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The Box Office Buster (Nov. 17-19)

by Erik Childress

What did we learn last weekend? That nobody wants to see Russell Crowe doing comedy. More people would rather see Will Ferrell doing comedy. And that Sarah Michelle Gellar is racking up one of the worst film resumes on record. The Borat numbers went up last week as expected and despite facing competition from two newcomers that are liable to knock it down from its perch, it still has a shot at putting up a 20-spot for the third straight weekend. I guess that means the backlash is right around the corner. This weekend is all about the Bond though. Or at least it would be if it weren’t opening against tap-dancin’ penguins destined to delight both kids and adults alike. Just like the womanizin’, assassinatin’, blue trunk wearin’ superspy.

Warner Bros. Happy Feet has so much going for it that it’s impossible to not think of it as a smash hit; possibly even a bigger one than the $174 million I allotted it in my box office preview. It’s first trailers appeared in front of the fourth Harry Potter film last year. That’s at least $290 million worth of gazing eyes. It’s cashing in on the penguin craze started by the second highest grossing documentary in cinema history, March of the Penguins. Who doesn’t love penguins, seriously? The previews only suggest the majesty of the animation and families are in prime spending mode if the returns on Santa Clause 3 and Flushed Away are any indication. Both are liable to suffer a bigger drop than their mid-teen mini-plunges last week as Happy Feet enters with hopes of unseating Cars as the highest grossing animated film of the year. Ice Age 2 and Cars both opened to $60 million-plus weekends and it would take $244 million to be #1 but only $38.5 to have the third highest opener for an animated film in 2006 above Over the Hedge ($38.4), Open Season ($23.6) and Monster House ($22.2). With only Deck the Halls and Unaccompanied Minors as the only remaining family competition over the next month, Happy Feet should have smooth enough sailing until Charlotte’s Web and Night at the Museum open on Dec. 20 and mount a charge for the $200 million that Ice Age 2 just came up short of, beginning with $46.2 million this weekend.

Pierce Brosnan was a smash as Bond at the box office. No qualms about it. After a six-year hiatus post-Dalton, the Bond series came back in 1995 to the tune of a $26 million opening with Goldeneye. It eventually went on to gross $106 million and just two years later, Bond was back again with Tomorrow Never Dies (the only Brosnan effort I kinda support.) It opened a tad softer with $25 million but outlasted its predecessor to a $125 million take. 1999’s The World Is Not Enough exploded with $35.5 million in its 3-day but only passed up Tomorrow by less than $2 million total. Then in 2002 with Halle Berry adding the extra eye candy in one of the worst Bond adventures on record, Die Another Day, the franchise reached a new high with a $47 million opening and $160 when it was all through. It’s been four years and we’re starting over once again. Fans made much over the casting of a blonde Bond named Daniel Craig (over what seemed like a slam-dunk for Clive Owen.) Do they really care enough to actually boycott a new Bond film though? After Sean Connery, casting is a bit of a moot point anyway since, like the evolvement of cinema, it’s about bigger stunts and better gadgets. Deliver the action in a brand name and they will show. Casino Royale should jump out to a spectacular opening on Friday, possibly even exceeding Happy Feet thanks to school limiting those early afternoon crowds, but may find itself falling behind on Saturday and Sunday. Still, the opening is poised to be impressive at about $36.9 million and the film will surely hold up over openings of Deck the Halls, The Fountain, Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny, Turistas and Van Wilder 2 in its second and third weekends with only Déjà vu (Nov. 22) and The Nativity Story (Dec. 1) mounting serious challenges to Bond as it coasts through Dec. 8 before further muscle is revealed.

Speaking of revealed muscles, Universal’s Let’s Go To Prison is the counter programming this week to penguins and spies. It stars Will Arnett from Arrested Development, but based on the numbers for that show – even through three seasons – very few people on a nationwide scale know either of those names. It’s directed by the very funny Bob Odenkirk whose last film, Melvin Goes To Dinner, despite being very good never got a launch past the festival circuit. Cutting to the chase, its opening in only 1400-some theaters and without any reviews to accompany it – making it the 73rd film this year to come without a press screening. If A Good Year and Harsh Times couldn’t pull a $2,000 per-screen last week, why should anyone expect this to? Look past the top ten if you want to find the $2 million opening for this film.

