November 7, 2006

Box Office Update 11/3-11/5: Borat Greatest in the Country

OK, before going any further, I would like you to get chuckles all out now. By now I am sure that you have seen my weekend predictions in my column last Friday and witnessed my pathetic underestimation of Borat and then seen its successive plundering of this past weekend's box office. Go ahead, get it out now.

I have to admit I was suckered by the brilliant marketing ploy from Fox. They had slated a big release of 2000 theaters for this past weekend, then less than two weeks before its release Fox cuts it back to just over 800. They claimed the cut back was because they feared that Middle America wouldn't "get" Sascha Baron Cohen's wacky character. Foolishly, I believed them. I shouldn't have, I was truly and completely suckered. I should have been tipped off. The fact that the advertising seemed to ramp up should have been a clue, the fact that Cohen kept appearing on every talk show, morning, noon, and night, in character should have tipped me off.

The gamble worked. By cutting down the theaters and escalating their marketing they made the movie the hottest ticket in town. I read reports of shows selling out and then over-selling. People were buying tickets to sit in the aisles just so they could see the movie. Word of mouth, incessant ads, and limited seating thrust this modest release right to the top. It took in $9 million on Friday alone, almost guranteeing that it would finish out on top. Now, the plan will move forward to expand the film to the rest of the country next week and allow everyone else to get in on the joke. Personally, I cannot wait to get that shot. I am not familiar with Da Ali G show, and only know Cohen from his role in Talldega Nights, but this looks hilarious.

Following Borat, and not all that closely, was the number two film and another new release, Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause. The third film of Tim Allen's holiday trilogy is harmless fluff. It is not terribly good, nor is it awful, it just is. The only real reason to see this is for Martin Short, who seems to relish his role as the nefarious Jack Frost. The other reason would be that your kids want to see it. I would recommend re-watching the original, which was actually pretty good, or better yet, watch Elf. Then, after the kiddies are tucked away, you can check out Bad Santa. Just an idea.

Following right on Clause's tail is the rat movie Flushed Away. This is Aardman Studios followup to last year's delightful Wallace & Gromit in Curse of the Were-Rabbit. They have stepped away from claymation, and into the world of CG animation. However, they did not leave their roots behind. The film replicates the look and feel of claymation to the point where you will swear you see fingerprints once in a while. What the CG affords them is a bigger palette to play with, the detail and action here is excellent. I thought the overall film was mediocre, but it does have a winning style and is enjoyable for the whole family.

Among the returning films, Saw III proved the front loaded nature of the horror genre, dropping over 55% in its second week. Still, it did have a respectable showing of near $15 million. Which really didn't even matter since a fourth entry of the torture series has been greenlight with a planned release for next Halloween.

The Departed continues to impress. It may have fallen to fifth place, following a three week stay at number two, but it only fell off 21% from last week and has crossed the century mark. This marks only the second time Martin Scorsese has hit that mark, The Aviator was the other one, and Monday will probably see it become the biggest hit of his career. It is a great film and deserves all of the good that has happened to it. It was a close battle as Christopher Nolan's magician film, The Prestige, followed very closely. It is also an excellent film, and I can only hope that it continues.

There was one other new entry to the charts, The Queen. In its sixth week of release it has cracked the top ten, coming in at the anchor position. It took in nearly $3 million at less than 400 theaters. I saw the film, found it a little dry, but also quite entertaining.

Four films dropped from the list this week: Flicka (11), Marie Antoinette (18), Running with Scissors (14), and The Grudge 2 (15).

This Week

Last WeekTitleWknd GrossOverallWeek in release

The Santa Clause: The Escape Clause

3NFlushed Away$18,814,323$18,814,3231
41Saw III$14,805,871$59,382,7062
52The Departed$7,722,388$102,004,0545

The Prestige

74Flags of Our Fathers$4,419,657$26,550,7693
87Man of the Year$3,665,580$33,848,8004
95Open Season$2,968,832$81,254,5986
1014The Queen$2,909,966$9,986,9706

Box Office Predictions Recap
Hey, there's a reason I don't get paid for my predictions. This week boasts my single worst guesstimate ever with Borat. It will most likely stand the test of time as my worst one ever. For the rest, I don't really do all that bad despite only getting one position right. and a few gross predictions that were in the ballpark. There's always next week.


PredictionTitleWknd GrossPrediction
21Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause$19,504,038$21 million
42Saw III$14,805,871$18 million
33Flushed Away$18,814,323$15 million
54The Departed$7,722,388$6.5 million

The Prestige


$5 million

76Flags of Our Fathers$4,419,657$4 million
17Borat$26,455,463$3.5 million
98Open Season$2,968,832$3.25 million
119Flicka$2,702,185$3 million
810Man of the Year$3,665,580$2.5 million


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