Another great report from Lord Cookie! As with Charles, I'm glad LC didn't do the report for too long as I'd have long since given up!
1. National Treasure: Book of Secrets $45.5M - $45.5M
2. I Am Legend $34.2M - $137.4M
3. Alvin and the Chipmunks $29M - $84.8M
4. Charlie Wilson's War $9.6M - $9.6M
5. Sweeney Todd $9.3M - $9.3M
6. PS: I Love You $6.5M - $6.5M
7. Enchanted $4.1M - $98.3M
8. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story $4.1M - $4.1M
9. The Golden Compass $3.9M - $48.4M
10. Juno $3.4M - $6.3M
After the barren winter weeks at the US box office we are now experiencing an upturn in fortunes. I Am Legend was a record breaker last week and the box office is remaining buoyant this weekend too as we see a 41% increase in revenue from this time last year. Nine new films were released this week or saw a wider release across the country. This sudden surge of movies flooding the market has altered the top 10 greatly as they all jostle for position going into the lucrative holiday period where families have some spare time and go to the cinema with loved ones and friends. Due to a weekend falling between Christmas and New Year this time around some analysts believe that whatever film was number one this week will stay number one right into January. Of course analysts are often wrong but it will be interesting to see if National Treasure can hold on to that top spot.
Which brings me nicely on to the Nic Cage vehicle: National Treasure is the sequel to the successful, low rent, Indy wannabe movie produced by Disney. Opening on almost 4,000 screens this film had the widest coverage of all the releases this week so was expected to top the charts. It took just over $45m at the weekend (an $11,847 venue average) which improved over the $35m opening that the original National Treasure film managed. The original National Treasure had immense staying power though and finally made $173m at the US box office so this sequel is some way from beating the original film just yet. But with the Christmas holidays about to hit we can expect films to be taking weekend style earnings (i.e. around the $10m a day mark) throughout the week. If so this could be well over $100m by this time next week and on its way to recouping its $125-150m production costs. The film also had the ninth biggest December opening ever by beating Alvin and the Chipmunks by $1.2m.
With the Book of Secrets Nic Cage also gets his biggest opening day hit of his career by beating Ghost Rider by a mere $200,000. Just like Ghost Rider, National Treasure has had to suffer a poor critical reception (it managed a poor 35% on rotten tomatoes) but like many films this year the public clearly aren’t paying attention to reviewers when they choose their movies. Cage was certainly in need of another hit as he has struggled to pull in punters since the last National Treasure back in 2004. All eight of his films in between have either bombed or just scraped back their production budget at the US box office. Perhaps the movies PG rating also helped its cause this week. Many of the new releases are strictly adult fare and the likes of Alvin and the Chipmunks are aimed at a much younger audience so the Book of Secrets had the pre-teen market all to itself.
The Book of Secrets is yet another successful collaboration between Disney and the producer Jerry Bruckheimer so don’t be surprised to see a third National Treasure movie and a number of other co-produced films getting announced.
I Am Legend may have dropped 56% from last week but it is still holding strong and has sailed past the $135m mark without breaking a sweat. Assuming it can haul in around $10m a day (which should be achievable considering it took $15m last Tuesday during a non-holiday week) then it will pass $200m before 2008. This would put it as the second highest earner of 2007 just behind Spiderman 3 ($240m). Not bad for just three weeks (compare that to Spidey’s 16 weeks at the box office). It is also officially the highest grossing vampire film having comfortably toppled Van Helsing’s $120m.
Will Smith continues to prove that he is still a massive box office draw. Whilst today’s stars prefer to balance blockbusters with independent film Smith is one of the few bona fide stars that sticks to what he does best. It is normally a safe bet that you know what you are getting with a Will Smith picture and since Tom Cruise went a little bit loopy in ’06 Smith has the all American action hero crown to himself.
Holding strong in third place is Alvin and the Chipmunks. Few people expected the film to open as big as it did and the film continues to surprise with another strong weekend and a small drop of 35% from its opening week. Part of the films success is its timing. With the exception of Enchanted (which has been in the charts for 5 weeks now) there is no film to compete for the lucrative young pre-teen dollar. Whilst The Water Horse is opening this weekend it is unlikely to offer too much of a challenge for the Chipmunks. The other part of the movies success is its savvy marketing. Fox have opened ‘mall theatres’ across the US so parents can leave their children to watch Alvin whilst they complete last minute Christmas shopping in peace. Whilst I don’t have exact figures for how successful this was just Googling the film and mall theatres comes up with many entries so the initiative was clearly widespread. The film has already recouped its $70m budget (excluded advertising and promotion costs) and is another film that should go past $200m before it closes. Nobody was expecting these sorts of figures and you can be sure that a sequel is already being planned.
