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Ricky Bobby Laps Competition

August 7th, 2006

It's August, but the weekend box office didn't miss a beat. In fact the overall box office climbed 6.3% to $140 million. That was up 21.6% from the same weekend last year, lifting 2006's lead over 2005 to 6%.

There have been a rash of $20 million leading actors to struggle at the box office recently, including Mission: Impossible: 3 star, Tom Cruise, who had his production deal with Paramount cancelled after 13 years. After three misses in a row, Will Ferrell looked to be the next star either taking a pay cut or risk losing work to more reasonably priced performers. However, after this weekend, that seems very unlikely. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby earned more on Friday than any other film earned over the weekend on its way to a first place finish with $47.0 million. This is easily Ferrell's best opening as a leading star and close to the $54.9 million earned by Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Meon its opening weekend in 1999. As for the film's long term potential, its reviews continued to improve over the weekend, surpassing the 75% mark needed for overwhelming positive reviews. With no other surefire major hit being released until October, the film should have better than average legs, but don't expect it to match Elf.

Second place went to another positive surprise, The Barnyard with $15.8 million over the weekend. Good news, this is much higher than original expectations. Bad news, it also cost much more as well, with industry sources pointing to a production budget just north of $50 million. With awful reviews, lots of competition for kids and the upcoming start of the school year, it is unlikely that the film will have strong legs. Even so, it should perform well on the home market and show a profit before the Christmas rush is over.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest finished in third place with $11.0 million and that's within a rounding error of Friday's predictions. The film is now the eighth-highest grossing film of All-Time surpassing The Passion of the Christ, Spider-man 2 and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King over the weekend, and is now less than $1 million from overtaking Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. On the downside, it earned almost $3 million less than Shrek 2 earned during its fifth week of release and its lead has shrunk as well. Since Shrek 2 opened on a Wednesday, it is a little hard to compare the daily numbers, but at most you could give it an $11 million lead at the moment with 12 more days to cross $400 million. Depending on how fast it sheds theatres, it could be a close race.

It is clear that Micheal Mann needs to learn how to work within a budget, or learn to live with working less. Miami Vice plummeted just a touch over 60% to $10.2 million over the weekend for a 10-day total of $46.3 million. All that on a budget of $135 million. Before this film, Micheal Mann had an amazing track record for producing quality pictures, but even his biggest financial successes were high cost projects that struggled to earn their expenses back. One last note, I think the evidence is clear, a buddy cop comedy would have cost half as much to make and earned just as much at the box office, if not more.

Snagging the final spot in the top five was The Descent with $8.9 million, making my Friday prediction a little bullish, but not outrageously so. The excellent reviews could mean stronger legs, but it is unlikely to expand its theatre count significantly. Lionsgate bought the domestic distribution rights for a mere $1 million and even if the film cost $20 million to advertise, which would be high, it will still show a profit by its initial push into the home market, if not sooner.

The final new release of the week was The Night Listener, which barely grabbed a spot in the top ten with just $3.6 million. Weak reviews and a tiny per theatre average will result in this film disappearing from theatres by the end of the month.

Moving onto the sophomore class, neither of the films really held on well with John Tucker Must Die doing the best, down 57% to $6.2 million. The Ant Bully had a smaller drop-off at 54%, but a weaker start meant it only managed $3.9 million over the weekend.

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Filed under: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Barnyard: The Original Party Animals, Miami Vice, John Tucker Must Die, The Descent, The Night Listener, The Ant Bully