I can’t access certain sites without brushing past the ads for After Dark’s Horror Fest and having some broad scream at me. Annoying, but also effective. In 450 theaters this weekend, you will have your chance to take up a mini-film festival with eight films geared specifically towards the horror geeks. Check out all the details here. Finally, Richard Linklater’s Fast Food Nation opens in around 300 locations and is worth a look as a decent companion piece to Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me. Too bad Fox Searchlight isn’t throwing a little weight behind it since the topic alone should be good enough for $15 million in sales. The way it’s being released, it will be lucky to make a third of that.

Among holdovers, Borat will attempt to be just the fifth film this year after Ice Age 2, Over the Hedge, Cars and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest to hit $20 million for a third straight weekend. (Pirates did it for 4.) Hitting $90 million won’t be an issue this weekend and it should hit $100 million by Thanksgiving. Disney’s The Santa Clause 3 will be close to hitting $55 million and Flushed Away will continue to inch closer and eventually exceed my initial expectations (thankfully) and Aardman’s Wallace & Gromit feature with about $53 million in the tank. Sony’s Stranger Than Fiction will take an average drop and still only have $25 million in its first ten days. Paramount Vantage’s Babel will cross the $13 million mark and hope that around $20 will be good enough for Oscar nominations. Lions Gate’s Saw III will hit $75 million and looks unlikely to match sequel number one’s total. Martin Scorsese’s The Departed will live another week on the top ten list and looks to hit the $120 million mark and unless Let’s Go To Prison has a greater stay of sentence, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige should hit the $50 million mark in the number ten slot instead of eleventh.

Box Office Top Ten Predictions (Oct. 27-29)
1. Happy Feet - $46.2

2. Casino Royale - $36.9

3. Borat - $20.0

4. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause - $11.3

5. Flushed Away - $10.8

6. Stranger Than Fiction - $8.9

7. Babel - $4.3

8. Saw III - $3.5

9. The Departed - $3.0

10. The Prestige - $2.8


(Stats through Nov. 13)
1. Charlotte’s Web ($205.8 million)
2. Happy Feet ($174.3 million)
3. Blood Diamond ($131.3 million)
4. Night at the Museum ($125.6 million)
5. The Pursuit of Happyness ($119.2 million)
6. Casino Royale ($103.8 million)
7. Dreamgirls ($90.7 million)
8. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause ($83.5 million) ($41.7 million to date)
9. The Holiday ($79.3 million)
10. We Are Marshall ($74.6 million)
11. Eragon ($65.9 million)
12. The Nativity Story ($60 million)
13. Déjà Vu ($58.2 million)
14. The Good Shepherd ($55.2 million)
15. Borat ($54.8 million) ($69.6 million to date)
16. Flushed Away ($48.7 million) ($40.5 million to date)
17. Rocky Balboa ($46.1 million)
18. Deck the Halls ($45.7 million)
19. Stranger than Fiction ($37.8 million) ($14.2 million to date)
20. Apocalypto ($36.7 million)
($30-$39 million)
The Good German
Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny

($20-$29 million)
Black Christmas
A Good Year ($4.0 million to date)
Babel ($7.8 million to date)
The History Boys
Children of Men

($10-$19 million)
DOA: Dead or Alive (Taken out of the holiday season)
Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj
The Fountain
The Return ($4.6 million to date)
Unaccompanied Minors
Fast Food Nation

($5-$10 million)
Let’s Go to Prison
Harsh Times ($2.1 million to date)
For Your Consideration
Pan’s Labyrinth
Factory Girl
Breaking and Entering
Notes on a Scandal

($5 million or less)
Volver ($481,000 to date)
Copying Beethoven ($77,901 to date)
Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus ($28,815 to date)
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

(Data courtesy of Box Office Mojo)

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originally posted: 11/15/06 12:22:53
last updated: 11/15/06 12:26:51
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