In what must be a first at the box office, an aerobics queen takes on killer zombies in a vicious battle for the silver medal during what no doubt will be another mammoth weekend for "Spider-Man 3."

Fox unleashes its horror sequel "28 Weeks Later," Universal counters with its femme-driven star vehicle "Georgia Rule," Lionsgate tosses in the comedy "Delta Farce," and MGM releases yet another laugher with "The Ex." Meanwhile, back in New York City, the webslinger will attempt to swing to a massive quarter-billion-dollar cume by the end of its second weekend.

As the second of ten sequels hitting theaters over the May-June corridor, "28 Weeks Later" is the follow-up to the cult hit zombie chiller "28 Days Later" which lit up theaters four years ago. Danny Boyle shifts from the director’s chair to the executive producer’s office as Juan Carlos Fresnadillo takes the helm. "Days" was very well-received which explains why a sequel was greenlit. In the new installment, the killer virus infects people once again as London tries to repopulate and madness ensues. The built-in audience will help the R-rated "Weeks" right out of the gate.

Its predecessor bowed to $10.1M from only 1,260 theaters for a potent $7,986 average on its way to a solid $45.1M final. Through video and cable, it found an even larger fan base and many will give "Weeks" a try. However working against it is of course competition from "Spider-Man 3" which has a hold on fans of comics and sci-fi. Plus 2007 has seen 1,001 horror films flood theaters causing recent fright fatigue. Casual fans of scary movies may pass on "Weeks" if they’re trying to stay away from blood and gore. Fox’s marketing has been clever and effective and the target audience is excited. Plus reviews have been very positive which will help a bit too since most horror films nowadays are either not screened for critics in advance or earn poor marks. Attacking over 2,000 theaters, "28 Weeks Later" might scare up around $13M this weekend.


"28 Weeks Later"

For those looking to avoid zombies and super heroes in their weekend entertainment, Universal offers the dramedy "Georgia Rule" starring Jane Fonda, Lindsay Lohan, and Felicity Huffman. The R-rated story tells of a teenage girl dumped at her grandmother’s house for the summer by her alcoholic mother which leads to the uncovering of family secrets. Just in time for Mother’s Day weekend, "Georgia" will play almost exclusively to women as men will have to be dragged against their will. However, moviegoers from a broad age group should turn out since the cast boasts stars of different generations. The one troublespot could be the rating though. Lohan arguably still has pull with teenage girls who may be left out because of the MPAA’s tag. But the film’s two uses of the F word are essential to the story as are the adult themes so the R was unavoidable.

"Georgia Rule" should play to the same audience that the studio saw for previous chick flicks like Diane Keaton‘s "Because I Said So" ($13.1M opening, $5,195 average), Meryl Streep‘s "Prime" ($6.2M, $3,405), and Debra Messing‘s "The Wedding Date" ($11.1M, $6,566). Reaching the $23.1M debut of Fonda’s last film "Monster-in-Law" is not likely however since it won’t crossover into other demographic groups like the J. Lo pic did. The weekend’s new releases will not provide too much competition which means that the universal appeal of the webslinger sequel will be the main enemy. Bad reviews will eat into sales from mature adults, but many from the "Desperate Housewives" crowd will still make a trip out to this chick flick. "Georgia Rule" enters 2,523 theaters on Friday and could walk away with about $13M.


"Georgia Rule"

Larry the Cable Guy stars in the new military comedy "Delta Farce" which also hits theaters on Friday. The PG-13 film from Lionsgate finds three hapless men being mistaken for Army recruits who are sent to Iraq but mistakenly dropped in Mexico. Not since "Best Defense" has a film of this type been such an unwelcome entry in the marketplace. Young males are the only group likely to show interest and with Spidey in only his second swing, few will find this new comedy worth paying top dollar for. Plus starpower is lacking and none of the cast members are known for anchoring box office hits. Larry’s self-titled film last spring bowed to just $6.9M and this one will probably slump even lower. Opening in about 1,800 locations, "Delta Farce" will probably shoot up around $4M.


"Delta Farce"

Zach Braff and Amanda Peet play a thirtysomething New York couple with a new baby in the new romantic comedy "The Ex" marketed by The Weinstein Company and distributed by MGM. In the PG-13 pic, the likable duo moves to Ohio where Braff’s character gets a job at her father’s ad agency where he butts heads with his wife’s former fling from high school. Jason Bateman, Charles Grodin, and Donal Logue co-star. "The Ex" will be targeting the date crowd and young women, but will have rough sailing. "Georgia Rule" will already be tapping into the female moviegoing base and Spidey is attracting his share of women and young adults too. The promotional push has not been too forceful either so the film may end up with just the die-hard "Scrubs" fans. Mixed reviews won’t help either. Also, Braff and Peet are not box office anchors who sell lots of tickets. Sure "Garden State" was an indie hit with $26.8M in 2004, but that was a word-of-mouth platform release that made its money over time and not a commercial Hollywood comedy. Debuting in 1,009 theaters, "The Ex" might gross roughly $3M this weekend.


"The Ex"

None of these new films will come close to defeating the mighty "Spider-Man 3" which will enjoy its second comfortable box office win in a row. But a steep fall is likely. The first webslinger flick opened at the beginning of May five years ago and dropped by only 38% on the second weekend which was phenomenal. But like most sequels, especialy third-parters, "Spider-Man 3" attracted so much of its total audience upfront that rapid erosion is assured. The previous record-holder for the biggest opening weekend, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest," fell by 54% in its second adventure last July while its summer counterpart "X-Men: The Last Stand" tumbled by a troubling 67% in its sophomore frame. Of course that was coming off of a Memorial Day holiday opening so the decline was larger than normal.

