Weekend Box Office (November 9 - 11, 2007)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Three new releases failed to steal attention away from last weekend's top two films which continued to rule the North American box office swapping chart positions in the process. Jerry Seinfeld's animated hit Bee Movie enjoyed the better hold and jumped into first place while the Denzel Washington-Russell Crowe crime drama American Gangster suffered a moderate decline and slipped down to the runnerup position. Ticket buyers have spent a stunning $152M on the duo over the past ten days. Among newcomers, the Christmas comedy Fred Claus starring Vince Vaughn generated respectable results while Tom Cruise suffered his worst opening in twenty-one years with the political drama Lions For Lambs which finshed a weak fourth for the frame. The overall marketplace struggled once again as for the first time in five years, a November top ten failed to break the $100M mark.

Paramount and DreamWorks missed out on a top spot debut last weekend with their new toon Bee Movie, but this time they managed to grab the number one slot. The PG-rated film slipped 33% and collected $25.6M, according to final studio estimates, boosting the ten-day tally to a robust $71.8M. Though a good hold, especially with the opening of rival family flick Fred Claus, the decline was somewhat larger than the drops of other recent animated kidpics that bowed on the first weekend of November. Last year, Flushed Away dipped by only 12%, 2005's Chicken Little slid just 21%, and 2004's The Incredibles dropped 29%. The Veterans Day holiday was observed on a Friday last year giving a large number of school children a day off which helped deliver the sensational hold of Flushed. This year, the holiday is observed on Monday when Bee is still expected to score solid results. Look for the insect pic to reach the neighborhood of $120M domestically with international prospects also looking rosy.

Dropping an understandable 45% to second place was former champ American Gangster with $24M in its sophomore frame. After only ten days, Universal has shot up a remarkable $80.4M and has already surpassed the total grosses of most of Washington's previous films. Gangster currently ranks as the fifth biggest Denzel pic ever behind Remember the Titans ($115.6M), The Pelican Brief ($100.8M), Crimson Tide ($91.4M), and Inside Man ($88.5M). . The Ridley Scott-directed drama also stands as the fourth highest grossing film in Russell Crowe's career after Gladiator ($187.7M), A Beautiful Mind ($170.7M), and Master and Commander ($93.9M). At its current pace, American Gangster should find its way to $130-140M from North America making it the studio's third biggest hit of 2007 after The Bourne Ultimatum and Knocked Up. End-of-year awards attention could send it higher though.

Opening in third place was the Christmas comedy Fred Claus which took in $18.5M from an ultrawide release in 3,603 locations. Averaging a mediocre $5,139 per site, the PG-rated flick about Santa's older brother stars Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti and played to a family audience. The Warner Bros. release is one of only two films this year to launch in more than 3,500 theaters and fail to gross at least $30M on opening weekend. The other was the animated penguin pic Surf's Up which debuted to $17.6M in June. Instead, Fred performed in line with last November's yuletide laugher The Santa Clause 3 which bowed to $19.5M on its way to a $84.5M final.

Tom Cruise suffered one of the worst opening weekends of his career with the poor turnout for his political drama Lions For Lambs which stumbled into fourth place with $6.7M. The R-rated pic also stars Meryl Streep and Robert Redford who directs as well. Lions averaged a feeble $3,026 from 2,215 theaters and was panned by most critics. Despite the starpower, bad reviews and the subject matter which dealt with war in the Middle East helped to repel paying customers.

Excluding 1999's Magnolia in which Cruise had a supporting role, Lions attracted the smallest debut for the actor since Ridley Scott's Legend which opened with just $4.3M in 1986. It also ended the star's streak of thirteen consecutive number one openings over fifteen years and is guaranteed to stop his industry-leading streak of seven straight years of having $100M+ grossers. The Redford project marked the first film for United Artists which is now run by Cruise and producing partner Paula Wagner. Parent company MGM took distribution duties in North America with Fox handling the release in the rest of the world where the film also launched this weekend to mixed results.

In its third weekend, the Steve Carell dramedy Dan in Real Life dipped only 24% to $6M and lifted its total to a respectable $30.8M for Buena Vista. The horror sequel Saw IV tumbled 52% to $4.9M putting its sum at $58M for Lionsgate. Family hit The Game Plan took in $2.5M, off 37%, and reached $85.5M making it the top-grossing film since the summer movie season ended. The horror flick 30 Days of Night grossed $2.2M, down 42%, and placed ninth. Cume is $37.4M for Sony.

