Written and produced by the Wachowski brothers (The Matrix trilogy) and adapted from Alan Moore's comic book, Warner Bros.' $50 million anti-totalitarian action thriller wasn't explosive enough to turn overall business around, which trailed last year for the fifth weekend in a row—the same frame in 2005 was led by The Ring Two's $35.1 million.
"We were looking for something in the low-to-mid $20 million range (for V for Vendetta)," said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros.' president of distribution. "This was a tough weekend for young males, with St. Patrick's Day and the NCAA tournament. I guess you were better off owning a bar on Friday than a theater. We're well positioned, because we're just starting to get into the rolling spring breaks with colleges." Fellman noted that moviegoers' reactions in exit polling were comparable to the first Matrix and that the audience was 60 percent male and evenly split between those over and under 25 years old.
Warner Bros. originally scheduled V for Vendetta for early November of last year—or one week after the superficially similar The Legend of Zorro—to fall in line with the movie's slogan, "Remember, remember the fifth of November." Citing post-production delays, the studio moved V to March—a less competitive period where the picture would stand out. Among past quirky Spring comic book adaptations, its opening gross landed between Hellboy and Sin City.
Dystopian visions of the future frequently have trouble finding an audience in theaters, from Blade Runner to The Island, Brazil to Equilibrium. Throw in a potentially off-putting protagonist in its always-masked freedom fighter, and V for Vendetta was a tough sell, rendering its opening a solid success despite industry speculation that it could bow to north of $30 million.
She's the Man, the first DreamWorks release after the studio was acquired by Paramount Pictures, picked up a decent $10.7 million at 2,623 theaters. A showcase for Amanda Bynes, the $20 million cross-dressing comedy's debut was on par with Bynes' last live-action movie, What a Girl Wants.
Based on William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, She's the Man's first weekend attendance was nearly identical to the last Shakespeare-rooted teen picture, 10 Things I Hate About You. Holding She's the Man back may have been marketing that spent too much time detailing the tangled relationships of the plot at the expense of the broadly-appealing gender-bending comedy—the poster didn't feature Bynes dressed as a boy.
With ads failing to stand out amidst the lawyer and mobster dramas on television, Find Me Guilty received the theatrical death sentence: indifference. Yari Film Group's $13 million courtroom comedy-drama directed by Sidney Lumet (Network) and featuring Vin Diesel as a wiseguy defending himself bagged a measly $608,804 at 439 locations.
Among holdovers, Failure to Launch descended 36 percent to $15.6 million for a potent $48.3 million in 10 days, although Paramount's Matthew McConaughey romantic comedy is headed for a shorter theatrical life than their last, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.
After last weekend's disappointing debut, Buena Vista's The Shaggy Dog shed the least business percentage-wise among wide releases, down 18 percent to $13.4 million for $35.6 million in 10 days.
With a $262,923 start at five venues, Thank You for Smoking boasted the best per theater average of the year so far, a promising $52,584. However, that doesn't mean the hyped satire's a hit yet, and it could wind up a drag, given the limitations of its genre. Distributor Fox Searchlight plans to expand the picture to over 600 theaters by April 7, trying to avoid another I Heart Huckabees or Melinda and Melinda—the movies with Searchlight's highest initial per site averages that had little appeal as they rolled out across the country.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe finally surpassed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Buena Vista doubled Narnia's theater count over the weekend, pushing the family fantasy's total to $289.8 million versus Goblet's $289.7 million. Goblet still has a $200 million plus advantage when foreign grosses are counted.
• 3/21/05 - 'Ring Two' Opens Well (Same Weekend, Last Year)
• Review - 'V for Vendetta'
• Review - 'She's the Man'
• Near Future Movies
• Comic Book Adaptations
• Cross Dressers & Gender Benders
• Weekend Box Office Results
NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, Mar. 19 and was revised on Monday, Mar. 20 with actual grosses.