Weekend Box Office (November 5 - 7, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND A family of animated superheroes powered the North American box office to its best performance since July as The Incredibles opened with super strength at number one lifting the rest of the marketplace up with it. Holdovers all performed well and the only blemish came from the new Jude Law comedy Alfie which opened poorly in fifth place.

Disney and Pixar made magic once again with their sixth computer-animated feature The Incredibles which topped the charts debuting to an extraordinary $70.5M, according to final studio figures. The PG-rated tale of a retired family of superheroes returning to saving the world averaged a muscular $17,917 from 3,933 theaters. The debut inched past Finding Nemo's $70.3M as the best opening ever for the two companies. Featuring the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, and Samuel L. Jackson, The Incredibles drew rave reviews from most critics and was the first PG-rated film from Pixar.

The opening for The Incredibles stands as the fourth biggest premiere for a superhero film (after Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, and X2), the third best bow of November (trailing the first two Harry Potter pics), and the second largest debut for an animated movie (behind Shrek 2). It also was the sixth film of the past twelve months to open north of $70M. Four of the five others went on to domestic hauls of more than $370M each.

Budgeted at $92M, The Incredibles will face a new nemesis during each of the next two weekends. On Wednesday, Warner Bros. opens its Tom Hanks-Robert Zemeckis computer-animated collaboration The Polar Express which aims right at family audiences with a Christmas tale. The following weekend, Paramount unleashes The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie based on the wildly popular Nickelodeon cartoon series. Pixar's seventh and final movie with estranged spouse Disney is Cars which is slated to open this same weekend next November, two weeks ahead of the next Harry Potter pic.

Holding steady in second place with a solid sophomore frame was Universal's Ray with $13.6M. Off only 32%, the Jamie Foxx pic took advantage of 457 additional theaters averaging $5,540 from 2,463 locations. The average dropped 45% from last weekend. With $39.6M in the bank, Ray looks on course for $75-80M at the box office.

After frightening moviegoers at number one for two weeks, Sony's The Grudge slipped to third place with $12.7M boosting the total to a terrifying $88.8M in only 17 days. Sarah Michelle Gellar showed great legs once again as the PG-13 film slipped only 42% on its way to easily joining the $100M club. With a sequel to the $10M Japanese remake already in the works, The Grudge looks to give Sony a lucrative new horror franchise. The thriller also generated a strong opening in the U.K. this weekend with an estimated $4.1M including previews.

Fellow horror flick Saw did well in its second attack grossing $11.1M, down only 39%, for a ten-day tally of $35.4M. The gritty fright flick has already grossed over $12M from the U.K. after five weeks in the top ten and also has a sequel being developed. Domestically, Saw looks to give Lions Gate a gross of $60-65M.

Jude Law failed his box office test this weekend anchoring the Paramount release Alfie which opened to a disappointing $6.2M. Averaging a weak $2,807 from 2,215 locations, the R-rated remake about a bed-hopping playboy in Manhattan played mostly to adult women as expected. Studio research showed that 69% of the audience was female and 69% was over the age of 25. Reviews were mixed for Alfie which proved that Law has a long way to go before he can open a picture on his own. The $60M film has performed better in the U.K. where it spent two weeks at number two and has grossed over $8M after its third weekend. Alfie will immediately face direct competition in both markets this coming weekend when the new Bridget Jones sequel opens on both sides of the Atlantic.

Enjoying the smallest decline in the top ten was Miramax's romantic drama Shall We Dance? which dipped just 10% to $5.7M for a cume to date of $42.1M. DreamWorks witnessed a 39% drop for Shark Tale representing a good hold given the arrival of competing computer-drawn toon The Incredibles. The underwater comedy grossed $4.6M in its sixth swim for a $154M tally overall.

Universal's football drama Friday Night Lights followed with $3M, off 27%, for a $57.3M cume. Ladder 49 grossed $2.7M for Buena Vista, down 18%, and lifted its total to $70M. Rounding out the top ten was Paramount's Team America: World Police which fell 40% to $1.9M for a $30.5M sum.

