Weekend 5th - 8th January
The first full weekend of 2006 became a one-two punch for distributor BVI, combining their reigning box-office champion The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with Chicken Little, which became the first release of 2006 to pass the $5m mark. Still the unquestioned favourite of the charts, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe held sway over a further $3.87m, off 42% from last weekend. The mega-budgeted saga of an inviolable lion who battles the iniquitous White Witch with the foretold assistance of four children has now emancipated $23.89m for its cause. Now playing on 422 screens, the widest in release, Narnia's average of $9,186 was just a few hundred short of retaining the best average in the top ten.
Narnia's Two-Week Total stands as the fifth best at the close of weekend two, although this total includes and extra three days of play over films such as Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith which had $22.64m at this stage. There's a frontloaded advantage for Narnia on that chart, although thanks to the holiday period, the film isn't looking to give that up so easily. Currently it's tracking 6% ahead of the Lucas-directed finale, up from a 5% shadow last weekend. It's also jumped well ahead of Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, now tracking 14% ahead from last weekend's 2% smaller total.
Soon to rocket past the final totals of films like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Madagascar, Narnia currently sits in position 40 on the All-Time Earners List in Australia. It'll pass those same two films on the 2005 to stand as number three for the year, and now has serious eyes on the 2005 crown. It would a stunning achievement to do so, excelling the fourth chapter of the series whose own tremendous levels of success were Narnia's justification for being, is certainly a note worth trumpeting.
In 2001 and 2002 Two Towers and Fellowship both added in close to $17m from Jan 9th onwards, while Narnia needs only $12m more from that same date to become 2005 champ, assuming Harry matches Sith's final. Last year Meet The Fockers made an additional $13.4m from Jan 10th onwards. Equaling such a tail-end total would give Narnia over $37m in Australia, a sensational total that BVI's own Finding Nemo collected in 2003 and stands the distributor's highest-grossing film. With little new solid competition for its market over the next few weeks, Narnia is certain to be tops again this coming weekend, although the if the Underworld sequel can replicate the figures the original scored in January 2004 then Narnia will be happy to call itself a three-time champ.
Compared to the U.S. pace, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is still enjoying a healthy lead in Australia, up* 111%. Although the margin is down from last weekend's closing lead* of 136%, the contraction was restrained due to the film's continued strong local mid-week sales. While the second-weekend frame of $3.87m was 22* better* in Australia, the second local mid-week session (including the Monday holiday in Australia) of $4.56m was a sensational 190% better*. The current margin* will continue shrink as the coming weeks compare unfavourably to the Christmas and New Years boosts it had in the U.S., although it shouldn't sink anywhere below a 35% better* final total in Australia.
Thanks to a full four-day weekend showing, Chicken Little was able to jump from eighth to second place over the weekend, scoring $2.37m in the process. Good enough for second position and able hold off a very strong opening from new Jennifer Aniston flick, the all-Disney CGI effort lifted its average to $7,122. Although that was only the fourth-best average in the top ten, its spread off 333 screens - one more than last weekend and the third-widest in release - ensured fine final numbers. In all Chicken Little rose 169% from last weekend's one-day opening weekend and gives the pictures an robust early eight-day total $6.20m.
Already clearly ranking as the best performer of 2006 - although there has been only four releases so far - Chicken Little's total is about to pass the $6.4m that Sky High made in September last year. It's also well on track to easily pass the $8.5m of last year's January opener Racing Stripes. The end-of-week-two total puts it right on par with the $6.2m that last year's Computer Animated flick Robots had. The March release did well through the April school holidays giving the Fox film $13.8m in Australia. A final total such as this would place it right on par with BVI's first all-CGI solo attempt to crack the Pixar-pioneered market when 2000's Dinosaur managed respectable yet disappointing returns against massive production and marketing costs. However, while Chicken Little and Robots compare at this stage, it is comparing eight days for Chicken and 11 for Robots, which suggests better things to come for the fibbing pheasant.
Compared to the U.S. pace, Chicken Little is now tracking 23% behind* in Australia. This is up significantly from last weekend when it opened 69% behind*, although that was comparing a single day's take, plus previews, against a regular U.S. opening frame. That two week deficit* of 23% compares eight days of play in Australia against 10 days in the U.S.. In the U.S., Chicken Little dropped by only 21%, a very respectable performance. The second weekend frame in Australia comes in 25% down* on the U.S.' second, a comparison drawn without any excuse of handicap or advantage in either market. However, next weekend will see a handsome change of fortunes as there's no major new threat to Chicken Little's local January run, whereas in the U.S., it suffered at the hands of Harry Potter when it launched against Chicken's third frame and it sunk by 54%. Chicken Little shouldn't fall by more than 30% this weekend in Australia.