"Spider-Man 3" has already been taking a hit during the week dropping to $10.3M on Monday and $8M on Tuesday. Those numbers come close to what "The Matrix Reloaded" took in on the same days after its colossal opening weekend in mid-May 2003. That sci-fi pic crashed 60% in its second weekend despite its sophomore frame being helped by a holiday. Luckily for the Sandman flick the competition this weekend will not be too menacing. "Spider-Man 3" could still fall by more than 55% to about $65M this weekend which would boost the domestic haul to a mammoth $247M in only ten days.

LAST YEAR: Tom Cruise topped the charts with "Mission Impossible: III" which dropped 48% in its second weekend to $25M. Opening in second place was the pricey disaster film "Poseidon" which debuted to $22.2M for Warner Bros. on its way to a disappointing $60.7M domestically. Worldwide, the Kurt Russell starrer grossed $182M. Robin Williams placed third with "RV" which eased by less than 10% to $10M in its third weekend. Lindsay Lohan stumbled into fourth with her new comedy "Just My Luck" which opened to a weak $5.7M on its way to $17.3M for Fox. Rounding out the top five was the horror flick "An American Haunting" with $3.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Are you between the ages of 13 and 19? Do you like … stuff? Then click right here and cast your votes for the 329th annual Teen Choice Awards, which is where you can tell the universe that Puffy is more illing than Snoop Dogg, Will Ferrell is funnier than Brad Pitt, and Katie Holmes is cuter than Katey Sagal. Or something.

Click right here for the ballot, but don’t even think of voting if you’re older than 19. The Teen Choice Awards employ a bunch of enforcers who’ll come to your house and check your birth certificate.

I had to lie about my age to check out the nominees (don’t tell anyone), but the TCAs are poised to celebrate some of the following flicks:

Best Action Adventure:
"King Kong," "Mission Impossible 3," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest," "Superman Returns," "V for Vendetta," "X-Men: The Last Stand"

Best Drama: "Flightplan," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," "Pride & Prejudice," "Take the Lead," "Goal!," "Walk the Line"

Best Chick Flick: "Failure to Launch," "Just Like Heaven," "Just My Luck," "Last Holiday," "Aquamarine," "The Lake House"

Best Comedy: "Click," "Nacho Libre," "Scary Movie 4," "She’s the Man," "The Benchwarmers," "The Break-Up"

Best Thriller: "An American Haunting," "Hostel," "Red Eye," "Saw 2," "Silent Hill," "The Omen"

They also have a bunch of actor’s categories, but the choices managed to somehow get even sillier. Click here to cast your votes, kids.

Magneto and his fellow mutants attracted a record-breaking audience to theaters across North America as the super hero sequel X-Men: The Last Stand became a juggernaut at the box office opening at number one over the busy Memorial Day holiday weekend.

No other studio dared to debut a competing film in wide release so last week’s top movies The Da Vinci Code and Over the Hedge placed second and third with muscular numbers of their own. Playing to different audience segments, the three hits joined forces to sell nearly $200M worth of tickets over the long Friday-to-Monday span making it the second largest Memorial Day weekend ever trailing 2004’s record frame by a slim margin.

Blasting past expectations, the third X-Men film dominated the scene grossing an estimated $120.1M over the long weekend from an ultrawide 3,690 venues. The Fox sequel averaged a jaw-dropping $32,554 over four days and set a new record for Memorial Day weekend beating two previous giants. Steven Spielberg‘s The Lost World held the opening record for this holiday with $92.7M over four days (including Thursday night previews) in 1997 while Shrek 2 held the record for the biggest overall gross for the frame when it brought in $95.6M while in its second weekend in 2004. Last Stand’s gross, which included roughly $5.9M from the first midnight shows on Thursday night, easily crushed both figures to claim the new record. However, based on ticket price increases over the years, Lost World still sold more tickets over its holiday bow. Utilizing the industry’s average ticket prices for today and 1997, the dinosequel sold about 20 million tickets compared to roughly 19 million for the new mutant pic.

During the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the holiday weekend, the new X-Men pic grossed a stunning $103.1M making it the fourth largest bow in history after three other May smashes – Spider-Man ($114.8M in 2002), Star Wars Episode III ($108.4M in 2005), and Shrek 2 ($108M in 2004). According to Fox, Friday opened with $45.5M which ranks as the second largest opening day in history (after the $50M Thursday debut for Episode III) and the biggest Friday gross ever. Saturday saw sales slump a troubling 29% to $32.1M while Sunday experienced a reasonable 20% drop to $25.5M. Monday is estimated to bring in about $17M. The three-day average soared to an amazing $27,947. Super hero sequels typically draw immense numbers on the first day due to fan hysteria so a Saturday drop was expected. But, the decline was extraordinarily large and could indicate that fans are not liking the new film as much as the first two.


2002’s "Spider-Man"

The latest X-Men tale flexed more muscle than industry watchers had predicted opening above the highest of expectations. As Tom Cruise learned recently, many fans can often lose interest in a franchise by its third installment. But Wolverine and pals kept getting mightier beating the $85.6M debut of 2003’s X2: X-Men United and the $54.5M of 2000’s X-Men. Those films went on to reach $214.9M and $157.3M, respectively. Given its gargantuan start, The Last Stand stands an excellent chance of becoming the highest-grossing pic in the trilogy joining rare hits like The Return of the King and Austin Powers in Goldmember which were also tops in their franchises.

