Samuel L. Jackson‘s much-talked-about thriller Snakes on a Plane landed in first place at the North American box office this weekend, but lacked the kind of bite that was expected given all the media attention and internet buzz that surrounded the film.
The weekend’s two other new releases Accepted and Material Girls targeted teens and met with only mild-to-moderate results. However, the indie comedy Little Miss Sunshine flexed some muscle in its national expansion jumping into the top ten in its fourth weekend of release. Former number one Talladega Nights raced past the $100M mark while Pirates of the Caribbean cruised past the $400M milestone this weekend. However, the late-summer slowdown took its toll on the box office as for the first time in fourteen weeks, the top ten failed to top $100M.
Following months of online buzz which translated into tons of national publicity, Snakes on a Plane finally arrived in theaters and collected an estimated $15.3M over the weekend including about $1.4M in Thursday night preview grosses. Taking off in an ultrawide 3,555 theaters, the R-rated film averaged a mediocre $4,290 per site. Of the 62 films in history that have opened in 3,500 or more theaters, 61 have grossed more than Snakes on opening weekend. Only last summer’s Herbie: Fully Loaded fared worse with $12.7M from 3,521 sites following a Wednesday bow. Snakes also suffered the second lowest gross for a number one opener this year after Glory Road‘s $13.6M top spot bow in January.
Since no film before it had generated the same type of grassroots hype, expectations varied greatly leading into the frame with most believing it would at least surpass the $20M mark. The New Line release finds Jackson playing an FBI agent escorting a key witness on a commercial airliner when deadly snakes are let loose. The studio did not screen the film for the media ahead of the release. Fans on the internet have been talking up the picture since last year creating a cult fan following which no one knew how to measure when it came to box office sales. Ultimately, Snakes did not appear to have had much appeal outside of its core fan base of young men. With a budget of only $30M, Snakes on a Plane should still end up being a moneymaker for New Line after worldwide DVD sales are tallied. However, hopes for a new franchise seem to have been crushed.
After two weeks in pole position, Will Ferrell‘s hit comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby finished close behind in second place this weekend with an estimated $14.1M in its third lap. The Sony release dropped only 36% and showed good legs. On Thursday, Talladega became the eleventh film of the year to cross the $100M mark and has pushed its total to $114.7M after 17 days. Snakes led all films at the box office on Friday, but Ricky Bobby raced ahead on both Saturday and Sunday.
Oliver Stone‘s 9/11 drama World Trade Center enjoyed a good hold in its second weekend grossing an estimated $10.8M. Down a moderate 42%, the Paramount release upped its total to $45M after 12 days. The $65M film looks to reach about $70M domestically.
Universal’s new teen comedy Accepted bowed in fourth place with an estimated $10.1M from 2,914 theaters. The PG-13 film about a high school senior who forms the fictitious S.H.I.T. (South Harmon Institute of Technology) after being rejected by every other college averaged a mild $3,470 per location. Budgeted at $23M, Accepted appealed mostly to a teen and young adult audience with studio research showing that a whopping 74% of the crowd was under 25. Males slightly outnumbered females with 52% of the audience.
Last weekend’s surprise hit Step Up fell an understandable 52% in its second session taking in an estimated $9.9M for fifth place. Buena Vista’s low-budget dance drama has captured a robust $39.4M in ten days and could end its run with a terrific $60M. At the beginning of August, no one thought that Step Up would score a bigger opening than Snakes on a Plane. The animated comedy Barnyard followed with an estimated $7.5M dropping only 23%. The strong hold for the Paramount release helped boost the cume to $46M after 17 days.
Boasting the best per-theater average in the top ten by far was indie sensation Little Miss Sunshine which expanded nationally and grossed an estimated $5.7M. Fox Searchlight’s dysfunctional family comedy averaged a stellar $8,213 from 691 locations after widening from 153 playdates last weekend. Cume to date stands at $12.8M with much more to come. The distributor reported that the Greg Kinnear–Steve Carell pic is broadening its audience beyond just the arthouse crowd and is now playing well in mainstream multiplexes in suburban markets. Sunshine will double its theater count on Friday with over 1,400 runs and will add a few hundred more the following weekend for the Labor Day holiday frame.
Disney’s unstoppable smash Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest ranked eighth this weekend with an estimated $5M in its seventh voyage. Down only 31%, the Johnny Depp adventure broke the quadruple-century mark and pushed its cume to $401.1M in North America making it the seventh biggest domestic blockbuster ever trailing the $403.7M of 2002’s Spider-Man. Worldwide, the Pirates sequel cruised past the $900M mark this weekend and will break through the $1 billion barrier soon allowing it to join only Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in the ten-digit club.
Opening quietly in ninth place were sisters Hilary and Haylie Duff with their comedy Material Girls which debuted with only $4.6M, according to estimates. Playing in 1,509 theaters, the MGM release averaged just $3,062 per site. The PG-rated story about wealthy sisters who must cope with being bankrupt opened much like Hilary Duff’s recent films Raise Your Voice ($4M in October 2004) and The Perfect Man ($5.3M in June 2005).
Rounding out the top ten was the horror entry Pulse with an estimated $3.5M, off 57%, for a ten-day total of just $14.7M. The Weinstein Co. should reach a mere $20M with this one.
There was plenty of activity in limited release over the weekend. Yari Film Group opened its period mystery The Illusionist in 51 theaters and grossed an estimated $925,000 for a powerful $18,137 average. The Edward Norton–Paul Giamatti starrer earned strong reviews and will add more theaters on Friday before expanding nationwide on September 1.
Fox Searchlight saw more modest results with its new relationship pic Trust the Man which debuted to an estimated $176,000 from 38 locations for a moderate $4,632 average. Playing in eight cities, the R-rated story stars Billy Crudup, David Duchovny, Julianne Moore, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Trust will widen to more than 100 theaters on Friday. Reviews have been mixed.
Four summer movies dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Lionsgate’s horror film The Descent fell 47% to an estimated $2.5M putting its total at $22.3M. The chicks-in-a-cave thriller should end with $27-29M. Sony’s Tim Allen flop Zoom declined 47% to an estimated $2.4M increasing its sum to a puny $9M. A horrendous final total of around $15M seems likely.
Universal’s $135M cop pic Miami Vice dropped 50% to an estimated $2.4M in its fifth frame and lifted its sum to $59.8M. A disappointing $65M final seems likely. The $75M animated film Monster House grossed an estimated $1.9M, down 42%, for a cume of $67.3M. Sony should end up with a respectable $72M.
Among holdovers in limited release, ThinkFilm’s critically-acclaimed drama Half Nelson added one theater and grossed an estimated $57,000 from three sites for a solid $19,067 average. The existing pair of theaters in Manhattan suffered almost no decline from last weekend and continued to sell out most of their weekend shows. Cume stands at $148,000 and the film debuts on Friday in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.
The global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth became the highest-grossing film in company history for Paramount Classics this weekend. Al Gore‘s environmental pic took in an estimated $246,000 from 221 theaters and upped its total to $22.4M. The distributor’s previous top grosser was last summer’s Hustle & Flow with $22.2M.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $86.5M which was down 7% from last year when The 40-Year-Old Virgin debuted at number one with $21.4M; and down 10% from 2004 when Exorcist: The Beginning opened in the top spot with a robust $18.1M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com