The second new entry in the charts is the Oscar contender, Charlie Wilson’s War. Sporting a true A-list cast (Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts don’t get much more A-list) and an esteemed director (Mike ‘The Graduate’ Nichols). Although a film starring Hanks and Roberts would normally debut higher than fourth place this film was always going to be a hard sell and has performed better than some analysts had forecast. A political comedy based on the true story of a congressman arming Afghan rebels in the ‘80s was never going to be an easy sell but Universal have pinned their hopes on this being their big Oscar contender for the awards in February. With a $4,000 venue average this did solid business and should hold strong in the coming weeks. Forecasters have this film at around the $100m mark before it ends its run. Whilst it is likely to stick around in theatres well into January I think a $70m total is more probable. As an aside, it is interesting how Roberts has maintained her A-list status even though she hasn’t had many hits since the turn of the century. Only the Ocean’s movies have been big box office winners and the appeal in the films was never down to her or her character. Whilst Kidman gets many column inches about how she is box office poison Roberts manages to avoid such comparisons.
Tim Burtons’ musical Sweeney Todd misses out on fourth place by just under $300,000 but I doubt Dreamworks and Paramount are too concerned as Sweeney Todd opened in only 1,249 venues (compare this to the 2,574 venues that played Charlie Wilson’s War). Taking in almost $8,000 venue average this was an impressive week for Burton’s movie which was considered yet another hard sell. Based on the 1979 musical this was a gory R rated song and dance show. In fact this is the first R rated musical to be released since the South Park Movie back in ’99. Musicals have had somewhat of a renaissance of late with both the Hairspray remake and Dreamgirls doing good business at the box office. Sweeney Todd also had the best critical response of all the new releases this week as it gained an 87% rotten tomatoes rating. This is another Oscar contender and is likely to rise up the charts next weekend as it opens up around the country.
At number six we have P.S. I Love You the Hilary Swank chick flick about a widower who gets letters from her dead husband (Gerard Butler with an oirish accent). The trailer for this is absolutely dreadful but it has a definite demographic (i.e. the female market) and they came out to support the film this week with a decent $6.5m from 2,454 venues. As the holiday season approaches will a film that has such a narrow target audience do well? Possibly but it will probably get swallowed up by the films that have a broader appeal. The fact that we have a number of high profile films getting released on Christmas Day doesn’t help its chances to stick around in the charts. P.S. I Love You also under-performed against the last Swank-Richard LaGravenese vehicle, Freedom Writers, which took almost $10m in its opening weekend.
Enchanted drops all the way to seventh this week and is in touching distance of that all important $100m. Having now been in the charts for five weeks this might just stick around in the top ten during the festive period and has been a great money earner worldwide for Disney. Although I Am Legend and Alvin and the Chipmunks have earned more money this is still the success story of winter. Having bucked the decline of the US box office in mid-winter this has been a critical and commercial success and made a star out of Amy Adams.
At eight is Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, yet another Judd Apatow produced comedy (following on from this years Knocked Up and Superbad). Unfortunately for Apatow he was unable to repeat the success of those breakout hits as Walk Hard achieved a pitiful $1,547 venue average. Whilst analysts had predicted the film would chart somewhere in the top five they weren’t banking on the fact that a comedy biopic about a fictional music star would be a hard sell. The trailer was less than stellar but even the decent critical response was not enough to get audiences handing over their money to go and see Cox’s story. Clearly Apatow’s name alone is not enough of a draw yet and with two more films on the way in 2008 (Forgetting Sarah Marshall and You Don’t Mess With The Zohan) it will be interesting to see if Apatow’s knack for making comedy box office gold will continue into the new year. It also looks as if John C Reilly’s chances of becoming a leading man have been scuppered with the poor opening figures. Reilly’s only other role as leading man came in 2004’s Criminal which didn’t even make $1m at the US box office. Perhaps he should be content with the fact he is an in-demand supporting character actor instead.
The Golden Compass slips all the way to ninth. When you don’t think this film could do any worse it surprises you by bombing again and again. It fell another 55% from last week’s vertiginous drop and took a small $4m. It is hard to think that a film that cost $250m to make would only achieve $48m after three weeks. With AvP: Requiem and The Great Debaters opening at Christmas this is likely to be the last week we see the film and any chance of this getting close to $100m is all but gone. With a slew of fantasy book adaptations on the way maybe this film (along with Eragon and The Dark is Rising) is evidence that the public are really only interested in the big hitters rather than any old fantasy adaptation.
Rounding out the top ten is festival darling Juno taking an impressive $3.4m. Whilst that might not sound too impressive when you discover that it was only showing in 304 venues it pretty much puts all the other films to shame. With a startling $11,184 venue average this is an indie smash hit. Expect this to continue to do great business and gather a number of nominations as the award season comes around.
So that is my caretaker duties done. Charles is taking care of next weeks and Goose will be returning back to his post the week after that. I hope my reports have been some interest to you and thanks for reading.