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Persians Invade Movie Theaters

March 12th, 2007

The weekend was rather predictable, with three of the top five landing within a rounding error of expectations and another finishing close enough to call it a victory. ... OK, I got skunked on 300, but I think I know why. That film's record-breaking opening helped push the overall box office to $153 million over the weekend, up 23% from last weekend and 39% from the same weekend last year. As for the yearly trend, we have seeing a lot more massive hits coming out this year than expected. This could be a portent of things to come, and that would mean we might have more than a dozen films top $200 million this summer alone.

300 is an ancient history movie akin to Kingdom of Heaven and Alexander. So how did it earn nearly as much in three days as those two films earned in their entire run, combined? Simple, it was advertised as a fantasy epic like The Mummy Returns. Quite frankly, I should have taken that into account, but even if I did, I would have not predicted it would earn as much as it did. Just how big was 300's opening? Its $70.9 million is easily the biggest opening of the year so far, the biggest March opening ever, third biggest opening for an R-rated film, and after just three days the film is in fourth place on the yearly charts. This film blew away all expectations, so much so that I'm sure there's an executive somewhere trying to figure out how to make a sequel. (To that executive, I suggest adapting some of Frank Miller's other work instead.) As for the film's long-term chances, they are not as rosy. A huge drop-off is likely this weekend, not because the movie is bad, far from it, but the Fanboy Effect will be significant. On the other hand, even a 50% drop-off should give the film the inside track on first place this coming weekend. If it managed to avoid that fate, it is almost guaranteed to make $200 million overall, which would make it the first, but far from the last, film to do so this year.

Wild Hogs rode its older demographic to a very soft week-to-week drop-off of just over 30%, finishing with $27.6 million. The film is on track to top $100 million by this time next weekend, but it will likely be beaten to that mark by 300.

Bridge to Terabithia continues to show strong, strong legs, having the best week-to-week drop-off in the top five and adding $6.8 million over the weekend. So far the film has made $66.9 million and had it been released during a more kid friendly month, it would be cruising to $100 million at this point. While it will miss that mark, it has still made more than enough to keep the studio happy.

Ghost Rider did managed to earn fourth place with $6.7 million, but more importantly it became the first film released in 2007 to top $100 million at the box office. Even taking into account the money spent on the film during its stay in development hell, this film will show a profit before it hits the home market and not only will there be a sequel, look for more Marvel B-listers to be made into movies.

Despite earning the best reviews of the year, Zodiac had the worst week-to-week drop-off in the top ten this weekend. On the other hand, a 50% drop-off to $6.6 million is still within expectations. Back to the original hand, a running tally of $23.6 million after 10 days is terrible compared to the film's production budget. There's little chance the film will recover at this point, but perhaps a strong international run and a the home market might mitigate its loses.

The other wide-ish release this week, The Ultimate Gift, failed to make the top ten with just $1.2 million in 816 theaters. Its per theater average of $1,521 is in line with the cost of each print and even with strong legs this film will have trouble recouping its costs.

Moving onto the sophomore class, there's just one more film to talk about as Black Snake Moan fell out of the top ten with $1.9 million over the weekend and $7.3 million in total.

One last note, Night at the Museum has overtaken Cars to become the second-highest grossing film released in 2006. I don't think anyone saw that coming.

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Filed under: Night at the Museum, Wild Hogs, Ghost Rider, Bridge to Terabithia, Zodiac, Black Snake Moan, The Ultimate Gift, 300