Weekend Box Office (November 26 - 28, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND For the fifth year in a row, leftovers ruled the Thanksgiving holiday weekend frame with Disney dominating the North American multiplexes taking the top two spots during the best turkey frame in four years. Enjoying the biggest hit of his career, Nicolas Cage remained at number one for the second straight week with the action adventure National Treasure while the animated blockbuster The Incredibles stayed strong in the runnerup spot. Sony bowed the holiday comedy Christmas with the Kranks to an impressive third-place bow while Warner Bros. limped into sixth place with the historical epic Alexander which lacked muscle in its debut. For the first time in recent memory, the top five films all carried PG or G ratings helping to expand the box office pie with a wide selection of family-friendly choices that played to a broad audience.

For the first time in over six years, Nicolas Cage spent back-to-back weekends at number one as his hidden loot tale National Treasure remained the top choice among moviegoers over the holiday weekend grossing $32.2M over the Friday-to-Sunday span slipping a scant 9% from last weekend's opening tally. The Buena Vista hit has amassed a powerful $87.3M worth of treasure in only ten days and managed to hold onto the top spot despite a slew of competition for the family audience. National Treasure is now well on its way to surpassing the $134.1M of 1996's The Rock (another Jerry Bruckheimer production released by the Mouse House) to become the top-grossing title of Cage's career.

In its fourth weekend, the Disney/Pixar smash The Incredibles rose a spot to second place grossing $23.6M over the three-day span. Off a slender 11% from last weekend, the PG-rated toon saw its cume zoom to a towering $214.3M putting it at number 50 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters just behind X2: X-Men United with $214.9M. The Incredibles is now running 12% ahead of the pace of Monsters, Inc. which also benefited from having Thanksgiving fall on its fourth frame. The superhero pic joins rival digital toon Shrek 2 as the only films of the year to post four $20M+ weekends. The one-two punch of National Treasure and The Incredibles allowed Buena Vista, which had been struggling earlier this year with a string of expensive clunkers, to break the billion dollar mark in domestic grosses for the year.

Sony's yuletide comedy Christmas with the Kranks debuted in third place with $21.6M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and a jolly $30.8M over five days. The Tim Allen-Jamie Lee Curtis film averaged a healthy $6,357 over three days and held its own against a plethora of choices for families this weekend. Reviews were mostly bad for Kranks, but that didn't stop the target audience from powering it above most other films.

Posting the only rise in sales in the top ten, The Polar Express gained 24% more steam and placed fourth with $19.4M over three days. The Warner Bros. release has grossed $81.5M in 19 days and should join the century club within two weeks giving superstar Tom Hanks his first such blockbuster in three attempts this year. The winter theme made Express a popular choice over the holiday as the gain was stronger than turkey weekend increases of 16% for last year's Elf and 19% for 2002's The Santa Clause 2.

Suffering the worst drop of any film in the top ten was Paramount's The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie which tumbled 44% to $17.8M in its second weekend. The animated comedy has collected $58.8M in ten days, but may still not become the studio's first $100M grosser in over a year given its steep sophomore fall. Paramount's previous Nickelodeon flicks launching the weekend before Thanksgiving, 1998's The Rugrats Movie and 2000's The Rugrats in Paris, both witnessed better 23% declines in their second frames reaching ten-day tallies of $57.9M and $47.6M, respectively.

Colin Farrell's epic turn in Alexander was no match for a sea of kidpic warriors as the big-budget Warner Bros. entry bowed in sixth place with $13.7M from 2,445 locations. Averaging a decent, but not brawny, $5,598 per theater, the Oliver Stone action adventure captured $21.8M since its Wednesday debut. The five-day tally was less than half the three-day opening of last May's Troy which the studio opened to $46.9M. It also failed to match the $24.3M bow of last December's The Last Samurai, another pricey historical epic from Warner Bros. Both Troy and Samurai, went on to rake in fortunes from overseas grosses just as Alexander, with its reported $150M budget, hopes to. The flood of family films left a void for adults, but Alexander, with its mixed reviews, just was not the film to excite mature moviegoers. The battlefield that lies ahead will be treacherous when the post-Thanksgiving blues hits cinemas next weekend.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason followed in seventh with $6.2M, down 38%, pushing the cume for Universal to $32M. Johnny Depp's latest film Finding Neverland expanded from 57 to 513 locations and entered the top ten at number eight with $4.7M. Averaging a splendid $9,104 (second best in the top ten behind Treasure), the Miramax title upped its total to $7.8M and is well positioned to move into more markets in the weeks ahead.

