News

'Dukes' Charge the Top Spot, Emperors 'March' On

by Brandon Gray
Jessica Simpson, Johnny Knoxville
and Sean William Scott star in
The Dukes of Hazzard
August 8, 2005

With a hand from the Duke cousins, Warner Bros. dominated the weekend, and overall business was on par with the comparable frame last year.

The Dukes of Hazzard, Warner Bros.' comedic adaptation of the 1979 to 1985 television show, made its way to a decent $30.7 million at 3,785 locations over the weekend. That's just a little bit more than the industry allowed—expectations were closer to $25 million. The picture's $50 million production budget does not include the $17.5 million Warner Bros. recently agreed to pay the TV show's rights holders in an out-of-court settlement.

"The picture played extremely well across the country, but the strongest results came from the South," said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros.' head of distribution. According to studio exit polling, 65 percent of the audience was under 25 years old, essentially too young to have experienced the show in first run, and 53 percent was male. Fellman credited the cast for enticing young crowds. "Males went for [co-star] Jessica [Simpson], without a question. They just like the action, and it was the production and marketing campaign that drew them in."

Business fell 21 percent from Friday to Saturday, and a steep drop like that is often a sign of a brief theatrical life, especially in teen-targeted pictures. That doesn't necessarily mean the audience rebuked the Dukes. Opening night pollster CinemaScore indicated that moviegoers under 25 gave the picture an "A-," though the overall grade was "B+."

The marketing campaign made no bones about what the two main attractions were. The rollickingly juvenile trailer kicks off with shots of the Dukes' orange 1969 Dodge Charger, the General Lee, burning rubber and then shifts to Jessica Simpson having things bounce up her undercarriage as the scantily-clad Daisy Duke. The poster displays Simpson and the General Lee in the center with Luke (Johnny Knoxville), Bo (Seann William Scott), Uncle Jessie (Willie Nelson) and Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds) off to the sides.

The Dukes of Hazzard hogged the weekend as the sole new wide release—titles such as The Pink Panther remake and Underclassman backed off the Aug. 5 date in recent months—and benefited as the only option for the good ole' action-comedy crowd. The movie was put in motion on the heels of Starsky and Hutch, Warner Bros.' tongue-in-cheek rendition of the '70s cop show. That picture, featuring a 1974 Ford Torino, opened to $28.1 million in March 2004 and ended up with $88.2 million.

Taking advantage of the dearth of new releases, Warner Independent Pictures rolled out March of the Penguins to 1,867 theaters, up 1,089 from last weekend. As a result, the picture's box office jumped 77 percent to $7.1 million. With a $26.4 million tally after 45 days, it's now the second-highest grossing documentary on record, nestled between Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine at $21.6 million and Fahrenheit 9/11 at $119.2 million.

"March of the Penguins is working as a date movie, and it's reaching families and senior citizens," said Warner Independent's executive vice president of distribution, Steven Friedlander. "Except for teen boys, there isn't an audience it isn't hitting. And this week, there wasn't anything but The Dukes of Hazzard, which was for the teens."

Including holdovers Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Must Love Dogs and Batman Begins, Warner Bros. set the record this weekend for most playdates booked by a studio on a single weekend. All told, their movies had 13,342 playdates.

Vince Vaugn
The bustling reception continued for Wedding Crashers, from Warner Bros.' Time-Warner corporate cousin, New Line Cinema. The ribald buddy comedy enjoyed its strongest hold yet, down 20 percent to $16 million. After 24 days, the total stands at $143.6 million, and the movie is on track to pass Hitch and The Longest Yard as the top grossing comedy of the year.

RELATED ARTICLES
• 8/13/05 - Weekly Chart Review: 'Batman Begins' Tops $200M
• 8/4/05 - Warner Bros. Sets Playdates Record
• 7/25/05 - 'Penguins' Gain Warm Reception

RELATED CHARTS
Documentaries
Pop Star Debuts
TV Show Adaptations (Live Action)
Weekend Box Office Results

NOTE: This report was originally published on Sunday, Aug. 7 and was updated on Monday, Aug. 8 with actual grosses.



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