Fox and Marvel Entertainment managed to reteam the major players from the previous X-Men films to star in the third installment. Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Rebecca Romijn all were back once again and were joined by two new players. Kelsey Grammer appeared on screen as the blue mutant Beast while behind the scenes, Brett Ratner took over the director’s chair from Bryan Singer who was hired to helm Superman Returns which opens in a month. The production cost for The Last Stand was $165M. Overseas, the mutant sequel launched in almost all markets and grossed an estimated $80M giving Fox a $200M global debut. Unlike most action films, the X-Men films have actually grossed more domestically than internationally with the first two installments both collecting 53% of their global grosses from North America.

The road ahead is not too bumpy for The Last Stand. Large drops are expected, of course. However, next weekend will see only one new film enter wide release – The Break-Up starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. In fact, studios have filled the June weeks between X-Men and Superman with a string of comedies so as to not compete against the comic book titans. June 9 will have the animated comedy Cars open, Jack Black‘s Nacho Libre launches on June 16, and Adam Sandler‘s Click debuts on June 23. Fox is hoping the lack of action and sci-fi competition will help X-Men: The Last Stand hold up in the weeks ahead to surpass the studio’s other hit sequel, Ice Age: The Meltdown, to become the year’s top-grossing film.

After a mammoth opening weekend of its own, Sony’s The Da Vinci Code slipped to second place in its sophomore frame but still managed to sell an estimated $43M in tickets over four days boosting its stellar 11-day cume to $145.5M. Over the Friday-to-Sunday portion however, the Ron Howard blockbuster tumbled a disturbing 56% indicating that the religious thriller may not last too long. Last year, Star Wars Episode III, which also launched on the weekend before the Memorial Day holiday frame, dropped 49% in its sophomore session while 2004’s Shrek 2 dipped 33%.


Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou in "The Da Vinci Code"

Still, Da Vinci continues to be a major force in the industry here and abroad where it hauled in an additional $92M this weekend. That boosted the international total to $320M giving the Tom Hanks film a jaw-dropping worldwide tally of $465M in less than two weeks. Overseas, the holds have been better even though Code has had to battle X-Men in most major markets. France was down 30%, Japan slipped just 19%, Germany was off only 18%, and Holland was actually up 9%, according to studio data. Domestically, the $125M production should find its way past the $200M mark while globally, it may shoot past the $700M milestone.


"Over the Hedge"

Kidpic Over the Hedge enjoyed a terrific second weekend raking in an estimated $35.3M from families with extra time off for the holiday. The three-day portion witnessed a decline of only 30% for Paramount which is good news since the animated film did not open as powerfully as other recent digital toons. After 11 days, Hedge has collected a solid $84.4M. By comparison, 2004’s Shark Tale grossed $87.4M in its first ten days on its way to $160.8M while last year’s Chicken Little took in $80.4M in its first ten days leading to a $135.4M final. Hedge, which will have no real competition to deal with until the June 9 release of Cars from Disney and Pixar, could be on a course to reach the neighborhood of $150M from North America.

A pair of underperforming action flicks from early May rounded out the top five. Paramount’s Tom Cruise vehicle Mission: Impossible III dropped to an estimated $8.6M to boost its cume to $115.8M. Warner Bros. followed with the disaster film Poseidon which took in an estimated $7M in its third voyage to put its total at just $46.6M to date.

Sony saw its four-day gross for the family comedy RV rise 6% compared to last weekend’s three-day take. The Robin Williams hit laughed up an estimated $5.3M pushing the sum to $57.2M. Seventh place went to the Lionsgate horror entry See No Evil which grossed an estimated $3.2M giving the fright pic a modest $9.2M in 11 days.

The Lindsay Lohan flop Just My Luck collected an estimated $2.3M in eighth place giving Fox only $13.9M to date. Universal took in an estimated $1.1M with its 9/11 thriller United 93 lifting the cume to $29.9M. The spookfest An American Haunting rounded out the top ten with an estimated $937,000. The total for the Freestyle Releasing title is a mere $14.9M.


Al Gore in "An Inconvenient Truth"

Setting the limited release box office on fire was the global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth which opened in only four theaters but grossed a hefty $366,000, according to estimates. That gave the Al Gore pic a stunning average of $91,447 per location over four days. Distributed by Paramount Vantage, the new incarnation of Paramount Classics, Truth collected $282,000 over the Friday-to-Sunday portion averaging a scorching $70,585. Total since Wednesday stands at $489,000. Opening this weekend on multiple screens at a pair of theaters in both New York and Los Angeles, Truth will add about 60 more playdates on Friday and expand throughout June hoping to become the dominant doc of the summer.

The spelling bee drama Akeelah and the Bee dropped out of the top ten after a decent four-week run. In its fifth frame, the Lionsgate release grossed an estimated $830,000 over four days to boost its cume to $17M. The distributor teamed up with Starbucks to finance and promote Akeelah which did not perform especially well. However, the PG-rated film had low expectations to begin with so it is difficult to tell whether the involvement of the coffee giant had any real impact.

The top ten films over the four-day span grossed an estimated $226.8M which was up 1% from last year when Star Wars Episode III remained at number one with $70M over the holiday; but off 4% from 2004 when Shrek 2 stayed in the top spot with a then-record $95.6M in four days.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Tom Cruise‘s spy sequel Mission: Impossible III remained the most popular film in North America for the second straight weekend while the big-budget disaster film Poseidon opened in second place to disappointing results.

The frame’s other new releases, the Lindsay Lohan comedy Just My Luck and the soccer drama Goal! The Dream Begins, opened miserably as well giving the industry little to celebrate. Overall ticket sales fell behind those of the comparable weekend in each of the last four years as a sluggish marketplace waits for that one true summer blockbuster that draws the masses into the multiplexes.

