Despite worldwide protests and bad reviews, the heavily-hyped conspiracy thriller "The Da Vinci Code" attracted legions of fans into theaters this weekend generating the second largest global opening in box office history. The North American marketplace was on fire helped also by a solid launch for the animated film "Over the Hedge." The two new releases combined for an eye-popping $114M in ticket sales over the weekend driving the box office to a new high for the year finally giving the film industry a feeling that the summer movie season has arrived. With "Code" and "Hedge" playing well to different audiences, most holdovers suffered steep declines.
Sony faced numerous obstacles bringing "The Da Vinci Code" to the big screen but after all was said and done, the studio successfully launched its summer tentpole pic and captured an estimated $77M from North America beating out most expectations. Attacking 3,735 theaters, the PG-13 film averaged a scorching $20,616 per location. "Code" is the much-anticipated film adaptation of the best-selling book by Dan Brown which has become a pop culture phenomenon since its publication. Many religious groups have encouraged people to not see the film, but the publicity may instead have just sparked more curiosity, especially from those who have not read the book. It carried a $125M pricetag.
Domestically, "Code" generated the thirteenth biggest Friday-to-Sunday opening ever and the second best bow for a non-franchise film after "The Passion of the Christ" which debuted to $83.8M following a Wednesday launch in February 2004. "Code" also marked new career-high openings for Hanks and director Ron Howard surpassing the $57.4M of "Toy Story 2" and the $55.1M of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," respectively. In fact, Howard’s last film "Cinderella Man" grossed less in its entire run than "Code" did in its first weekend punching up $61.6M last summer.
Worldwide, "The Da Vinci Code" was launched with one of the most aggressive distribution strategies ever planned invading over 12,000 theaters overseas. As a result, the film tallied a staggering $147M internationally putting its worldwide opening at a jaw-dropping $224M. That marked the second largest worldwide launch in history after the $253M of "Star Wars Episode III" this same weekend one year ago. With more appeal outside of North America than the Jedi flick, "Code"’s overseas opening inched past "Episode III" to set a new international debut weekend record.
Controversy surrounded the film during its development, shooting, and pre-release stages which in turn led to endless media coverage and speculation over whether or not moviegoers would stay away. "Code" made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday, just ahead of its day-and-date global release, and was met by mostly harsh reviews from the world’s top movie critics. Since "Da Vinci" skews to a mature adult audience which pays attention to critics, it seemed that the opening could take a hit from the bad buzz. Instead, the Hanks flick opened on the high end of the most optimistic expectations.
The road ahead will not be easy. The Memorial Day holiday weekend will certainly help give "Da Vinci" a solid second weekend. However, with so many fans of the book rushing theaters immediately to see the film, it may have already burned through much of its total audience. "Code" dipped 6% on Saturday from its opening Friday which is not too surprising given the upfront demand and media hysteria. But it does not necessarily indicate that the fan base is growing. Word-of-mouth will now be the main factor affecting future sales. The Yahoo Movies average grade from over 13,000 users is a not-so-impressive B-. Nevertheless, after "Mission: Impossible III" and "Poseidon" underwhelmed at the box office giving the summer season a sluggish start, "The Da Vinci Code" kicked things into high gear this weekend with true blockbuster numbers grossing more than the openings of both of those films combined.
Opening in second place with solid results was Paramount’s release of the DreamWorks animated film "Over the Hedge" which collected an estimated $37.2M. Playing in a whopping 4,059 theaters, the PG-rated pic averaged a strong $9,172 per venue. An all-star cast featuring Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, Steve Carell, Nick Nolte, Wanda Sykes, and William Shatner provided voices to the story of a group of animals who venture into the zany world of suburban backyards. The opening weekend did not match up to those of other recent computer animated talking animal flicks like "Shark Tale" ($47.6M), "Madagascar" ($47.2M), or "Chicken Little" ($40M). However, with the long Memorial Day holiday weekend coming up, "Hedge" looks to continue gathering up grosses with kids and parents getting extra time off from school and work. Only four animated films have ever bowed in more than 4,000 theaters and all have been from the DreamWorks camp, which is now part of the Paramount stable.
After two weeks at number one, Tom Cruise’s "Mission: Impossible III" dropped down to third with an estimated $11M in its third weekend. Down a hefty 56%, the Paramount spy sequel crossed the $100M mark over the weekend with its cume climbing to $103.2M after 17 days. "MI3" is only the second such blockbuster film of 2006 following "Ice Age: The Meltdown," however Hollywood’s other Tom will be joining the ranks by the end of the week. For box office titan Cruise, the latest Ethan Hunt film marks the actor’s fourteenth $100M+ domestic grosser. "MI3" also represents the studio’s first film to join the century club since Cruise’s last film "War of the Worlds" from last summer. Overseas, "Mission III" has upped its total to $163M pushing the global gross to $266M and counting.
In its second weekend, "Poseidon" became a sinking ship film in more than one way. The ocean liner disaster pic sank a troubling 59% to an estimated $9.2M putting its ten-day catch at just $36.8M. That’s a rough start for a film with a production cost reported to be a hefty $160M or more. At its current pace, "Poseidon" looks to reach $55-60M domestically making it director Wolfgang Petersen‘s lowest grossing film in fifteen years.
With a big new toon in the marketplace, the Robin Williams hit "RV" finally saw a sizable decline dropping 49% to an estimated $5.1M in its fourth frame. Sony’s family comedy has grossed a solid $50.4M to date.
Wrestling superstar Kane anchored the new horror film "See No Evil" and was met with a mild sixth place opening with an estimated $4.4M. Playing in only 1,257 locations, the R-rated scarefest averaged a mediocre $3,461 per site.
The Lindsay Lohan flop "Just My Luck" grossed an estimated $3.4M in its second weekend dropping 41%. With only $10.5M in ten days, the Fox release should stumble to an unlucky final of just $16-18M. The horror flick "An American Haunting" followed with an estimated $1.7M, off 53%, for a total of $13.6M.
Universal’s 9/11 pic "United 93" fell 59% to an estimated $1.4M pushing its cume to $28.3M. Rounding out the top ten was the Lionsgate release "Akeelah and the Bee" with an estimated $1M, off 58%, for a $15.7M total.
Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. The year’s highest-grossing film "Ice Age: The Meltdown" took a hit from the arrival of a rival digital toon and tumbled 71% to an estimated $915,000. Budgeted at $80M, the Fox smash has grossed $189.2M to date and is heading for a final gross of a little more than $190M. The first "Ice Age" banked $176.4M in 2002.
Buena Vista’s gymnastics pic "Stick It" grossed an estimated $927,000 plunging 71% in its fourth frame. With $23.8M to date, the teen flick should finish with a better-than-expected $25M. New Line’s endangered owl film "Hoot" collapsed 85% in its third weekend and collected an estimated $350,000. Cume sits at a puny $7.3M and it will be a struggle to hit $8M.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $151.4M which was off only 3% from last year when "Star Wars Episode III" opened at number one with a colossal $108.4M; and down 7% from 2004 when "Shrek 2" debuted in the top spot with a massive $108M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com