The woman-in-peril thriller P2 debuted poorly in ninth with $2.1M from 2,131 locations for a pitiful $978 average. The R-rated film about a workaholic stalked by a killer in a parking garage on Christmas Eve is the first release from Summit Entertainment which was testing its distribution operation ahead of its real slate of films which will hit theaters in 2008.

New Line's John Cusack drama Martian Child fell 45% in its second weekend to $1.8M. The New Line release has collected only $6.1M in ten days and should end up with a weak $9-10M.

Miramax generated a sizzling debut for No Country For Old Men, the newest film from the Coen Brothers. The R-rated entry grossed $1.2M while playing in only 28 theaters for a sensational average of $43,798 per site. Co-produced by Paramount Vantage, the Javier Bardem-Josh Brolin-Tommy Lee Jones starrer will expand to more markets on Friday.

Three modestly-budgeted films were bumped out of the top ten this weekend. George Clooney's acclaimed legal drama Michael Clayton dipped 39% to $1.7M bringing its cume to a decent $35.6M. The $22M film should find its way to about $40M for Warner Bros., but has the chance to go higher if it scores some major award nominations.

Tyler Perry's latest hit Why Did I Get Married? grossed $1.5M, off 44%, and boosted its total to an impressive $53.1M. The profitable $15M Lionsgate title looks to end with roughly $57M. It's been a tougher road for Miramax's crime drama Gone Baby Gone which took in $1.4M, down 35%, giving Ben Affleck's directorial debut only $17M to date. Produced for $19M, the Casey Affleck-Morgan Freeman drama should end its run with about $22M.

The top ten films grossed $94.3M which was down 11% from last year when Borat remained in first place with $28.3M; and down 12% from 2005 when Chicken Little stayed in the top spot with $31.7M.

Compared to projections, Fred Claus opened below my $28M forecast while Lions For Lambs debuted a couple of notches less than my $10M prediction. P2 was close to my $3M projection.

For a NEW review of Lions For Lambs visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Beowulf, Love in the Time of Cholera, and Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium all open.

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

# Title Nov 9 - 11 Nov 2 - 4 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Bee Movie $ 25,565,462 $ 38,021,044 -32.8 3,944 2 $ 6,482 $ 71,779,597 Paramount
2 American Gangster 24,028,445 43,565,135 -44.8 3,059 2 7,855 80,388,420 Universal
3 Fred Claus 18,515,473 3,603 1 5,139 18,515,473 Warner Bros.
4 Lions For Lambs 6,702,434 2,215 1 3,026 6,702,434 MGM
5 Dan in Real Life 6,002,717 7,870,196 -23.7 1,941 3 3,093 30,809,056 Buena Vista
6 Saw IV 4,949,812 10,348,646 -52.2 2,904 3 1,704 58,026,020 Lionsgate
7 The Game Plan 2,462,122 3,931,491 -37.4 2,161 7 1,139 85,466,069 Buena Vista
8 30 Days of Night 2,172,031 3,741,763 -42.0 1,696 4 1,281 37,430,374 Sony
9 P2 2,083,398 2,131 1 978 2,083,398 Summit
10 Martian Child 1,843,767 3,376,669 -45.4 2,020 2 913 6,106,881 New Line
11 Om Shanti Om 1,764,131 114 1 15,475 1,764,131 Eros
12 Michael Clayton 1,697,456 2,785,133 -39.1 1,150 6 1,476 35,631,903 Warner Bros.
13 Why Did I Get Married? 1,462,891 2,604,119 -43.8 908 5 1,611 53,148,319 Lionsgate
14 Gone Baby Gone 1,444,394 2,237,915 -35.5 957 4 1,509 17,044,169 Miramax
15 No Country For Old Men 1,226,333 28 1 43,798 1,226,333 Miramax
16 Into the Wild 1,105,004 1,290,062 -14.3 590 8 1,873 12,548,052 Par. Vantage
17 Bella 916,441 1,071,150 -14.4 277 3 3,308 3,780,932 Roadside Attractions
18 Across the Universe 901,303 1,207,449 -25.4 582 9 1,549 22,404,372 Sony
19 The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D 881,033 1,525,403 -42.2 473 4 1,863 14,119,095 Buena Vista
20 The Darjeeling Limited 880,366 1,220,484 -27.9 386 7 2,281 9,363,319 Fox Searchlight
Top 5 $ 80,814,531 $ 103,736,512 -22.1
Top 10 94,325,661 118,482,111 -20.4
Top 20 106,605,013 129,484,153 -17.7
Top 20 vs. 2006 106,605,013 120,927,633 -11.8

Last Updated: November 12, 2007 at 10:00PM ET

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