Weekend Box Office (December 10 - 12, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The stars came out in full force for the caper flick Ocean's Twelve which swiped the number one spot from National Treasure after a three-week reign. Wesley Snipes debuted in the runnerup spot with another sequel - the vampire thriller Blade: Trinity. The two new releases helped power the top ten close to the $100M mark as the North American box office remained busy with only a few weeks left in the year.

George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and their gang of crooks returned to the number one spot with Ocean's Twelve which made off with $39.2M, according to final studio figures, giving the Steven Soderbergh-directed film a slightly larger bow than its 2001 predecessor. Averaging a sturdy $11,901 from 3,290 theaters, Twelve also stars Oscar winners Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones along with Andy Garcia and Bernie Mac. Ocean's Eleven also opened in early December three years ago and bowed to $38.1M from 3,075 theaters for a somewhat better $12,393 average.

Adult moviegoers neglected by the recent flood of kidpics came out to the multiplexes again for the European-set antics of Twelve which generated the fourth biggest December opening ever after the three Lord of the Rings epics. Budgeted at $110M, Ocean's Twelve hopes to find the same worldwide success as Eleven which grossed $183.4M domestically and over $440M globally. Over the weekend, the ensemble film also grossed $4.5M from debuts in Australia, Thailand, Puerto Rico, India, and Malaysia with several major European markets like France, Germany, and Italy opening this Friday.

Opening in second place with $16.1M was Wesley Snipes' third turn as the vampire-human action star in Blade: Trinity. Attacking 2,912 theaters, the R-rated New Line sequel averaged a decent $5,516 and has collected $24.5M since its Wednesday bow. The five-day gross failed to reach the $32.5M three-day opening and $12,016 average of Blade II from March 2002. After three weeks at number one, Disney's action-adventure National Treasure dropped a reasonable 42% to third place with $9.8M. The Nicolas Cage hit has grossed $124.1M to date.

Warner Bros. saw more good news in fourth place as its animated fantasy The Polar Express kept chugging away taking in $9.6M in its fifth weekend for a slender decline of only 11%. After a mild launch, the studio had high hopes that the Tom Hanks film would play through Thanksgiving and then hold onto its momentum leading up to Christmas. Those hopes are now working their holiday magic as Polar has pushed its total up to a cool $109.8M becoming the 19th title of 2004 to join the century club and the 15th career blockbuster for Hanks. With strong mid-week sales and kids leaving school soon for their winter breaks, the $170M Robert Zemeckis-directed hit looks to surge past the $150M domestic gross mark and could climb much higher. Overseas, Express boosted its cume this weekend to $47.1M from 45 countries.

Off only 32% was Sony's holiday comedy Christmas with the Kranks which collected $7.6M in its third weekend. The Tim Allen-Jamie Lee Curtis film has taken in $54.8M thus far. The Incredibles, the highest-grossing film of the last five months, took sixth place with $5M. Off 44%, the Disney/Pixar juggernaut has grossed $232.6M to date putting it at number 41 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters behind the $233.6M of 2000's Cast Away.

Paramount's The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie dropped 43% to $4.4M bringing its cume to $73.6M. Sony suffered a steep 52% decline for its Julia Roberts-Jude Law drama Closer despite adding more theaters. The Mike Nichols-directed film grossed $3.7M from 622 theaters and averaged $6,005 which was still solid, but down a hefty 63% from its debut average last weekend. With $13.7M in the bank, Closer expands nationally on Friday.

The Johnny Depp film Finding Neverland took in $1.7M, down 40%, giving Miramax a total of $14.2M from under 600 theaters. Rounding out the top ten was the not-so-great Alexander which tumbled 69% in its third battle to $1.5M. The $150M Warner Bros. release has conquered a meager $32.6M.

Bill Murray made a big splash with the platform opening of his latest film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou which debuted in solo houses in New York and Los Angeles to the tune of $113,085. Averaging a stunning $56,542 per theater, the Wes Anderson-directed comedy about an underwater researcher and his mission to find the shark that ate his friend co-stars Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, and Jeff Goldblum. The opening weekend average was in line with the $55,396 debut average of the director's last film, The Royal Tenenbaums which was released in December 2001 on its way to a $52.3M take. Life Aquatic will expand nationally on Christmas Day.

Sony saw encouraging results on Saturday evening from sneak previews of its Adam Sandler comedy Spanglish which was at 75% capacity from 1,100 theaters. Adult women made up the core audience as exit polls indicated that 56% was female and 60% were over 25 plus 91% marked the film as Excellent or Very Good so word-of-mouth could build during the week. Directed by James L. Brooks, Spanglish also stars Tea Leoni and opens nationwide on Friday in about 2,200 theaters opposite Paramount's Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events starring Jim Carrey with over 3,200 locations and Fox's Flight of the Phoenix starring Dennis Quaid which flies into 2,700 playdates.

