Box Office Guru Wrapup: Vampire Flick Scares Up #1 Debut

October 22, 2007 at 3:29 pm Leave a comment

Bloodthirty vampires flew high, depressing dramas sank, and many holdovers held up well at the North American box office. The new horror flick 30 Days of Night easily ruled the charts while a handful of adult dramas were met with opening weekend sales that ranged from mild to embarrassing. Oscar-winning actresses Reese Witherspoon and Halle Berry both failed miserably with their new serious stories which were both shunned by ticket buyers. With so many fall offerings eating into each others’ business, the overall marketplace remained sluggish as for the fifth consecutive weekend the top ten slumped below year-ago levels.

Sony commanded the top spot with its R-rated gorefest 30 Days of Night which opened with an estimated $16M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Attacking 2,855 theaters, the vampires-in-Alaska pic averaged a solid $5,604 and tapped into a pre-Halloween box office that offered no major scary movies. The lack of competition helped the $30M Josh Hartnett starrer which brought out older teens, young adults, and genre fans. Days was based on a popular graphic novel and earned mixed reviews which is above average by horror picture standards.

Tyler Perry followed up his muscular top spot debut for his latest comedy Why Did I Get Married? with a strong second weekend hold dropping only 43% to an estimated $12.1M. After just ten days in theaters, the Lionsgate release has already collected a sturdy $38.9M which is just ahead of the $38.1M that Perry’s first film Diary of a Mad Black Woman took in during its first ten days in 2005. Married suffered a smaller drop than his other films witnessed indicating that the filmmaker’s latest entry could be reaching beyond its core African American audience. Diary fell 50% in its sophomore session while Madea’s Family Reunion and Daddy’s Little Girls tumbled by about 57% each. Married looks on course to reach a remarkable $65-70M which would be a new career high for Perry


Posting the smallest decline in the top ten once again was The Rock’s hit family comedy The Game Plan which ranked third in its fourth weekend with an estimated $8.1M. That represented a slim drop of only 26% and boosted Disney’s cume to $69.2M. The durable sensation ranks as the actor’s second biggest hit in a lead role after The Scorpion King which took in $90.5M in 2002. Game Plan should easily surpass that mark and has not yet seen a drop of more than 35%.


Also holding up very well was George Clooney’s legal thriller Michael Clayton which remained in fourth place with an estimated $7.1M. The Warner Bros. title dropped by only 32% and boosted its total gross to $22M matching its production budget. The marketplace was crowded with adult dramas targeting Clayton‘s audience so the strong hold was an impressive performance. Powerful reviews and good word-of-mouth contributed to the success. A final tally of $40-50M may result.


Two new films fought fiercely over the number five spot. Miramax estimated that its kidnapping thriller Gone Baby Gone would collect $6M over the weekend from 1,713 theaters for a mild $3,503 average. The directorial debut of Ben Affleck stars his brother Casey Affleck along with Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris and was greeted with stellar reviews from film critics. Produced for $19M, Gone faced tough competition from other adult dramas but could have legs in the weeks ahead.


Aiming for teens and young adults with a dose of immature spoof comedy was The Comebacks which grossed an estimated $5.9M for Fox. The PG-13 sports film enjoyed a much wider release in 2,812 venues and generated a dull $2,080 average. The debut was nowhere near the numbers that the studio has seen in the recent past with its other spoof comedies. Both Epic Movie from earlier this year and Date Movie from 2006 debuted to about $19M. Comebacks will be lucky to reach that amount overall.


Despite the weekend estimates reported by Miramax and Fox, three studios estimated that Comebacks edged out Gone Baby Gone by a slim margin over the weekend. Miramax’s estimate factored in a 26% Saturday-to-Sunday decline while Fox’s figure includes a more reasonable 38% drop. All other films in the top ten projected Sunday declines of 34% to 51%. Final box office grosses to be reported on Monday will tell which film truly earns the fifth-place spot. The position is valuable to studios for the publicity since many news outlets only report on the top five films each weekend and ignore anything below them.

Falling hardest among holdover titles was the Joaquin Phoenix/Mark Wahlberg crime thriller We Own the Night which dropped by 49% to an estimated $5.5M in its second weekend. The Sony release has banked $19.8M in ten days and looks headed for a mediocre finish of $30-33M.

