Weekend Box Office (November 10 - 12, 2006)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND There was no stopping the Kazakh sensation Borat which expanded nationally after a stunning debut and remained at the top of the North American box office once again. In fact, the top three spots remained unchanged as ticket buyers ignored most of the new offerings aimed at them this weekend. Will Ferrell's new comedy Stranger Than Fiction posted a respectable opening, but Hollywood stars Russell Crowe and Sarah Michelle Gellar suffered some of the worst openings of their careers this weekend as their new films, A Good Year and The Return respectively, were both dead on arrival. The overall marketplace struggled to keep pace with previous years as for the first time since 1997, the first half of November failed to deliver a single film with a weekend gross of at least $30M.

Borat crushed its competitors for a second straight weekend as the raunchy docu-comedy expanded from 837 to 2,566 theaters and grossed a stellar $28.3M, according to final studio figures. By more than tripling its theater count, Fox put its hit into full nationwide release and actually saw its three-day take climb 10% over the debut frame. Borat's per-theater average understandably dropped by two-thirds this weekend to a still strong $11,017. The ten-day cume stands at an amazing $67.1M and at its current pace, the $18M movie-film could find its way to the $140M mark from the domestic market alone.

Thanks to a wave of media hype this fall, the Sacha Baron Cohen creation has become a national phenomenon and is already make benefit from glorious word-of-mouth and repeat business, according to the studio. Holdover theaters witnessed drops of about 30% from last weekend which is encouraging as it moves forward to fight off James Bond and other holiday pics armed with a war chest full of marketing dollars. Borat has become the first film to spend back-to-back weekends at number one since the football drama Invincible which opened in August, and has generated the best ten-day start of any movie since the Will Ferrell blockbuster Talladega Nights which also co-starred Cohen. Both comedies saw their main stars appearing on talk shows in-character to generate publicity.

Holding steady in the runnerup spot was Disney's Christmas flick The Santa Clause 3 which dipped only 13% to $16.9M. After ten days, the Tim Allen sequel has grossed $41.1M putting it behind the pace of the last installment in the franchise. In 2002, The Santa Clause 2 also bowed on the first weekend of November and dropped 15% to $24.7M in its sophomore session. Its ten-day cume of $60M repped 43% of its eventual $139.2M gross. Clause 3 looks to be on course to erode at a similar pace which would allow it to reach the vicinity of $90M.

Also staying put for a second weekend was the animated comedy Flushed Away which remained in third place with $16.6M. Off only 12%, the Paramount release has upped its cume to $39.8M and remains just a step behind Santa. With better buzz and a slightly slimmer decline, Flushed could also reach the same region and conclude its run near the $90M level.

Santa and Flushed opened last weekend and split the family audience almost evenly with only a $700,000 difference in their weekend debuts. This frame, the gap was cut down to only $300,000. Per-theater averages were also close with Santa averaging $4,895 from 3,458 and Flushed averaging $4,480 from 3,707 sites. But both films will face stiff competition on Friday when Warner Bros. goes after the exact same crowd with its heavily-hyped penguin toon Happy Feet which has been backed by a sizable marketing push.

Will Ferrell's newest comedy Stranger Than Fiction led the frame's new releases and bowed in fourth place with $13.4M from 2,264 theaters. Averaging a solid $5,924, the PG-13 film about a man who discovers his life is being narrated by an author earned good reviews and co-starred Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. The production budget for the Sony release was under $30M. According to studio data, Fiction's audience was 55% female while 53% were under 30. As a smart comedy aimed at young adults, the film did not open like Ferrell's bigger smashes like Talladega Nights ($47M), but it does hope to have good legs.

The horror sequel Saw III fell hard once again dropping 53% in its third weekend to $7M pushing the 17-day cume to $70.3M. The third installment in the popular torture franchise is running a bit behind the pace of last year's Saw II which enjoyed a third-weekend take of $9.1M for a total of $73.9M over the same number of days.

After two successful weeks in limited release, Paramount Vantage's cross-continent drama Babel expanded nationally to mixed results with $5.6M. The Brad Pitt-Cate Blanchett pic averaged a decent $4,443 from 1,251 locations and raised its sum to $7.4M. Last weekend, Babel grossed just under $1M from 35 theaters for a potent $26,264 average, but arthouse films don't always remain powerful after expanding into all regions of North America.

Martin Scorsese's The Departed took in $5.2M in its sixth mission, down 33%, giving Warner Bros. $109.7M to date. With nearly $60M overseas, the Leonardo DiCaprio-Matt Damon cop drama sits at close to $170M worldwide and counting. The magician pic The Prestige followed with $4.8M, off 36%, for a $46.2M cume to date for Buena Vista.

Opening close behind in ninth place was the horror pic The Return with $4.5M from 1,984 theaters for a weak $2,258 average. For Sarah Michelle Gellar, the PG-13 film's debut represented her second worst opening ever in a lead role after 1999's Simply Irresistible with $2.2M. Focus Features was the distributor.