Universal's Ray, another biopic gunning for Oscar glory, followed with $4M, down 13%, raising the total to $65.1M. Rounding out the top ten was New Line's caper pic After the Sunset with $3.1M, down 39%, for a $24.3M sum.

Three horror flicks dropped out of the top ten this holiday weekend. Sony's The Grudge fell 49% to $2M boosting its amazing total to $107.8M. The $10M remake should finish with a stunning $111M. The low-budget Saw dropped 47% to $1.5M giving Lions Gate $53.2M to date. Look for a $56M final. Seed of Chucky tumbled 60% to $1.3M leaving a not-so-frightening $15.7M sum. A $18M concluding total should result.

Fox Searchlight expanded two notable films over the holiday frame. The wine-tasting comedy Sideways widened from 279 to 497 theaters and grossed $2.9M for a solid $5,861 average and $10M cume. The biopic Kinsey expanded from 36 to 188 locations and grossed $1.3M for a $6,878 average and $2.5M cume. Its next major break will come on December 17.

Red hot Bollywood hit Veer-Zaara spent its third weekend in the Top 20 with an estimated $403,841 from 81 theaters for a $4,985 average. With $2.5M to date, the Yash Raj Films release is on its way to becoming the highest-grossing Bollywood film ever in North America. Opening in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C., Paper Clips took in $25,500 from five theaters averaging a respectable $5,100 per location.

The top ten films grossed $146.2M over three days which was up 5% from last year's Thanksgiving weekend when The Cat in the Hat remained at number one with $24.5M; and up 15% from 2002 when Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets reclaimed the top spot with $32.1M.

Compared to projections, Kranks opened very close to my $22M forecast while Alexander bowed below my $19M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on whether The Incredibles will reach $300M domestically. In last week's survey, readers were asked which recent horror hit they most wanted to see a sequel to. Of 1,677 responses, 54% picked The Grudge while 46% chose Saw.

For reviews of National Treasure and The Incredibles, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Closer opens.

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

# Title Nov 26 - 28 Nov 19 - 21 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 National Treasure $ 32,156,917 $ 35,142,554 -8.5 3,243 2 $ 9,916 $ 87,270,875 Buena Vista
2 The Incredibles 23,580,279 26,523,852 -11.1 3,453 4 6,829 214,294,035 Buena Vista
3 Christmas With The Kranks 21,570,867 3,393 1 6,357 30,818,212 Sony
4 The Polar Express 19,389,297 15,668,101 23.8 3,650 3 5,312 81,479,861 Warner Bros.
5 The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie 17,844,331 32,018,216 -44.3 3,307 2 5,396 58,793,169 Paramount
6 Alexander 13,687,087 2,445 1 5,598 21,837,517 Warner Bros.
7 Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason 6,231,960 10,044,890 -38.0 2,469 3 2,524 31,963,405 Universal
8 Finding Neverland 4,670,177 513 3 9,104 7,753,315 Miramax
9 Ray 3,976,685 4,565,210 -12.9 1,549 5 2,567 65,126,870 Universal
10 After the Sunset 3,101,979 5,075,005 -38.9 2,309 3 1,343 24,320,526 New Line
11 Sideways 2,912,836 1,828,760 59.3 497 6 5,861 9,950,066 Fox Searchlight
12 The Grudge 1,952,301 3,812,121 -48.8 1,486 6 1,314 107,778,950 Sony
13 Saw 1,531,070 2,882,575 -46.9 1,043 5 1,468 53,199,019 Lions Gate
14 Shall We Dance? 1,506,946 2,336,883 -35.5 1,054 7 1,430 54,719,257 Miramax
15 Seed of Chucky 1,296,518 3,241,211 -60.0 1,047 3 1,238 15,692,277 Focus
16 Kinsey 1,292,518 577,721 123.7 188 3 6,875 2,545,366 Fox Searchlight
17 The Motorcycle Diaries 657,028 621,808 5.7 239 10 2,749 13,677,171 Focus
18 Veer-Zaara 403,841 547,956 -26.3 81 3 4,986 2,462,255 Yash Raj Films
19 Shark Tale 325,442 575,850 -43.5 512 9 636 158,966,465 DreamWorks
20 Being Julia 324,394 391,051 -17.0 206 7 1,575 2,674,051 Sony Classics
Top 5 $ 114,541,691 $ 119,397,613 -4.1
Top 10 146,209,579 138,973,735 5.2
Top 20 158,412,473 147,958,335 7.1
Top 20 vs. 2003 158,412,473 155,199,174 2.1

Last Updated : November 29, 2004 at 7:30PM 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.