News

'Batman' Sweeps 'Bewitched,' Swats Bug

by Brandon Gray
Christian Bale stars as Batman.
June 27, 2005

Batman Begins had nothing to fear from the weekend's nostalgic gust of witches, zombies and a possessed Beetle.

Perched at the top spot in its second weekend, the $150 million return of Warner Bros.' Caped Crusader captured $27.6 million at 3,858 theaters, lifting the total to $122.5 million in 12 days ($5.8 million of which from 55 IMAX screens). The 43 percent drop from its $48.7 million first weekend was a solid hold for a super-saturated summer blockbuster of today and was better than Batman Returns in 1992 and Batman Forever in 1995—to illustrate how the box office has evolved, those pictures' 45 percent falls were steep in their day. If Begins continues to follow a similar path to Returns and Forever, it can top $195 million by the end of its run.

Less charming was Bewitched, writer-director Nora Ephron's (You've Got Mail) $85 million riffing on the classic 1964 to 1972 television series starring Nicole Kidman as a witch who happens to get cast as Samantha in a TV remake of Bewitched with Will Ferrell as a washed-up actor playing her husband, Darrin. The supernatural romantic comedy and Hollywood satire snapped up $20.1 million at 3,174 venues. According to distributor Sony's exit polling, 58 percent of the audience was female and 54 percent was over the age of 25.

The opening was below Kidman's retro-comedy from last June, The Stepford Wives, which grabbed $21.4 million at 3,057 theaters and quickly short-circuited at $59.5 million. Bewitched could see a similar fate due to mixed word-of-mouth and a premise that belies the original. The rating from CinemaScore, which polls opening night moviegoers, was a discouraging "C." The marketing sent mixed signals about what the movie was, stressing the romantic comedy on one hand (made off-putting by Ferrell's goofing) and then the show business send-up on the other with the boorish Ferrell getting his comeuppance at the hand of empowered Kidman.

Herbie, a Volkswagen Beetle, returns to the screen in
Herbie: Fully Loaded.
Buena Vista's latest family-oriented redux, Herbie: Fully Loaded, rode at 3,521 locations to a $12.7 million weekend for $17.7 million since its Wednesday debut. Despite the brand name, the G-rated, anthropomorphized Volkswagen had about as much drawing power as recent titles Racing Stripes and Taxi, although it revved much higher than Around the World in 80 Days—another family remake from Buena Vista that bowed last June. The distributor said that, predictably, most of Herbie's audience was comprised of families, and they seemed to like it, grading it an "A," according to CinemaScore.

The original, The Love Bug, was a huge hit 36 years ago, earning $51.3 million, but the subsequent movies made less each time, stalling the franchise in 1980. The new model hoped the NASCAR theme would goose attendance, but the title, Herbie: Fully Loaded, was emblematic of the problem: The movie was loaded up with incongruous elements. There's Lindsay Lohan, star of Buena Vista's hit remakes The Parent Trap and Freaky Friday, to get the girls; car racing to get the boys; the cutsey nostalgia to get adults. In an attempt to appeal to everyone, Herbie: Fully Loaded may have limited its appeal.

George A. Romero's Land of the Dead, the fourth movie in director Romero's zombie series that began in 1968, munched on $10.2 million at 2,249 theaters. Distributor Universal Pictures' exit polling indicated that 62 percent of moviegoers were male and 67 percent were under 25, and that the main reasons people saw the picture were for the "horror" and the "zombies" followed by the 2004 remake Dawn of the Dead. Unlike Dawn, Land of the Dead relied heavily on the names of the franchise and Romero, instead of an ad campaign that set up the premise in an exciting way. With a production budget of $15 million, the movie creeped ahead of expectations, but it's unlikely to find legs like 28 Days Later did two summers ago—zombie pictures die off quickly.

Among holdovers, Mr. and Mrs. Smith continued to track ahead of last summer's The Bourne Supremacy and, with $125.5 million in 17 days, has out-gunned director Doug Liman's previous picture, The Bourne Identity. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith rose to the all time top ten, surpassing Jurassic Park with $358.5 million in 39 days. On course to gross north of $380 million, Sith will never top the dinosaurs in terms of number of tickets sold.

For the 18th weekend in a row, overall business was off from the comparable frame last year, resulting in the longest year-to-year slump in more than two decades.

RELATED ARTICLES
• Review: 'Bewitched'
• Review: 'Batman Begins'
• 6/20/05 - 'Batman Begins' in the Shadows
• 5/16/05 - 'Monster-in-Law' Claws Past 'Kicking and Screaming'
• 4/25/05 - 'Interpreter' Intrigues Nation
• 5/3/04 - 'Mean Girls' Surprisingly Nice $24M Weekend
• 11/10/03 - 'Elf' Elevates Ferrell with $31M Bow

RELATED CHARTS
TV Remake Genre
'Herbie the Love Bug' Franchise
Zombie Genre
Weekend Box Office Results

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



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