The romantic comedy "The Holiday" had to settle for a second place showing following close behind while Leonardo DiCaprio’s new actioner "Blood Diamond" finished the frame a few notches back in fifth with a not-so-sparkling bow. Overall, the marketplace was sluggish as total ticket sales fell significantly from the corresponding weekends from each of the last two years.
The ancient Mayan adventure "Apocalypto" shot to the top of the box office charts with an estimated $14.2M over the weekend giving Gibson a major industry victory just months after a scandalous summer. Playing in 2,465 theaters, the R-rated action film averaged a solid $5,747 per location. Apocalypto entered the marketplace as a tough sell given its unknown cast, subtitles, and extreme brutality. However, good reviews helped the film and the free publicity Gibson received since being arrested in July certainly boosted the overall awareness of the picture.
The Oscar-winning filmmaker’s last movie, 2004’s "The Passion of the Christ," generated tons more controversy and found itself with a colossal $125.2M opening over five days on its way to a domestic haul of $370.3M. "Apocalypto" stood as a very different film and was never expected to come close to that level. Studio research showed that 60% of the audience was male which was expected given its action story and extreme levels of torture and violence. Buena Vista has been on a roll in the second half of 2006 and "Apocalypto" should become the studio’s ninth consecutive wide release to reach past $50M domestically.
Movie patrons looking for lighter fare lined up for the new romantic comedy "The Holiday" which debuted close behind in second place with an estimated $13.5M. The PG-13 film stars Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet as two women who switch homes for the Christmas season and find love with a pair of new chaps played by Jude Law and Jack Black. Spreading cheer in 2,610 locations, "The Holiday" averaged a good $5,172 per site. Not surprisingly, adult women made up the largest part of the audience. According to studio research, 65% of the crowd was female and 57% was 25 and older. Reviews were not very kind. The film was helmed by Nancy Meyers who directed Mel Gibson in the smash hit "What Women Want" in 2000. The two went head-to-head this weekend with their new projects but it was Gibson who managed to race ahead and claim the box office crown.
The debut of "The Holiday" was on the lower end of the range reached by similar films opening in mid-December like last year’s "The Family Stone" ($12.5M), 2003’s "Something’s Gotta Give" ($16.1M), and 2002’s "Two Weeks Notice" ($14.3M). Unlike the other eleven months of the year, December usually sees movies enjoy better legs thanks to the extra time people have off from work and school. Those who miss a film on opening weekend often have time to see it later on and movies routinely reach a final gross that is five to seven times their debuts. "Stone"’s bow accounted for only 21% of its overall tally while "Something" and "Notice" enjoyed shares of 13% and 15%, respectively.
Following its three-week stint at number one, the penguin hit "Happy Feet" dropped down to third place but still witnessed a strong hold. The Warner Bros. toon enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten dipping only 28% to an estimated $12.7M and raised its cume to $137.7M. With solid word-of-mouth and the upcoming school holidays approaching, "Happy Feet" stands a good chance of reaching the $200M domestic mark. Internationally, the animated film grossed an estimated $25.4M from 37 markets this weekend boosting the overseas cume to $40.8M
For the fourth consecutive weekend, "Casino Royale" followed right behind the penguins on the box office chart. The new James Bond actioner fell 42% to an estimated $8.8M putting the domestic total at $128.9M. "Casino" is now running only 2% behind the pace of the last Agent 007 flick "Die Another Day" which had banked $131.9M after its fourth weekend. Overseas, Daniel Craig continued to shine lifting "Casino"’s international tally to $247.2M putting the global gross at a stunning $376.1M and counting. By the end of the week, the Sony smash will zoom past the worldwide tallies of "Superman Returns" ($390M) and "Mission: Impossible III" ($395M).
Opening in fifth place with mediocre results was Leonardo DiCaprio’s "Blood Diamond" with an estimated $8.5M from 1,910 sites for a decent $4,458 average. Directed by Ed Zwick ("The Last Samurai," "Glory"), the R-rated film finds the "Titanic" star playing a white African diamond smuggler hunting down a rare pink diamond found by an enslaved fisherman. Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly co-star and reviews were generally positive. "Blood" attracted media attention for its story which examines how conflict diamonds are used by rebel groups to finance their wars in parts of Africa. The opening weekend average did not reach the levels of the debuts of last year’s R-rated political thrillers set near that part of the world. "The Constant Gardener" bowed to $8.7M and a $6,444 average while "Syriana" opened nationally this weekend in 2005 to $11.7M with a $6,699 average.
Warner Bros. also opened its new family comedy "Unaccompanied Minors" but was met with weak results thanks in part to a crowded market for kidpics. The PG-rated film grossed an estimated $6.2M from 2,775 theaters for a poor $2,234 average. "Minors" finds a group of kids stranded in an airport during the holiday season.
Denzel Washington’s action thriller "Deja Vu" dropped 45% to an estimated $6.1M in its third weekend and upped its cume to $53M for Buena Vista. Following in eighth place was the Biblical drama "The Nativity Story" with an estimated $5.6M declining only 29%. With $15.8M in ten days, the New Line release may find its way to $35-40M.
More Christmas pics rounded out the top ten. Fox’s "Deck the Halls" grossed an estimated $3.9M, off 41%, to push its total to $30.1M. Disney’s "The Santa Clause 3" dipped 32% to an estimated $3.3M giving the studio $77.2M to date. The holiday comedy is running 36% behind the pace of the last Tim Allen installment which had taken in $120.1M at this same point in its run. Factor in ticket price increases since 2002 and "Clause 3" is trailing by 43%.
Four films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Fox’s smash hit "Borat" fell 46% to an estimated $2.6M giving the blockbuster comedy $120.3M to date. Budgeted at only $18M, look for the Sacha Baron Cohen concoction to finish with $125-130M domestically. Cohen’s "Talladega Nights" foe Will Ferrell has not met with the same kind of success with his latest comedy "Stranger Than Fiction." The Sony release fell 55% to an estimated $1.5M to put its cume at $39.2M. Budgeted at just under $30M, "Fiction" should end up with $40-45M.
The horror thriller "Turistas" from Fox’s new teen genre division Fox Atomic tumbled 63% in its second weekend to an estimated $1.3M. With only $5.9M in ten days, look for the R-rated film to harvest just $8-10M from its theatrical run. Fellow sophomore "Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj" has grossed less than $4M to date and seems headed for a finish of just $5-7M for MGM.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $82.8M which was down 27% from last year when "The Chronicles of Narnia" opened at number one with $65.6M; and down 16% from 2004 when "Ocean’s Twelve" debuted in the top spot with $39.2M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com