Stomping into the number one spot over the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend was the college dance drama "Stomp the Yard," which grossed an estimated $22M in its opening weekend to push three-week champ "Night at the Museum" into second place. Exceeding even the loftiest of expectations, the PG-13 step dancing pic averaged a loud $10,726 from only 2,051 theaters.
Over the past 22 months, only "Borat" has reached the top spot with fewer theaters. With Monday being a holiday, studios will release complete four-day weekend estimates then. "Stomp the Yard" was budgeted at only $14M and generated two-thirds of its business this weekend from African American moviegoers, according to studio research.
After ruling the box office for three weeks, the effects-driven comedy "Night at the Museum" slipped to second place but still posted healthy numbers grossing an estimated $17.1M. Fox has now collected a hefty $185.8M and saw its weekend tally decline by only 28%. Sliding only 29% was Will Smith‘s Golden Globe-nominated turn in "The Pursuit of Happyness" with an estimated $9.1M in its fifth frame. Sony has banked $136.5M while the popular Museum-Pursuit duo has grossed a stunning $322M together.
Paramount expanded its hit musical "Dreamgirls" from 852 to 1,907 theaters and climbed a notch into fourth place with an estimated $8.1M. Off only 6%, the DreamWorks production has taken in $65M thus far with the $100M mark expected to be broken in the near future. "Dreamgirls" is considered the frontrunner to win the Golden Globe award for Best Picture – Comedy or Musical on Monday night and is looking to secure several Oscar nominations next week which the studio hopes will allow the pic to have legs. But after four weeks of incredible averages, the PG-13 film saw its per-theater average slide to $4,259 from its nationwide release.
The studio also expanded its urban high school drama "Freedom Writers" from 1,360 to 2,179 sites and ranked fifth with an estimated $7.1M. The gross dipped by only 24% for the Hilary Swank flick while the average tumbled by 53%. Total stands at $18.4M.
Three of the top five films over MLK weekend featured predominantly African American casts while "Freedom" boasted a multicultural school saga. For the Hollywood film industry, it was a rare sight. However between the King frame and Black History Month, a handful of studios have discovered how to tap into the sizable African American moviegoing audience with the right films in the January-February corridor.
Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón followed in sixth with his futuristic drama "Children of Men" which grossed an estimated $6.4M, down 37%, for a $21.4M total to date. The Clive Owen thriller was given 299 more theaters, but suffered a slowdown as its average dropped 49% in only its second weekend of wide play. "Children" has also grossed $32.5M overseas.
Three new releases followed but ticket buyers were not too excited about any of them. The drug dealer drama "Alpha Dog" bowed in seventh place with an estimated $6.1M from 1,289 locations for a respectable $4,765 average. Justin Timberlake, who conveniently announced his breakup with Cameron Diaz just days before the film opened, stars in the ensemble cast of the R-rated drama.
The serial killer pic "Primeval" debuted close behind in eighth place with an estimated $6M from 2,444 theaters. Despite having the widest release in the freshman class, the R-rated chiller averaged a weak $2,450 for Buena Vista. MGM released The Weinstein Company’s kidpic "Arthur and the Invisibles" but bombed with an estimated $4.3M from 2,247 playdates for a poor $1,914 average. The PG-rated adventure featured both live action and animation plus featured the voices of Madonna, Snoop Dogg, and Robert De Niro. Audiences had no interest.
Rounding out the top ten was De Niro’s spy thriller "The Good Shepherd" with an estimated $3.9M, down 39%, for a $54.3M cume.
Sony Classics widened its Chinese historical epic "Curse of the Golden Flower" from 55 sites in limited release to 1,234 theaters nationwide and collected an estimated $2M. That gave the Zhang Yimou drama a flimsy average of only $1,624 with a total to date of $4.4M. Moviegoers were more in the mood for dancers stomping than daggers flying.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $90.2M over the Friday-to-Sunday period which was off 3% from last year when "Glory Road" opened at number one with $13.6M; and down 20% from 2005 when "Coach Carter" debuted on top with $24.2M over three days.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com