Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan easily repeated as box office champion this weekend, earning an additional $29 million in its first wide release, according to Sunday’s estimates. As you’ll remember, Fox had boosted Sacha Baron Cohen’s ambush comedy by 1,729 theaters, so the fact that Borat achieved the rare feat of actually increasing its take (by 10 percent) isn’t much of a surprise. But here’s the impressive thing: Its hefty $11,302 per-venue average in its second weekend was on par with the first-weekend averages of recent hit comedies like Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby ($12,369) and Click ($10,672). What’s more, Borat is the first R-rated movie to repeat at No. 1 since The 40 Year-Old Virgin more than a year ago. Point is: As a Michigan football fan, I know a winner when I see one, and it’s crystal clear that Fox has a pretty freakin’ big hit on its hands here. Borat’s two-week total is now $67.8 mil, and with few super-buzzy comedies on the slate for most of the rest of the year, it looks to be a leggy film that will earn more than $125 mil when all is said and done.
But Borat wasn’t the only holdover movie to make a mark. As you’ve probably heard, Denzel Washington has a romantic thriller called Deja Vu coming out in a few weeks, which reminds me that there’s something eerily familiar about this weekend’s box office rankings: The top three films are the exact same as last time around. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause repeated at No. 2, with $16.9 mil (a drop of just 13 percent), and Flushed Away repeated at No. 3, with $16.7 mil (a drop of just 11 percent) — surprising because both were pretty much given up for dead after their mediocre bows. Credit the fact that kids needed something to see and, well, it certainly wasn’t going to be Borat.
The net result of all this great fortune at the top of the box office was bad tidings for most everything below. Literally, every new movie struggled. So lemme just go through them quickly before they’re shuffled out of multiplexes, which is sure to happen soon. Will Ferrell’s Stranger Than Fiction underperformed at No. 4 with $14.1 mil. The dramedy got decent reviews from critics (it scored 67 out of 100 on Metacritic.com) and a solid B+ CinemaScore rating from audiences, and it seems to be skewing older (66 percent of its crowd was over age 25). So it could hang on for a few more weeks…or, more likely, not. (Sorry to be a cynic on this one, but I’m done with making light of movies’ ho-hum openings, just to be nice. Flags of Our Fathers wound up going nowhere. Ditto The Grudge 2 and Marie Antoinette. In the immortal words of Cameron Frye, I’ve gotta take a stand.) Moving on, Brad Pitt’s prestige pic Babel went into semi-wide release and earned a so-so $5.7 mil at No. 6. The horror flick The Return scared up a deadly $4.8 mil at No. 8. The XY response to Enchanted April, A Good Year, earned a rotten $3.8 mil at No. 10. And the gritty urban crime saga Harsh Times got buried underneath the top 12 with just $1.8 mil (and check out its C CinemaScore — yowch!).
See, I wasn’t lying: Lotsa dreadful news. Hell, even the smaller releases suffered. MGM’s period piece Copying Beethoven and IDP’s drama Come Early Morning (a.k.a. the directorial debut of Joey Lauren Adams, starring Ashley Judd) each averaged less than $3,000 per theater. And Nicole Kidman’s critically slammed biopic Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus, earned $30,000 in four venues.
Still, somehow, reports the picture-perfect Paul at Exhibitor Relations, total receipts this weekend managed to stay equal with those in the same period last year. And in honor of the guy who gets all the credit, there’s only one thing to say about that: High five!