The Disney/Pixar animated film Cars raced past the competition to finish in first place at the North American box office. Though it did not open as strong as some of its predecessors, the toon easily outdistanced everything else in the current marketplace outselling the second place film by a three-to-one margin.

Also debuting this weekend, the horror remake The Omen scared up a solid debut since its Tuesday launch and the Robert Altman film A Prairie Home Companion also posted healthy numbers in its opening. Overall, the box office remained stronger than last year’s thanks to an assortment of popular films offering something for everybody. Six films reached double-digit millions this weekend as the marketplace displayed great breadth in its product offering.

Crossing the finish line with an estimated $62.8M in ticket sales, Cars easily topped the charts this weekend giving Disney and Pixar their seventh number one hit together. Playing at an ultrawide 3,985 theaters, the G-rated story of a cocky race car who learns that winning isn’t everything averaged a musclar $15,759 per site. The opening did, however, put an end to the decade-long streak that Pixar enjoyed where every film debuted bigger than the previous one. The company’s last entry The Incredibles bowed to $70.5M from 3,933 theaters for a $17,917 average in November 2004 while the previous smash Finding Nemo opened to $70.3M from 3,374 venues for a $20,821 average in May 2003.

Cars did not reach the $70M mark that those two hits surpassed on opening weekend and instead performed just like Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. which launched with $62.6M in November 2001. However, the new automotive adventure enjoyed higher ticket prices and 748 more theaters yet still reached the same figure. Among all animated films, the Cars opening ranks fifth all-time behind Shrek 2 ($108M), The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, and Ice Age: The Meltdown which bowed to $68M this past March. Cars did generate the second largest June opening ever behind Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban which exploded two years ago with $93.7M.

One reason Cars did not surge higher may have been that the marketplace has suffered through a glut of computer animated films this year. Not long ago, the arrival of a digital toon was an event as it only happened once or twice a year. Nowadays with weaker entries like Doogal and The Wild hitting theaters, and more studios jumping into the game, the novelty has worn thin. Over the Hedge and Ice Age have been satisfying families over the past two months grossing a stellar $322M combined. Also not helping matters was the film’s lengthy 116-minute running time which is considerably longer than the typical 90-minute length that most young kids are used to sitting through.

Directed by Pixar veteran John Lasseter (Toy Story, Toy Story 2), Cars features the voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, and Larry the Cable Guy. Disney pumped in lots of marketing to push its first major entry in the summer sweepstakes and hopes to keep audiences coming back for more with the July 7 release of its Pirates of the Caribbean sequel.

With more and more school children starting their summer vacations every day, mid-week grosses should be strong in the weeks ahead for Cars. Reviews have been good so many fans may end up catching the film in the weeks ahead. The Incredibles went on to reach a final domestic haul of $261.4M which was almost four times its opening weekend. Nemo had even stronger legs finding its way to $339.7M, or about five times its debut. Given its start out of the gate, Cars still looks set to zoom well past the $200M mark in North America.

Following its surprise top spot debut last weekend, the Vince VaughnJennifer Aniston comedy The Break-Up dropped a sizable 48% in its sophomore frame and placed second with an estimated $20.5M. With an impressive $74.1M in only ten days, the Universal release looks to reach the neighborhood of $120M by the end of its domestic run. It was produced for $52M. Overseas, The Break-Up opened in Australia and New Zealand with a combined $2.2M from 230 locations, helped by local appearances by the film’s stars. It ranked number one in both countries on Thursday and Friday, but was bumped by Cars on Saturday and Sunday thanks to the Pixar flick’s strong matinee business with children. Most other major international markets will open after the World Cup.


X-Men: The Last Stand
dropped a hefty 54% in its third weekend and grossed an estimated $15.6M. The super hero hit upped its cume to $201.7M after 17 days and became the top-grossing film of 2006. Fox’s franchise flick is still on course to surpass the $214.9M of its predecessor to become the highest grossing X-Men installment.

Opening right on the heels of the mutants was the studio’s remake of The Omen which took in an estimated $15.5M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Fox launched the R-rated thriller with a much-hyped Tuesday debut on 6/6/06 grossing a stunning $12.6M in its first day. That made it the largest Tuesday gross ever for any film. The son-of-the-devil pic settled in to more normal grosses on subsequent days and collected a hefty $20.3M over the Tuesday-to-Thursday mid-week period giving The Omen a strong six-day opening tally of $35.7M. Reviews were not too favorable.

Starring Julia Stiles, Liev Schreiber, and Mia Farrow, the new religious chiller played more to today’s younger horror audience than to the older fans who were spooked by the 1976 original. Studio research showed that 52% of the audience was female and a very high 63% was under the age of 25. Fox estimated that the production cost for the new Damien pic was in the mid-$20M range. The studio’s decision to open the film globally on the devilish date was central to the marketing campaign and made it an event film rather than yet another remake of a horror classic. But with sales eroding over the course of the week, The Omen could be in for some steep declines in the weeks ahead.

