Released by 20th Century Fox, Marvel Comics' superhero team blazed into the top spot with $56.1 million at 3,602 theaters, the fifth highest-grossing start ever for a comic book movie and a return to form for the brand after the disappointments of Elektra, Blade: Trinity and The Punisher. The opening was in the same league as the debut of Marvel's other superhero team, X-Men, on the comparable July weekend five years ago, although it trailed Pixar's Fantastic Four-inspired The Incredibles.
"I had it called for the mid-$30 million range, and no one had us in the $50 million range," Fox's head of distribution Bruce Snyder told Box Office Mojo. "It's just a romp, it looks like fun, it plays like fun," Snyder said of Fantastic Four's appeal. "It does not have the seriousness or the pedigree of Batman Begins or War of the Worlds. It's for the whole family. You look at the top five movies, the only thing that's universally for everybody is Fantastic Four." The studio's exit polling was unavailable.
The $100 million production marks the big screen debut for the Fantastic Four after years of development—the comic book was first published in 1961 and there was a 1994 Roger Corman movie that was never officially released. Fantastic Four was previously scheduled for Independence Day weekend—the first trailer emphasized the Four on July 4—but War of the Worlds targeted that date last August and, after a six month stand-off, Fox moved the picture to July 8.
Following a number of self-doubting and brooding superheroes, Fox's marketing campaign expressed the joy in possessing super-powers for a change, exemplified by the last scene in the final trailer. A nurse takes Johnny Storm's (Chris Evans) temperature, it shoots up to 209 degrees, and she says "You're hot." "Why, thank you, so are you," he quips. Fox lately has a knack for summer popcorn fare, grabbing $50 million plus starts for Mr. and Mrs. Smith and last year's I, Robot among other hits.
Dark Water sprung a leak for Japanese horror remakes. The haunted apartment thriller creaked to $9.9 million at 2,657 venues, a far cry from The Grudge and The Ring. Outside of M. Night Shyamalan pictures, distributor Buena Vista isn't hot with horror, and Dark Water wasn't distinctive enough to stand out against the recent spate of similar thrillers.
War of the Worlds fell to second place, over half its audience decimated by a combination of the common summer blockbuster fade and mixed word-of-mouth. Director Steven Spielberg's alien disaster grabbed $30.5 million for a hefty $165 million in 12 days.
Among other holdovers, Batman Begins continued to show the most longevity of any Batman movie since the original, easing 36 percent to $10 million for $171.9 million in 26 days. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith climbed past The Passion of the Christ to rank as the ninth highest-grossing picture of all time with $370.8 million in 53 days.
Fantastic Four led overall weekend business to $148.9 million, enough to officially end the year-to-year down streak. Last year's crop grossed $148.2 million, topped by Spider-Man 2 in its second outing. The marginal victory, however, doesn't necessarily portend a reversal of fortunes for 2005—the year-to-date tally stands at $4.6 billion, compared to $5.1 billion in 2004 at the same point.
• 2/7/05 - 'Fantastic Four' Falls Back
• 1/18/05 - 'Elektra' Tragic, 'Company' Profits
• 11/8/04 - $70M Fantastic for 'Incredibles'
• 5/5/03 - 'X2: X-Men United' Evolves Past Predecessor
• 2/18/03 - 'Daredevil Hits Box Office Bullseye
• Superhero Genre
• Marvel Comics Franchise
• Japanese Remakes
• 2005 Year-to-Date Comparison
• Weekend Box Office Results
NOTE: This report was originally published on Sunday, July 10 and was updated on Monday, July 11 with actual grosses and a revised final paragraph.