The presence of Denzel Washington and the focus on his relationship with Dakota Fanning set this R-rated revenge picture apart from the glut of similarly-themed movies in the marketplace—ones that centered mostly on the vengeance part but not so much on the vengeance for whom and thereby having less emotional resonance amongst potential moviegoers. The demographics bore this out—55% of the opening weekend was female and 68% over the age of 25, according to Fox's exit polling, compared to its more male and youth-skewing rivals.
The $70 million Man on Fire is Washington's slickest looking picture (courtesy of slickster director Tony Scott) since Training Day and business has been comparable. Washington is one of the most consistent box office draws around. Like Tom Hanks, his name stands for quality in the public's mind. Although, Washington's winning streak has been thanks mostly to morally-compromised characters in hard-hitting dramas (and continues with July 30's Manchurian Candidate). While Hanks does comedy, Washington's last and only attempt since becoming a leading man was 1996's The Preacher's Wife. Perhaps a romantic comedy is in store to take him beyond that $75-million-ish domestic plateau he seems to have reached.
In third place, 13 Going on 30 wilted 53% in the face of Mean Girls to a $9.9 million weekend and a $35.1 million 10-day total. Jennifer Garner's first star vehicle nonetheless has posted solid numbers, tainted somewhat by the fact it's the widest release ever for this kind of picture and by having the hype machine in overdrive. The $37 million female Big had a can't-miss hook—it's exemplary of the high concept comedy with its title alone basically telling all you need to know, like Sony/Revolution stablemate Daddy Day Care last year.
Par for the end of April, the other openers ranged from weak to DOA. Godsend and Laws of Attraction were neck-and-neck but Godsend pulled ahead on Sunday for a $6.9 million weekend at 2,323 theaters, while Laws settled for $6.7 million at 2,449.
The Robert DeNiro-Greg Kinnear-Rebecca Romijn cloning thriller took a hot topic of the day but then went with the well-trod Omen angle, forcing it to stand on set-up and star power alone. In this case, not enough for box office success, but home video could be its savior.
The Pierce Brosnan-Julianne Moore vehicle offered forced "witty repartee" instead of a catchy hook and sense of reality to help sell and create chemistry between the two stars, Brosnan and Moore are relatively new to romantic comedy and hence lack that context with potential moviegoers. At least Laws wasn't another Town and Country for New Line—that $90 million disaster debuted late April 2001 and grossed $6.7 million in its entire run.
Though its titular feeling makes people green, the only color the long delayed Envy will likely see is red. The $40 million Jack Black-Ben Stiller dark comedy eked out $6.2 million from 2,445 venues this weekend. The genre is a notoriously tough sell—Stiller himself saw Duplex limp to $9.7 million total last fall—and matters weren't helped by Black and Stiller's lack of publicity.
"His Passion Made Him a Legend" reads the slogan for Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius in an attempt to highlight star Jim Caviezel's connection to The Passion of the Christ. That connection helped convince enough exhibitors for a national release of 1,332 theaters, but not even Jesus can save a biopic that looks better suited to cable TV than the big screen. Bobby bowed in a 16th place sandtrap, putting to just $1.2 million for the weekend. Besides the only successful golf movies have been comedies (Caddyshack, Tin Cup, Happy Gilmore).
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