Sunday, September 18, 2005

Heaven Beats Hell at the Box Office


Just Like Heaven, DreamWorks' romantic afterlife comedy starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo, topped the box office with an estimated $16.5 million, a far cry from Ms. Witherspoon's previous September romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama, which has held the opening record for a movie opening in September since 2002.

It narrowly defeated the Sony/Screen Gems supernatural thriller The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which dropped down to second place with a respectable second weekend take of $15.3 million, bringing its total up to $52 million.

Opening in third place, Andrew Niccol's action-drama Lord of War, starring Nicholas Cage, brought in $9.2 million in 2,814 theatres, fairly weak even compared to Cage's last September release, Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men.

Universal's raunchy sex comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin with Steve Carell held up respectfully in its fifth weekend, adding another $5.8 million to bring its total gross over the $90 million mark.

Entering the charts at #5, Rogue Pictures' internet-based horror thriller Cry_Wolf grossed roughly $4.5 million its opening weekend in 1,790 theatres, not great but still far better than Dimension Films' last horror film before its split from Disney, Venom. The latter was dumped into only 489 theatres with very little advance notice, and its weak average of just over $1,000 per theatre only allowed it an opening weekend of $501,000.

Transporter 2, the action sequel starring Jason Statham, dropped down to sixth place with just over $4 million, although its $36.5 million total gross puts it in the black compared to its production budget.

The Focus Features drama The Constant Gardener, based on John Le Carré's novel, held up better in its third weekend than the week before, earning roughly $3.7 million, a minor 21% drop from its second weekend.

The documentary March of the Penguins continues its journey as the second highest grossing documentary of all time. It crossed the $70 million mark in its 13th weekend, earning another $2.5 million, which is only slightly less than it made last weekend. New Line's Wedding Crashers rounded out the Top 10, also with $2.5 million. This is its tenth week in the Top 10 after crossing the $200 million mark earlier this week.

A Miramax hold-over from last winter, Lasse Hallström's An Unfinished Life, starring Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez and Morgan Freeman, expanded into over 750 theatres nationwide where it earned $2.1 million in its second weekend, not quite enough to get into the Top 10. It has earned just under $3.5 million in just ten days.

Part of the reason for the softer opening of new films in major release might be accounted for by the vast number of new movies opening in limited release this weekend, many of them having debuted at last week's Toronto Film Festival.

The strongest of these new movies was Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, an animated film featuring the voices of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, which earned $411 thousand in just 5 theatres, a jaw-dropping average of over $82 thousand per theatre. That's the 13th highest per-theatre average ever compared to Burton's previous animated film The Nightmare Before Christmas, which averaged $95 thousand in two theatres back in 1993. Warner Bros. will release Corpse Bride nationwide next Friday.

Paul Reiser's road comedy The Thing About My Folks with Peter Falk earned $266,000 its opening weekend, but that was in 93 theatres, a weak opening average of $2,860 per theatre that doesn't bode well for future expansion.

By comparison, Miramax Films' big screen version of the stageplay Proof, Gwyneth Paltrow's first film since last September's Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, earned $201 thousand in just 8 theatres, an average of just over $25 thousand per theatre. Over the next two weeks, it will expand into more cities across the country.

Three directorial debuts also did decent business in their platform releases in New York and L.A. this weekend. Mike Mills' Thumbsucker and Liev Schreiber's Everything is Illuminated earned $93.6 thousand and $73.6 thousand respectively, while the directorial debut from Julian "Gosford Park" Fellowes, Separate Lies, starring Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson, earned just over $23 thousand in two New York theatres. They each averaged roughly $10 to 12 thousand per theatre.