Pixar scored its eighth consecutive number one opening with the animated feature "Ratatouille" which easily topped the North American box office chart this weekend. Bruce Willis got the action going in second place with the debut of his new shoot-em-up sequel "Live Free or Die Hard."
The Michael Moore documentary "Sicko" and the femme-driven drama "Evening" saw much smaller grosses in their national openings but still landed in the top ten. The overall box office was slightly better than last year’s as the the first half of 2007 came to a close.
"Ratatouille" cooked up an estimated $47.2M in its premiere frame hitting the top spot, but the G-rated toon delivered the smallest opening for Pixar since 1998’s "A Bug’s Life" which bowed nationwide over the Thanksgiving session to $33.3M over three days (roughly $40M at today’s ticket prices). The new entry about a rodent that secretly cooks up delicious meals in a Paris restaurant fell short of the debut numbers posted by recent Pixar offerings like last summer’s "Cars" ($60.1M), 2004’s "The Incredibles" ($70.5M), and 2003’s "Finding Nemo" ($70.3M). With every company in Hollywood now producing computer-animated films for kids, and "Cars" driving into theaters just one year ago, "Ratatouille" lacked the event status that most Pixar pics carried with them.
Still, reviews were sensational and while the film may have been a bit of a tough sell upfront, strong word-of-mouth could give the rat pic solid legs in the weeks ahead, especially with the Independence Day holiday week coming up. Pixar films often go on to reach four or fives times their opening weekend numbers domestically so joining the $200M club is still possible. The French setting could also boost overseas sales. Most recent Pixar films earned more internationally than domestically except for "Cars" which boasted a very American NASCAR-type storyline.
Opening at number two with a similar gross, but spread out over five days, was the Bruce Willis action sequel "Live Free or Die" Hard which collected an estimated $33.2M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and $48.2M since its Wednesday launch. Playing in 3,408 theaters, the Fox release averaged a healthy $9,727 over three days. Studio research showed that the PG-13 film skewed a bit older and a bit more male, as expected. With the franchise being dormant for twelve years, it was a challenge to make this new "Die Hard" picture relevant to today’s young summer moviegoers. "Live Free" earned strong reviews from critics and overseas, where its title is "Die Hard 4.0," grosses are expected to be significantly stronger as evidenced by 1995’s "Die Hard With A Vengeance" which collected a whopping 72% of its $361M worldwide total from outside of North America.
Steve Carell’s comedy "Evan Almighty" dropped 52% in its second weekend to an estimated $15.1M and fell two spots to third place. Universal has collected $60.6M in ten days and seems headed for the $100M mark by the end of the run. That makes "Evan" the summer’s biggest underachiever given its reported $175M production cost and the fact that it has grossed less than half as much as "Bruce Almighty" did in its first ten days four years ago.
The hotel room thriller "1408" declined by 49% in its sophomore frame and collected an estimated $10.6M. John Cusack’s latest film has scared up a solid $40.4M after ten days and could finish with an impressive $70M for MGM making it the year’s second biggest horror film after "Disturbia."
Falling 55% to an estimated $9M was "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" which has banked $114.8M to date. The PG-rated Fox sequel is off 7% from the 17-day cume of its PG-13 predecessor from 2005.
Universal’s comedy "Knocked Up" placed sixth with an estimated $7.4M, down only 32%, for a cume of $122.4M. "Ocean’s Thirteen" followed falling 47% to an estimated $6.1M giving Warner Bros. $102.1M domestically. The international tally climbed to $124.1M boosting the worldwide total to $226M and counting.
Disney’s Captain Jack saga "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" ranked eighth with an estimated $5M dipping only 30% in its sixth voyage. The North American cume stands at $295.8M putting it at number 25 the all-time domestic blockbusters list just behind 2003’s first "Pirates" adventure which grossed $305.4M. Overseas, the third Pirates film surged to $608.9M raising the global gross to an astounding $904.7M allowing it to surpass "Spider-Man 3" to become the top-grossing film worldwide in 2007. At World’s End has also become the sixth biggest blockbuster of all-time overseas and only the ninth movie ever to break the $900M mark globally.
Michael Moore’s new documentary "Sicko" opened nationwide over the weekend and placed ninth with an estimated $4.5M from only 441 theaters for a solid $10,204 average. Though it was an impressive debut, it was nowhere near the $23.9M opening and $27,558 average of the filmmaker’s last release "Fahrenheit 9/11" from June 2004. That controversial film went on to become the top-grossing doc ever with $119.2M. "Sicko," a criticism of America’s health care problems, failed to attract the same amount of controversy and has gotten off to a slower start for Lionsgate. Cume is $4.6M including an exclusive one-week run in New York City.
The dying-mother drama "Evening" bowed with weak results in tenth place with an estimated $3.5M from 977 sites for a mild $3,596 average. Focus saw poor reviews for its femme-driven drama.
At 2007’s halfway point, the top five summer films (led by "Spider-Man 3"’s $333.7M) have collectively grossed $1.18 billion, up 31% from last year. The top five blockbusters of the overall year have combined for a $1.32 billion, up an encouraging 37% from this point in 2006, so the marketplace has certainly been healthy with some big hits, even if some have not met the industry’s high expectations.
Four films tumbled out of the top ten over the weekend. Paramount’s "Shrek the Third" fell 51% to an estimated $2.7M giving the DreamWorks toon $313.8M to date. That allowed the $170M-budgeted ogre tale to crack the Top 20 on the all-time domestic list at number 20 right behind "The Fellowship of the Ring" which took in $314.2M. Look for a final of about $320M which would be substantially behind the $436.7M of "Shrek 2" which currently ranks number three all-time. Worldwide, "Shrek the Third" has grossed over $500M with many major markets yet to open.
Rival toon "Surf’s Up" grossed an estimated $2.4M, off a steep 64%, giving Sony $53.7M thus far. A mediocre $60M final could result. The teen girl pic "Nancy Drew" fell 56% to an estimated $1.9M for a $21.3M sum. Warner Bros. should end its run with only $25M or so. Paramount Vantage’s "A Mighty Heart" dropped 61% to an estimated $1.6M giving the Angelina Jolie pic just $7M in ten days. A $10M final seems likely.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $141.6M which was up a scant 2% from last year when "Superman Returns" opened at number one with $52.5M; and up 9% from 2005 when "War of the Worlds" debuted on top with $64.9M over three days.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com