Weekend Box Office (November 18 - 20, 2005)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Pre-teen wizards conjured up amazing box office magic as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth film in the wildly popular fantasy series, exploded in its opening weekend generating the largest debut ever for the franchise. The Johnny Cash film Walk the Line also enjoyed a solid launch while most holdovers in the top ten suffered heavy declines with most tumbling by more than 50% each. Overall, the marketplace delivered the second biggest weekend of the year behind only the Memorial Day holiday frame.

Warner Bros. flexed its muscles opening Goblet to a towering gross of $102.3M over the Friday-to-Sunday period, according to final studio figures, generating the fourth largest opening weekend in history. Playing in 3,858 theaters across North America, the latest adventure for the star pupil from Hogwarts averaged a scorching $26,525 per theater. Only three megahits have ever opened stronger - 2002's Spider-Man with $114.8M, this year's Star Wars Episode III with $108.4M, and last year's Shrek 2 with $108M. Until now, no film opening outside of May had ever debuted to over $100M. As with other wizard pics, Goblet played in well over 8,000 total screens. 66 Imax theaters also played the film grossing $2.8M, a new record for the large-screen format.

Goblet set new all-time box office records for the month of November and for the studio. This month's previous best opener was 2001's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone with $90.3M and the former Warner Bros. top bow was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with $93.7M in June 2004. The franchise's remaining film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, launched with $88.4M in November 2002. Principal photography begins in February for the next film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which is planned for a June 1, 2007 opening.

Goblet witnessed an opening weekend 13% larger than Sorcerer, 16% better than Chamber, and 9% bigger than Azkaban. Goblet dominated the North American box office accounting for an amazing 61% of all money spent on the top ten films.

The latest Potter pic also flew to number one in 19 international territories this weekend collecting $85.5M overseas. The United Kingdom led the way with a record $24.9M followed by Germany with $21.6M. Major markets such as Japan, Italy, Spain, and Brazil open next weekend with France and Australia to follow the following frame.

With Goblet, the series saw a darker storyline which warranted for the first time a PG-13 rating in the United States and a 12A certification in the U.K. Reviews were mostly very positive for the $130M production which was helmed by a new director, Mike Newell (Four Wedding and a Funeral, Mona Lisa Smile). Exit polls were very strong with over 90% of those polled calling the film "excellent" or "very good". This could bode well for the weeks ahead.

As with the first Potter pic, the five-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend falls on the film's sophomore frame so a colossal ten-day cume is guaranteed. Friday opened incredibly high with $39.8M, Saturday saw sales fall 8% to $36.7M, and Sunday dropped 30% to $25.8M.

The sheer power that the new Potter film displayed this weekend helped to bring Warner Bros. within striking distance of Fox which has held the studio market share crown since early summer when it launched Revenge of the Sith. Warners now trails by about $60M and could erase that gap over the turkey frame putting it in pole position for the rest of 2005.

Even if subsequent weeks see large declines, Goblet is on course to beat out the overall domestic grosses of the last two Potter flicks putting an end to the diminishing returns that the series has seen. It also was instrumental in reversing the seven-week box office slump driving the box office this weekend much higher than a year ago. In fact, given the expected strength of Potter and upcoming December hits like King Kong and The Chronicles of Narnia, the marketplace may see every weekend for the remainder of the year defeat 2004 levels helping to erase some of the deficit the industry has seen this year.

Debuting far behind in second place with less than one-quarter of the sales was the new Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line which grossed $22.3M. The PG-13 pic rocked in its opening averaging a loud $7,547 per theater from 2,961 locations. Starring Joaquin Phoenix as the legendary singer and Reese Witherspoon as his soulmate, the Fox release generated strong reviews with many critics hailing Phoenix's performance as worthy of an Academy Award nomination. Adult women made up the primary crowd as studio research showed that 57% of the audience was female and 62% was over the age of 25.

The opening was almost identical to the $22.1M bow last October for Ladder 49 which starred Phoenix and John Travolta. It also exceeded the $20M debut of last fall's Ray (another rags to riches tale about a world famous American singer) although that film launched in only 2,006 theaters with a more potent $9,990 average before earning a Best Actor Oscar for Jamie Foxx. The budget on Walk the Line was $28M which is a figure the film will surpass at the box office later this week.

After two weeks of dominance, Disney's Chicken Little got carved up by Potter falling 54% to $14.7M for third place. The decline was a far cry from the 21% dip the G-rated toon experienced last weekend as kids and parents flocked to the latest wizard tale instead. With $99.1M in the bank after 17 days, Little should join the century club on Tuesday on its way to reaching $140-150M overall. Should it reach the higher end of that range, it will become Disney's highest-grossing non-Pixar animated film since 1999's Tarzan which grossed $171.1M.

