,482,699 Buena Vista
10 Flightplan 2,290,690 2,727,697 -16.0 1,445 7 1,585 84,413,231 Buena Vista
11 North Country 2,152,420 3,560,238 -39.5 2,211 3 974 15,646,363 Warner Bros.
12 Wallace & Gromit 2,099,102 4,302,316 -51.2 2,278 5 921 52,824,214 DreamWorks
13 Doom 1,976,080 4,228,385 -53.3 1,983 3 997 26,411,105 Universal
14 The Fog 1,970,735 3,108,668 -36.6 1,669 4 1,181 28,001,610 Sony
15 Elizabethtown 1,633,235 2,382,813 -31.5 1,638 4 997 25,165,604 Paramount
16 In Her Shoes 1,104,007 1,717,152 -35.7 791 5 1,396 31,053,655 Fox
17 Capote 1,014,007 1,096,902 -7.6 183 6 5,541 4,947,670 Sony Classics
18 A History of Violence 814,257 1,351,883 -39.8 707 7 1,152 29,909,243 New Line
19 G 555,348 1,280,851 -56.6 450 5 1,234 2,719,963 Aloha
20 Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang 400,213 337,990 18.4 80 3 5,003 1,146,905 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 99,796,839 $ 64,710,265 54.2
Top 10 115,339,866 82,583,718 39.7
Top 20 129,059,270 95,102,031 35.7
Top 20 vs. 2004 129,059,270 140,870,780 -8.4

Last Updated : November 7, 2005 at 5:15PM EST