Weekend Box Office (November 28 - 30, 2003)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND In a holiday race that saw a split decision, the Mike Myers extravaganza The Cat in the Hat and Eddie Murphy's new family comedy The Haunted Mansion were the two favorite dishes of moviegoers during the Thanksgiving holiday feast. Final studio figures showed that over the Friday-to-Sunday span, the Dr. Seuss pic held a whisker of a lead while over the five-day Wednesday-to-Sunday period, the Disney film was the winner by a spooky million bucks. With both films generating strong sales, and with the Will Ferrell yuletide comedy Elf finishing close behind in third place, North American moviegoers found themselves spending approximately $100M on PG-rated family films from former Saturday Night Live stars over the long holiday weekend.

Collecting $24.5M in its second weekend, The Cat in the Hat dropped a respectable 36% over the weekend and raised its ten-day sum to $75.8M. Over five days, the Universal/DreamWorks entry took in $32.9M. Two years ago, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone saw a similar 36% decline over the turkey frame in its sophomore session and collected 59% of its domestic total during its first ten days. Even if the $109M-budgeted Cat enjoys the same legs, it will find itself finishing with $120-130M and a smaller sum from overseas markets where Dr. Seuss is not as famous.

Disney launched the effects-driven comedy The Haunted Mansion over the holiday weekend and grossed $24.3M over three days and $34M since its Wednesday bow. Comparing studio grosses, that puts the Eddie Murphy film in second place over three days by $181,275 but in first place over five days by $1.1M. Mansion opened in 3,122 theaters and averaged a solid $7,777 giving it the best per-theater figure in the top ten. Reviews were not very positive for the film which features the popular comedian playing a real estate broker whose family is trapped in a haunted house with comical spirits. The three-day bow was just a bit below the $27.6M of Murphy's Daddy Day Care which opened last May and ended up taking in $104M.

The real winner of the holiday season was the Christmas comedy Elf which was nestled into third place with $21.6M in its fourth weekend of release. Up a robust 16% from last weekend, the New Line smash has upped its cume to an amazing $129M putting it on a pace that neither The Cat in the Hat nor The Haunted Mansion will reach. Elf, which cost significantly less to produce, could soar to $180-200M.

With kidpics fighting it out for the top three slots, the next three positions were occupied by adult-oriented titles all finishing within a one million dollar range. Oscar winner Halle Berry scared up $12.9M for the thriller Gothika. The Warner Bros. fright flick dropped 33% and pushed its ten-day cume to $41.3M.

Miramax's dark comedy Bad Santa surprisingly beat the remaining new releases with a $12.3M bow from just 2,005 theaters. Averaging a solid $6,131, the R-rated film stars Billy Bob Thornton as a thief who uses a St. Nick costume to rob shopping malls. Reviews were generally upbeat, despite the dark subject matter, and Thornton proved that he could generate a respectable opening as a solo star. The five-day debut stood at $16.8M.

Fox's Russell Crowe sea adventure Master and Commander dipped just 21% to $12M for a 17-day tally of $66.6M.

Ron Howard's new Western thriller The Missing followed in seventh place with $10.8M over three days. The Tommy Lee Jones-Cate Blanchett drama averaged a dull $3,931 from 2,756 sites and lassoed $15.2M since its Wednesday launch.

Paramount's box office woes continued as its sci-fi actioner Timeline flopped in its opening weekend grossing $8.4M over three days and just $12.4M over the five-day span. Playing in 2,787 locations, the Richard Donner-directed pic averaged a poor $3,029 over three days. The PG-13 film, which was adapted from a best-selling novel by Michael Crichton, stars Paul Walker as a young adventurer who travels back to fourteenth century France to rescue his time traveling father. The studio reported that 58% of the audience was male while 51% was under 25.

Easing just 5% was Universal's British romantic comedy Love Actually which grossed $8.2M in its fourth date for a cume of $43.4M. Rounding out the top ten was Disney's Brother Bear with $4.9M, off 9%, for a $77.7M total.

There was plenty of activity among limited release films over the holiday weekend. Focus Features expanded its Sean Penn-Benicio Del Toro drama 21 Grams from 8 to 73 theaters and grossed $988,321 for a potent $13,539 average. Cume stands at $1.6M and counting.

The Bollywood musical drama Kal Ho Naa Ho (Tomorrow May Never Come) opened on Thursday in 52 theaters and grossed $758,211 over three days and $986,211 over the four-day period. Starring India's top box office draw Shah Rukh Khan and shot mostly in New York City, the Hindi-language pic averaged a strong $14,581 over three days. The Yash Raj Films release posted the best average in the Top 20.

Fox Searchlight opened the Irish-American immigrant saga In America in 11 theaters in seven cities and grossed $205,229 over three days for a stellar $18,657 average. The Jim Sheridan-directed film expands to about 50 runs on December 12 and aims to be in 400 theaters by Christmas Day. Total since Wednesday stands at $260,353.

Oscar hopeful William H. Macy's new film The Cooler bowed in 11 theaters in New York and Los Angeles and grossed $128,973 for a solid $11,724 average. The Lions Gate release has taken in $171,621 since Wednesday and widens to the top twenty markets on December 19.

