Inside Man snatched $29 million from 2,818 locations, out-witting industry expectations that, at best, had it in line with The Interpreter, Universal's hit thriller from last spring.
Cracking a five-week year-to-year down streak, Inside Man helped boost overall business ten percent ahead of the same frame in 2005 when Guess Who was on top with $20.7 million.
The $45 million heist picture drew mostly adults, according to distributor Universal Pictures' exit polling, as 68 percent of the audience was over 30 years old, while 54 percent was male. In general, moviegoers weren't entirely thrilled, grading the picture a "B+," according to CinemaScore, which polls opening night audiences.
"If you build it, they will come," said Nikki Rocco, Universal's president of distribution, in regards to attracting adults. "I was expecting anywhere from $18 million to $22 million. I think the release date was fabulous and the marketing campaign was really right on to tell audiences old and young that they are going to enjoy this caper movie."
Inside Man marked the biggest debut yet for star Denzel Washington, whose previous high was Man on Fire's $22.8 million. Mr. Washington has cultivated a dramatic persona through the years that has paid off with remarkable box office consistency—six of his eight releases this decade opened to $20 million or greater.
In Universal's research, Mr. Washington was by far the top reason people gave for seeing Inside Man at 76 percent. Supporting player Jodie Foster, a top draw for pictures she headlines, ranked second at 44 percent, followed by the "story" at 43 percent. Co-star Clive Owen and director Spike Lee were far behind at 25 percent and 22 percent, respectively.
Despite low expectations, Stay Alive did not push pause on the horror genre's winning streak. Looking like a cross between The Ring and Final Destination, the killer video game picture eked a decent $10.7 million out of 2,009 sites. Distributor Buena Vista resurrected its long dormant Hollywood Pictures label to release the low budget movie, and the studio's research indicated that 75 percent of the audience was under 25.
Larry the Cable Guy didn't "git-r-done" as the titular Blue Collar Comedy Tour comedian's catch phrase goes, grossing $6.9 million at 1,710 theaters. That was less than Joe Dirt among similar pictures, but not bad for a movie that distributor Lionsgate picked up and added to the release schedule a month ago.
Though not the next Matrix, V for Vendetta's second weekend drop was on par with past offbeat comic book adaptations released in the Spring, Sin City and Hellboy. The $54 million V fell 52 percent to $12.3 million for $46.2 million in 10 days.
Comedies Failure to Launch, The Shaggy Dog and She's the Man enjoyed solid holds, each easing by a third. She's the Man was notable for a teen picture in its second weekend, and, with $20.3 million in 10 days, the Amanda Bynes comedy is tracking ahead of her What a Girl Wants and the last Shakespeare-based high school movie, 10 Things I Hate About You.
In limited release, Thank You for Smoking was again the only standout. Playing at 54 venues, the Fox Searchlight-released satire ranked 15th with $1 million, averaging a busy $18,590 per site. It remains to be seen if it will have broad appeal, but Searchilght will roll it out to around 120 theaters on Friday and to over 300 on April 7.
• Review - Inside Man
• 4/25/05 - 'Interpreter' Intrigues Nation
• 3/28/05 - 'Guess Who' Dines at Top Spot (Same Weekend, Last Year)
• Heist & Caper Movies
• Top March Openings
• Weekend Box Office Results
NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, Mar. 26 and was revised on Monday, Mar. 27 with actual grosses.