Despite a weaker-than-expected opening weekend, Paramount’s MI3 enjoyed a respectable sophomore frame dropping 49% to an estimated $24.5M to retain its standing as the number one film. Playing in an ultrawide 4,059 theaters, the Ethan Hunt actioner averaged a solid $6,039 per location and raised its ten-day total to $84.6M. The decline was very similar to the 48% second weekend fall for last summer’s big spy flick Mr. & Mrs. Smith which grossed $26M in its sophomore shot after a $50.3M bow. The Pitt-Jolie vehicle, however, captured a more muscular $96.7M in its first ten days thanks in part to a June release when more students were out of school.

With so many action sequels tumbling by 55% or more on the second weekend, Mission: Impossible III managed to hold up relatively well. Competition from Poseidon was not formidable so moviegoers were not drawn away to another big event pic. The latest Ethan Hunt film will face its true test this Friday when the much-anticipated thriller The Da Vinci Code starring that other Tom opens followed a week later by the mutant juggernaut X-Men: The Last Stand. At its current pace, look for MI3 to reach $130-140M domestically making it the lowest grossing installment of the decade-old franchise. The first Mission: Impossible grossed $181M in 1996 while MI2 took in $215.4M in 2000. Overseas, MI3 jumped to $129.2M in foreign sales putting the worldwide tally at $213.8M in under two weeks. The global box office gross looks to be on a trajectory to hit $350M.

Failing to sink Cruise’s ship, the ocean liner disaster pic Poseidon settled for the runner-up spot this weekend opening with an estimated $20.3M from 3,555 locations. Warner Bros. generated a decent but not impressive per-theater average of $5,717 with its first pricey entry of the summer movie season. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen (The Perfect Storm, Air Force One), the PG-13 film was a remake of the 1972 picture The Poseidon Adventure and starred Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, and Richard Dreyfuss as passengers on a luxury ship who must fight to survive after a rogue wave capsizes the vessel. Poseidon opened weaker than other big-budget maritime action films like 2003’s Master and Commander ($25.1M), 2000’s The Perfect Storm ($41.3M), and even 1995’s infamous Waterworld ($21.2M).

Although audiences in years past have flocked to May disaster films like Twister, Deep Impact, and The Day After Tomorrow, this time Poseidon lacked the goods to draw in a paying audience. Reviews were not kind which also made the adult-skewing picture a tough sell. Varying reports on the film’s budget put the production cost in excess of $160M so a stellar run internationally and on DVD will be needed in order to turn a profit. Poseidon set sail in a handful of Asian countries to the tune of $4.4M this weekend, but will open in most foreign territories in June and July.

Once again scoring the best hold among all wide releases was the Robin Williams family comedy RV which dipped a mere 14% in its third weekend to an estimated $9.5M. The Sony hit has collected a solid $42.8M in 17 days.

Ticket buyers ignored Lindsay Lohan’s new film Just My Luck which flopped in its opening weekend grossing a mere $5.5M, according to estimates. The Fox release averaged an unlucky $2,165 per location and played almost exclusively to a teen girl audience. Studio research showed that the crowd for Luck was a remarkably high 80% female and 70% under the age of 25. Critics, not surprisingly, panned the film.

Horror flick An American Haunting enjoyed a solid sophomore session dropping only 36% to an estimated $3.7M for fifth place. Distributed by Freestyle Releasing, the PG-13 thriller has banked $10.9M in ten days and should scare its way to a mediocre $17-19M. Universal’s 9/11 thriller United 93 followed with an estimated $3.6M, down just 33%, lifting the cume to a decent $25.6M.

The teen gymnastics pic Stick It dropped 41% to an estimated $3.2M to land in the number seven spot with a total to date of $22.2M for Buena Vista. Fox’s animated sequel Ice Age: The Meltdown, still the top-grossing film of 2006, grossed an estimated $3M sliding just 29% in its seventh weekend. No other film has spent as many weeks in the top ten this year. Cume stands at $187.4M domestically and over $600M worldwide.

Sony’s fright pic Silent Hill placed ninth with an estimated $2.2M, off 45%, for a sum of $44.5M thus far. The New Line flop Hoot fell 37% to an estimated $2.1M in its second outing as the total inched up to a dismal $6.2M. Last weekend, the owl film had the distinction of suffering the worst opening in history for a film debuting in over 3,000 theaters. Hoot’s puny $3.4M bow in 3,018 sites beat out the dismal $6M launch from 3,006 theaters of 2004’s New York Minute starring the Olsen Twins for that unfortunate honor.

Another film failing to connect with kids was Buena Vista’s new soccer drama Goal! The Dream Begins which kicked off its run with a weak estimate of only $2M. The PG-rated film failed to qualify for the top ten this weekend and averaged a poor $1,989 from 1,007 locations.

Two April releases fell from the top ten this weekend. The spoof comedy Scary Movie 4 dropped 44% to an estimated $2.1M in its fifth frame. With $86.6M to date, The Weinstein Co. release looks to finish with roughly $90M which would not be far off from the $110M of its predecessor 2003’s Scary Movie 3. The Lionsgate family drama Akeelah and the Bee declined 41% to an estimated $2M in only its third turn. Cume sits at just $13.6M and should reach $16-18M.