Generating the hottest average in the top ten was the latest re-release of Tim Burton’s creepy animated hit The Nightmare Before Christmas which debuted to an estimated $5.1M from only 564 theaters for a potent $9,122 average. The special 3D version was given a wider launch by Disney compared to this weekend a year ago when it opened in 168 theaters for a $3.3M weekend and sizzling $19,506 average. That re-release bagged $8.7M while its original 1993 run brought in $50M. With no other good options for parents other than the studio’s own The Game Plan, Nightmare proved to be an exciting pre-Halloween option for families. The PG-rated film will only play for a limited three-week engagement and goes back into the Mouse House’s vault soon after the pumpkin holiday.

Moviegoers ignored the terrorism drama Rendition despite its acclaimed cast allowing it to barely debut in the top ten. The New Line release opened to an estimated $4.2M from 2,250 locations for a horrible $1,856 average. It was Reese Witherspoon’s first film since winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for 2005’s Walk the Line, but fans were not biting. Jake Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep, and Alan Arkin also starred in the R-rated story of a woman in search of her Egyptian-born husband who is captured by the CIA after being suspected of being a terrorist. Rendition was the third film in recent weeks dealing with Middle East issues and entered a marketplace flooded with serious adult dramas. Plus lukewarm reviews helped to make this a non-priority among ticket buyers this weekend.

Rounding out the top ten was the Ben Stiller comedy The Heartbreak Kid with an estimated $3.9M, off 46%, for a $32.1M cume for Paramount.

Halle Berry joined fellow Oscar-winning actress Reese in striking out with audiences with her new adult drama. The former Storm headlined the Paramount release Things We Lost in the Fire with Benicio Del Toro and attracted a measly $1.6M in business on opening weekend, according to estimates. Debuting in 1,142 locations, the R-rated film about a woman who befriends her dead husband’s heroin-addicted pal averaged a pathetic $1,405. Reviews were generally favorable and studio research indicated that two-thirds of the audience consisted of women over 30. Fire cost a relatively low $16M to produce, but has a long road ahead of it in order to reach profitability.

Two additional films risked going nationwide and met with embarrassing results. The teen thriller Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour bowed to an estimated $560,000 from 1,115 theaters for a disastrous $502 average for Freestyle Releasing. Meanwhile, Rocky Mountain Pictures unleashed its animated pic The Ten Commandments in 830 sites and was met with only $480,000, according to estimates, for a horrible $578 average. Both films should find their primary audiences on DVD.


Focus saw a soft bow for its downbeat drama Reservation Road which debuted in just fourteen theaters for a weak estimate of $36,821 for a poor average of $2,630. The arthouse crowd was just not in the mood for this depressing drama about the death of a young boy which starred Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Connelly, and Mira Sorvino. Also hurting Road‘s performance were reviews that were far from glowing.

With all the new content in the multiplexes, five films were tossed out of the top ten over the weekend. The costume drama sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age dropped 49% in its sophomore session to an estimated $3.1M giving Universal a weak $11.2M in ten days. Look for the Cate Blanchett pic to end its domestic run with a dismal $16-18M. Overseas prospects do look brighter though.

Sony’s durable musical extravaganza Across the Universe dipped by 29% to an estimated $2.7M for a solid $16.8M total from less than 1,000 theaters. A $25-30M final could result. The Saudi Arabia-set political thriller The Kingdom fell by 48% in its fourth outing to an estimated $2.4M. Universal has taken in $44M thus far and should end up with just under $50M which means that the $70M production will need to still work hard overseas and on video in order to break even.

The Milla Jovovich threequel Resident Evil: Extinction tumbled 60% to an estimated $1.1M and raised its sum to a cool $50M. Fox’s fantasy adventure The Seeker: The Dark is Rising saw its weekend gross nosedive by an alarming 81% to an estimated $425,000 lifting the dull total to $8.2M with little left to go.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $73.9M which was down 10% from last year when The Prestige debuted in first place with $14.8M; but up 13% from 2005 when Doom opened in the top spot with $15.5M.



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