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Box Office Far from Heavenly

September 19th, 2005

The box office this weekend can best be described as mixed. No film beat expectations by a really significant margin and most of the new films struggled, pushing the overall box office down 2.2% from last week. On the other hand, the box office was up 7.9% from last year, which is the more important number at this point. Year-to-date 2005 has brought in $6.239 billion in ticket sales, which is 7% behind the same time period of 2004, but the gap is closing and with a strong final quarter 2005 may avoid a drop-off.

Why one movie succeeds and another fails is a mystery most of the time. Take Just Like Heaven and Sweet Home Alabama, for example. On paper their potentials are nearly identical, same star, same genre, similar reviews, etc. Yet this weekend's release earned less than half of what the latter film did back in 2002. Why the difference? Well, for one thing the audience was heavily skewed towards females, which comprised 77% of the audience over the weekend; had it attracted more males it would have come much closer to meeting industry expectations. More troubling, the film was more expensive than expected with a production budget of $58 million. It will need strong home market numbers to pay for that.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose fell to $14.9 million during its sophomore stint, which is close enough to Friday's prediction to call it a victory. The film has already covered its production budget and is working on its P&A budget, and even if its week-to-week drop-offs accelerate it will still show a profit before it hits the home market.

Lord of War also opened weaker than expected with just $9.4 million. Given its mixed reviews, it is very likely that the film will earn less during its entire run than Nicolas Cage's previous film made during its opening weekend. Hopefully it will perform better on the international scene.

Next up is the unstoppable The 40 Year-Old Virgin, which fell just 22% this weekend to $6.0 million for a $90.7 million box office, more than enough to show a profit. The film is also a virtual lock to become the 13th film of the year to hit $100 million; the only thing that can stop that now is if another film explodes out of the gate and beats it there, but I don't see that happening.

Despite beating expectations by the narrowest of margins, The Transporter 2 was not able to hold on to the final spot in the top five thanks to a better than expected performance by Cry Wolf. That film earned $4.4 million dollars over the weekend and was not only able to finish in fifth place, but was also able to cover its entire production budget with Friday's box office alone. (Depending on how many international markets it can open wide in, it may have to wait till the home market to pay for its P&A budget, but that's still better than most films.) Even more surprising, the film's reviews were not nearly as bad as one would expect (based on the fact that it wasn't screened for critics). On a side note, I've seen Lindy Booth in quite a few projects now and I really expect her to become a big star.

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Filed under: The 40 Year-old Virgin, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Just Like Heaven, The Transporter 2, Lord of War, Cry Wolf