Weekend Box Office (November 19 - 21, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND For the first time in over a year, two new films opened to north of $30M each over the same frame as Disney's action adventure National Treasure and Paramount's The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie both generated solid debuts despite playing to similar audiences. Competing animated films The Incredibles and The Polar Express helped make it a bustling weekend at North American theaters with ticket sales for the top ten reaching their highest point since the Fourth of July holiday session.

The Mouse House still controlled the number one spot but this weekend it was with the Nicolas Cage fortune hunter pic National Treasure which topped the charts with $35.1M, according to final studio figures. Directed by Jon Turteltaub (Phenomenon), the PG-rated film made off with a powerful $11,648 average from 3,017 theaters leading a crowded field of high profile films aimed at the family audience. With its violence and language cleaned up a bit for younger moviegoers, Treasure opened better than Cage's other films with producer Jerry Bruckheimer including Gone in 60 Seconds, Con Air and The Rock which all debuted to roughly $25M. Critics were not generally kind to National Treasure which finds the Oscar-winning actor returning to the action genre playing a man in search of buried treasure left by America's founding fathers.

Opening close behind with $32M was Paramount's The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie from Nickelodeon Films. Averaging a strong $9,968 from 3,212 pineapples under the sea, the PG-rated tale of a yellow sponge and his dimwitted starfish pal drew in kids but also played broadly to teens and young adults too. The studio reported that 42% of the audience was non-family helping SpongeBob deliver the best bow for struggling Paramount since the $47.7M launch of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider three and a half years ago. Budgeted at $30M, the well-reviewed toon aims to become the studio's first $100M title in over a year by taking advantage of the lucrative Thanksgiving frame.

Falling two spots to third place was two-term champ The Incredibles with $26.5M. Thanks to the $67M punch of the two new releases, the Disney/Pixar hit saw a harsher decline dropping 47% compared to last weekend's slim 29% dip. After 17 days, The Incredibles has grossed a towering $177.6M putting it 14% ahead of the pace of Monsters, Inc. from three years ago, but 7% behind the pace of last year's Finding Nemo. At its current trajectory, The Incredibles could find its way to $290-300M domestically.

The expensive Warner Bros. holiday film The Polar Express enjoyed the smallest drop in the top ten falling 33% to $15.7M in its second weekend. After 12 days of Christmas fun, the Tom Hanks vehicle has grossed $51.5M and should find its way a bit past the $100M mark. The $170M production opened in third place over the weekend in both Australia and New Zealand grossing just $1M from the two markets combined.

The top grossing choice for mature adults was the comedy sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason which remained in fifth place with $10M while expanding from 530 to 2,450 theaters nationwide. The Universal film averaged a decent $4,100 per location which repped a 75% tumble from last weekend's $16,385 opening average. With $21.5M in ten days, Bridget should make its way to the neighborhood of $50M from North America. The Renee Zellweger comedy was the top-grossing film overseas with an estimated $20.9M from 1,800 sites for an international cume of $59.3M. The film opened at number one this weekend in a half-dozen new markets including Spain, South Africa, and New Zealand. In the U.K. and Australia, Bridget Jones is the number one film for the second weekend in a row.

Dropping 54% in its second weekend to $5.1M, New Line's After the Sunset raised its cume to a mediocre $19.1M after ten days. Look for a $30-33M final. Universal's Ray followed with $4.6M, down 46%, giving the Jamie Foxx entry $59.2M to date.

With Halloween gone and Thanksgiving approaching, fright flicks got hacked as cheery kidpics seized control this weekend. Sony's The Grudge fell 46% to $3.8M and pushed its cume to a spooky $104.4M. Seed of Chucky saw most of its fan base come out on opening weekend as the Focus horror sequel plunged 63% to $3.2M for a ten-day tally of $13.5M. As the last horror film of the fall season to hit the marketplace, Seed should close up shop quickly with a final take of $18-20M. The gritty Saw grossed $2.9M, off 55%, and lifted its total to a solid $50.4M.