Jennifer Aniston's thriller Derailed experienced one of the best holds among wide releases dropping 47% to $6.5M in its second weekend. After ten days, The Weinstein Company has collected a respectable $21.8M. Budgeted at $22M, the R-rated pic looks to reach about $40M making it the third biggest grosser ever for the actress after Bruce Almighty and Along Came Polly.

Sony's sci-fi adventure Zathura was another Goblet victim crashing 62% in its second weekend to $5.1M. The pricey space pic has grossed just $20.3M in ten days and seems headed for a $35M finish. Following in sixth place was Universal's Jarhead with $4.8M, down 60%, for a $54.3M total. A $65M end is likely.

Tumbling 63% in its sophomore frame was 50 Cent's action drama Get Rich or Die Tryin' with $4.4M. Paramount has taken in $24.5M in 12 days and should find its way to around $35M. By comparison, 50's mentor Eminem captured $116.7M with his life story 8 Mile three years ago. The horror sequel Saw II followed with $4M, down 57%, giving Lions Gate $79.9M to date. Look for a final of nearly $90M.

The Legend of Zorro fell 63% to $2.4M lifting the sum for the Sony adventure to $42.8M. The $75M actioner should end with roughly $48M. Rounding out the top ten was the period drama Pride & Prejudice which stayed put in the ten spot for the second weekend with $2.1M from limited release. Slipping a mere 25%, the Focus release averaged a stellar $9,690 per theater from only 221 sites and will expand nationally this Wednesday into 1,100 locations. Cume sits at $6M.

Harry and Johnny pushed a pair of films from the top ten over the weekend. Universal's Prime fell 60% to $1.6M in its fourth session. The Meryl Streep-Uma Thurman film has taken in $21.4M and should end its run with a modest $24M. The $32M DreamWorks tale Dreamer has grossed $30.8M to date and seems headed for a $34M finish.

The top ten films grossed $168.7M which was up 21% from last year when National Treasure opened at number one with $35.1M; and up 38% from 2003 when The Cat in the Hat debuted in the top spot with $38.3M.

Compared to projections, Harry Potter opened a few notches above my $97M forecast. Walk the Line also came in stronger than my $17M prediction.

For NEW reviews of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Walk the Line, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Wednesday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend's crowded Thanksgiving holiday frame when Yours, Mine and Ours, Rent, The Ice Harvest, In the Mix, and Just Friends all open.

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

# Title Nov 18 - 20 Nov 11 - 13 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire $ 102,335,066 3,858 1 $ 26,525 $ 102,335,066 Warner Bros.
2 Walk the Line 22,347,341 2,961 1 7,547 22,347,341 Fox
3 Chicken Little 14,711,378 31,653,590 -53.5 3,514 3 4,187 99,093,096 Buena Vista
4 Derailed 6,506,669 12,211,986 -46.7 2,447 2 2,659 21,817,607 Weinstein Co.
5 Zathura 5,133,592 13,427,872 -61.8 3,232 2 1,588 20,316,508 Sony
6 Jarhead 4,753,335 11,738,160 -59.5 2,413 3 1,970 54,280,420 Universal
7 Get Rich or Die Tryin' 4,420,706 12,020,807 -63.2 1,666 2 2,653 24,547,483 Paramount
8 Saw II 3,961,863 9,125,604 -56.6 2,257 4 1,755 79,918,817 Lions Gate
9 The Legend of Zorro 2,355,095 6,381,648 -63.1 2,150 4 1,095 42,840,410 Sony
10 Pride & Prejudice 2,141,554 2,865,017 -25.3 221 2 9,690 6,000,723 Focus
11 Good Night, and Good Luck 1,668,875 2,501,496 -33.3 803 7 2,078 16,855,662 Warner Independent
12 Prime 1,564,425 3,874,375 -59.6 1,227 4 1,275 21,400,280 Universal
13 Dreamer 1,222,202 3,728,510 -67.2 1,543 5 792 30,765,676 DreamWorks
14 Shopgirl 1,022,121 1,802,032 -43.3 413 5 2,475 7,654,700 Buena Vista
15 Capote 846,450 1,190,112 -28.9 317 8 2,670 7,725,427 Sony Classics
16 Flightplan 569,595 1,585,755 -64.1 563 9 1,012 87,547,868 Buena Vista
17 Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang 502,246 785,842 -36.1 226 5 2,222 2,873,848 Warner Bros.
18 The Weather Man 333,633 1,754,301 -81.0 736 4 453 12,229,075 Paramount
19 Wallace & Gromit 285,592 959,813 -70.2 488 7 585 54,728,446 DreamWorks
20 The Squid and the Whale 280,866 410,898 -31.6 80 7 3,511 2,787,794 Samuel Goldwyn
Top 5 $ 151,034,046 $ 81,052,415 86.3
Top 10 168,666,599 107,027,569 57.6
Top 20 176,962,604 120,065,664 47.4
Top 20 vs. 2004 176,962,604 147,958,335 19.6

Last Updated : November 21, 2005 at 7:00PM EST