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Lively Debut for Dead

March 22nd, 2004

For the first time this year we saw a substantial increase over the box office from this time last year that wasn't due to a single movie. This week we saw a token 1.4% increase from last weekend, but a fantastic 21.5% increase from last year. It is important to keep in mind, however, that Spring was the weakest point in 2003's box office if you take into account Seasonal Adjustments. This weekend last year was when the war in Iraq started, for instance, and this weakness continued till mid-April. So 2004 has a golden opportunity to put some distance between itself and 2003.

Nothing says spring like zombies invading on mass. At least that's the logical conclusion given Dawn of the Dead's remarkable performance at the box office. Pulling in $26.7 million during its opening weekend is impressive, even more so when compared to its production budget of just $28 million. The horror genre is usually very front-loaded, as noted by the 10% drop from Friday to Saturday. But with strong reviews it should have better than average legs for the genre. I'm not saying $100 million is in its future, but profitability on its domestic run most likely is, (roughly $75 million after P&A and the theatres share is taken into account.)

After surprising almost all analysts, The Passion of the Christ is becoming very predictable. As expected, it became the highest grossing R-Rated movie of all time grabbing another $19.4 million. Sometime mid-week it will become 2004's first $300 million movie.

The battle for third place was neither as close as predicted, nor were the films in the same order.

Taking Lives took third place with $11.5 million. While this was better than expected, it was only a fraction of its $50 million production budget. And with reviews that were less than impressive it won't have strong legs either.

For the third weekend in a row, Starsky & Hutch beat predictions earning $10.4 million. It's domestic total is $67 million, but because its source material is a 1970s American TV program, it doesn’t have the same potential internationally. Even so, just an average run in the home market should give this film a handy profit.

Secret Window is slipping farther and farther behind expectations earning only $9.3 million during its sophomore stint, more than $2 million less than prediction.

Despite earning the best reviews of the weekend, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind also earned $2 million less than predicted. $8.2 million in just 1353 theatres did lead to the second best per theatre average in the top ten. With reviews that were 94% positive, it deserved better. And since it was releases so early in the year, it is unlikely to be remembered by the time Award Season arrives.

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Filed under: The Passion of the Christ, Starsky & Hutch, Dawn of the Dead, Secret Window, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Taking Lives