A pair of Universal releases fell from the top ten this weekend. The comedy sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason stumbled 60% in its fifth frame to $1.1M putting the total take at $38.4M. A final tally of $40M seems likely which would put it 33% below the $60.3M gross of 2001's Bridget Jones's Diary which was distributed by Miramax. Overseas however, Edge of Reason has grossed a stunning $140M to date (led by $60.8M from the UK) and is holding on much better. Oscar hopeful Ray fell 50% in its seventh tour to $954,050 bringing its soulful cume up to $69.3M. The Jamie Foxx biopic should conclude its run with $72-75M depending on whether it can get a boost from potential Golden Globe and Oscar nominations.

Among notable holdovers in limited release, Fox Searchlight's Sideways, which won five major awards from the L.A. Film Critics Association including best film, director, and screenplay, grossed $1.2M, down 31%, lifting its total to $14.3M. The distributor's Liam Neeson pic Kinsey collected $525,881, off 29%, for a $4.4M sum. Sony Classics remained in 15 locations with its martial arts drama House of Flying Daggers but saw sales tumble 48% to $205,416. The Zhang Yimou-directed film averaged a potent $13,694 and raised its ten-day total to $723,017.

The top ten films grossed $98.5M which was up a healthy 30% from last year when Something's Gotta Give opened at number one with $16.1M; and up 13% from 2002 when Maid in Manhattan debuted in the top spot with $18.7M.

Compared to projections, both Ocean's Twelve and Blade: Trinity opened below my respective forecasts of $48M and $26M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on whether Lemony Snicket can unseat Ocean's Twelve next weekend. For NEW reviews of The Life Aquatic and Shwaas, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Flight of the Phoenix, and Spanglish all open.

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

# Title Dec 10 - 12 Dec 3 - 5 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Ocean's Twelve $ 39,153,380 3,290 1 $ 11,901 $ 39,153,380 Warner Bros.
2 Blade: Trinity 16,061,271 2,912 1 5,516 24,484,815 New Line
3 National Treasure 9,832,622 17,004,967 -42.2 3,203 4 3,070 124,071,959 Buena Vista
4 The Polar Express 9,588,412 10,778,094 -11.0 3,257 5 2,944 109,826,809 Warner Bros.
5 Christmas With The Kranks 7,610,848 11,163,492 -31.8 3,294 3 2,311 54,781,892 Sony
6 The Incredibles 5,036,631 9,015,796 -44.1 2,656 6 1,896 232,573,246 Buena Vista
7 The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie 4,357,011 7,655,872 -43.1 3,307 4 1,318 73,596,022 Paramount
8 Closer 3,735,153 7,707,972 -51.5 622 2 6,005 13,740,180 Sony
9 Finding Neverland 1,688,620 2,824,222 -40.2 537 5 3,145 14,209,515 Miramax
10 Alexander 1,479,348 4,756,445 -68.9 2,125 3 696 32,594,911 Warner Bros.
11 Sideways 1,240,534 1,802,826 -31.2 473 8 2,623 14,273,198 Fox Searchlight
12 Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason 1,114,155 2,761,455 -59.7 1,701 5 655 38,413,455 Universal
13 Ray 954,050 1,888,860 -49.5 1,129 7 845 69,291,645 Universal
14 Kinsey 525,881 740,669 -29.0 169 5 3,112 4,418,104 Fox Searchlight
15 The Grudge 456,934 1,104,474 -58.6 732 8 624 109,903,025 Sony
16 After the Sunset 432,326 1,674,936 -74.2 1,019 5 424 27,665,978 New Line
17 The Motorcycle Diaries 284,911 407,538 -30.1 247 12 1,153 14,730,488 Focus
18 Shall We Dance? 269,359 760,427 -64.6 618 9 436 56,384,599 Miramax
19 Saw 252,586 852,333 -70.4 485 7 521 54,897,871 Lions Gate
20 House of Flying Daggers 205,416 397,472 -48.3 15 2 13,694 723,017 Sony Classics
Top 5 $ 82,246,533 $ 55,670,321 47.7
Top 10 98,543,296 75,557,175 30.4
Top 20 104,279,448 84,123,725 24.0
Top 20 vs. 2003 104,279,448 85,781,897 21.6

Last Updated : December 13, 2004 at 6:00PM 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.