Weekend Box Office (December 3 - 5, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Leftovers ruled the post-Thanksgiving box office as the top films remained the same as last week's, although some shuffled positions. The only new release to open in major markets was Sony's Julia Roberts drama Closer which opened with strength in fifth place despite playing in fewer than 500 theaters. Overall, North American theaters saw the usual slump experienced after the turkey frame as sales for the entire top ten were nearly carved in half.

For the third consecutive weekend, Nicolas Cage dominated the charts with his adventure tale National Treasure which uncovered $17M, according to final studio figures, lifting its overall loot to $110.1M. The 47% drop was good considering it was coming off of a holiday weekend. By comparison, last year's top Thanksgiving weekend film The Cat in the Hat stumbled 71% the following frame. Along with The Incredibles, National Treasure has given Disney five straight weeks in the number one spot and also stands as only the third release of 2004 to top the charts three weeks in a row following The Passion of the Christ and Shark Tale. With its PG rating and broad appeal, National Treasure seems on its way to over $150M from North America.

Climbing up one notch to second place in its sophomore session was the Tim Allen-Jamie Lee Curtis holiday comedy Christmas with the Kranks which grossed $11.2M. Off only 48%, the Sony release held up well despite terrible reviews and boosted its 12-day total to a rosy $44.9M. Kranks could find its way to the neighborhood of $80-85M. A lack of competition from new films helped to keep the declines under control.

Rising one spot to third was the Warner Bros. fantasy The Polar Express with $10.8M, down just 44%, for a sum of $96.1M to date. Disney and Pixar followed with The Incredibles which lost some steam dropping a troubling 62%, and two chart positions, to fourth with $9M. Cume to date stands at $225.9M putting the superhero family at number 44 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters right behind Rush Hour 2 which grossed $226.1M in 2001.

Opening powerfully in fifth was Sony's infidelity drama Closer which took in $7.7M from only 476 theaters playing to mature adults not interested in all the tame kid flicks. Averaging a scorching $16,193 per location, the R-rated film was directed by Mike Nichols and starred Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Clive Owen. The bow was similar to the one Universal generated a few weeks back with the Bridget Jones sequel (also a film catering to an audience of adult women) which averaged $16,385 from 530 theaters. Closer will add more markets throughout December as the awards season gets under way.

Paramount's The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie declined 57% to $7.7M for a $68.2M cume. Suffering the worst punishment in the top ten was the not-so-mighty Alexander which retreated 65% from its already weak debut to $4.8M. With only $29.7M in 12 days, the Warner Bros. release looks to reach just $35-40M from North America. The Oliver Stone epic carries an enormous $150M pricetag plus tens of millions more in prints and advertising costs leaving the studio and producer InterMedia with a great headache.

Named best film of the year by the National Board of Review, Miramax's Finding Neverland slipped just 40% to $2.8M displaying the best hold among national releases. The Johnny Depp pic has grossed $11.7M to date and averaged $5,369 giving it the second highest average in the top ten. Rounding out the list were a pair of Universal releases. The Renee Zellweger comedy sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason dropped 56% to $2.8M while the Jamie Foxx drama Ray fell 53% to $1.9M. Cumes stand at $36.3M and $67.8M, respectively.

Debuting with fantastic results in a platform bow in New York and Los Angeles, Sony Pictures Classics opened its Zhang Yimou-helmed pic House of Flying Daggers in only 15 sites but grossed $397,472. The Mandarin-language film from the director of the number-one smash Hero averaged a healthy $26,498 per theater ahead of its gradual national rollout.

Dropping out of the top ten this weekend was the New Line action pic After the Sunset which grossed $1.7M, off 46%, putting its total at $26.7M after 24 days. The Pierce Brosnan-Salma Hayek film looks to finish with roughly $30M.

The top ten films grossed $75.6M which was down 11% from last year when The Last Samurai opened at number one with $24.3M; but up 18% from 2002 when Die Another Day reclaimed the top spot with $12.8M.

Compared to projections, Closer opened stronger than my $5M forecast while National Treasure was close to my $16M prediction.

For a review of National Treasure, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Ocean's Twelve and Blade: Trinity both put some life into the December box office.

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

# Title Dec 3 - 5 Nov 26 - 28 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 National Treasure $ 17,004,967 $ 32,156,917 -47.1 3,243 3 $ 5,244 $ 110,113,345 Buena Vista
2 Christmas With The Kranks 11,163,492 21,570,867 -48.2 3,416 2 3,268 44,926,841 Sony
3 The Polar Express 10,778,094 19,389,297 -44.4 3,650 4 2,953 96,127,863 Warner Bros.
4 The Incredibles 9,015,796 23,580,279 -61.8 3,178 5 2,837 225,858,787 Buena Vista
5 Closer 7,707,972 476 1 16,193 7,707,972 Sony
6 The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie 7,655,872 17,844,331 -57.1 3,307 3 2,315 68,209,314 Paramount
7 Alexander 4,756,445 13,687,087 -65.2 2,445 2 1,945 29,687,331 Warner Bros.
8 Finding Neverland 2,824,222 4,670,177 -39.5 526 4 5,369 11,683,573 Miramax
9 Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason 2,761,455 6,231,960 -55.7 2,433 4 1,135 36,321,105 Universal
10 Ray 1,888,860 3,976,685 -52.5 1,547 6 1,221 67,792,750 Universal
11 Sideways 1,802,826 2,912,836 -38.1 497 7 3,627 12,478,931 Fox Searchlight
12 After the Sunset 1,674,936 3,101,979 -46.0 1,889 4 887 26,744,075 New Line
13 The Grudge 1,104,474 1,952,301 -43.4 1,286 7 859 109,231,802 Sony
14 Saw 852,333 1,531,070 -44.3 930 6 916 54,421,101 Lions Gate
15 Shall We Dance? 760,427 1,506,946 -49.5 1,109 8 686 55,856,481 Miramax
16 Kinsey 740,669 1,292,518 -42.7 189 4 3,919 3,653,063 Fox Searchlight
17 Seed of Chucky 633,123 1,296,518 -51.2 856 4 740 16,577,460 Focus
18 The Motorcycle Diaries 407,538 657,028 -38.0 272 11 1,498 14,277,652 Focus
19 House of Flying Daggers 397,472 15 1 26,498 397,472 Sony Classics
20 Napoleon Dynamite 192,752 241,977 -20.3 222 26 868 43,726,763 Fox Searchlight
Top 5 $ 55,670,321 $ 114,541,691 -51.4
Top 10 75,557,175 146,209,579 -48.3
Top 20 84,123,725 158,412,473 -46.9
Top 20 vs. 2003 84,123,725 93,732,516 -10.3

Last Updated : December 6, 2004 at 9:30PM 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.