While its contemporaries have posted good to poor results over the last month, Rumor Has It stepped out into the romantic-comedy field with stunning results over the weekend, excelling expectations and carving out Jennifer Aniston's first real mark as a lead actress in Australia. The film that follows her adventure across the country to discover the real story behind her mother and grandmother's inspiration of the film The Graduate opened to $2.27m. Launching on a wide 238 Screens, Roadshow's booking was close to double rival Fox's The Family Stone on 127 and 70 more than what Just Like Heaven opened on in December. Not only was it's count strong, but Rumor Has It's average of $9,538 was the best in the top ten.
Waiting until after the Christmas-New Year's crush proved to be the right choice, with the weekend's opening figures good enough to suggest that it was a better date to open than the Valentine's Day-influenced early February. January is well known as a lucrative time of the year, providing weeks of solid play for the big guns from December. In the last few years, January has also been a time to release films to great figures, films which if released in November or February would either struggle to find a market or arrive with far less impressive results. Last year saw Elektra and Alexander bow to decent figures, while the year before Underworld and Honey did well and even trash like Torque took over $1m upon opening, in its avoidance of what should have been a straight to video release.
So, January can hold its share of surprises, but were we simply underestimating Rumor Has It's potential? The film's opening was the first over $2m for The Year, arriving in the same range as other January films like Coyote Ugly and Shallow Hal, which finished with $11.45m and $9.33m. Rumor Has It would be very happy with even the lower end of that scale. A $9m final would put it in similar territory to Jennifer Aniston's 2004 flick Along Came Polly. Rumor Has It's opening of $2.27m has come in 11% smaller than the Ben Stiller-starrer which held well through early February, averaging a decent 39% decline rate through its seven charting weeks. The opening for Rumor Has It removes fears of a continuation of her dismal Picture Perfect and Object of My Affection days, with hopes of good things ahead for the actress.
Compared to the U.S. pace, Rumor Has It's opening comes in a massive 554% better* in Australia. It wasn't that the film was a hideously anemic performer in the U.S., well, not entirely, as it did launch over the Christmas weekend, which was universally soft through 2005. It was one of the bigger risers of the weekend after Christmas, but even then it has still failed to match the pace of The Family Stone, although it could eventually go on to equalise with Just Like Heaven. Next weekend will see the margin reduce*, although it'll certainly finish far higher* in Australia, perhaps in the order of 100%. Compared to my opening weekend forecast, Rumor Has It opened just 50% on track to my $1.1m prediction.
Fun with Dick and Jane scored the best hold of all non-New Year's day openers in the top ten, dipping by 33% over the weekend. That figure would count as a solid hold through any weekend, but the box office is coming down off of an amplified long-weekend frame, which makes any decline under 35% worthy of appreciation. Collecting $1.61m through the weekend, the Sony success elevated its joyous 14-day cume to $7.99m, well on its way to bust through $10m soon after the end of this coming weekend.
Fun with Dick and Jane will have passed the $8.1m of last year's Miss Congeniality 2 on Monday, with other 2005 hits like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The 40-Year-Old Virgin not too far afterwards. After weekend two, Fun with Dick and Jane is tracking 17% ahead of 2003's Rowan Atkinson comedy success Johnny English, which finished with $12.52m in Australia. On Jim Carrey's list, Fun with Dick and Jane is set to repair 2004's mistake Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events, the actor's only film to open over $2m and not finish over $10m. Compared to his 1998 film The Truman Show, the Tea Leoni so-starrer is tracking 12% ahead, down from a 49% lead at the end of last weekend.
Compared to the U.S. pace, Fun with Dick and Jane is now tracking 33% ahead* in Australia, a significant downgrading of the 113% lead* it had after last weekend. As explained, that was due to the Boxing Day mid-week session weighing heavily in favour of the Australian gross. The second weekend frame, which compares against the bountiful New-Years weekend in the U.S. where it rose 15%, comes in just 3% weaker* in Australia.
Rounding out the top five was the Peter Jackson remake King Kong. 2005's most expensive film retained a fair degree of momentum through its fourth weekend, down 35%, which was on the smaller end of the chart's various declines. The UIP/Universal flick collected $1.48m through the weekend upping its Four-Week Cume to $18.11m. Set to become the ninth film of 2005 to pass the $20m mark in Australia, King Kong sits in position 92 on the All-Time chart.
