Summer 2004 Box Office Wrapup

Thanks to the ever-climbing cost of movie tickets, Hollywood is once again claiming a record summer box office now that Labor Day has passed and all the numbers have been tallied. Total North American sales from the first weekend of May through the past holiday weekend reached $3.96 billion, up 2% from last summer's previous record, according to figures released by Exhibitor Relations. Admissions however took a dip for the second straight summer to 633 million, off 1.5%. It was a more predictable season as the triumvirate of franchise tentpoles going into summer ended up taking home the top three medals. In fact, sequels took four of the top five positions on the summer charts which is somewhat surprising given the backlash against sequels last year when the top two summer titles were both original films.

Shrek 2 devoured the most cash with an astounding $438M becoming the third highest-grossing blockbuster in history and keeping a profitable pipeline for its studio DreamWorks flowing for years to come. Sony's Spider-Man 2, which many had picked to be the film to beat this summer, finished in the runnerup spot but still caught an amazing $371M in its web. The third installment in the boy wizard series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, attracted the best reviews of the franchise, but collected the fewest dollars. Still, the Warner Bros. smash grossed a dazzling $249M domestically and beat out the ogre and webslinger in overseas markets with a towering $532M international gross to date. Worldwide, Shrek 2 has taken in $860M, Azkaban has pulled in $781M, and Spider-Man 2 has surged to $745M giving moviegoers around the world a steady diet of summer fun.

DreamWorks and Fox together contributed nearly half of the entire summer Top 20 list and were the top studios this summer making their money in different ways. The Spielberg team saw most of its success come from the grand slam delivered by the animated fairy tale but also saw some doubles and triples from star vehicles like Tom Hanks' The Terminal, Will Ferrell's Anchorman, and Tom Cruise's Collateral. Each of those three grossed $75-90M to date, even if expectations were higher. Fox's biggest home run came from The Day After Tomorrow which has taken in $186M to date, but the studio saw consistently strong numbers from I, Robot, Dodgeball, Garfield, and Alien vs. Predator. In fact, the studio was the only one to place five films into the summer Top 20. Sony, Disney, Universal, and Warner Bros. each found two films reach the list.

Keeping with tradition, Hollywood studios opened their films bigger and wider than ever with Shrek 2 and Spider-Man 2 becoming the first movies to bow in over 4,000 theaters each. But the cash flowed to the top leaving less for the smaller guys. 48 films were put into wide release over the 18-week period, up from 42 during the same span last year. Of those, 11 managed to cross $100M compared to 17 a year ago. Two more, Collateral and The Princess Diaries 2, still have a chance to join the century club this year. More wealth was hoarded by the top three films which this summer will finish with $1.06 billion compared to $927M last year. However, looking at the summer Top 20, the average number of theaters for a film at its widest point of distribution slipped from 3,309 last year to 3,275 this year thanks to leggy performances by surprise smashes Fahrenheit 9/11 and The Notebook which never played in more than 2,400 theaters.

Speaking of surprises, a few did surface even though the usual suspects grossed the most money. Michael Moore spun controversy into wheelbarrows of cash with his anti-Bush documentary which created one of the best marketing campaigns of the summer. And The Notebook became the sleeper hit of the season making money the old school way. They made a good movie, people recommended it, then more people kept coming. On the independent film side, solid grosses were generated by the fast food documentary Super Size Me, the religious satire Saved!, and the period drama De-Lovely. Lions Gate saw vicious number for the lost-at-sea thriller Open Water in limited release, but saw interest fade after a full national launch. But the biggest victory went to Fox Searchlight which patiently rolled out the low budget comedies Napoleon Dynamite and Garden State reaching their widest points and biggest grosses over Labor Day weekend with a promising September ahead. Together, the films should gross over $75M which in turn will fuel fantastic home video runs this winter.

As for next summer, all eyes will turn to The Sith. The latest George Lucas prequel Star Wars Episode III has planted itself on May 19, 2005 and is the early favorite for top summer box office honors thanks to its loyal fan following and early release date. But alas, more sequels are in store. June will see the return of the Caped Crusader after an eight-year absence in Batman Begins while Fourth of July fireworks will start early with Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible 3. July will be remake month as updated versions of Fantastic Four, The Pink Panther, Bewitched and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are all being prepped for battle during the industry's most beloved season of the year.

Projected Final Grosses of Top 20 Films of Summer 2004

# Title Release Total ($M) Opening ($M) Theaters 1st Wk % Per Thtr. Distributor
1 Shrek 2 May 19 438 108.0 4,223 24.67 103,718 DreamWorks
2 Spider-Man 2 Jun 30 373 88.2 4,166 23.63 89,534 Sony
3 Harry Potter and the Prisoner... Jun 4 250 93.7 3,855 37.47 64,851 Warner Bros.
4 The Day After Tomorrow May 28 187 68.7 3,444 36.76 54,297 Fox
5 The Bourne Supremacy Jul 23 175 52.5 3,304 30.01 52,966 Universal
6 I, Robot Jul 16 143 52.2 3,494 36.49 40,927 Fox
7 Troy May 14 133 46.9 3,411 35.24 38,991 Warner Bros.
8 Van Helsing May 7 120 51.7 3,580 43.12 33,520 Universal
9 Fahrenheit 9/11 Jun 23 119 23.9 2,011 20.10 59,175 Lions Gate/IFC
10 The Village Jul 30 114 50.7 3,733 44.51 30,538 Buena Vista
11 Dodgeball Jun 18 114 30.1 3,020 26.38 37,748 Fox
12 Collateral Aug 6 101 24.7 3,205 24.46 31,513 DreamWorks
13 The Princess Diaries 2 Aug 11 100 23.0 3,490 22.96 28,653 Buena Vista
14 Anchorman Jul 9 85 28.4 3,104 33.43 27,384 DreamWorks
15 Alien vs. Predator Aug 13 81 38.3 3,401 47.27 23,817 Fox
16 The Notebook Jun 25 81 13.5 2,323 16.62 34,869 New Line
17 The Terminal Jun 18 77 19.1 2,914 24.74 26,424 DreamWorks
18 Garfield Jun 11 75 21.7 3,150 28.97 23,810 Fox
19 White Chicks Jun 23 69 19.7 2,800 28.52 24,643 Sony
20 The Manchurian Candidate Jul 30 66 20.0 2,867 30.33 23,021 Paramount

Last Updated : September 17, 2004