The animated comedy Over the Hedge experienced its largest drop yet thanks to the arrival of Cars falling 50% to an estimated $10.3M. The Paramount release has collected a solid $130.3M thus far. Tied for fifth place, Sony’s religious thriller The Da Vinci Code dropped 45% to an estimated $10.3M pushing its domestic total to $189M.

Opening in seventh place with respectable results was Robert Altman’s latest film A Prairie Home Companion with an estimated $4.7M from only 760 theaters. Averaging a solid $6,146 per location, the PG-13 film about the backstage drama behind a country music reunion show featured an all-star ensemble cast including Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kline, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, and Lindsay Lohan. Prairie, which earned mostly positive reviews, was released by Picturehouse and played to a mature adult audience.

Paramount’s spy sequel Mission: Impossible III grossed an estimated $3M, down 35%, giving the Tom Cruise actioner $127.5M to date. Robin Williams saw his family comedy RV dip 38% to an estimated $2M in its seventh weekend giving Sony $65M. Rounding out the top ten was Poseidon with an estimated $1.8M, down 47%, for a $54.9M cume for Warner Bros.

Although the summer season is lacking a $300M+ megahit like last year’s Star Wars Episode III, the most popular films are still pulling in the same amount of business. The collective gross of the top five summer films so far is $722.6M which is up 2.4% from this same point a year ago. However, it is still a far cry from the mammoth $907M that 2004’s five biggest summer hits grossed at this stage two years ago led by the Shrek and Harry Potter sequels.

Three films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Paramount Vantage’s global warming hit An Inconvenient Truth widened from 77 to 122 theaters and grossed an estimated $1.5M in its third frame. Though no longer in the top ten, it did still post a strong per-theater average of $12,077. The Al Gore film has taken in just under $4M from its limited release and will expand to about 400 runs nationwide this Friday.

The Lionsgate horror entry See No Evil got hacked 58% to an estimated $860,000 for a cume of $14M. A $15M final seems likely. Lindsay Lohan‘s teen comedy Just My Luck tumbled by two-thirds to an estimated $295,000. The Fox title has grossed a disappointing $16.2M to date and should finish up with only a little more.

Opening this weekend in limited release was the documentary The Heart of the Game which follows a girls high school basketball team and its coach. The Miramax title grossed an estimated $12,200 from just three theaters for a decent $4,068 average.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $146.4M which was up 9% from last year when Mr. & Mrs. Smith debuted at number one with $50.3M; but off 3% from 2004 when Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban remained in the top spot with $34.9M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Nosy moviegoers just couldn’t stay away from a high-profile lovers quarrel as the anti-romantic comedy The Break-Up starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston surprised the industry this weekend by opening at number one, shoving the comic book juggernaut X-Men: The Last Stand into second place in only its second weekend.

The mutant sequel was widely expected to remain atop the North American charts. The only other new face in the top ten was the global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth which expanded and jumped into the number nine slot while still in limited release. Overall, the box office remained healthy with the top four choices gobbling up most of the business.

Jen and Vince attracted millions of fans to theaters with The Break-Up which debuted with an estimated $38.1M over the weekend beating all expectations. Universal launched the date movie in 3,070 locations and averaged a stellar $12,395 giving the studio its best opening yet this year. It was also the third biggest debut ever for a romantic comedy trailing the $43.1M of Hitch and the $39.9M of 50 First Dates which both premiered just days before Valentine’s Day. Women fueled the business for Break-Up. Studio research showed that a whopping 67% of the audience was female while the crowd was evenly split between those over and under the age of 30. Vaughn and Aniston play a couple that breaks up, but still decides to live in the same condo together.

Produced for $52M, The Break-Up sparked lots of media attention over the past year because of Aniston’s split from ex-husband Brad Pitt and her new relationship with Vaughn. Curiosity seemed to attract the former Friends star’s core audience of young women while men were far less interested. Universal’s marketing pushed the starpower and the lack of any other new wide releases kept the attention on Break-Up. Plus, the marketplace has not offered any star-driven films aimed at women in several weeks. Critics, however, gave little support with many panning the film finding it lacking in both romance and comedy. Aniston scored the second biggest opening of her career after 2003’s Bruce Almighty ($68M) while Vaughn enjoyed his third largest after 1997’s The Lost World ($72.1M) and last summer’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith ($50.3M). The Break-Up, however, marks new career highs for each actor in a leading role.