After four weeks, King Kong is tracking 5% behind July's effects-heavy hit War of the Worlds, up from the 10% smaller pace last weekend. The Naomi Watts flick is now showing signs of better holding power than the Spielberg film, collecting $1.48 vs. $1.08 for Worlds' fourth lap. This will bring King Kong not just well ahead of the $20.3m of last June's Mr and Mrs Smith, but also should eventually trump the $21.5m of the Cruise-Fanning film. King Kong will see decent, though declining returns for the next few weeks, with a final total around $23m likely. That would see it finish around 3% behind the 2004 flick Troy. Currently it's tracking 5% behind, so Kong needs only to replicate Troy's post-weekend four decline average of 39% to get there. January should enable that.
Compared to the U.S. pace, King Kong is now tracking 6% behind* in Australia, slightly up on the 10% smaller* margin of last weekend. Having been released on the same weekend in Australia as in the U.S., the film has faced the same advantages and weaknesses over the course of its first four weeks, with each market winning* two weekends. The fourth weekend belonged to Australia, coming in a handy 18% better* locally. The fourth weekend decline of 35% was a good deal better than the 49% drop it saw stateside, where there's no longer any school holidays and the new film Hostel proved a draw from its audience, unlike the demographically removed Rumor Has It in Australia.
- Outside the top five, The Family Stone saw the biggest weekend rise, up 242%. The growth came from two angles, it was a comparison against last weekend's single New Year's day figure, and Fox somehow managed to find more screens for their chronically under-distributed title. Now playing on 127 screens, up from 97 last weekend, the Sarah Jessica Parker starrer collected $0.96m for an eight-day total of $1.82m. Still less than the four-day figure of Rumor Has It, The Family Stone is the antithesis of the Aniston flick. Compared to the U.S. pace, The Family Stone is tracking 29% down* in Australia, although its 43% better* second weekend comes thanks to a comparison against the U.S.' undervalued Christmas session.
- It wasn't all complete mediocrity for Fox, with Cheaper by the Dozen 2 continuing its story of passable results. Down 36%, the Steve Martin sequel can claim a good deal of consistency and will end with fine figures. Collecting $0.92m for the frame, its current cume sits at $5.78m. Compared to the first film, Cheaper by the Dozen 2 is now tracking 11% behind, relatively even from the 13% smaller pace of last weekend. The original saw some steep declines through weeks four and five, so this gives Dozen 2 a great chance to jump ahead in its hopes of passing the $8.92m of Cheaper by the Dozen. Compared to the U.S. pace, Cheaper by the Dozen 2 is now tracking 13% down* in Australia, well up on the 24% weaker* margin of last weekend. The fourth weekend came in 9% stronger* in Australia.
- Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire matched its arch-nemesis Narnia by recording a 42% decline, or equal highest drop in the top 20. That hasn't stopped the boy wizard from posting fine tail-end figures, collecting $0.88m through weekend six. The third sequel in the series ow has a massive $33.04m, ranking in position 18 on the All-Time chart just in front of Jurassic Park. The film's Six-Week Cume still outpaces the second two Potters and now sits just 2% behind 2005 champ Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, up from 5%. Goblet of Fire will have passed Prisoner of Azkaban's $33.13m on Monday. The film is still on track to finish with $35.5m to $36m, enough to pass Sith, but can it fend off Narnia? Currently the film is tracking 27% ahead* of the U.S. pace in Australia, up from 23%.
- Just Like Heaven dipped three spots from sixth to ninth. Down 38%, the decline was fine considering Rumor's hearty debut and Stone's 'expansion'. The UIP/Universal film collected $0.79m for the weekend and has enchanted $4.33m so far. This puts the Witherspoon starrer 3% ahead of last year's The Phantom of the Opera, which finished around $7m. It's now tracking 18% ahead of Legally Blonde, which closed with $6.27m.
- Rounding out the top ten was the action flick The Legend of Zorro. The swashbuckling sequel was off 41% through its second full weekend and collected $0.53m through the process. The Zeta-Jones-Banderas film now has just $2.95m. The Roadshow flick stands 43% behind the original, which Columbia rode to $8.78m. Can Legend make it to 50% of that?
