Box office sales slumped this weekend as the top ten dipped to its worst level in four months with the college dance pic "Stomp the Yard" holding onto the top spot by a thin margin. Moviegoers ignored "The Hitcher," the frame’s only new wide release, which posted an underwhelming fourth-place debut. A handful of Oscar contenders expanded into wider release and saw encouraging results hoping to collect steady sales from serious film lovers in the weeks ahead. Overall, the marketplace was quiet as the gross for the number one film and the cume for the top ten were both the lowest since mid-September.
Sony’s low-budget hit "Stomp the Yard" spent another weekend at the top of the charts grossing an estimated $13.3M dropping only 39% in its sophomore frame. The PG-13 hit showed a healthy hold since most films catering to teen and young adult audiences fall by 45% or more on the second weekend. After ten days, the $14M-budgeted pic has grossed a stellar $41.6M and is on its way to reaching $65-70M. "Stomp" averaged a solid $6,485 from 2,051 theaters in its second step.
Close behind in second place was the Fox juggernaut "Night at the Museum" which took in an estimated $13M, off only 24%, boosting the cume to $205.8M. On Saturday, the PG-rated Ben Stiller film became the sixth 2006 release to join the double century club. "Museum" now ranks fifth among last year’s releases and is likely to surpass the $217.5M of "The Da Vinci Code" to end off as the fourth biggest blockbuster released in 2006. With no major family films getting in its way in the coming weeks, "Museum" could find its way to nearly $240M from North America alone and over $450M worldwide.
Thanks to a trio of Golden Globes and 307 additional theaters, the hit musical "Dreamgirls" saw its Friday-to-Sunday gross inch up 4% to an estimated $8.7M Averaging a respectable $3,935 from 2,214 sites in its fourth full weekend of national play, the Paramount/DreamWorks pic upped its cume to $78.1M and is easily on its way to joining the $100M club. The studio continues to spend lavishly on advertising and is eagerly anticipating Tuesday’s announcement of the Academy Award nominations. "Dreamgirls" is widely considered a shoo-in for a nomination for Best Picture, along with "The Departed" and "Babel."
Showing that horror fans may be getting sick of Hollywood’s endless line of fright film remakes, "The Hitcher" opened to disappointing results in fourth place with only $8.2M, according to estimates. The redo of the 1986 Rutger Hauer flick averaged only $2,904 from a very wide 2,835 theaters for Focus and its Rogue Pictures genre unit. The R-rated film was expected to perform better given that it was the only new choice for teens and young adults and the fact that it was given the widest bow in company history for its distributor. The strong hold for "Stomp the Yard" and the solid expansion of "Pan’s Labyrinth" which is pulling in fantasy and horror fans, may have contributed to the soft bow.
"The Hitcher" is the latest in a string of disappointments for Focus following "Catch a Fire" and "The Return." Since last winter’s Oscar-winning film "Brokeback Mountain" lassoed $83M, the distributor has seen most of its films underperform. The company saw an average domestic gross of just $13.4M from its eight wide releases in 2006 with "Jet Li’s Fearless" being its top grosser with $24.6M.
Will Smith’s "The Pursuit of Happyness" clocked its sixth weekend in the top five and grossed an estimated $6.7M, off only 25%, for a $146.5M cume. Sony should finish in the vicinity of $160M. Paramount’s Hilary Swank drama "Freedom Writers" followed with an estimated $5.6M, down just 24%, giving the pic $26.9M in 17 days. Look for the film to end in the $35-40M range.
Guillermo del Toro‘s fantasy thriller "Pan’s Labyrinth" jumped into the top ten thanks to its national expansion and claimed the number seven spot with an estimated $4.7M. The Picturehouse release enjoyed the best average among all wide releases taking in $7,759 per theater from 609 locations. Cume is $10.2M for the Spanish-language film. The futuristic drama "Children of Men" from director Alfonso Cuaron followed falling 42% to an estimated $3.7M for Universal pushing the cume to $27.5M.
Also collecting an estimated $3.7M in ticket sales over the weekend was Miramax’s "The Queen" which expanded from 344 to 1,586 theaters following its two Golden Globe wins for lead actress and screenplay. Averaging a mild $2,333 per site, the acclaimed drama hit the top ten for only the second time in its long 17-week run and posted its best weekend gross to date. It had always played in fewer than 800 theaters until now and the distributor hopes that the Globe wins, plus the expected Oscar nominations on Tuesday, will allow the Helen Mirren film to appeal to a wider audience going forward. Total stands at $35.9M and counting. Rounding out the top ten was MGM’s "Arthur and the Invisibles" with an estimated $3.1M, down 28%, for a $9.3M cume. A final gross of around $15M seems likely.
The box office had a very international flavor this weekend as seven of the top twelve films were directed by filmmakers born outside of the United States.
Three films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Universal’s kidnapping thriller "Alpha Dog" tumbled 55% in its second frame and took in an estimated $2.9M. With only $11.7M in the bank, the ensemble pic should sputter to a disappointing $15-17M final tally. Also crumbling in its sophomore frame was the horror film "Primeval" which crashed 70% and grossed $1.8M, according to estimates. Buena Vista has scared up just $9.5M in ten days and looks to conclude its run quickly with a poor $11M.
Paramount’s kidpic "Charlotte’s Web" has fared better over the holiday season and grossed an estimated $2.3M this weekend, down 40%. The family film has accumulated a solid $76.7M to date and should end its run with around $80M. Web bowed in mid-December with half the opening weekend gross of competing new release "Eragon," but has now outgrossed the dragon adventure which currently stands at $72.4M.
A trio of Golden Globe winners expanded their runs and climbed up the charts. Paramount Vantage’s "Babel," which took home the Best Picture — Drama trophy, re-expanded from 173 to 889 theaters and took in an estimated $2.3M for a $23.9M total to date. Fox Searchlight boosted its cume for "The Last King of Scotland" by 50% in one short weekend. The Forest Whitaker pic widened to 495 locations, from just four from last weekend, and collected an estimated $1.8M raising the total from $3.7M to $5.5M. Warner Bros. went from 35 to 360 locations for Clint Eastwood’s "Letters From Iwo Jima" which grossed an estimated $1.5M pushing the tally to $2.6M. Though not eligible for the Academy Award in the foreign language department, the Japanese-lingo pic is still considered a contender in the other Oscar categories.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $70.7M which was off a disturbing 19% from last year when "Underworld: Evolution" opened at number one with $26.9M; and down 10% from 2005 when "Are We There Yet?" debuted on top with $18.6M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com