Box Office Guru

Box Office Wrapup: Penguins March to #1 Again Over Thanksgiving Weekend

by | November 27, 2006 | Comments

Movie fans feasted on tasty leftovers over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend as the top two films atop the charts remained unchanged from last week. The penguin toon Happy Feet held onto the number one spot while the James Bond actioner Casino Royale followed in second place once again.

Both films enjoyed solid sophomore frames and grossed nearly $100M in combined ticket sales over the Wednesday-to-Sunday period. Several new films that opened were treated like side dishes with audiences finding some of them to be unappetizing. Among the better performers were the action thriller Deja Vu and the family comedy Deck the Halls which finished the weekend in third and fourth places, respectively. Overall, the multiplexes were bustling as the top ten matched last year’s holiday performance which was impressive given the lack of a Harry Potter-type juggernaut on this year’s movie menu.

Sitting on top of the North American box office for a second straight weekend was Happy Feet which danced up an estimated $37.9M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and an impressive $51.5M over the five-day Wednesday-to-Sunday holiday span. That propelled the cume for the Warner Bros. blockbuster to $100.1M after only ten days giving the studio a great start for its pricey $100M kidpic. In a year overstuffed with animated films, the penguin film joins Ice Age: The Meltdown and Cars as the only toons to spend back-to-back weeks at number one in 2006. The three-day gross slipped a scant 9% from its opening weekend indicating solid word-of-mouth and possibly good legs ahead.

The slender decline was similar to the turkey weekend drops of 2004’s National Treasure and 2000’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas which slipped only 9% and 5%, respectively, when Thanksgiving fell on their second weekends. All three films carried PG ratings, played to broad audiences, opened at number one, and retained their box office crown over the turkey holiday. Treasure captured half of its eventual $173M domestic total in the first ten days while Grinch’s share was a similar 53%. If Happy Feet can stay strong throughout the holiday season, it could find its way to $175-190M.

Holding steady in the number two spot was Agent 007 in Casino Royale which collected an estimated $31M over three days and $45.1M over five days. Off only 24%, that pushed the ten-day domestic haul for the Sony release to a stellar $94.2M. Although Casino opened softer than the last film in the series — 2002’s Die Another Day starring Pierce Brosnan — it enjoyed a better sophomore hold. Die dropped 34% in its second weekend to a matching $31M over the three-day portion of the Thanksgiving holiday banking $101.4M in ten days.

Casino is also benefiting from encouraging buzz and could be on its way to grossing $150-160M from North America coming close to the $160.9M of Die which holds the franchise record. Even if the new Daniel Craig film does not set a new franchise benchmark for domestic sales, it still means that the risky casting change has paid off with today’s audiences still finding Bond to be a relevant film series. Overseas, Casino Royale continued to open at number one in every market it invaded this weekend and watched its international cume soar to $128.2M as its worldwide gross zoomed to an eye-popping $222.4M in under two weeks. The studio expects Casino Royale to outperform the $432M global gross of Die Another Day to become the biggest Bond ever.

Holiday moviegoers looking for something new to see powered the Denzel Washington crime thriller Deja Vu into third place with an opening weekend of $20.8M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Directed by Tony Scott (Crimson Tide, Top Gun), the PG-13 film averaged a sturdy $6,704 from 3,108 sites for Buena Vista. The studio made a bold move when it programmed Deja Vu’s launch to be just five days after the opening of Casino Royale which would also pull in action fans. Since its Wednesday bow, Deja Vu has grossed a strong $29M.

Washington proved once again that he is one of Hollywood’s most reliable and consistent box office draws. Seven of the last eight films he has headlined have opened with $20M or more. Few A-listers can make that claim. In his new film, the Oscar-winning actor plays a ATF agent who uses new government technology to try to alter the past in order to prevent a ferry explosion that kills over 500 innocent people in New Orleans. It was the first Hollywood film shot in the city after Hurricane Katrina. Reviews were generally positive.

Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick battled their way into fourth place with the new holiday comedy Deck the Halls which opened to an estimated $12M. Fox launched the film in 3,205 locations and averaged a decent $3,744 per site. Since its Wednesday launch, the PG-rated family film has taken in $16.9M. That puts Deck below the openings of recent live-action Thanksgiving weekend kidpics like last year’s Yours, Mine, and Ours and 2004’s Christmas with the Kranks. Those comedies debuted to five-day tallies of $24.3M and $30.8M. Competition was tough for Deck which had to deal with Happy Feet, The Santa Clause 3, and Flushed Away stealing away $54M over the three-day span from the same audience.

Dropping 29% to an estimated $10.4M in its fourth trek was Fox’s Borat which joined the century club over the weekend. November’s only non-penguin film to reach number one has now taken in $109.3M. Jumping up 21% from last weekend thanks to the holiday was Disney’s The Santa Clause 3 which followed close behind with an estimated $10M. The Tim Allen pic has collected $67.2M to date and is running 29% behind the pace of its 2002 predecessor.

Sony’s Will Ferrell comedy Stranger Than Fiction ranked seventh with an estimated $6M, down 9%, for a $32.7M total. The animated tale Flushed Away slipped 12% to an estimated $5.8M and has grossed $57.4M thus far.

Two new films rounded out the top ten with less-than-spectacular results. MGM released The Weinstein Co. pic Bobby and grossed an estimated $4.9M from 1,667 theaters for a mild $2,945 average. Written and directed by Emilio Estevez, the R-rated film examines the lives of several people on the day that Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968. The all-star cast includes Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Fishburne, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Sharon Stone, Helen Hunt, Martin Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, and Happy Feet star Elijah Wood. Bobby opened in two theaters a week earlier and expanded nationally on Thanksgiving Thursday. The distributor chose not to open nationwide on the typical Wednesday date since that day marked the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Cume to date is $6.2M

Opening poorly in tenth place was the sci-fi romance The Fountain with an estimated $3.7M from 1,472 for a weak $2,531 average. Darren Aronofsky (pi, Requiem for a Dream) directed the PG-13 film which stars Hugh Jackman (another voice from the chart-topping penguin pic) and Aronofsky’s real-life girlfriend Rachel Weisz in a tale of a man’s search to cure his wife’s illness. Over five days, Fountain collected only $5.4M.

Another Thanksgiving turkey came in the form of the comedy Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny which failed to find paying customers and finished outside of the top ten. The Jack Black comedy took in an estimated $3.1M from 1,919 theaters for a wimpy $1,621 average. The R-rated pic was targeted at young men and saw a soft $5.2M bow over the Wednesday-to-Sunday holiday span.

The film industry satire For Your Consideration expanded from 23 to 623 theaters this weekend and grossed an estimated $2M. With a mediocre $3,186 average, the Warner Independent release upped its cume to $3.1M.

Fox Searchlight debuted its comedy The History Boys and grossed an estimated $101,000 from seven theaters for a solid $14,389 average. Adapted from the Tony Award-winning play, the R-rated film bowed in six U.S. theaters on Tuesday and added one Canadian location on Friday. Cume to date stands at $142,000 and the distributor will expand to four additional markets on December 8.

Four films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Paramount Vantage’s Babel fell 33% to an estimated $1.9M pushing the cume up to a decent $15.2M. The Brad Pitt pic may finish in the $17-19M range although it could go further if it secures major award nominations. Another film generating Oscar buzz followed as Martin Scorsese’s The Departed shot up an estimated $1.8M in its eighth weekend, down 30%, boosting the cume to $116.8M. With a production cost of $90M, the acclaimed director’s top-grossing film should reach the $120M mark domestically.

The horror sequel Saw III scared up an estimated $1.5M, down 48%, for a strong $78M to date. The $12M Lionsgate hit looks to end with about $80M or a bit less than Saw II’s $87M from last year. After Dark’s Horror Fest concluded its limited five-day theatrical run with $2.6M from 488 theaters last week for a solid $5,328 average.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $142.7M over three days which was dead even with last year when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire remained at number one with $54.7M; and down 2% from 2004 when National Treasure stayed in the top spot with $32.2M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com