After a record-breaking Memorial Day weekend opener, X-Men: The Last Stand crumbled in its second weekend plunging 67% to second place with an estimated $34.4M. After ten days of release, the mutant sequel has hauled in a staggering $175.7M domestically. Most industry watchers had expected the super hero pic to remain at number one this weekend, but a stronger-than-expected opening by Break-Up coupled with a larger-than-expected decline for X-Men led to a second place finish. Given that loyal fans all rushed to the theaters on the debut frame and the added holiday boost, a steep drop was widely anticipated, but a drop of two-thirds was especially high. Subsequent weeks should stabilize a bit, but based on its trajectory, the third X-Men film looks to be headed to a domestic tally of $230-240M which would still make it the biggest hit of the trilogy.

Holding steady in third place once again this weekend was the animated film Over the Hedge which slipped only 24% to an estimated $20.6M in its third outing. After 17 days, Paramount has collected an impressive $112.4M with the DreamWorks production. After three weeks of having the family market virtually to itself, Hedge will face some stiff competiton next weekend when Disney and Pixar race into theaters with Cars.

Losing a reasonable 43% of its audience in its third weekend, The Da Vinci Code ranked fourth with an estimated $19.3M. That pushed the 17-day total to a stunning $172.7M making the religious thriller the year’s third biggest domestic hit behind Fox’s Ice Age and X-Men sequels. Overseas, Da Vinci continues to lead the box office for the third straight weekend delivering sizzling results. The Ron Howard-directed smash grossed an estimated $51M, down 44% from last weekend, boosting the international tally to a towering $409M. With a sensational $582M in global grosses (70% of which is from outside North America), The Da Vinci Code will shatter the $600M mark by the end of the week.

The top four films ruled the weekend accounting for 88% of all money spent on the top ten films. All other players in the marketplace grossed under $5M each.

Dropping only 33% and finishing fifth for the frame was the spy sequel Mission: Impossible III with an estimated $4.7M which pushed Paramount’s domestic cume to $122.7M. For the fourth consecutive weekend, the ocean liner disaster film Poseidon followed right behind Tom Cruise’s actioner and dropped 40% to an estimated $3.4M. Warner Bros. has taken in just $51.7M thus far.

For the first time in five years, the month of May ended without any of its releases hitting the $200M mark. But while none of this year’s early summer contenders has come close to last year’s Star Wars Episode III which had amazingly smashed through the $300M mark at this point, collectively the hits have managed to measure up to 2005. The aggregate gross of the top five May films this year is $635M which is up 2% from this same point a year ago. Instead of flocking to one giant megahit, moviegoers have been spreading the same amount of money across a collection of popular films.

Sony’s hit kidpic RV continued to hold up well slipping only 21% in its sixth weekend to an estimated $3.3M. The Robin Williams film has taken in $61.8M to date. Lionsgate witnessed a surprisingly strong hold for its horror entry See No Evil which dipped 26% and grossed an estimated $2M. Total stands at $12.4M.

Proving that it is more than just a blue-state hit, Al Gore‘s global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth expanded into major markets and hit the top ten grossing an estimated $1.3M from only 77 theaters. The Paramount Vantage release averaged a stunning $17,299 over the weekend and raised its cume to $1.9M after bowing last week in just four theaters in New York and Los Angeles. This Friday, Truth widens to the Top 25 markets with about 150 total theaters before going national on June 16 in 450-600 locations.

The PG-rated film has quickly nabbed the title of must-see summer doc this year and hopes to follow in the footsteps of last year’s March of the Penguins and 2004’s Fahrenheit 9/11 as non-fiction films that crossed over to become pop culture events. Those films rank as the top-grossing documentaries ever with $77.4M and $119.2M, respectively. This weekend, the former Vice President’s environmental pic became the first film of the year to enter the top ten while playing in fewer than 200 theaters.

Rounding out the top ten was Lindsay Lohan‘s comedy Just My Luck with an estimated $825,000, down a steep 58%, for a cume to date of $15.6M.

Break-Up and Inconvenient Truth bumped two spring films out of the top ten. Universal’s controversial 9/11 thriller United 93 dropped 43% to an estimated $464,000 after spending five weeks in the top ten. The $15M film has grossed $30.6M to date and should collect a bit more before ending its theatrical run. Fox’s animated sequel Ice Age: The Meltdown has spent eight of its ten weekends in the top ten and is now headed for the finish line grossing over $191M to date. The PG-rated hit remains the top-grossing film of 2006 thus far and has unearthed more than $625M worldwide.

Opening this weekend in limited release was the Lionsgate sports drama Peaceful Warrior which took in an estimated $77,000 from ten sites for a solid $7,700 average. Also debuting, but with weaker results, was the Korean action film Typhoon with an estimated $48,000 from 24 theaters. The Paramount Vantage release attacked nine markets and averaged a dull $2,009.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $127.9M which was up 2% from last year when Madagascar climbed into the number one spot with $28.1M; but down 30% from 2004 when Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban opened in the top slot with a June record $93.7M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com