Box Office Guru Wrapup: Compass Not So Golden, But Still Navigates #1 Opening

Box office numbers continue to slip.

by | December 9, 2007 | Comments

New Line’s mega-budgeted fantasy adventure

The Golden Compass
opened below industry expectations but still managed
to find its way into the number one spot at the North American box office. No
other wide release debuted over the frame so the rest of the top ten was filled
with holdover pics. For the second consecutive weekend, the top ten failed to
break the $70M mark further extending the end-of-year slump that Hollywood has
been suffering from as audiences have displayed little excitement for the
offerings that the studios have rolled out. Overall, the box office slumped to
the worst performance in five years for the first weekend of December.

Despite a built-in audience of literary fans and a massive production budget
estimated to be between $180-200M,

The Golden Compass
generated a relatively mild $26.1M opening this
weekend while playing ultrawide in 3,528 theaters. Averaging $7,405 per site,
the PG-13 film starring
Nicole Kidman
and Daniel Craig
saw a bow that was in the same vicinity as those of recent historical
effects-driven adventures released during the holiday season like
($27.5M last
month) and Eragon
($23.2M last December). With no other competing new releases, and with most
current films aging rapidly, Compass was expected to have smooth sailing to a
higher gross at the multiplexes this weekend.

The opening was nowhere near the $65.6M debut of

The Chronicles of Narnia
from two years ago this very same weekend. Both
were epic fantasy adventures based on popular kids books, targeted the family
audience in early December, and were driven by special effects. Narnia
carried the potent Disney brand name, secured a more commercially-friendly PG
rating, and took advantage of a better-known literary source. Compass on the
other hand attracted plenty of resistance from Catholic groups who encouraged
people not to buy tickets for the film. The New Line release also attracted
mixed reviews from critics who were mostly not enthusiastic about the pic.

Among this year’s 18 event films launching in over 3,500 theaters, The
Golden Compass
attracted the third worst opening weekend. The only ones to
premiere that wide and with less muscle were the far less expensive pics
Surf’s Up
Fred Claus

which bowed to $17.6M and $18.5M, respectively. December releases typically last
longer at the box office so The Golden Compass still has a chance of
joining the century club domestically. But the road to profitability will be a
long one.

Disney’s feel-good princess hit Enchanted
fell from the top spot after two weeks of rule and grossed an estimated $10.7M
putting it in second place. The PG-rated comedy dropped only 35% and boosted its
stellar cume to $83.9M in 19 days. With good word-of-mouth and school holidays
right around the corner, Enchanted should continue to hold up well
throughout the holiday season. A final tally of $115-125M could result capping
off a year of mostly winners for Disney.

The next seven films all fell into a tight range of $3-5M. The holiday comedy
This Christmas
got bumped down to third with an estimated $5M in ticket sales in its third
weekend. Sony has taken in a robust $42.8M over 19 days for this modest $13M
production and should end up with $55-60M from the domestic box office.

Another yuletide pic followed.
Vince Vaughn‘s
comedy Fred
dipped only 15% to an estimated $4.7M for Warner Bros. raising
the sum to $65.6M. With Christmas coming up soon, moviegoers were in the mood
for the brother of Santa and helped give the comedy an exceptional hold. The
road could lead to the vicinity of $80M.

Suffering the largest drop in the top ten was the 3D adventure
fell 46% to an estimated $4.4M for a cume to date of $76M. With a production
budget of $150M, the Paramount/Warner Bros. co-production should reach $85-90M
from North America. Overseas this weekend, Beowulf grossed an estimated
$9.2M from over 5,000 screens in 60 markets. The international cume now stands
at $91.6M with the global tally at $167.6M.

The acclaimed indie hit
No Country for
Old Men
expanded to more theaters and climbed from tenth to sixth
with an estimated $4.2M. Widening from 995 to 1,324 playdates, the Miramax
release averaged a decent $3,197 in its fifth weekend and bumped its total up to
$28.9M. The average dipped by 28% from last weekend. Country, which was
recently named the best film of 2007 by the National Board of Review, is on its
way to becoming the highest-grossing film for the
Coen Brothers
since 2000’s O Brother Where Art Thou which collected $45.5M. It even has
the chance of breaking that mark if it can remain a solid performer against the
next wave of adult-skewing pictures.

The family film August Rush
placed seventh with an estimated $3.5M, off only 30%, giving Warner Bros. $25.1M
to date. Fox’s stylish assassin pic Hitman
dropped 42% grossing an estimated $3.5M as well and has bagged $35.8M thus far.
Final grosses should reach the neighborhoods of $35M and $45M, respectively.

Jessica Alba
followed in ninth with their suspense thriller
which fell
44% in its second weekend to an estimated $3.3M for a ten-day tally of only
$10.7M. Look for a weak final of just under $20M for the MGM release. Bee
still remained in the top ten in its sixth week with an
estimated $2.6M. Off 41%, the DreamWorks toon has grossed $121M to date making
it the second biggest box office hit since the summer ended after

American Gangster
$125.6M. Both films opened on the same day. Look for Bee Movie to end its
run with close to $130M.

Two other films debuted to encouraging results in limited release this
weekend. Fox Searchlight enjoyed the best per-theater average of the weekend
with its teen pregnancy comedy
which debuted
in just seven theaters in New York and Los Angeles to the tune of $420,000 for a
scorching $60,016 average. Since its Wednesday launch the cume stands at
$531,000. Juno expands to thirteen cities and 40 theaters on Friday, then
widens to about 200 runs on Dec 21 before going nationwide on Christmas Day into
800-1000 sites. Critics showered the Jason Reitman-directed film with praise.

Focus went wider with its costume drama
bowed in 32 sites with $817,000 for a superb $25,528 average. After 2005’s
Pride & Prejudice
director Joe
and actress
reunited for Atonement. Reviews were mostly strong.

Other arthouse favorites expanding into more cities continued to do well.
Miramax’s French drama

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
took in an estimated $60,000 from
just three sites for a potent $20,000 average. Cume is $173,000. The
Seymour Hoffman
Laura Linney
The Savages

widened to nine houses from four and grossed an estimated $146,000. Averaging a
sturdy $16,249, the Fox Searchlight release has upped its sum to $387,000 and
will see its next major expansion on Dec 21 before going into 100 locations on
Christmas Day. Savages will wait until January when more awards and
nominations get announced before going wider.

The top ten films grossed a disappointing $68M over the weekend which was
down a troubling 18% from last year when
at number one with $15M; and down a disturbing 40% from 2005 when The Chronicles
of Narnia debuted on top with $65.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

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