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Box Office was Tickled Pink

February 13th, 2006

Good news: every film in the top five either beat expectations, or at least came within a rounding error of matching them. Bad news: the top two films combined didn't earn as much as Hitch opened with last year. Good news: the overall box office saw gains, climbing to $121 million, 13.9% higher from last weekend and 0.3% higher than last year. Bad news: this does mean that ticket sales were slightly lower compared to last year, but with the Winter Olympics starting, that is to be expected.

It was widely assumed that The Pink Panther would be a massive disaster both critically and financially. And while its opening box office of $20.2 million was much better than expected, as was its Tomatometer rating of 22% positive, in both cases it is just a matter of beating lower expectations. No one is going to claim this film wowed the critics, and for a film that cost $80 million to make and probably $40 million to advertise, a $20.2 million opening is not enough. The film will need better legs that its reviews would indicate and a better international run than predicted if it is to come close to showing a profit by the home market.

Final Destination 3 had the best opening for the franchise with $19.2 million, which was at the low end of expectations. This can partially be explained by its reviews, which slipped over the weekend, falling to just 41% positive, a little below the last film's reviews. Even so, of the four films that opened wide on Friday, it was the least expensive one to make by a significant margin, and it should be the first one to reach profitability.

The studio was only expecting Curious George to make $8 or $9 million over the weekend, so for the film to come in third place with $14.1 million is a complete surprise. True, it is the only film in the top five to earn positive reviews, but it has been a while since a 2-D Animation film that wasn't based on a TV show did this well. However, the filmmaking process was expensive and it will take a while for the film to show a profit. On the other hand, the merchandise should sell briskly and that's where the real money is with these types of films.

For Harrison Ford, this weekend either proved that he should stop trying to be an action hero, or that he really needs to make Indiana Jones 4, and fast. Firewall did beat expectations, but one by a small margin at $13.6 million. Its poor reviews and low per theatre average suggest a quick exit from cinemas.

Rounding out the top five was When a Stranger Calls with $9.1 million over the weekend and $34.0 million overall. That is more than double what it cost to make, and puts the film on track to show a profit after its initial push into the home market. And that just means there will be more of these low budget horror films to flood the market over the next couple of years.

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Filed under: The Pink Panther, Curious George, Final Destination 3, Firewall, When a Stranger Calls