News

'Charlie,' 'Crashers' Draw Golden Box Office Ticket

by Brandon Gray
Freddie Highmore as Charlie in
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
July 18, 2005

Led by corporate Time Warner cousins, Warner Bros.' Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and New Line Cinema's Wedding Crashers, overall weekend business reached $164.5 million, up from last year's $154 million.

Director Tim Burton's $150 million adaptation of Roald Dahl's same-named 1964 novel, also the basis for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in 1971, confected a sweet $56.2 million at 3,770 venues. The opening is the highest-grossing of star Johnny Depp's career, ahead of his last family-friendly vehicle, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and similar to big screen versions of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Scooby-Doo. Charlie's gross includes $2.2 million from 65 IMAX theaters.

"It was the book, [the partnership of] Johnny [Depp] and Tim [Burton], and fans of Willy Wonka," Warner Bros.' head of distribution, Dan Fellman, said when asked to describe the picture's successful opening formula. "We have a lot of summer playtime left, and we're going to take advantage of it." According to studio exit polling, 54 percent of the PG-rated movie's audience was under the age of 18 and the majority was female. Opening night pollster CinemaScore suggested moviegoers liked what they saw, grading the picture an "A" overall.

Following the Harry Potter movies and The Grinch among others, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory continues the line of successful children's literary adaptations, and such titles as Charlotte's Web, Curious George and The Chronicles of Narnia are in the offing. With Charlie, Tim Burton and company strayed from the common casting of a comedian like Jim Carrey or Mike Myers. Portraying chocolateer Willy Wonka fit in with Johnny Depp's eccentric persona, cultivated, in part, by his previous appearances in Burton pictures: Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow.

Prior to the weekend, concern was raised that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince might make Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's opening bittersweet. The sixth novel in the Harry Potter series sold a record-breaking 6.9 million copies in its first day of release, Saturday, according to its publisher Scholastic's estimates. There is no direct evidence that this hurt Charlie, though it saw business dip eight percent on Saturday.

Owen Wilson and Vince Vauhn in Wedding Crashers
Hyped for months as summer's sleeper to the point of no longer being a sleeper, Wedding Crashers wooed second place with $33.9 million at 2,925 theaters. The R-rated, $40 million comedy marked the highest-grossing opening for actors Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn in top-billed roles, ahead of their past PG-13 fare, like Starsky and Hutch and DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story.

"We would have been happy with $25 million this weekend," said New Line head of distribution, David Tuckerman. "Any time you have an R rating you're going to limit your audience. This is a soft R. We made the best and funniest movie we possibly could. A lot of what's going on today is that movies have been gutted to get a PG-13, and they haven't been that good." According to Tuckerman, studio exit polling suggested that the audience was about evenly split between the genders and 60 percent over 25 years old.

Wedding Crashers took advantage of a dearth of laughs this season, reveling in ribald humor and a low brow premise in the vein of Old School and Hitch. The wedding theme sealed the deal, a consistently popular subject for comedies, including The Wedding Singer and American Wedding.

Fantastic Four faded 59 percent to $22.8 million, a steeper drop than the X-Men movies and Daredevil. The total stands at $100.2 million in 10 days. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith crept past Spider-Man 2 to rank eighth on the all time chart with $373.9 million in 60 days. On the strength of those pictures, as well as the still lively Mr. and Mrs. Smith, distributor 20th Century Fox became the first studio of the year to cross the $1 billion mark.

With $192.4 million in 19 days, Paramount's War of the Worlds dissipated 50 percent to $15.2 million, a fall far more precipitous than past alien invasions, Signs and Independence Day, in their comparable frames.

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RELATED CHARTS:
Children's Book Adaptations
Wedding Pictures
Weekend Box Office Results

NOTE: This report was originally published on Sunday, July 17 and was updated on Monday, July 18 with actual grosses.



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