Box Office Guru Wrapup: American Gangster Crushes Competition at #1

November 5, 2007 at 11:25 am Leave a comment

The North American box office exploded thanks to the scorching debuts of the Denzel Washington-Russell Crowe crime drama American Gangster and Jerry Seinfeld’s animated comedy Bee Movie which combined for over $85M in ticket sales. Following weeks of sluggish business where the marketplace failed to match 2006 levels, this weekend’s box office enjoyed a healthy bounce over last year and kicked off the holiday movie season with a bang.

Washington and Crowe both scored new career highs with the estimated $46.3M opening weekend for the crime saga American Gangster which dominated the multiplexes. Universal opened the R-rated tale in 3,054 theaters and generated a scorching $15,175 average per location. Directed by Ridley Scott, Gangster tells the true story of a drug kingpin who built up a heroin empire in Harlem in the early 1970s. The opening easily beat out the former all-time biggest debuts for the Oscar-winning actors: Washington’s Inside Man with $29M and Crowe’s Gladiator with $34.8M.

American Gangster enjoyed the second highest launch of the year for an R-rated film trailing only 300’s $70.9M. Much of the success came from strong sales from young males and the urban audience which saw it as a Scarface for today’s generation. The same audience also helped to power Eminem’s R-rated hip hop drama 8 Mile to a surprising number one opening of $51.2M in November of 2002. Brian Grazer produced both Mile and Gangster. Reviews were mostly favorable and early Academy Award buzz could help the film in the weeks ahead. Despite the long running time of nearly two hours and forty minutes, moviegoers lined up and found their showtimes.

Paramount and DreamWorks settled for a second place debut for their latest animated film Bee Movie which grossed an estimated $39.1M in its opening weekend. The PG-rated toon averaged a sturdy $9,954 from 3,928 locations and performed just a bit below the levels of recent November animated titles. Last year, the penguin pic Happy Feet bowed to $41.5M while the previous year’s Chicken Little launched with $40M. The two went on to gross $198M and $135.4M, respectively, from the North American market. Co-written by and starring Jerry Seinfeld, Bee Movie enjoyed virtually no competition in the current marketplace for family audiences. Critics were not too kind, but ticket buyers showed interest on the opening weekend. For 2007, the toon posted the fourth biggest debut for an animated film after Shrek the Third ($121.6M), The Simpsons Movie ($74M) and Ratatouille ($47M).

Suffering the largest sophomore drop in franchise history, Saw IV tumbled 65% from its top spot bow and grossed an estimated $11M. The Lionsgate title has still banked an impressive $51.1M in ten days and should finish with nearly $70M.

Buena Vista’s Dan in Real Life fared much better in its second weekend dropping a slim 31% to an estimated $8.1M. With $23M in ten days, the romantic comedy might find its way to around $50M despite playing in less than 2,000 theaters.

Sony’s vampire thriller 30 Days of Night declined by 42% and took in an estimated $4M lifting the total to $34.2M. Buena Vista’s The Game Plan followed in sixth with an estimated $3.9M, off only 37%, for a cume to date of $82M.

Neglected and landing in seventh place was the new John Cusack drama Martian Child which opened with an estimated $3.7M. Playing in 2,020 locations, the PG-rated story of a man that adopts a boy who says he’s from Mars averaged a pitiful $1,807 for New Line. Child was the seventh wide release in the past six weeks to debut with an average of less than $2,000.

Three adult-skewing fall pics followed. George Clooney’s legal thriller Michael Clayton collected an estimated $2.9M, down 41%, for a sum of $33.2M for Warner Bros. Lionsgate’s Why Did I Get Married? got hit hard by Denzel’s arrival tumbling 52 to an estimated $2.7M. Cume is $51.2M. The Miramax mystery Gone Baby Gone captured an estimated $2.4M, off 37%, for a $14.9M total.

Warner Independent saw a solid platform bow for its documentary Darfur Now which saw an estimated $24,000 in ticket sales from only three theaters. Averaging $8,000 per venue, the Don Cheadle-narrated film will expand on Friday to more cities.

Three October titles fell sharply and left the top ten this weekend. Disney’s latest re-release of Thee Nightmare Before Christmas saw its post-Halloween sales slump 55% to an estimated $1.5M for a cume of $12.8M. A $15M final seems likely. The Joaquin Phoenix/Mark Wahlberg drama We Own the Night fell 59% to an estimated $1.4M. The Sony release has taken in $27.7M and could make it to $30M. The spoof comedy The Comebacks grossed an estimated $1.5M, down 56%, and has collected a disappointing $11.9M for Fox. Look for a $13M final.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $124.1M which was up 14% from last year when Borat debuted in first place with $26.5M; and up 8% from 2005 when Chicken Little opened in the top spot with $40M.



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