Opening in limited release this weekend, Miramax’s family reunion comedy Keeping Up with the Steins grossed an estimated $621,000 from 138 locations for a respectable $4,500 average. The PG-13 film stars Garry Marshall, Jeremy Piven, and Daryl Hannah. The Swaziland-set drama Wah-Wah debuted in 25 theaters and grossed an estimated $57,000 for a mild $2,270 average. Starring Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson, and Emily Watson, the R-rated film is distributed by Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Among indie films expanding into more markets, Sony Classics grossed an estimated $1.2M from its comedy Art School Confidential after widening from 12 to 762 theaters across the country. That left the John MalkovichAnjelica Huston starrer with a pitiful $1,593 average per venue as it failed to register with moviegoers on a national level. Cume is $1.4M. Fox Searchlight expanded its Indian drama Water from 36 to 62 locations and grossed an estimated $257,000 for a $4,138 average. Total sits at $593,000 with more markets opening on Friday.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $77.7M which was down 15% from last year when Monster-in-Law opened at number one with $23.1M; and down 23% from 2004 when Troy debuted in the top spot with $46.9M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, BoxOfficeGuru.com

Tom Cruise climbed into his usual number one spot at the box office with his heavily-hyped spy sequel Mission: Impossible III, however ticket sales fell below most industry expectations as the debut was not spectacular.

The weekend’s other new releases, the horror flick An American Haunting and the kid drama Hoot, both generated lukewarm openings. But thanks to a weak early May in 2005, the overall marketplace still beat out last year for the seventh consecutive frame.

Paramount claimed the top spot with MI3 which invaded a staggering 4,054 theaters collecting an estimated $48M in ticket sales over the Friday-to-Sunday period. The third installment in the decade-old franchise averaged a potent $11,846 per venue. But Tom Cruise’s box office muscles were expected to lift the tally much higher given all the factors that were working in the $150M film’s favor. The newest Mission pic obviously had plenty of starpower but with its early May bow, it had virtually no competition in the multiplexes to deal with. Plus the studio’s marketing hype was deafening, the pic opened in the second highest number of theaters in history for a live-action film (behind Spider-Man 2‘s 4,152), and even the reviews were mostly favorable. That was a welcome bonus as critics are rarely kind to big-budget action sequels.

According to studio research, MI3 connected with the same audience that the previous two did. Men made up 56% of the crowd and 64% were age 25 or older. Joining Cruise in the PG-13 film’s cast were Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, and recent Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Openings for other high-profile action films debuting on the first weekend of May include $68.1M for 2001’s The Mummy Returns, $85.6M for 2003’s X2: X-Men United, and $51.7M for 2004’s Van Helsing. MI3 didn’t even reach the level of Van Helsing. In fact, its opening gross was even weaker than that of Mission: Impossible 2 which launched over Memorial Day weekend six years ago with $57.8M over three days, $70.8M over four days, and $91.8M over its six-day Wednesday-to-Monday span. Even with higher ticket prices, a Friday bow, and hundreds of more theaters, MI3 still failed to reach the heights of MI2. Adjusting for inflation, MI3’s opening was the weakest among the Ethan Hunt flicks. The first Mission bowed to $74.9M over its six-day holiday frame in May 1996 including $45.4M over the Friday-to-Sunday span.

Instead, the new J.J. Abrams-directed IMF saga opened in the same neighborhood as other recent star-driven spy films like last summer’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith ($50.3M), 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy ($52.5M), and 2002’s James Bond film Die Another Day ($47.1M). Although opening near the $50M mark over three days is an impressive feat, Cruise’s new film was backed by one of the most expensive marketing campaigns in recent memory. The highly-paid star/producer attended premieres all around the world, popped up on major talk shows and magazine covers, and press coverage, not surprisingly, was non-stop.

Industry watchers must now wonder – was there too much marketing? Were audiences sick and tired of hearing and seeing Tom Cruise everywhere? Did they really want to spend money seeing even more of him? Media-saavy moviegoers voted with their dollars and those who seemed to have had enough chose to stay away. The MI3 hype machine brought back memories of Sony’s Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle from three years ago. That action sequel also arrived in theaters on a disturbingly loud wave of promotion revolving around its flamboyant stars and Demi Moore‘s relationship with Ashton Kutcher which was constantly covered on the airwaves. Despite the pricey marketing investment, Throttle debuted weaker than expected with $37.6M and crumbled 63% in its sophomore frame.


Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle

Paramount was pleased with the international results for Mission: Impossible III as the actioner took in an estimated $70M over the weekend opening in almost all major markets around the world except for Japan. The spy sequel blanketed the globe with roughly 9,500 theaters in 55 markets putting its worldwide opening weekend tally at $118M. The ratio between sales outside and within North America remained the same as with previous Mission pics. The 1996 original grossed 61% of its $465M global tally overseas while MI2 took in 60% of its $538M internationally. This weekend, 60% of MI3’s dollars came from abroad.

With no major competition for the family audience, the Robin Williams comedy RV enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten easing just 32% to an estimated $11.1M. The Sony release dropped one notch following its top spot bow and has grossed a solid $31M to date. In just ten days, RV has already become the second biggest live-action grosser for Williams in the past seven years after the $67.4M of 2002’s Insomnia. Look for the $50M road trip flick to end its journey in the neighborhood of $60M.


R.V.

Opening in third place was the supernatural thriller An American Haunting which scared up an estimated $6.4M in ticket sales in its first three days. The PG-13 film averaged a decent $3,825 from 1,668 theaters. Reviews were mostly negative for the Donald SutherlandSissy Spacek starrer about a possessed young woman in the 1800s. Distributor Freestyle Releasing’s weekend estimate included an unusually low Saturday-to-Sunday decline of less than 5%. Final grosses released on Monday could see the figure come down.


