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Chronicling the Sad End to 2006

December 12th, 2006

2006 has hit a real losing streak since Happy Feet and Casino Royale opened three weeks ago. This week only one of the four wide releases matched expectations while their combined box office was well below last year's number one film. And while the overall box office was up 4% from last weekend at $97 million, it was down a huge 22% from the same weekend last year. Things need to turn around soon, or ticket sales may dip below last year's pace.

After confounding analysts with The Passion of the Christ, the debut of Mel Gibson's latest film, Apocalypto, went exactly as expected, pulling in $15.0 million. This was enough to cruise to first place with the other new releases opening with less than expected. Reviews remained better than most, but not award-worthy and the holidays should help the film's legs significantly. On the other hand, the glut of blockbusters could squeeze it out of theaters if it shows weakness this weekend.

Happy Feet was able to beat expectations, but was reasonably close with $12.9 million. However, due to the weakness exhibited by the other films, this was more than enough for second place. It also lifted its running tally to $137.9 million, putting it in ninth place for the year.

The Holiday was just behind by the tiniest margin with $12.8 million in 2,610 theaters, giving it the second best per theater average in the top 20. Given its genre, its reviews, and the time of year, it could end its run with a multiplier of 5.0 or more. If so, it should have a clear shot at a profit by the time it hits the home market.

Fourth place went to another holdover, Casino Royale, which added $8.9 million over the weekend. That was down nearly 41%, which was a slightly steeper decline than Die Another Day suffered during its fourth weekend of release. Also, Die Another Day is still leading Casino Royale at the 24-day mark at $131.9 million to $129.0 million. However, that lead is shrinking and could be gone by this time next weekend and with Casino Royale tracking to a final domestic box office of $165 million it should become the biggest hit in the franchise.

The Blood Diamond debuted in fifth place with $8.6 million, well below expectations despite reviews that were strong (but not award-worthy). The release schedule change a short time ago might have caused more problems than initially expected and perhaps people were not able to accept Leonardo DiCaprio's accent. Regardless, this has to be seen as a big disappointment.

The final wide release of the week was Unaccompanied Minors, which missed the top five with $5.8 million during its opening weekend. The film's reviews actually improved over the weekend, finishing at 32% positive; that's hardly a selling point, but it is better than Deck the Halls earned. On the other hand, that film took in twice as much during its opening weekend. As for Unaccompanied Minors' long term chances, it will likely see a massive drop-off this weekend with the release of Charlotte's Web before disappearing the weekend after.

Moving onto the sophomore class, only one of the three performed adequately. The Nativity Story dipped just 27% to $5.7 million in its second weekend. However, it's too little too late with a 10-day total of just $15.9 million; even worse, its per theater average of $1,853 suggest a significant drop in theater count, meaning it could be nearly out of theaters by Christmas. The other two films fell out of the top five with Turistas grabbing 13th place with $1.4 million, down 60% from its opening weekend. Sadder still was National Lampoon's Van Wilder Deux: The Rise of Taj, down 62% to $872,000 on 1,979 screens. That film had a per screen average of just $441, which probably works out to about 6 people per screening. If it is still in more than 500 theaters on Friday, it will be a miracle.


Filed under: Happy Feet, Casino Royale, The Holiday, Blood Diamond, The Nativity Story, Unaccompanied Minors, Turistas, Van Wilder Deux: The Rise of Taj, Apocalypto