After a long drought, Sony Pictures Classics generated sizzling results with the platform bow of Pedro Almodovar's Bad Education which grossed $147,370 from only three New York locations for a stunning $49,123 average. Premiering at Cannes last May, the NC-17 film stars Gael Garcia Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries).

Promising figures were posted by a pair of biopics which expanded from their strong debuts last weekend. Miramax's Johnny Depp film Finding Neverland widened from 8 to 57 theaters and grossed $836,754 for a robust $14,679 average and a $1.1M sum. Fox Searchlight moved its Liam Neeson starrer Kinsey from 5 to 36 houses and collected $577,721 for a potent $16,047 average. With $826,679 to date, the R-rated drama will add 150 more theaters on Wednesday going into the long holiday weekend.

Two female-skewing films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Miramax's hit remake Shall We Dance? slid 42% to $2.3M for a total of $52.3M to date. Look for the Richard Gere pic to finish with a solid $56-58M. Paramount's adult comedy Alfie stumbled 73% in its third weekend to $727,388 and lifted its cume to a limp $12.7M. The $60M film will close with a pitiful $14M.

The top ten films grossed $139M which was up 13% from last year when The Cat in the Hat opened at number one with $38.3M; but off 2% from 2002 when Die Another Day debuted in the top spot with $47.1M.

Compared to projections, National Treasure powered past my $24M forecast while SpongeBob was close to my $30M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on horror sequels. For a NEW review of National Treasure, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Wednesday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend's Thanksgiving holiday session when Alexander and Christmas with the Kranks both open.

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

# Title Nov 19 - 21 Nov 12 - 14 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 National Treasure $ 35,142,554 3,017 1 $ 11,648 $ 35,142,554 Buena Vista
2 The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie 32,018,216 3,212 1 9,968 32,018,216 Paramount
3 The Incredibles 26,523,852 50,251,359 -47.2 3,683 3 7,202 177,555,485 Buena Vista
4 The Polar Express 15,668,101 23,323,463 -32.8 3,650 2 4,293 51,463,282 Warner Bros.
5 Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason 10,044,890 8,684,055 15.7 2,450 2 4,100 21,511,685 Universal
6 After the Sunset 5,075,005 11,100,392 -54.3 2,819 2 1,800 19,092,384 New Line
7 Ray 4,565,210 8,411,355 -45.7 2,020 4 2,260 59,192,215 Universal
8 The Grudge 3,812,121 7,010,551 -45.6 2,112 5 1,805 104,422,638 Sony
9 Seed of Chucky 3,241,211 8,774,520 -63.1 2,062 2 1,572 13,459,639 Focus
10 Saw 2,882,575 6,437,990 -55.2 1,679 4 1,717 50,355,671 Lions Gate
11 Shall We Dance? 2,336,883 4,024,327 -41.9 1,535 6 1,522 52,294,268 Miramax
12 Sideways 1,828,760 1,414,773 29.3 279 5 6,555 6,039,004 Fox Searchlight
13 Finding Neverland 836,754 220,524 279.4 57 2 14,680 1,149,279 Miramax
14 Alfie 727,388 2,738,931 -73.4 1,286 3 566 12,710,531 Paramount
15 The Motorcycle Diaries 621,808 745,110 -16.5 233 9 2,669 12,733,850 Focus
16 Kinsey 577,721 169,038 241.8 36 2 16,048 826,679 Fox Searchlight
17 Shark Tale 575,850 2,097,544 -72.5 907 8 635 158,432,301 DreamWorks
18 Veer-Zaara 547,956 843,010 -35.0 83 2 6,602 1,752,335 Yash Raj Films
19 Friday Night Lights 537,105 1,259,520 -57.4 587 7 915 60,085,618 Universal
20 Ladder 49 394,375 1,202,533 -67.2 445 8 886 72,734,485 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 119,397,613 $ 102,133,789 16.9
Top 10 138,973,735 130,756,943 6.3
Top 20 147,958,335 140,228,988 5.5
Top 20 vs. 2003 147,958,335 131,724,679 12.3

Last Updated : November 22, 2004 at 7:00PM 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.