"An American Haunting," "Stick It," and "United 93"

The gymnastics comedy Stick It tumbled 49% in its second weekend to an estimated $5.5M giving Buena Vista $18M in ten days. Look for the teen pic to reach $27-29M which is commendable for its genre. After a solid takeoff last weekend, the 9/11 hijack thriller United 93 declined a substantial 55% in its sophomore frame and grossed an estimated $5.2M. After ten days, Universal’s $15M pic has collected $20.1M and should find its way to roughly $30M domestically.

Fox’s Ice Age: The Meltdown dropped 45% to an estimated $4M in its sixth frame to boost its cume to $183.3M. Crumbling 58% in its third spook was Sony’s fright flick Silent Hill which grossed an estimated $3.9M lifting the cume to $40.8M.


"Ice Age: The Meltdown," "Silent Hill," and "Scary Movie 4"

The spoof sequel Scary Movie 4 fell 52% to an estimated $3.8M and brought its total to $83.7M. The Starbucks-promoted kid drama Akeelah and the Bee enjoyed a respectable second weekend hold dropping 43% to an estimated $3.4M. After ten days, the Lionsgate release has still only grossed $10.7M and seems likely to finish close to $20M.

Opening to dismal results with an estimated $3.4M from 3,018 theaters was the kid drama Hoot from New Line. The PG-rated story of a group of boys who set out to save endangered owls averaged a pitiful $1,127 per location. Fans of the best-selling book apparently avoided the film adaptation and critics for the most part were unimpressed.


"Akeelah and the Bee," "Hoot," and "The Promise"

A handful of films opened in limited release to mixed results. Warner Independent debuted the Chinese epic The Promise in 213 theaters but grossed only $271,000 according to estimates for a poor $1,272 average. The Golden Globe-nominated adventure was China’s official submission to this year’s Oscars and is reportedly that country’s most expensive film ever made. U.S. critics were not very pleased.

Sony Classics bowed its indie comedy Art School Confidential which grossed an estimated $142,000 from a dozen sites in New York and Los Angeles averaging a strong $11,833 per site. The Terry Zwigoff-directed film expands to nearly 800 theaters in most major markets on Friday. ThinkFilm debuted its Edward Norton starrer Down in the Valley to an estimated $26,000 from three New York houses for a solid $8,770 average. The film widens to three more cities on Friday before gradually expanding throughout May.


"Art School Confidential"

Among holdovers, Fox Searchlight expanded its widow drama Water from five to 36 theaters and grossed an estimated $188,000 for a $5,222 average. The ten-day total stands at $270,000 and this Friday the Deepa Mehta film will widen to about 60 sites. The distributor’s indie sensation Thank You for Smoking collected an estimated $1.1M, off 40%, for a $20M cume.

Three April releases were pushed out of the top ten this weekend. The Michael Douglas political thriller The Sentinel took a big hit from MI3 and crashed 62% to an estimated $3M putting its 17-day cume at $30.9M. Fox should find its way to about $36M. Disney’s underperforming toon The Wild slumped 46% to an estimated $2.6M. With only $32M in the bank, the animated film looks to conclude with $36-38M. Sony, on the other hand, has generated solid numbers for its sports comedy The Benchwarmers which grossed an estimated $2M this weekend. Down 54%, the Rob SchneiderDavid Spade film has taken in $55.6M thus far and is set to end with just under $60M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $94.7M which was up a healthy 24% from last year when Kingdom of Heaven opened at number one with $19.6M; but off 4% from 2004 when Van Helsing debuted in the top spot with $51.7M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, BoxOfficeGuru.com

Tom Cruise topped the box office with his highly-publicized spy sequel Mission: Impossible III on Friday which grossed an estimated $17M in its first day of release.

The figure for the Paramount franchise film was almost identical to the $16.5M that its predecessor MI2 grossed on its first Friday during the Memorial Day frame in 2000. Ticket prices were much lower six years ago plus the second Ethan Hunt pic debuted on a Wednesday which softened its Friday performance. Given MI3’s Friday bow, higher ticket prices, and 400 additional theaters, industry expectations saw the new installment opening with more muscle.

Mission III’s opening day gross fell a bit below those of some other recent star-driven summer spy flicks. Matt Damon’s The Bourne Supremacy opened in July 2004 with a Friday take of $19.1M on its way to a $52.5M weekend while last June’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith bowed to $18.6M leading to a $50.3M frame. This weekend, Tom Cruise and pals may find themselves with $45-50M over the Friday-to-Sunday period.

Two smaller films also set sail on Friday at theaters across North America. The supernatural thriller An American Haunting debuted with an estimated $2M while the kid drama Hoot opened with an estimated $1M. For the weekend, look for three-day grosses of about $5-6M for Haunting and roughly $4M for Hoot.

Among holdovers, Friday-to-Friday declines were 37% for RV, 54% for Stick It, and 59% for United 93.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $30.3M on Friday which was up 17% from a year ago when Kingdom of Heaven bowed to a Friday gross of $7.3M on its way to a $19.6M weekend debut.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies brings spies ("Mission: Impossible III"), spooks ("An American Haunting") and hoots ("Hoot"). What do the critics have to say?


You wouldn’t believe how many couch-jumps it took to train for this shot…

Ok, first the bad news: According to critics, the plot of "Mission: Impossible III" makes precious little sense. The good news: Who cares? The third time’s a charm for the espionage/explosion series, and the scribes say "Alias"/"Lost" creator J.J. Abrams brings a fresh, loopy energy to the proceedings. Tom Cruise is back once again to save the world, this time from Philip Seymour Hoffman. With absurd-but-exhilarating action sequences and interesting supporting players, "M:I:III" is the best reviewed film of the series, and at 78 percent on the Tomatometer, it’s Certified Fresh.


"An American Haunting"…like "Casper," only…not.

