The John Cusack thriller "1408" debuted to strong results while "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" fell sharply in its second mission. Weekend sales were too close to call for the two which were separated by only $25,000 according to estimates. Overall, the North American box office posted solid, but not spectacular results for this time of year.
Audiences lined up two by two for "Evan Almighty" which captured the top spot this weekend with an estimated $32.1M. The PG-rated sequel bowed to less than half of the $68M Friday-to-Sunday debut of its 2003 predecessor "Bruce Almighty" while costing more than twice as much. Playing in 3,604 locations, "Evan" averaged a solid $8,910 per ark. Morgan Freeman returned to play God and director Tom Shadyac was also back behind the camera, but Jim Carrey did not take part again. Universal spent a reported $175M producing its big summer comedy offering which was aimed at family audiences with its storyline involving animals and its PG rating. Reviews were mostly negative.
Thanks to a heavy special effects budget and a production that went behind schedule but still needed to be completed in time for its set release date, "Evan Almighty" turned into one of the priciest comedies in history reaching a budget common usually only seen for high-profile action sequels. The film will need good legs, a strong international run, and hefty video sales in order to break even. According to studio research, 52% of the audience was over the age of 25, 45% consisted of families, and moviegoers polled by CinemaScore gave the pic an encouraging A- grade. However, the film scored a weaker B average grade from over 2,000 votes on Yahoo Movies.
It was still a milestone weekend for struggling Universal Pictures which has released a number of turkeys over the past year. The studio scored its first number one opener since last August’s "Miami Vice" and its first $100M grosser since last June’s "The Break-Up" with Knocked Up.
Opening surprisingly well in second place was the psychological thriller "1408" with an estimated $20.2M for MGM and The Weinstein Co. The John Cusack hit averaged a frighteningly strong $7,534 from 2,678 theaters. Rated PG-13, 1408 tells of a writer who checks into a haunted hotel room that dozens of others have died in. Samuel L. Jackson co-stars in the film which is based on a Stephen King short story. With so many horror films, even from proven franchises, failing at the box office in recent months, "1408" energized audiences and delivered a solid opening. It was the second biggest debut of the year for a fright flick behind the $22.2M bow of "Disturbia," another PG-13 psychological thriller set mostly indoors.
In a virtual tie for second place was last weekend’s winner "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" which tumbled 65% in its sophomore frame to an estimated $20.2M as well. Fox’s super hero sequel suffered a big blow, but it wasn’t a total surprise considering the 59% second-weekend drop of the first "Fantastic" pic and the fact that sequels often erode quicker. "Silver Surfer" has captured $97.6M in ten days and seems on a course to finish with $135-140M which would be slightly behind the $154.7M of its predecessor.
"Ocean’s Thirteen" ranked fourth with an estimated $11.4M in its third caper, off just 43%, giving Warner Bros. a healthy $91M to date. The George Clooney–Brad Pitt heist pic is running 5% behind the pace of 2001’s "Ocean’s Eleven" at the same point in its run but 5% ahead of 2004’s "Ocean’s Twelve." "Thirteen" looks headed for the $125M mark in North America. Overseas, the new chapter grossed an estimated $21.3M from 49 markets to raise the international tally to a cool $100M and the global gross to $191M.
For the second straight weekend, Universal’s sleeper hit "Knocked Up" dipped by less than 30% and remained in double digit millions. The Judd Apatow-directed smash grossed an estimated $10.6M, off only 24%, and pushed its cume to $109M joining the century club on Friday in its 22nd day of release. "Knocked Up" continues to show the same great legs that made fellow R-rated summer comedies like "Wedding Crashers" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" such big hits two summers ago. A final tally of $140-150M might result.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" followed in sixth with an estimated $7.2M, down 42%, boosting the cume to $287M. The Johnny Depp high seas adventure rose to number 29 on the all-time domestic blockbusters list after 2005’s "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" which grossed $290M. A final North American tally of around $305M seems likely for the expensive Buena Vista sequel. Overseas, "At World’s End" collected an estimated $20.4M pushing the international tally to $584.6M and the worldwide haul to a jaw-dropping $871.6M. Captain Jack will swing past "Spider-Man 3"’s roughly $880M global haul by the end of the week on its way to possibly $950M. The two juggernauts have combined for a towering $1.75 billion in worldwide box office so far.
Sony’s animated comedy "Surf’s Up" held up well despite the arrival of Evan and grossed an estimated $6.7M dipping only 28%. The penguin pic has captured $47.3M to date. Rival toon "Shrek the Third" followed with an estimated $5.8M, off 36%, for a $307.9M total. That put the latest ogre tale at number 22 on the all-time domestic list passing "Independence Day" which grossed $306.2M in 1996 when ticket prices were much lower.. Look for Donkey and his pals to finish with roughly $330M from North America. Warner Bros. placed ninth with "Nancy Drew" which fell 34% to an estimated $4.5M giving the sleuth pic $16.2M in ten days.
Opening in tenth place was Angelina Jolie’s "A Mighty Heart" with an estimated $4M from 1,355 theaters for a mild $2,956 average. The Paramount Vantage release earned strong reviews and has sparked Oscar buzz for Jolie’s performance as Mariane Pearl, widow of the slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The R-rated film skewed to an audience of mature women with studio research showing that over 60% of the crowd was female and more than 60% was over 30.
Lionsgate saw sensational results for the new Michael Moore documentary "Sicko" which platformed in only one Manhattan theater but still grossed an estimated $70,000 over the weekend. The distributor will open the PG-13 look at the U.S. health care system on Friday across the country. "Sicko"’s average was especially notable since it only occupied one screen at its theater. Often, when specialty films platform to such astonishing averages, they play in two or three screens within the same theater.
Three very different films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. MGM’s Kevin Costner thriller "Mr. Brooks" fell 47% to an estimated $1.5M for a cume to date of $26.6M. A $30M final seems likely. "Hostel Part II" grossed an estimated $1M, down 67%, for a $17M total. The torture sequel should end with about $18M which would be a 62% fall from the $47.4M of the first "Hostel" flick.
Also dropping down was the year’s biggest blockbuster "Spider-Man 3." After seven weeks in the top ten, the webslinger tale declined by 48% to an estimated $1.3M and boosted its incredible cume to $332.5M. Sony now finds itself at number 15 on the all-time domestic chart behind "Finding Nemo" which gobbled up $339.7M four years ago. "Spider-Man 3" should finish in the friendly neighborhood of $337M making it the lowest-grossing installment of the series in North America. However, its international tally of more than $545M already makes it the biggest "Spidey" overseas and the combined global gross of about $880M makes it the biggest Peter Parker pic ever worldwide. The first two "Spider-Man" films grossed $822M and $784M respectively and while the third chapter lost audience members domestically, it more than made up for it with gains internationally.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $122.6M which was down 2% from last year when "Click" opened at number one with $40M; but up 8% from 2005 when "Batman Begins" remained in the top spot with $27.6M in its second weekend.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com