Weekend Box Office (November 16 - 18, 2007)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Paramount reigned supreme at the North American box office as its animated adventure tale Beowulf seized the number one spot in its opening weekend while the studio's other toon Bee Movie finished in second place in its third frame. But the overall marketplace remained troubled posting ticket sales that were more like October numbers than like the typically robust figures seen in November. In fact, the top ten films combined for just over $90M making it the worst showing in nine years for the weekend before Thanksgiving.

The 3D computer-animated actioner Beowulf collected $27.5M over the Friday-to-Sunday period, according to final studio figures, becoming the top choice of movie fans this weekend. Attacking 3,153 theaters, the PG-13 film averaged a strong $8,727 per location for Paramount which scored its seventh number one hit of 2007. The Robert Zemeckis-directed picture used motion capture technology to tell the story of a Viking warrior who saves a kingdom from demonic beasts. Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, and Angelina Jolie contributed their voices and likenesses. Reviews were generally favorable.

Beowulf was the widest opener ever for a 3D film with over 700 of the venues offering the adventure in the high-tech format. The Real D format accounted for 638 of the locations (20% of the total) and roughly $8M (29%) of the weekend gross. Several dozen Imax sites also played the 3D version while traditional theaters played the 2D one. According to studio research the audience was 60% male and was split evenly between those over and under the age of 25.

Warner Bros. co-financed the $150M project and opened Beowulf in several international territories day-and-date with the domestic bow. The ancient epic grossed $17.3M overseas from 2,500 screens in 13 markets for a global opening of $44.8M. It enjoyed solid second-place debuts in the United Kingdom and Germany and rang up number one bows in many Asian markets like Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand, and Singapore. Beowulf invades France, Russia, Spain, and Mexico later this week and attacks Australia, Brazil, and Japan on the following weekend.

Paramount also claimed the silver medal with another toon, the Jerry Seinfeld hit Bee Movie, which dropped 45% to $14M in its third outing. After 17 days of release, the PG-rated kidpic has amassed $93.6M from just under 4,000 theaters and could be headed for $130-140M by the end of its domestic run.

The one-two punch of Beowulf and Bee marked the first time in three years that animated films occupied the top two positions at the box office. The last occurrence was over the November 12-14, 2004 frame when The Incredibles remained number one with a mighty $50.3M in its sophomore session and Zemeckis' The Polar Express opened in second with $23.3M. Only two other times this year has one studio claimed the top two films. Warner Bros. ruled the March 23-25 weekend with TMNT and 300 while a few weeks later Paramount reigned with Disturbia and Blades of Glory.

Despite the studio's killer B's leading the box office, the overall marketplace was in bad shape which does not bode well for the end of what has been a record year. The top ten films have now failed to break the $100M mark over back-to-back weekends during the normally busy month of November. This has not occurred during this month since 2000. Also, the weekend before Thanksgiving is routinely used by Hollywood studios to launch some of their biggest holiday season blockbusters. Beowulf generated the worst opening for a number one film over this high-profile frame in nine years. Clearly the box office is lacking strength right now and moviegoers are losing excitement over the current menu of films that studios have served up. To make things worse, the next two weekends lack any film expected to see explosive sales.

American Gangster shot up another $12.9M in ticket stubs and raised its 17-day cume to $100.7M. Off 46%, the Denzel Washington-Russell Crowe hit became the 21st film of 2007 to break the century mark and the fifth for Universal which leads all studios. Warner Bros, Fox, Buena Vista, and Sony have all claimed three such blockbusters each this year with Paramount close to joining them when Bee Movie crosses the barrier later this week. Gangster should head towards $130-140M domestically.

In Europe, the Ridley Scott-helmed crime saga began generating heat with number one openings in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Belgium, Portugal, and Switzerland for an international weekend haul of $14M from 1,471 theaters in 14 markets. In the U.K., Gangster went head to head against the debut of Beowulf and beat it by 13%.

Vince Vaughn's Christmas comedy Fred Claus fared well in its second weekend losing only 36% of its business and grossed $11.9M for fourth place. The Warner Bros. title has collected $35.7M in ten days and with the lucrative Thanksgiving holiday session around the corner, could go on to bank $70-80M from North America.

Fox attracted mediocre numbers for its new kidpic Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium which opened in fifth with $9.6M from 3,164 sites. The G-rated tale starring Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman averaged a mild $3,044 per theater. Reviews were mostly negative and competing family films from a busy bee and Santa's brother provided ample competition for the target audience.

For the third straight weekend, Steve Carell's film Dan in Real Life enjoyed the smallest drop in the top ten as the Buena Vista release continued to benefit from solid word-of-mouth. The romantic comedy dipped only 28% to $4.3M in its fourth frame and pushed its total up to $36.9M. A $50M final could result.

The latest offering from the Coen brothers No Country For Old Men expanded into wider release and posted sensational numbers allowing it to enter the top ten at number seven while still only playing in 148 theaters. The R-rated thriller starring Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin grossed $3.1M for a scorching $20,782 average lifting the total to $4.9M from limited play. Strong reviews, good word-of-mouth, and a loyal fan following for the filmmaking duo helped to keep Country going strong. On Wednesday, Miramax will go nationwide by widening the pic to about 800 locations giving upscale adult audiences something meaty for the turkey frame. Paramount Vantage co-financed the pic.

