Was there any movie fan who did not want to spend an evening with the Fockers this weekend?
For, the $80 million comedy has already recouped its cost in just 12 days, helped considerably by repeat audiences. What is even more impressive is that Meet The Fockers, with a $42.8 million weekend and $163 million cumulative gross, has earned nearly as much as the original Meet The Parents did over a 10-week period in 2000. With the awesome success of the new movie, fans may not have to wait for more than three years to see another sequel.
The film, which has a good chance of reaching $250 million within a month, grossed more than the next three hits combined: Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events (Jim Carrey) grossed $14.7 million, The Aviator (Leonardo DiCaprio) grossed $11.2 million and the low budget comedy Fat Albert adapted from a television cartoon grossed $10.7 million.
The Fockers saga, with its lowbrow comedy delivered by a stellar cast of Robert De Niro, Blythe Danner, Ben Stiller and newly added, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand, lost just about seven percent of its box-office clout from the previous week. The film is apparently appealing to a wide segment, with the younger audiences drawn by Stiller.
Martin Scorsese's The Aviator was considered, with its $120 million budget and a story set five decades ago, as the riskiest of the holiday movies. The industry is now looking at it as one of its flagship movies that may turn profitable in the long run. Its $11.2 million weekend gross is considerable since it is showing in 1,796 theatres. Meet The Fockers, on the other hand, is in more than 3,500 theatres; Snicket in some 3,600 theatres.
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Also, The Aviator runs for two hours and 48 minutes, thus reducing the number of shows a day. On the other hand, the Fockers is one hour and 54 minutes long. If The Aviator does not go for a big fall in the coming weeks, it could become a moderate hit. If it earns a couple of important Oscars, it could turn into a big hit.
The star-studded drama Ocean's Twelve was stable at fifth spot with $9.2 million and a four week gross of $106.9 million. It has a fair chance of reaching the $130 million that its predecessor Ocean's 11 had grossed in 2001.
Among the impressive achievements of the season is the steady business The Polar Express has managed. When the movie, which at $160 million is among the most expensive films of the decade, opened to lukewarm business and mild reviews many expected the film to disappear in a few weeks. But distributor and producer Warner did not lose faith in the film. Its aggressive marketing paid off as the movie is heading for a solid $170 million gross in North America. However, it is a long way from being profitable.
The holidays brought additional luck to Nicolas Cage whose National Treasure has become his highest grossing film. The movie not only bounced back in the top 10 but also jumped by 80 percent. Expect the film to end its run with at least $165 million North American gross.
For producer Disney (and its subdivisions Miramax and Dimension), the success of National Treasure is significant. Disney and its subsidies have overcome debacles like The Alamo in the first half of the year with such hits as The Incredibles, which reached a strong $250 million in North America on January 1 and some $200 million abroad (and still counting). But not many expected National Treasure to be a runaway hit. Most of the reviews were also negative. The movie is also turning into a formidable hit abroad.
Adding to the Disney high profile is the well reviewed Aviator which is promising to be an award-winning hit. Even a hardly noticed horror drama Darkness, which was made for a mere $6 million, is on its way to turn a profit in the next two weeks.
The Phantom Of The Opera is still playing in 672 theatres and waiting for additional openings through January and February. Till now, the $70 million film based on Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical -- which is running in New York for about 18 years and has grossed an unprecedented $3.2 billion across the world -- has grossed a modest $16 million in two weeks. Based on its decent but unspectacular run in England and disappointing run in several European countries, industry watchers believe it will be a miracle if the film reaches $100 million. People are still spending an average of $60 a ticket to see the stage version. Apparently, the stage version is far more thrilling and enjoyable.
The coming weeks will be significant for many small and medium budget films that are being shown in a handful of cities or on a few hundred theatres.
Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby is one such film. One of the most acclaimed films in recent years, it is running in just about nine theatres.
The Kevin Spacey directed A Love Song For Bobby Long, a screen bio of musician Bobby Darin (played by Spacey) is another. It jumped from a handful of theatres to 320 over the weekend and grossed an impressive $1 million. Its real test will come when it goes for a couple of expansions. The Shakespearean drama The Merchant Of Venice, starring Al Pacino as Shylock, will also expand to hundreds of theatres in coming weeks.
The political drama The Assassination Of Richard Nixon, starring Sean Penn, has received excellent reviews for his performance. But the film, as a whole, hasn't got uniformly good reviews. On the other hand, In Good Company, a critique of big business culture and starring Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace and Scarlett Johansson has been better reviewed. Currently, it is showing on three screens but by mid-January, it is expected to be in 1,600 theatres.
The much applauded story of friendship, envy, sexual anxiety and wine, Sideways, at number 17 on the box-office chart is playing in 373 screens. It added 14 screens during the year-ending week and saw its gross jump by 88 percent. The film, which cost $16 million, has already grossed an impressive $22 million and is on its way to several expansions. If it gets a handful of significant Oscar nominations, you can expect it to play wide (say on 2,000 screens) for at least a couple of weeks.
Box office estimates for North America, December 31 to January 3
|Rank||Film||Weekend gross ||Total gross||Number of weeks|
|1||Meet The Fockers||$42.8 million (down 7%)||$163m|| 2|
$14.7 million (down 7%)
|3||The Aviator||$11.2 million (up 30%)||$31m||3|
|4||Fat Albert||$10.7 million (up 7%)||$33m||2|
|5||Ocean's Twelve||$9.2 million (up 10%)||$106m||4|
|6||National Treasure||$7 million (up 80%) ||$154m||7 |
|7||Spanglish||$6.3 million (up 35%)||$31m||3|
|8||The Polar Express||$5.7 million (down 11%)||$155m||8 |
|9||Phantom Of The Opera||$4.8 million (up 30%)||$16m||2|
|10||Darkness||$4.5 million (down 25%)||$16.5m||2|