The top 20 films collected $17.62m over the weekend, down 9% from last weekend but up 3% from this weekend Last Year when Meet The Fockers remained on top with $3.84m and The Incredibles held steady in second with $3.04m. The weekend was down 6% on this weekend from Two Years Ago when The Return of the King spent a third weekend on top with $3.79m ahead of newcomer Something's Gotta Give which opened to $2.54m ahead of a strong $2.18m second weekend from Spy Kids 3D.
Weekend Coming: 12th - 15th January 2006
After a solid few weeks of star and effects-driven product which very effectively prodded audiences back into theatres, The Constant Gardener and Good Night and Good Luck are joined by the The Producers, the first in a long line of January and February releases that were either once billed as, or still are, awards contenders. Starring Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman, Nathan Lane and Will Ferrell, The Producers is the movie turned musical turned movie again from creator Mel Brooks. Directed by previous choreographer Susan Stroman, The Producers follows a musical producer and his accountant who come up with a scheme to produce a money-making musical. On a mission to produce one of the worst plays in history they hire a renoundly trashy director, commission a story called 'Springtime For Hitler' and hire the story's partially spastic creator for the lead role. Their guranteed flop is so awful it becomes a stunning success.
The Producers opened in the U.S. in limited release in mid December to a decent theatre average of $25.7k. Expanding from 6 screens to 975 didn't treat the film well at all, plummeting to a $1.7k average. Increasing slightly over the New Years period to average $4.1k, The Producers has been a real disappointment for Universal. After four weeks the film has collected just $US15.1m, with 41 screens taken away last weekend. Produced for $US45m, The Producers is failing to cause the stir it enjoyed when it found a willing audience on the stage and looks barely on track to collect half of its budget. Despite an impressive cast and some positive early buzz on the production, the amount of people not seeing the film is a harsh indicator of its awards chances, which are pretty much gone.
After failing to find an audience back in 1968, Mel Brooks brought his creation to theatres in the West End and on Broadway to massive critical and public acclaim. Whilst The Producers has seen sold out shows at the stage production for years, the original audience indifference that greeted the original film is back. Poor results in the U.S. have been echoed by soft numbers in the U.K.. The odds are low that Sony will be able do anything of significance in Australia. However the distributor have been able to turn seeming box-office poison like Bewitched and the Deuce Bigalow sequel into hits and earn at least some returns from XXX2 and Are We There Yet?, so perhaps The Producers will surprise like Rumor Has It has just done. January is the place to score surprise numbers if it is possible at all. There's little chance that The Producers will produce Phantom of the Opera ($7m) or Evita ($5.9m) numbers, let alone channeling Moulin Rouge or Chicago, the reason alone for its existence. The Producers might earn enough interest this weekend to open with $0.8m.
Is it destined to replicate the same kind of mediocrity that Valiant was pre-disposed to last weekend, or will the U.K. hit Nanny McPhee bring with it to Australia the good fortunes it saw back home? Nanny McPhee stars Emma Thompson in the title role, who flexed her screenwriting abilities for the film from material Christiana Brand created for her Nurse Matilda series. Directed by Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine) the film also stars Colin Firth in the role of the hapless father who enlists the magical Nanny McPhee to help look after his seven kids, who've been out of his control for some time and who've built an impressive count of vanquished frustrated nannies.
Nanny McPhee has yet to open in the U.S., but scored terrific numbers in the U.K. Opening against the second weekend of co-local production Wallace and Gromit with £2.6m, it was a solid second choice for the October holiday period, holding well and looking to eventually close with £16.6m (US$30m) in the U.K.. Valiant didn't make too much more in the U.S. than at home, although Nanny McPhee was such a solid U.K. hit it might even struggle to outpace the U.K.'s total in the U.S.
Nanny McPhee was a touch stronger than the U.K. success Pride and Prejudice back home, but is that a reliable indicator for Australia? The Keira Knightley picture opened with $1.47m in October and closed with a fine $7m. However, Nanny McPhee out-grossed Batman Begins and Mr and Mrs Smith in the U.K. too. Does Nanny McPhee have the potential to replicate last year's January family films Racing Stripes or Spongebob? They opened with respective numbers of $1.46m and $1.61m and closed with $8.5m and $7m. They're numbers that are probably out of McPhee's conjuring abilities, with an opening closer to a Treasure Planet-like $0.6m launch this weekend for Nanny McPhee.
* Based on a US index of 10/1 with currency, ticket prices, population and cinema visits per head.
^ Based on a UK index of 2.1/1 with currency, ticket prices, population and cinema visits per head.
The Top 20 Films
Written By Paul Boschen
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