Tumbleweeds blew through North American theaters this weekend as movie fans forgot that there were films playing at their local cinemas. For the first time in three years, no film managed to generate at least $10M in weekend ticket sales. The new supernatural teen thriller "The Covenant" was able to top the charts while the murder mystery "Hollywoodland" debuted in the runnerup spot. The overall top ten crawled to its worst performance in three years as not a single wide release was able to generate at least $4,000 per theater.
Limping into first place with a not-so-impressive debut was "The Covenant" with an estimated $9M from 2,681 theaters. The Sony thriller averaged a sluggish $3,357 per playdate, but was big enough to lead the pack over such a weak frame. Budgeted at only $20M, the PG-13 pic features a group of young prep school warlocks who unleash supernatural powers when evil strikes. It was the studio’s ninth number one opening of 2006, but also the worst gross for a number one film since "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star" debuted this very weekend in 2003 with a puny $6.7M.
Most of the box office deficit when compared to last year can be blamed on the mediocre debut of "Covenant" which took in less than one-third of the $30.1M bow the studio saw in 2005 this weekend with its last post-Labor Day scarefest "The Exorcism of Emily Rose." The rest of the top ten this weekend grossed a combined $40.4M which was almost identical to the $40.6M from the corresponding films from last year.
Opening in second place was the crime thriller "Hollywoodland" with an estimated $6M from only 1,548 theaters for Focus. The R-rated tale examining the investigation behind the death of Superman actor George Reeves averaged a mild $3,881 per site. That was good enough to be the best average among all wide releases. Starring Adrien Brody, Diane Lane, and Ben Affleck, "Hollywoodland" received mixed reviews from critics, but did manage to win the best actor prize over the weekend at the Venice International Film Festival for Affleck’s portrayal of Reeves.
Bowing in fourth place was Thai action star Tony Jaa‘s "The Protector" with an estimated $5M from 1,541 sites. Averaging a lukewarm $3,265, the R-rated pic from The Weinstein Co. generated an opening weekend average similar to the $3,449 figure that Jaa’s "Ong Bak" posted last year when it opened to $1.3M from only 387 theaters.
Action star Jason Statham‘s "Crank" dropped a hefty 54% in its second weekend to an estimated $4.8M pushing its cume to $19.9M. After ten days, the Lionsgate release is running slightly ahead of the $17.2M that Statham’s 2002 film "The Transporter" made during the same time period, but behind the $30.3M of its sequel from last year. Look for "Crank" to finish up with $27-30M. Enjoying the smallest decline in the top ten was the Edward Norton-Paul Giamatti mystery "The Illusionist" which dipped just 25% to an estimated $4.6M. Yari Film Group has collected $18.1M thus far.
Following close behind with an estimated $4.4M was Fox Searchlight’s "Little Miss Sunshine" which dropped 42%. Total to date is a solid $41.6M. Nicolas Cage‘s suspense thriller "The Wicker Man" fell 57% in its second weekend to an estimated $4.1M. With only $17.5M in ten days, the Warner Bros. release looks on course to reach a disappointing $25M.
"Talladega Nights," the highest-grossing film since Johnny Depp’s "Pirates" sequel set sail, dropped 51% in its sixth lap to an estimated $3M boosting Sony’s total to $142.2M. Rounding out the top ten was Paramount’s hit toon "Barnyard," the only major kidpic in release, which grossed an estimated $2.6M. Off 47%, the PG-rated comedy has grossed a healthy $66.9M to date.
Three August releases dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Paramount’s "World Trade Center" took in an estimated $2.5M, down 46%, for a $67.1M sum. The $65M Nicolas Cage drama should end with a solid $71-74M final. Universal’s teen comedy "Accepted" collected an estimated $2.5M as well, off 45%, and upped its total to $32.3M. A $35-37M final grade is in store for the $23M production.
Buena Vista’s surprise hit dance drama "Step Up" dropped 45% in its fifth weekend to an estimated $2.5M. With $61.6M in the bank, the teen pic looks to finish with around $65M.
The top ten films grossed a puny estimate of $49.4M which was down 30% from last year when "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" debuted at number one with $30.1M; and down 16% from 2004 when "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" opened in the top spot with $23M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com