'Transporter 2' Drives to Labor Day Record
Despite the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, Labor Day weekend was business as usual—led by Transporter 2, overall box office even topped last year by one percent. The holiday traditionally marks the end of the summer movie season, and summer 2005 closed with a $3.5 billion haul, down nine percent from 2004's $3.9 billion.

Transporter 2 packed $20.1 million over the four-day weekend at 3,303 theaters, dusting industry expectations that had it pegged for the low teen millions. The 20th Century Fox-distributed action picture careened past Jeepers Creepers 2 to claim the biggest Labor Day opening of all time—a modest feat given the historic weakness of the frame but a record nonetheless.

Starring Jason Statham and an Audi A8 W12, together defying the laws of physics in the delivery of conventional genre thrills, Transporter 2 was churned out by producer-writer Luc Besson (The Professional) and crew on a $32 million production budget, compared to its predecessor's $21 million. It claimed $16.5 million over the proper Friday to Sunday weekend, and the audience was predictably male (59 percent) and young (52 percent under 25 years old), according to Fox's exit polling.

The first movie, The Transporter, when Statham's co-star was a BMW 7-Series, lifted $9.1 million from 2,573 theaters out of the gate, en route to $25.3 million. It developed a larger audience on home video, and Transporter 2 promised the same kicks—an intentionally over-the-top action ride.

Among other opening pictures, Focus Features countered the usual Labor Day B-movie fare with a serious movie for adults, The Constant Gardener, in a move more successful than their similar Labor Day release, Vanity Fair, last year. The romantic thriller unearthed $11 million at 1,346 locations over the long weekend for $12.7 million in six days.

Underclassman flunked out with a $3.1 million four-day weekend from 1,132 theaters. Distributor Miramax bounced the action comedy around the release schedule, including a last minute withdrawal from Aug. 5. The picture's adult-undercover-in-high-school premise, credited as lead actor Nick Cannon's story idea, was a copy of such previous titles as Hiding Out, Never Been Kissed and television's 21 Jump Street.

A Sound of Thunder silently rolled into 816 locations with a $1.2 million four-day gross, ranking No. 17 for the weekend. Shot three years ago, the $80 million time travel thriller, based on a Ray Bradbury short story, is the final picture from the bankrupt Franchise Pictures that Warner Bros. is contractually obligated to distribute theatrically.

Franchise was the company behind Battlefield Earth, 3,000 Miles to Graceland and Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever among other debacles. Out of their two dozen movies that made it to theaters, only one, The Whole Nine Yards, could be labeled a hit. A Sound of Thunder had other producers, though, including Howard Baldwin (Sahara), who is developing a movie version of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

NOTE: This report was originally published on Monday, Sept. 5 and was updated on Tuesday, Sept. 6 with actual grosses.


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