Tumbling 57% in its sophomore frame, the political snoozer Lions For Lambs fell to eighth with $2.9M giving the MGM release a wimpy $11.6M in ten days. Produced for $35M, the Robert Redford-Meryl Streep-Tom Cruise vehicle should end its run with about half its budget in domestic grosses. Poor reviews and off-putting subject matter negated the starpower that the film tried to rely on for commercial success. Redford will have the honor of directing Cruise's lowest-grossing movie since Legend which took in a mere $15.5M in 1986. Factoring in inflation over the superstar's quarter-century career, Lions For Lambs will end up selling the second fewest number of tickets for Tom Cruise beating only 1983's Losin' It which found most of its audience on VHS tapes and late-night cable television airings.

The horror sequel Saw IV fell 55% to $2.2M in its fourth weekend and lifted its cume to $61.8M. Look for a $66M final gross putting it ahead of Saw's $55.2M from 2004, but behind the $87M of Saw II and the $80.2M of last year's Saw III. Together the four torture flicks will reach $288M in combined domestic grosses with another installment in the works.

It's a rare weekend when Javier Bardem stars in two films that reach the top ten, but the acclaimed actor also saw his romantic drama Love in the Time of Cholera debut in the ten spot with $1.9M. Panned by critics, the R-rated pic averaged a poor $2,259 from 852 locations for New Line. Thanks to Cholera, the box office has now seen wide releases bow to averages of less than $2,500 during nine of the last ten frames.

Despite mixed reviews from critics, the Nicole Kidman-Jennifer Jason Leigh drama Margot at the Wedding opened to muscular numbers in its platform bow in Manhattan with $81,035 from two locations for a sizzling $40,518 average. Paramount Vantage will expand the R-rated dysfunctional family drama into 35 theaters in the top dozen markets across North America.

Four films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Disney's hit family comedy The Game Plan was the top-grossing picture during the September-October corridor and fell 51% to $1.2M. With a robust $87.4M to date, the sports flick should finish with just over $90M matching The Rock's biggest film in a leading role - $90.5M for 2002's The Scorpion King. Summit's fright flick P2 tumbled 59% in its sophomore session to $851,387. With a weak $3.6M in ten days, the suspense title should conclude its run with only $5M.

Sony's $30M vampire thriller 30 Days of Night has grossed $39.1M to date and looks headed for a finish of just north of $40M. New Line's John Cusack flop Martian Child crashed 74% to $482,672 for a $7.2M sum. Don't expect the cume to get much higher than $8M.

The top ten films grossed $90.4M which was down a troubling 30% from last year when Happy Feet opened in first place with $41.5M; and down a disturbing 46% from 2005 when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire debuted in the top spot with $102.3M.

Compared to projections, Beowulf opened a couple of notches below my $32M forecast while both Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium and Love in the Time of Cholera were close to my respective predictions of $11M and $3M.

For NEW reviews of Beowulf and Nina's Heavenly Delights, and DVD reviews of Shrek the Third and The Santa Clause 3, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Wednesday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Hitman, Enchanted, The Mist, This Christmas, and August Rush all open for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

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

# Title Nov 16 - 18 Nov 9 - 11 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Beowulf $ 27,515,871 3,153 1 $ 8,727 $ 27,515,871 Paramount
2 Bee Movie 14,008,444 25,565,462 -45.2 3,984 3 3,516 93,570,695 Paramount
3 American Gangster 12,875,250 24,028,445 -46.4 3,110 3 4,140 100,650,615 Universal
4 Fred Claus 11,914,323 18,515,473 -35.7 3,603 2 3,307 35,712,980 Warner Bros.
5 Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium 9,630,085 3,164 1 3,044 9,630,085 Fox
6 Dan in Real Life 4,343,185 6,002,717 -27.6 1,901 4 2,285 36,931,806 Buena Vista
7 No Country For Old Men 3,075,722 1,226,333 150.8 148 2 20,782 4,907,572 Miramax
8 Lions For Lambs 2,896,594 6,702,434 -56.8 2,216 2 1,307 11,584,339 MGM
9 Saw IV 2,248,805 4,949,812 -54.6 2,097 4 1,072 61,766,718 Lionsgate
10 Love in the Time of Cholera 1,924,860 852 1 2,259 1,924,860 New Line
11 The Game Plan 1,205,957 2,462,122 -51.0 1,374 8 878 87,401,619 Buena Vista
12 Michael Clayton 1,037,020 1,697,456 -38.9 695 7 1,492 37,181,294 Warner Bros.
13 Bella 1,025,753 916,441 11.9 457 4 2,245 5,085,924 Roadside Attr.
14 30 Days of Night 938,612 2,172,031 -56.8 915 5 1,026 39,129,207 Sony
15 Into the Wild 862,534 1,105,004 -21.9 511 9 1,688 13,900,648 Par. Vantage
16 P2 851,387 2,083,398 -59.1 1,938 2 439 3,622,779 Summit
17 Gone Baby Gone 813,036 1,444,394 -43.7 530 5 1,534 18,407,770 Miramax
18 Why Did I Get Married? 800,835 1,462,891 -45.3 629 6 1,273 54,378,104 Lionsgate
19 Om Shanti Om 756,342 1,764,131 -57.1 114 2 6,635 2,892,773 Eros
20 Before the Devil Knows You're Dead 696,189 660,828 5.4 177 4 3,933 2,222,404 ThinkFilm
Top 5 $ 75,943,973 $ 80,814,531 -6.0
Top 10 90,433,139 94,325,661 -4.1
Top 20 99,420,804 106,605,013 -6.7
Top 20 vs. 2006 99,420,804 141,414,775 -29.7

Last Updated: November 19, 2007 at 8:00PM ET

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