Sony Classics enjoyed an impressive launch for the French animated title The Triplets of Belleville which nabbed $108,080 over the Friday-to-Sunday period from just a half dozen venues. Averaging a hefty $18,013 per theater, the PG-13 pic collected $143,762 over five days and expands on December 26.

Two studios reported promising results for their sneak previews over the holiday weekend. Fox offered Friday night sneaks for the Steve Martin comedy Cheaper By the Dozen and saw 90% capacity at their shows. Another set of sneaks is planned for Sunday afternoon, December 21, ahead of its Christmas Day national bow. Grosses were added to Master and Commander. Warners sneaked the Tom Cruise epic The Last Samurai on Saturday evening and witnessed 95% capacity ahead of its wide opening this Friday. Its grosses were added to Gothika.

Four films fell out of the top ten over the weekend. Event pic The Matrix Revolutions finished in eleventh place with $4.8M in its fourth frame boosting the 26-day cume to $133.3M. A final domestic tally of $140-145M seems likely. With a combined negative cost of roughly $350M, the Matrix sequels should end up reaching a collective domestic gross of $425M and a worldwide gross of about $1.2 billion before revenue from video markets.

Fellow Warner Bros. title Looney Tunes: Back in Action fell 41% to $2.5M lifting the total to an embarrassing $18.7M. The $80M live action-animation hybrid should finish with only $22-25M. The Sony drama Radio dropped 35% to $1.7M for a $50M sum. Scary Movie 3 plunged 64% to $1.1M bringing the cume to $108.5M. Final totals should reach $53-55M and $110-112M, respectively.

The top ten films grossed $140M over three days which was up 10% from last year when Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets reclaimed the number one slot in its third frame with $32.1M; and up just 1% from 2001's Thanksgiving weekend when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone remained in the top spot in its second session with $57.5M.

Compared to projections, The Haunted Mansion opened below my $33M forecast. Both The Missing and Timeline opened a couple of notches weaker than my respective predictions of $14M and $11M. Bad Santa debuted stronger than my $7M projection. Both The Cat in the Hat and Elf were very close to my forecasts of $25M and $21M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Elf's chances of reaching $200M. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Master and Commander or The Last Samurai had a better chance of earning an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Of 2,670 responses, 65% picked the Russell Crowe film while 35% selected the Tom Cruise epic.

For reviews of The Haunted Mansion, Timeline, and Kal Ho Naa Ho, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Last Samurai and Honey both open.

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

# Title Nov. 28 - 30 Nov. 21 - 23 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Cat in the Hat $ 24,459,685 $ 38,329,160 -36.2 3,467 2 $ 7,055 $ 75,830,805 Universal
2 The Haunted Mansion 24,278,410 3,122 1 7,777 34,046,111 Buena Vista
3 Elf 21,649,842 18,715,992 15.7 3,202 4 6,761 129,009,719 New Line
4 Gothika 12,868,471 19,288,438 -33.3 2,382 2 5,402 41,277,711 Warner Bros.
5 Bad Santa 12,292,952 2,005 1 6,131 16,801,187 Miramax
6 Master and Commander 12,048,731 15,213,896 -20.8 2,703 3 4,458 66,632,517 Fox
7 The Missing 10,833,633 2,756 1 3,931 15,232,287 Sony
8 Timeline 8,440,629 2,787 1 3,029 12,424,762 Paramount
9 Love Actually 8,218,630 8,644,555 -4.9 1,714 4 4,795 43,390,140 Universal
10 Brother Bear 4,872,344 5,346,869 -8.9 2,034 6 2,395 77,695,232 Buena Vista
11 The Matrix Revolutions 4,787,326 7,032,216 -31.9 2,055 4 2,330 133,332,436 Warner Bros.
12 Looney Tunes: Back in Action 2,507,465 4,215,236 -40.5 2,135 3 1,174 18,672,060 Warner Bros.
13 Radio 1,705,022 2,618,254 -34.9 1,101 6 1,549 50,010,406 Sony
14 Mystic River 1,610,234 2,017,394 -20.2 775 8 2,078 50,948,862 Warner Bros.
15 Scary Movie 3 1,118,090 3,135,252 -64.3 1,324 6 844 108,497,871 Miramax
16 21 Grams 988,321 274,454 260.1 73 2 13,539 1,598,378 Focus
17 Kal Ho Naa Ho 758,211 52 1 14,581 986,211 Yash Raj Films
18 Runaway Jury 702,317 1,485,169 -52.7 517 7 1,358 48,035,448 Fox
19 Lost in Translation 544,363 531,787 2.4 177 12 3,075 28,901,949 Focus
20 The Human Stain 514,498 701,709 -26.7 355 5 1,449 4,728,987 Miramax
Top 5 $ 95,549,360 $ 100,192,041 -4.6
Top 10 139,963,327 122,539,868 14.2
Top 20 155,199,174 131,724,679 17.8
Top 20 vs. 2002 155,199,174 144,766,231 7.2

Last Updated : December 1, 2003 at 7:30PM EST

Gitesh Pandya can be seen each Friday on "The Biz" airing at 12:30pm and 9:30pm ET on CNNfn.