Recently, the makers of horror films have found that adding a "based on true events" handle gives their fright-fests an added jolt of heft. "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" tried it, and now comes "An American Haunting," a ghost tale set in 1820s Tennessee. The critics say the film has an atmospheric gloominess and some solid performances (particularly from Sissy Spacek and Donald Sutherland), but its scares are pretty rote. It currently stands at 29 percent on the Tomatometer.


These kids give a "Hoot"…but will audiences?

Despite the deep divisions wrought by divergent political leanings in recent years, I think we can all agree on several things. It’s a bad idea to pave the wetlands in order to build a pancake house. Luke Wilson is pretty cool. And "Margaritaville" is darned catchy. Unfortunately, the scribes say "Hoot," a tale of some kids who save the habitat of the wise old owl (which features songs by Jimmy Buffett) is an innocuous, but not particularly rousing, family picture. At 30 percent on the Tomatometer, the scribes just don’t, ahem, give a hoot.

Mission: Impossible Movies:
———————————-
58% — Mission: Impossible II (2000)
66% — Mission: Impossible (1996)

Recent Tom Cruise Movies:
———————————-
72% — War of the Worlds (2005)
85% — Collateral (2004)
69% — The Last Samurai (2003)
92% — Minority Report (2002)
38% — Vanilla Sky (2001)

The summer movie marathon kicks off on Friday with the much-anticipated launch of the Tom Cruise spy sequel Mission: Impossible III which will easily dominate the worldwide box office. Two much smaller films will attempt to offer some counter-programming for those moviegoers not in the mood for globetrotting action. New Line unleashes the kid drama Hoot while Freestyle Releasing debuts its horror flick An American Haunting. Neither is expected to put a dent into the MI3 machine which looks to lead the industry to its best summer kickoff in three years.

After a six-year break, IMF Agent Ethan Hunt returns to the world of espionage in Mission: Impossible III anchored by Hollywood’s most bulletproof star. Director J.J. Abrams, best known to audiences as the creator of the hit ABC programs Lost and Alias, takes the helm of the latest PG-13 installment. A full decade after the franchise first launched, Tom Cruise returns to one of his most lucrative business ventures as a secret agent forced to reteam with fellow spies to stop a maniacal arms dealer played by recent Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman. Ving Rhames is back for his third mission and is joined by Billy Crudup, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, and Laurence Fishburne.

As to be expected, MI3 packs all the action-packed thrills, death-defying stunts, and chilling suspense that fans are looking for both from the spy series as well as from their early summer popcorn flicks. Cruise flashes his billion-dollar smile every 2.3 seconds in the film and moviegoers get to see their hero play the "dedicated husband" role this time. The big box office question is whether Suri’s dad has lost any fans over the past year because of his strange behavior on talk shows, wacky public appearances with Katie Holmes, and dedication to Scientology. Is he still popular? Who else on the planet has grossed $4 billion dollars worldwide over the last 14 years with his films?

Odds are he has indeed turned off some paying customers who showed up in years past for Mission: Impossible films, but will now choose to sit this one out. However, the overall audience for this giant is so immense that it will only make a small dent. Plus Paramount wisely staked out the first weekend of May ages ago for their prized property as the studio knew the film would need all the help it could get in order to guarantee blockbuster status. With no real competition in the marketplace, MI3 will monopolize the attention of both audiences and the media. Plus, megaplexes typically have more available screens at this time of year so the spy sequel can gobble up a fifth or sixth screen. In June and July, when so many big movies are crowded into theaters, the biggest hits are lucky to secure three or four screens within a venue. MI3 should have no problem soaking up all the consumer demand there is this weekend.

Over the last two years, the first weekend in May turned out to be rather disappointing. After 2001’s The Mummy Returns ($68.1M debut), 2002’s Spider-Man ($114.8M), and 2003’s X2: X-Men United ($85.6M), Universal’s monster movie Van Helsing kicked off summer on the frame but its $51.7M bow seemed rather subdued compared to what the industry had seen in the past. Last year was even worse with the Crusades epic Kingdom of Heaven slumping to a $19.6M debut. This year, Hollywood kicks off summer with a crowdpleaser that is as mainstream and as commercial as it gets. MI3 may not have a crazed fan base like comic book pictures have, but it certainly should fly higher than the openings of other A-list spy flicks. The last James Bond film Die Another Day opened to $47.1M in 2002 while 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy took off with $52.5M. Cruise provides more starpower and the Mission series is arguably a bigger box office draw so the turnout this weekend should definitely top these figures.

Comparing the new film to the previous two makes little sense in terms of box office grosses. Both of those opened mid-week ahead of a four-day Memorial Day holiday frame plus had other big blockbusters in the marketplace to deal with. Still, Mission: Impossible’s $56.8M four-day bow and MI2’s $70.8M holiday launch proved that moviegoers looking for some bang for the buck at the beginning of summer looked to Cruise for their thrills. Once again all the bases have been covered with Mr. You Complete Me hopping around the world over the past week attending premieres, dominating all press attention, and hyping up his film to ensure that ticket buyers come out to see this on the big screen. Plus Hoffman, fresh from his Academy Award win, adds value and credibility to the project as audiences prefer known actors in the role of the villain rather than some nobody whose acting fees happen to fit the budget.

Paramount is sparing no expense in marketing Mission: Impossible III which should come as no surprise. As a studio, Paramount has only seen two films open to more than $50M over three days and both were Cruise vehicles – last year’s War of the Worlds with $64.9M and 2000’s MI2 with $57.8M. Their number one commodity has been out courting every demographic that has disposable income in hopes of appealing to a broad audience. Exciting teens and young adults is especially important as this heavy-spending group needs to be sold on the fact that the 43-year-old Cruise can still be a "hottie." The requisite MTV appearances should do the trick. Older adults pay attention to critics and the film has scored high marks in that department so far.

