Box Office Guru

Box Office Guru Wrapup: Witch Mountain Races to the Top

Watchmen falls to second; Last House completes top 3

by | March 15, 2009 | Comments

This weekend Wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson became the undisputed heavyweight champion of the North American box office with his Disney adventure film Race to Witch Mountain which opened strongly at number one. The comic book saga Watchmen plunged in its sophomore frame settling for second place while the new horror entry The Last House on the Left bowed impressively in third. Existing films held up very well as five of the seven holdover titles in the top ten dipped by less than 30%. However, the overall marketplace fell from last year’s levels for the first time in six weeks.

Dwayne Johnson scored his sixth career number one opener for a lead role with Race to Witch Mountain which easily claimed the top spot with an estimated $25M. Playing to a broad audience, the PG-rated adventure averaged an impressive $7,844 from 3,187 theaters and did especially well with family audiences. The debut beat out the launch of Johnson’s last Disney vehicle with director Andy Fickman The Game Plan which bowed to $23M on its way to a solid $90.6M which amounted to four times the debut weekend figure. Race was inspired by the Witch Mountain franchise Disney had in the late 1970s.

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Following the biggest opening weekend for any film this year, Watchmen saw more than two-thirds of its audience disappear in its second weekend as the superhero epic fell a steep 67% to an estimated $18.1M. It was the fourth largest second weekend drop for a number one opener over the past year trailing last month’s Friday the 13th (80%), July’s Hellboy II (71%), and December’s The Day the Earth Stood Still (68%). After ten days, Watchmen has taken in $86M and now looks headed for a domestic finish of about $120M. The pricetag for the effects-heavy comic pic has been estimated at $125-150M. The much-hyped actioner has played mostly to its core audience of comic fans and has not branched out much beyond that. With most seeing the film in its first week, a huge sophomore plunge was expected.

Universal generated a solid opening for its new horror film The Last House on the Left which grossed an estimated $14.7M from 2,401 theaters. The R-rated thriller about a couple’s revenge after a teenage daughter is brutally assaulted averaged a sturdy $6,105 and played to a young female audience. Studio research showed that 57% of the crowd was female and 60% was under 25. House is a redo of Wes Craven’s 1972 classic fright flick and is the fifth horror film this year to open with an average north of $6,000. Being the first scary movie in a month also helped as there was little competition.

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The Liam Neeson kidnapping thriller Taken once again posted unbelievable strength dipping a ridiculously low 9% in its seventh weekend to an estimated $6.7M for fourth place. Fox has now boosted its cume to an amazing $126.8M and should have no problem breaking the $150M barrier with this sleeper sensation. Over the past two years, the only other film to spend seven weeks in the top five was The Dark Knight, the follow-up to Batman Begins which co-starred Neeson.

Lionsgate followed in fifth with Madea Goes to Jail which took in an estimated $5.1M, down 40%, to lift the total to $83.2M. Oscar king Slumdog Millionaire ranked sixth dipping 26% to an estimated $5M. Fox Searchlight’s sum to date stands at $132.6M with the $150M mark within reach.

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Another durable blockbuster Paul Blart: Mall Cop followed with an estimated $3.1M, off just 25%, giving Sony $137.8M thus far. The Kevin James smash may also join the century-and-a-half club. Warner Bros. saw a low 28% drop for the comedy He’s Just Not Into You which grossed an estimated $2.9M in its sixth frame for a cume of $89M to date. Reaching the $100M barrier is not out of the question. The family hit Coraline took in an estimated $2.7M declining only 19% and gave Focus a sum of $69.1M.

Rounding out the top ten with a weak start was the sex comedy Miss March which bowed to an estimated $2.4M from 1,742 locations. The Fox Searchlight release about a young man who wakes up from a four-year coma to learn that his lady friend has become a famous Playboy bunny averaged only $1,349 and drew negative reviews across the board.

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The indie comedy Sunshine Cleaning made a sensational debut in platform release this weekend grossing an estimated $214,000 from only four sites in New York and Los Angeles for a scorching $53,500 average. Starring Amy Adams and Emily Blunt as sisters that run a crime scene clean-up business, the R-rated film premiered to plenty of buzz over a year ago at the Sundance Film Festival and was snapped up by Overture a month later. Insiders put the film’s budget at $7M with the distributor acquiring domestic rights for $2M. Sunshine hopes to keep the momentum going this Friday when it expands to 15 additional markets across the country to become the year’s first new breakout indie smash.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $85.5M which was down 16% from last year when Horton Hears A Who opened in the top spot with $45M; and down 15% from 2007 when 300 remained at number one with $32.9M in its second weekend.