Moviegoers across North America embraced The Simpsons Movie which beat out all industry expectations for an explosive number one opening this weekend grossing more than the next four biggest hits combined. The Fox release collected an estimated $71.9M in its first weekend in theaters and averaged a spectacular $18,320 per site from 3,922 locations. The PG-13 comedy enjoyed the third largest debut ever for an animated film trailing only Shrek the Third and Shrek 2 which bowed to $121.6M and $108M, respectively.
The Simpsons Movie delivered the fifth biggest July opening weekend ever after the megasequels Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest ($135.6M in 2006), Spider-Man 2 ($88.2M in 2004), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ($77.1M in 2007), and Austin Powers in Goldmember ($76.6M in 2002). It also ranks fifth among the biggest non-sequel opening weekends in history following Spider-Man ($114.8M in 2002), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone ($90.3M in 2001), The Passion of the Christ ($83.8M in 2004), and The Da Vinci Code ($77.1M in 2006). The magic number five is also where The Simpsons Movie stands in Fox’s company history behind the debuts of the last two installments in both the Star Wars and X-Men franchises.
After building up an enormous fan base over the last 18 years, The Simpsons Movie was finally ready to capitalize on the popularity of the television series by jumping to the big screen and the audience certainly followed. Fox reported that the audience for the $75M production was solid in all four quadrants. Strong reviews from critics also helped the cause and probably encouraged many fans who have given up on watching the weekly series to return for the theatrical fun. The studio’s marketing department also deserves a gold medal for its unorthodox campaign which really commanded the attention of the public. From the contest between different towns named Springfield to host the premiere to the conversion of a dozen 7-11 stores into Kwik-E-Marts, the studio was able to generate massive amounts of excitement with creative new ideas.
Dropping a notch from its top spot debut, Adam Sandler and Kevin James cuddled up in second place with the comedy I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry which fell 44% to an estimated $19.1M. The Sony release has laughed up a solid $71.6M in its first ten days and should find its way to the neighborhood of $125M. Chuck is performing much like Sandler’s 2002 summer comedy Mr. Deeds which bowed in late June to $37.2M, tallied $73.6M in ten days, and finished with $126.3M.
Another former number one followed. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix dropped 48% to an estimated $17.1M in its third weekend and boosted its 19-day cume to $241.8M. Phoenix posted the smallest third-weekend gross of any Potter film to date, however a final domestic cume close to the $290M of the last installment Goblet of Fire still seems possible.
The hot musical Hairspray posted a decent hold in its second weekend dropping 43% to an estimated $15.6M for New Line. The ensemble pic featuring John Travolta and Queen Latifah watched its total soar to $59.3M after only ten days which already makes it the studio’s top grossing film in two years. The PG-rated entry looks to pass the $103.3M of last winter’s Dreamgirls and may reach about $110M.
Catherine Zeta-Jones headlined the new romantic dramedy No Reservations and found moderate success with an estimated opening of $11.8M. The Warner Bros. release debuted in 2,425 locations as an alternative choice for adult women and averaged a good $4,849. Aaron Eckhart and Abigail Breslin co-star in the story of a chef whose life changes after her sister’s death leaves the woman to care for her niece. Reviews were mixed.
The action smash Transformers placed sixth in its fourth weekend with an estimated $11.5M. Down 44%, the Paramount/DreamWorks co-production boosted its cume to $284.6M putting it at number 31 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters after The Matrix Reloaded which grossed $281.5M in 2003. Transformers is now the third biggest hit ever for Paramount after Titanic ($600.8M) and Forrest Gump ($329.7M) and also the third largest in DreamWorks history trailing the last two Shrek installments.
Two new flops rounded out the top ten. Sony’s Lindsay Lohan horror flick I Know Who Killed Me bowed to an estimated $3.4M from 1,320 theaters for a weak $2,576 average. The R-rated torture pic was never tracking well and its star’s recent arrests put the nail in the coffin for the film’s release. MGM opened the golf comedy Who’s Your Caddy? with an estimated $2.9M averaging only $2,846 from 1,019 sites.
Four films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The Warner Bros. romantic comedy License to Wed tumbled 64% to an estimated $1.3M lifting its cume to $41.7M. A mediocre $44M final should result for the Robin Williams pic. Rival comedy Knocked Up has been one of the year’s top comedy performers and fell 48% to an estimated $1.2M giving Universal a superb $145.1M to date. The low-cost $30M production should finish its domestic run with just under $150M.
The Steve Carell epic comedy Evan Almighty grossed an estimated $1.1M, down 57%, pushing the tally to $96.3M. Produced for $175M, the PG-rated pic will have to work hard with second-run business in order to crack the $100M mark for Universal. It will also have to soar internationally and on video if it wants reach break-even.
A handful of films expanded into wider release this weekend. MGM’s military drama Rescue Dawn grossed an estimated $1.7M from 500 locations for a $3,304 average and $3M cume. The sci-fi thriller Sunshine grossed an estimated $1.3M for Fox Searchlight resulting in a $2,750 average and a total of $1.6M. The Don Cheadle film Talk To Me averaged $6,986 from 115 playdates for a weekend estimate of $803,000. Total sits at $1.9M for Focus.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $165.7M which was up a potent 52% from last year when Miami Vice opened at number one with $25.7M; and up 58% from 2005 when Wedding Crashers rose to the top spot for the first time with $20M in its third frame.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com