Like Gellar, Russell Crowe also bombed with his new entry. The romantic comedy A Good Year bowed to just $3.7M averaging a poor $1,801 per theater from 2,066 sites. Fox's PG-13 pic barely entered the top ten as Crowe suffered his worst opening since Mystery, Alaska's $3.1M launch in 1999. Like so many other fall films targeting mature adults, Year just did not have room to breathe and flopped instantly. Poor reviews also hurt the Ridley Scott-directed picture which played mostly to older women.

Another new release that failed to excite paying customers was MGM's action thriller Harsh Times which debuted outside of the top ten with $2M from 956 locations. Averaging a sluggish $2,059 per site, the R-rated pic finds Christian Bale playing a bad cop on the streets of South Central.

Four films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Clint Eastwood's war saga Flags of Our Fathers grossed $2.8M falling 36% in its fourth attack. The $90M Paramount release has amassed only $31M to date and looks headed for an underwhelming $38-40M finish. Miramax's awards contender The Queen continued to expand, but faced the first weekend decline of its seven-week run. The Helen Mirren film collected $2.7M from 484 venues for a decent $5,607 average. The Queen was playing in 387 theaters last week and bumped its cume to $13.9M while its average declined by 29%.

Sony's hit toon Open Season tumbled 53% to $1.4M. With $83.5M in the bank, the $85M film should end its season with around $86M. Just a week away from giving audiences a dual voice role in the Warner Bros. toon Happy Feet, funnyman Robin Williams saw his political comedy Man of the Year pass the $36M mark. A final tally of just under $40M seems likely for the not-so-stellar Universal title.

The top ten films grossed $105.9M which was off 1% from last year when Chicken Little remained at number one with $31.7M; and down 19% from 2004 when The Incredibles stayed in the top spot with $50.3M.

Compared to projections, Stranger Than Fiction opened close to my $16M forecast while The Return bowed below my $8M prediction. A Good Year debuted with less than half of my $8M projection but Harsh Times was close to my $3M forecast.

Be sure to check back on Monday for final figures and again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Casino Royale, Happy Feet, and Let's Go To Prison all open.

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# Title Nov 10 - 12 Nov 3 - 5 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Borat $ 28,269,900 $ 26,455,463 6.9 2,566 2 $ 11,017 $ 67,111,765 Fox
2 The Santa Clause 3 16,927,004 19,504,038 -13.2 3,458 2 4,895 41,086,409 Buena Vista
3 Flushed Away 16,606,526 18,814,323 -11.7 3,707 2 4,480 39,827,295 Paramount
4 Stranger Than Fiction 13,411,093 2,264 1 5,924 13,411,093 Sony
5 Saw III 6,984,377 14,805,871 -52.8 3,013 3 2,318 70,263,820 Lionsgate
6 Babel 5,558,095 919,235 504.6 1,251 3 4,443 7,395,357 Par. Vantage
7 The Departed 5,164,480 7,722,388 -33.1 2,210 6 2,337 109,702,938 Warner Bros.
8 The Prestige 4,778,175 7,505,268 -36.3 2,236 4 2,137 46,185,205 Buena Vista
9 The Return 4,479,621 1,984 1 2,258 4,479,621 Focus
10 A Good Year 3,721,526 2,066 1 1,801 3,721,526 Fox
11 Flags of Our Fathers 2,811,575 4,419,657 -36.4 1,963 4 1,432 30,950,950 Paramount
12 The Queen 2,714,119 2,909,966 -6.7 484 7 5,608 13,898,021 Miramax
13 Harsh Times 1,968,505 956 1 2,059 1,968,505 MGM
14 Man of the Year 1,567,525 3,665,580 -57.2 1,552 5 1,010 36,491,555 Universal
15 Open Season 1,408,227 2,968,832 -52.6 1,122 7 1,255 83,512,193 Sony
16 Flicka 1,240,260 2,702,185 -54.1 1,235 4 1,004 19,557,884 Fox
17 Marie Antoinette 1,151,617 2,212,839 -48.0 705 4 1,633 14,884,207 Sony
18 The Guardian 784,487 1,634,107 -52.0 626 7 1,253 53,568,333 Buena Vista
19 The Marine 705,576 1,037,924 -32.0 521 5 1,354 17,945,427 Fox
20 Facing the Giants 674,945 698,294 -3.3 363 7 1,859 8,228,713 Goldwyn
Top 5 $ 82,198,900 $ 87,302,083 -5.8
Top 10 105,900,797 108,771,386 -2.6
Top 20 120,927,633 123,471,867 -2.1
Top 20 vs. 2005 120,927,633 120,065,664 0.7

Last Updated : November 13, 2006 at 5:00PM ET

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