Two October comedies dropped out of the top ten this weekend. The Ben Affleck dud Surviving Christmas fell 47% to $1.3M and boosted its 17-day gross to only $10.3M. The DreamWorks entry should finish with a pathetic $13M. Fox's Taxi dropped 40% to $1.3M and put its take at $34.7M after one month. The Queen Latifah-Jimmy Fallon buddy flick should park with only $37M.

Fox Searchlight continued to see strong results for its wine-tasting comedy Sideways which expanded from 16 to 66 theaters in top markets and grossed $1M. Averaging a sparkling $15,873 per site, the Paul Giamatti pic has taken in $1.9M thus far and will widen to about 150 locations on Friday. Sideways will add screens the following weekend and aims to be in 900 theaters nationwide by Thanksgiving weekend.

The top ten films grossed $131.8M which was down 6% from last year when The Matrix Revolutions opened at number one with $48.5M; but up 5% from 2002 when 8 Mile debuted in the top spot with $51.2M.

Compared to projections, both The Incredibles and Alfie were on target with my respective predictions of $70M and $7M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the big animated films of November. In last week's survey, readers were asked how the opening of The Incredibles would compare to the debut of Finding Nemo. Of 1,764 responses, 44% correctly guessed Bigger while 56% said Smaller.

For NEW reviews of The Incredibles and Alfie, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Polar Express, Seed of Chucky, After the Sunset, and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason all open.

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

# Title Nov 5 - 7 Oct 29 - 31 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Incredibles $ 70,467,623 3,933 1 $ 17,917 $ 70,467,623 Buena Vista
2 Ray 13,644,990 20,039,730 -31.9 2,463 2 5,540 39,641,775 Universal
3 The Grudge 12,675,393 21,817,598 -41.9 3,336 3 3,800 88,755,563 Sony
4 Saw 11,093,169 18,276,468 -39.3 2,467 2 4,497 35,394,411 Lions Gate
5 Alfie 6,218,335 2,215 1 2,807 6,218,335 Paramount
6 Shall We Dance? 5,663,514 6,285,963 -9.9 2,542 4 2,228 42,144,287 Miramax
7 Shark Tale 4,555,382 7,502,096 -39.3 2,817 6 1,617 154,031,467 DreamWorks
8 Friday Night Lights 2,975,065 4,085,440 -27.2 2,110 5 1,410 57,256,950 Universal
9 Ladder 49 2,670,778 3,256,363 -18.0 1,670 6 1,599 69,977,816 Buena Vista
10 Team America: World Police 1,863,371 3,083,704 -39.6 1,702 4 1,095 30,464,862 Paramount
11 Birth 1,312,896 1,705,577 -23.0 550 2 2,387 3,686,096 New Line
12 Surviving Christmas 1,280,134 2,435,652 -47.4 1,519 3 843 10,284,750 DreamWorks
13 Taxi 1,269,652 2,106,136 -39.7 1,099 5 1,155 34,676,646 Fox
14 I Heart Huckabees 1,113,777 1,705,923 -34.7 585 6 1,904 10,234,914 Fox Searchlight
15 Sideways 1,047,607 404,605 158.9 66 3 15,873 1,917,590 Fox Searchlight
16 The Motorcycle Diaries 948,895 991,229 -4.3 268 7 3,541 10,646,467 Focus
17 The Forgotten 912,893 1,700,836 -46.3 882 7 1,035 66,017,594 Sony
18 Fade to Black 449,331 170 1 2,643 449,331 Par. Classics
19 Napoleon Dynamite 367,689 410,800 -10.5 271 22 1,357 42,429,616 Fox Searchlight
20 Being Julia 340,286 305,324 11.5 104 4 3,272 1,238,163 Sony Classics
Top 5 $ 114,099,510 $ 73,921,855 54.4
Top 10 131,827,620 88,889,150 48.3
Top 20 140,870,780 97,127,480 45.0
Top 20 vs. 2003 140,870,780 149,415,672 -5.7

Last Updated : November 8, 2004 at 6:00PM EST

Gitesh Pandya can be seen each Friday on "The Biz" airing live at 12:30pm ET on CNNfn with a replay at 4:30pm.