Box Office Guru Wrapup: Fans Power Sex to the Top Spot

Sex appeal rules the box office.

by | June 1, 2008 | Comments

Actor/producer Sarah Jessica Parker
and her trio of gal pals showed the boys how it’s done blowing away industry
expectations with the launch of their much-anticipated comedy Sex and the City
which took control of the number one spot at North American multiplexes. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,
the expected box office leader, settled for the bridesmaid position but held up
relatively well in its sophomore frame. Another surprisingly strong debut came
from the new horror film The Strangers
which bowed in third place helping to give the marketplace some well-needed
depth. Overall, the box office was red hot as for the first time ever two
different films climbed north of $40M on the weekend after Memorial Day. In
fact, business was so strong that the top ten was off only a scant 2% from the
Friday-to-Sunday portion of last weekend’s stellar holiday session.

Stepping out in style, fans powered Sex and the City
to the top spot with an estimated $55.7M in ticket sales on opening weekend. The
R-rated New Line-Warner Bros. pic averaged a stunning $16,968 from 3,285
theaters and ranked as the year’s third largest debut behind only
Indiana Jones
($100.1M) and Iron Man
($98.6M). Anticipation had been building for months with the HBO comedy’s
millions of loyal fans leading to brisk advance ticket sales, especially for
opening day. This was an event film for female moviegoers and the numbers soared
above even the loftiest of pre-release forecasts.

According to studio research, Friday’s audience was a whopping 85% female with
Saturday’s crowd coming down only slightly from that figure. Opening day was
dominated by groups of women going together just as males often do for a new
Star Wars
or super hero film. The budget was $60M which is rather high for a
comedy, but with the Sex and the City brand being a worldwide phenomenon,
it looks to be a moneymaker at the end of the day with the domestic tally on its
way across the $100M mark. Critics had mixed feelings.

Sex reunited Parker with co-stars Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis
while recent Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson
was added to the cast. The film arrived four years after the series finale of
the award-winning program which was just the right amount of time. Enough of an
appetite was generated without the franchise becoming irrelevant. It set a new
benchmark for the biggest debut by a female-led film stealing away the record
held for seven years by
Angelina Jolie
for her 2001 action hit
Lara Croft:
Tomb Raider
which bowed to $47.7M. The Carrie-Big wedding saga was the
fifth biggest opening ever for an R-rated film trailing
The Matrix Reloaded

The Passion of the Christ
($70.9M), and

($58M). For New Line which is being folded into Warner Bros., it was the best
opening of any film since the end of the

Lord of the Rings
trilogy in 2003.

Studios often program female-skewing films into the summer movie calendar as a
way to offer options to those not interested in the non-stop flow of action
films. But rarely does one become so big that it overshadows more expensive
tentpole franchise films.

In its second weekend,Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
fell by a moderate 54% from its potent opening frame and grossed an estimated
$46M. The Paramount release averaged $10,788 from 4,264 locations and upped its
cume to an amazing $216.9M after 11 days. The PG-13 film is now on par with
fellow adventure sequel
Pirates of
the Caribbean: At World’s End
which reached a similar $217.5M total in
10.5 days at this point last year following its $44.2M sophomore weekend take.
If Crystal Skull can manage the type of declines that Pirates saw
last June then it could finish its run in the same neighborhood as the Johnny
Depp threequel’s $309.4M final.

Steven Spielberg‘s
newest film shattered the $200M mark on Saturday in its tenth day of release and
stands as the second biggest blockbuster of the year after Paramount sibling Iron Man.
By next weekend, the new Indiana Jones will burst onto the list of Top 50
all-time domestic blockbusters. When it does, the film that it will boot off the
list will be
Raiders of
the Lost Ark

Horror fans in need of a good scare came out in strong numbers for the new
suspense thriller The Strangers which
opened much better than expected with an estimated $20.7M. If the estimate
holds, it will be the second biggest opening of 2008 for a horror film behind
Prom Night
‘s $20.8M from April. No fright flicks have opened since that teen
hit so a hungry appetite from genre fans helped the Universal release bring out
a sizable crowd. Playing in 2,467 locations, the R-rated hit averaged an
impressive $8,394. The low $9M production cost will ensure that this becomes a
profitable entry for Rogue Pictures.

According to studio data, more than half of the sales came from ethnic
moviegoers. And with 43-year-old Sarah Jessica Parker and 65-year-old
Harrison Ford
running the box office, The Strangers saw much of its business come from
young adults as 62% of the audience was under 25. The gender split was about
even with females making up 51%. The home invasion fright pic saw the best gross
of the year for a third-place film.

Still a muscular performer was Iron Man
which dipped only 32% in its fifth session to an estimated $14M giving Paramount
and Marvel a stunning $276.6M in 31 days. That boosted the Robert Downey Jr.
actioner to number 35 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters putting it
just behind the $279.2M of 2004’s Meet the Fockers. Budgeted at $185M,
the super hero smash has the potential to soar to about $320M and finish up in
the all-time Top 20.

Iron Man is the first film since last summer’s The Bourne Ultimatum to
gross over $10M in each of its first five weekends and generated the largest
fifth-weekend take of any film since 2005’s holiday blockbuster

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
e which took in $15.6M. Iron Man
has been enjoying terrific word-of-mouth as fans have taken over the job of
selling the picture.

Disney’s $200M fantasy sequel
The Chronicles of
Narnia: Prince Caspian
fell another 43% in its third weekend to an
estimated $13M lifting the studio’s 17-day total to a mediocre $115.7M. A final
gross of $145-150M seems likely which would be about half of the $291.7M of

Despite the arrival of Sex and the City holdover comedies held up
remarkably well, even the female-skewing ones, posting declines of only 25-41%
which is exceptional considering that the movies are coming off of a major
holiday weekend. Fox’s What Happens in Vegas
enjoyed the smallest drop in the top ten slipping just 25% to an estimated $6.9M
boosting the cume to $66.1M.

Universal’s Baby Mama
followed with an estimated $2.2M, off 34%, for a $56.1M total. Speed Racer
was close behind with an estimated $2.1M, down 46%, giving Warner Bros. a weak
$40.6M to date.

Sony’s romantic comedy Made of Honor
slipped 40% to an estimated $2M and has banked $43M to date. Rounding out the
top ten was the list’s eldest statesman
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
with an estimated $1M in its seventh weekend. Down 41%, the Universal release
rose to $60.5M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $163.7M which was up a healthy 28% from
last year when Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End remained in the
top spot with $44.2M; and up 28% from 2006 when The Break-Up debuted at
number one with $39.2M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,