News

'King Kong' Clings to Christmas Top Spot Over 'Chronicles'

by Brandon Gray
King Kong
December 27, 2005

Eight national releases entered the fray over Christmas weekend, but all paled in comparison to the mega-budget grudge match between a computer-rendered gorilla and lion.

King Kong remained the king of the jungle in its second weekend, barely topping The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Peter Jackson's $207 million remake stocked $33.3 million over the four-day weekend, while the $180 million C.S. Lewis adaptation swept up $31.7 million.

After a brief one-week reign, King Kong had relinquished the crown to Narnia from Wednesday through Saturday, only to lumber ahead Sunday and Monday by a wide enough margin to claim the weekend victory.

With $165.1 million in 18 days after a near zero percent drop, Disney's Narnia is the more successful of the two, making nearly as much in its third weekend as Universal's King Kong did in its second. Down 34 percent for a $120.6 million 13-day total, Kong itself held decently, but expectations were lowered after a disappointing opening.

With its built-in audience and greater family appeal, Narnia has lived up to its hype as literary fantasy has become a hot commodity in the wake of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Popular in its own right, King Kong was overshadowed by the industry and the media's overzealous pushing of a property that was not as universal nor focused as Narnia.

Overall business for the top 12 pictures was on par with the comparable Friday-to-Monday period last year, when Meet the Fockers dominated with a $60 million haul.

The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was in 1994, which, like this year, had eight new nationwide releases, including Little Women and Street Fighter. As always, though, this time of year is more about capitalizing on each day of the Christmas vacation rather than delivering massive weekend grosses, and because audience availability is at a high, studios often flood the market with new movies.

Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey's $100 million comedy remake of the 1977 movie of the same name, Fun with Dick and Jane, absconded with $21.5 million at 3,056 locations for a six-day booty of $29.1 million. Distributor Sony's exit polling indicated that 61 percent of the audience was under 25 years old, while 51 percent was male.

Fun with Dick and Jane's start was below average for a Jim Carrey comedy, but the picture's premise of a suburban couple taking to robbery to support their lifestyle did not have the gun-for-the-masses appeal of Carrey's past hits like Bruce Almighty and Liar Liar. The darker subject matter was more akin to The Cable Guy, and the crime comedy genre results in box office failure more often than not.

Ten years ago, Steve Martin found success with a sequel-to-a-remake, Father of the Bride Part II, which ultimately retained 86 percent of its predecessor's gross. With Cheaper by the Dozen 2, he floundered. The family comedy spawned $15.3 million over the four-day weekend at 3,175 theaters for a six-day haul of $20.6 million. Distributor 20th Century Fox's Friday exit polling suggested that 31 percent of the audience was kids, 29 percent was parents and 40 percent was non-family.

In its first six days, Cheaper by the Dozen amassed $49 million during Christmas 2003. Yours, Mine and Ours may have plundered some of Cheaper by the Dozen 2's thunder. Released a month ago, that family comedy looked like Cheaper by the Dozen and a Half, and sequels to hit comedies frequently make a fraction of the original, with casualties including Three Men and a Little Lady, Sister Act 2 and Analyze That.

After two prosperous weekends in limited release that were overshadowed by Brokeback Mountain, Memoirs of a Geisha was lavished with a solid national debut. The $85 million period drama based on a best-selling book unfurled at 1,547 venues and drew $10.2 million over the four-day frame, benefiting from being the only serious female-driven picture in the market. Distributor Sony's research suggested that 61 percent of moviegoers were female, and 62 percent were under 35.

At a lower rung, Special Olympics comedy, The Ringer, which was shot more than two years ago, emerged with a popularity-challenged $7.7 million four-day opening at 1,829 sites.

Eric Bana in Munich
Steven Spielberg's $70 million drama about the aftermath of the 1972 Olympics terrorist attack, Munich, orchestrated a modest $6 million four-day bow from a near-wide 532 locations. In polling conducted by distributor Universal, 59 percent of moviegoers were male, and 71 percent were over 30. The "story" was ranked the top reason people saw the picture, followed by "Steven Spielberg" and that the movie was "based on a true story." Universal plans to expand the movie to about 1,800 theaters on Jan. 6.

Three pictures opened wide on Christmas day: romantic comedy Rumor Has It, Australian horror Wolf Creek and musical comedy The Producers.

With a two-day take of an estimated $7.5 million from 2,815 locations, Warner Bros.' Rumor Has It was below the caliber of its cast that includes Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Costner. The premise that riffs off the The Graduate may have proved too icky for a light romantic comedy.

The Weinstein Company's second wide release, Wolf Creek, gutted $4.9 million from 1,749 spots, which was relatively okay for a low budget horror pick-up. Last year, the Weinsteins opened Darkness on Christmas day (via then Disney-owned Dimension) and saw a $6.2 million two-day gross—that movie went on to gross $22.2 million.

Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in The Producers
The Producers was out of bloom, marching to $3.3 million at 975 theaters. This past week's mediocre six-venue release portended the soft numbers for the $45 million adaptation of the Broadway musical that was adapted from Mel Brooks' 1968 comedy.

Brokeback Mountain hopped along in limited release, roping $3 million over the four-day weekend at 217 locations. The $14 million cowboy love story averaged $13,599 a site, still sturdy but considerably cooled from its first two weeks with the addition of more suburban locales. With $7.9 million in the till, distributor Focus Features will expand the picture slightly for New Year's weekend before an aggressive addition of about 80 markets on Jan. 6.

Among other holdovers, The Family Stone stayed in the fight despite the addition of three other comedies about families—Fun with Dick and Jane, Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and Rumor Has It—and has made $29.2 million in ten days.

RELATED ARTICLES
• 12/19/05 - 'King Kong' Mighty But No Monster
• 12/12/05 - 'Narnian' Delight: Passion of the 'Lion' Pays
• 11/28/05 - 'Goblet' Gobbles 'Rent,' 'Yours'
• 1/3/05 - 'Fockers' Meet Christmas Records
• Review - 'Munich'
• Review - 'Memoirs of a Geisha'

RELATED CHARTS
Fish-Out-of-Water Father Comedies
Musicals
4-day Weekend Box Office Results
3-day Weekend Box Office Results

NOTE: This report was originally published on Monday, Dec. 26 and was updated on Tuesday, Dec. 27 with actual grosses.



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