This weekend, all eyes are on MI3 to energize the marketplace and the fireworks begin early with many theaters starting their first showtimes at 10:00pm on Thursday night. A colossal theater count that is the second largest in history for any live-action film (after Spider-Man 2‘s 4,152) will make sure the product is available around every corner. Breaking into a mammoth 4,054 theaters in North America, the action thriller might open with around $74M over the Friday-to-Sunday span.

Those looking for a few less bullets and explosions this weekend will have the chance to spend some time with a group of good-hearted kids trying to save endangered owls in the family drama Hoot. Based on the best-selling book, the PG-rated film is aimed at kids under the age of 14 as well as their parents. Fans of the book may certainly come out in force this weekend although some may be deterred by the lukewarm reception that critics are giving it. With Luke Wilson as its big name, Hoot has virtually no starpower to tap into and so will have to rely on the built-in audience in order to make an impressive showing. The Robin Williams film RV will provide ample competition for families and Stick It will steal away young girls leaving young boys as the likely audience. New Line’s marketing has not been too fierce so there is only so much box office potential. Hoot flies into more than 2,800 theaters on Friday and could debut with about $9M.

Trying to carve out its own piece of the pie this weekend is the supernatural thriller An American Haunting which recently plopped itself onto the May 5 date. The PG-13 film stars Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek as nineteenth century landowners whose daughter becomes possessed. Distributor Freestyle Releasing is hoping to tap into the Exorcism of Emily Rose crowd with its spooky premise and tame rating making it accessible to young teens. However, Haunting should scare up a fraction of the business as much of its target audience will be busy lining up for MI3. A different release date would have been smarter. The marketing behind Haunting makes it look like the run-of-the-mill creepfest and after a long line of successful horror hits this year, audiences are demanding more. An American Haunting bows in 1,667 houses on Friday and may take in around $5M.

Opening in limited release this weekend is the epic fantasy adventure The Promise which unites top actors from China, Korea, and Japan. Written and directed by Chen Kaige (Farewell, My Concubine), the PG-13 film was nominated for a Golden Globe in the foreign language category and was China’s official entry into this year’s Academy Awards. It was set to be released by The Weinstein Co. with the title Master of Crimson Armor, but the distribution deal fell apart at the beginning of this year. Warner Independent Pictures will now release The Promise charging into an aggressive 209 theaters in its first weekend.

With all eyes on Ethan Hunt this weekend, holdover pictures will all take a backseat and see their grosses erode. But if history is any indicator, the declines may not be too steep. In both 2002 and 2003, when the first weekend of May saw colossal openings from Spider-Man and X2 respectively, most major holdovers experienced drops that were only in the 40-45% range. Studios are hoping that MI3 will bring in more traffic to the theaters and that there will be extra dollars to go around.

Last weekend’s top film RV will not see too much competition from the spy sequel, but instead has Hoot taking away some of its family audience. A 40% drop to around $10M would give Sony’s Robin Williams pic $30M in ten days. Universal’s 9/11 thriller United 93 has generated solid reviews, scored very high in its exit polls, and generated a strong per-theater average last weekend. Second weekend sales should remain respectable. A 35% decline would give United 93 about $7.5M for the frame and a ten-day tally of $22M. Buena Vista’s gymnastics comedy Stick It might tumble 40% to around $6.5M for a cume of $19M after ten days.

LAST YEAR The first weekend of May saw its worst opening in seven years as Ridley Scott’s big-budget epic Kingdom of Heaven debuted to just $19.6M. The Fox release went on to capture a disappointing $47.4M domestically, but more than tripled that amount overseas leading to a $211M worldwide tally. Opening in second with not-so-scary results was the horror remake House of Wax which bowed to $12.1M for Warner Bros. The fright flick melted quickly reaching a final total of $32.1M. Falling from first to third was the sci-fi comedy The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which dropped 54% to $9.8M in its second voyage. Lions Gate didn’t make much noise opening its little movie called Crash which premiered in fourth with $9.1M. Although the race relations drama generated the smallest opening among the weekend’s three new films, it enjoyed the best legs and eventually became the highest overall domestic grosser with $53.4M. Rounding out the top five was the former Mrs. Cruise’s political thriller The Interpreter which took in $7.8M in its third mission.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, BoxOfficeGuru.com

Proving that farcical family vacations are more enticing than gymnastics, spelling bees, and historical plane crashes, Sony’s "RV" landed atop the weekend box office tally by grossing an estimated $16.4 million from over 3,600 theaters. Because nothing says "box office hit" like a good septic tank gag.

Debuting in second place (and 1,800 theaters) was Universal’s lauded and controversial "United 93," which managed about $11.6 million in its opening frame, while Disney’s gymnastics flick "Stick It" was a close third, grossing approximately $11.2 million from just over 2,000 theaters.

Fourth and fifth place went to a pair of horror-related hangers-on: Sony’s "Silent Hill" added another $9.3 million to its $34.2 million total, and Dimension’s "Scary Movie 4" yanked another $7.8 million out of moviegoers’ pockets, giving it a grand total of $78.1 million.

Lionsgate’s "Akeelah and the Bee" debuted to relatively meager numbers by pulling in only $6.2 million from 2,200 theaters.

The summer movie officially kicks off next weekend with the arrival of Paramount’s "Mission: Impossible III," New Line’s family flick "Hoot," and Freestyle’s fact-based chiller "An American Haunting."

For a closer peek at the weekend numbers, click on over to the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page.

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