All sorts of hot streaks continued this weekend. With a $23 million opening, the talking-animal flick Open Season (featuring the voices of Ashton Kutcher and Martin Lawrence) finished No. 1 at the box office, according to Sunday’s estimates, giving Sony its record 11th weekend winner of 2006. Go Sony! Michigan got past Minnesota last night to win back the Little Brown Jug and bring its record to 5-0 for the first time this millennium. Go Blue! And EW.com’s very own box office savant accurately predicted nearly all the movie grosses for the third consecutive weekend. Go me!
To recap: I said that Open Season would finish in first place with $25 mil, and it came damn close — at least closer than Michigan State did to beating my best buddy Jason’s lowly Illini yesterday afternoon (oof!). I said that the Kevin Costner-Kutcher Coast Guard adventure The Guardian would come in second with $17 mil, and it finished at No. 2 with $17.7 mil. (Big shout-out, by the way, to Melissa Sagemiller, who plays A.K.’s love interest in the movie. We went to the same grade school and high school back in our nation’s capital, though she wouldn’t recognize me — I was hardly the genius movie prognosticator then that I am now.) And I said that Jackass Number Two (No. 3) would drop about 50 percent to earn $14 mil in its second weekend, and, whoa boy, it did exactly that.
The only movie I was off on was School for Scoundrels, which came in a distant fourth, with $9.1 mil. That’s a disappointing mark to say the least, especially given that the comedy has popular stars in Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Heder; that it has a strong director in Todd Phillips from Road Trip, Old School, and Starsky & Hutch; and that it played in a vast 3,004 venues. I’m not exactly sure what happened there, but I sure don’t envy the folks at MGM for having to bear the Wrath of Weinstein now that they seem to have botched the distribution of Harvey and Bob’s latest release. Come to think of it, I didn’t see a whole lot of advertising on this movie, and the buzz wasn’t very loud. The CinemaScore review isn’t shining, either: An audience that was just about evenly split between men and women and folks over 25 and under 25 gave it a weak B-. I dunno. It’s a head-scratcher. I feel like Michigan State’s once-vaunted coach John L. Smith, trying to figure out what the gosh darn went wrong. Then again, like Michigan State, maybe SFS simply isn’t that good.
Jet Li’s Fearless rounded out the top five with an unimpressive $4.7 mil second-week take, and IDP’s family football film Facing the Giants came in a disappointing No. 12, with just $1.4 mil in 441 theaters.
But three strongly reviewed indies made like Michigan’s Mike Hart running all over the Gophers’ defense. Miramax’s The Queen (92 out of 100 on Metacritic.com), featuring a bravura performance from Dame Helen Mirren, averaged a bloody good $41,000 on three screens. Fox Searchlight’s The Last King of Scotland (76 on Metacritic), featuring a bravura performance from Forest Whitaker, averaged a super-strong $35,750 in four locations. And First Look’s A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (68 on Metacritic), featuring a bravura performance from Robert Downey Jr., averaged $12,012 in eight places.
Overall, says first team all-American Paul at Exhibitor Relations (Go Beach!), the box office was up nearly 13 percent versus a year ago — a bravura performance, indeed, just like Michigan’s big win yesterday. As Coach Lloyd Carr said this morning on his TV show, Michigan Replay, ”It was a heckuva football game.” Well, let me say to all the players at the box office this weekend: You did a heckuva job.