Box Office Guru Wrapup: Rock Defeats Heartbreak Kid To Defend Box Office Title

Cooking up another box office win.

Ben Stiller's new comedy The Heartbreak Kid stumbled in its opening frame and forced the overall box office to plunge to the worst October weekend in eight years. Incumbent family comedy The Game Plan posted a strong sophomore hold and retained its position as North America's most popular film. But two other new releases did nothing to energize the multiplexes as the top ten films together grossed what just the top three pictures did a year ago on this same weekend. The calendar may say October but the dismal box office grosses make it seem like September never ended.

Surprising industry watchers once again, Disney's The Game Plan held onto the number one spot for a second time grossing an estimated $16.3M for a slim 29% decline. That gave The Rock's first entry into the world of kid's movies a solid $42.8M in only ten days allowing the PG-rated comedy to already surpass the total grosses of his last two films Gridiron Gang ($38.4M) and Doom ($28M). All three pics were number one openers. Last weekend, many expected Game Plan to debut in second place behind The Kingdom while this weekend Heartbreak was widely seen as debuting on top. In both cases the quarterback daddy flick swiped the top spot and with little family competition in the weeks ahead, a trip to the $100M club could be in the works.
 

Disney is still benefiting from the fall season's shocking lack of product for families. For the third consecutive weekend, seven of the top ten films carried R ratings giving parents few other options for their children. The studio has virtually no foes to deal with until Jerry Seinfeld's animated pic Bee Movie hits theaters on November 2. Game Plan's second weekend drop was even smaller than the 40% decline that the studio's Vin Diesel family film The Pacifier experienced in March 2005 on its way to a stunning $113.1M tally. The Game Plan now looks certain to surpass the $90.5M of 2002's The Scorpion King to become The Rock's highest grossing film in a lead role.
 

The weekend's big disappointment came from the Ben Stiller-Farrelly brothers collaboration The Heartbreak Kid which debuted in second place with an estimated $14M from 3,229 theaters. Averaging a mediocre $4,345 per site, the R-rated film marked the first reteaming of the actor with the filmmakers since the 1998 sleeper smash There's Something About Mary which grossed a stunning $176.5M that year. Heartbreak was universally expected to open at number one and was thought to have the potential to capture at least $20M in opening weekend business for DreamWorks and Paramount. The budget was more than $60M, according to the studios.
 

For Stiller, Heartbreak's opening was half the size of the bows of his other recent comedies like Night at the Museum ($30.4M), Starsky and Hutch ($28.1M), and Along Came Polly ($27.7M). Those were PG or PG-13 films but the comedian was still expected to draw a large crowd this weekend. However for the Farrelly brothers, the performance was better than the $12.4M of their last pic Fever Pitch in 2005 and the $9.4M of 2003's Stuck on You. Reviews were mostly negative which is par for the course with these types of comedies.
 

The Heartbreak Kid put Stiller's box office power to the test and the results were discouraging. Most of the comedian's hits feature other big stars to help bring in a paying audience. This time Stiller was the only major name and audiences did not bite. In fact the launch was very similar to that of rival R-rated romantic comedy Good Luck Chuck which debuted to $13.7M and a better $5,227 average just two weeks ago. That film offered some star wattage from both genders with Dane Cook and Jessica Alba.

Universal's Middle East drama The Kingdom dropped 46% in its second weekend to an estimated $9.3M and placed third. The Jamie Foxx pic has taken in $31.4M in ten days and should find its way to $50-55M. Sony's action-horror sequel Resident Evil: Extinction fell 47% to an estimated $4.3M and pushed its 17-day cume to $43.5M.
 


 
Failing to find an audience on opening weekend was the fantasy adventure film The Seeker: The Dark is Rising which bowed to an estimated $3.7M from a very wide 3,141 theaters for a dismal $1,186 average. The PG-rated pic from the new venture between Fox and Walden Media targeted young boys but got nowhere at the box office. Seeker's debut was even worse than the $5M launch of Dragon Wars from just two weeks ago which went after the same audience. But thanks to a sluggish marketplace, Seeker's weak opening still landed the film in the top five even though its nearly $40M budget will take much time to recoup.

The Lionsgate comedy Good Luck Chuck  grossed an estimated $3.5M, off 44%, for a $29.1M sum. The dance drama Feel the Noise delivered a seventh place debut with an estimated $3.4M from just 1,015 theaters. Averaging a mild $3,350 per site, the PG-13 film played to urban teens and came from the new Sony/BMG film division.
 

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