According to The Hollywood Reporter, Paramount's Four Brothers was clearly the film of choice for moviegoers this weekend as the R-rated action-drama from director John Singleton adopted an estimated $20.7 million to take the top spot. The debut of Brothers, which stars Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Garrett Hedlund and Andre Benjamin, was at the high end of expectations.
It was the fourth time this year Paramount has opened a film at No. 1, tying Sony for the second highest; both lag behind 20th Century Fox's six No. 1 openings.
Universal's The Skeleton Key, a PG-13 horror film starring Kate Hudson and helmed by Iain Softley, took many by surprise with a better than anticipated debut in the second spot with an estimated $15.8 million.
But while this weekend had its individual bright spots, it proved to be another down session in comparison to 2004. There was nothing in the mix that could match the likes of Fox's Alien vs. Predator ($38.3 million) or Buena Vista's Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement ($23 million), the top two films during the comparable frame last year.
Warner Bros. Pictures' The Dukes of Hazzard pulled up in third with an estimated $13 million on its second weekend, falling off a steep 58%. The action-comedy has racked up an estimated $57.5 million in 10 days.
The only other new wide release this weekend was Sony's Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo, an R-rated comedy starring Rob Schneider, which arrived in the fifth spot with a less-than-virile $9.4 million.
Sony had hoped Deuce could play on the popularity of New Line Cinema's Wedding Crashers, the R-rated comedy that has done exceptionally well this summer. In its fifth weekend Wedding Crashers finished ahead of Deuce, placing fourth with an estimated $12 million, advancing its cume to roughly $164.1 million.
Miramax's The Great Raid debuted in 819 theaters and landed in 10th with a respectable estimate of $3.4 million. John Dahl directed the film, which was based on a true story of a prison camp rescue during World War II.
Warner Independent Picture's March of the Penguins added 196 runs this weekend -- taking its count to 2,063 -- and stepped into seventh with an estimated $6.7 million. The second-highest grossing non-large format documentary in history has taken in an estimated $37.6 million so far.
Executives at Paramount were pleased with the bow of Four Brothers this weekend. "We're very happy with the opening -- it's higher than we anticipated," said Wayne Lewellen, president of distribution. The film skewed slightly older, with 58% more than 25 years of age. Blacks made up around 34% of those attending and, surprisingly, the picture also leaned female with 53%.
Lewellen remarked on the female appeal, "I think it was the concept of the picture, the fact that it was about a family seeking revenge for their mother's murder. That message came across very well in the campaign and I think that had appeal for the female audience."
As to the debut of The Skeleton Key, "Compared to comparable films like 'The Ring' ($15 million) and 'The Others' ($14.1 million), we're in good company," said Nikki Rocco, president of Universal Pictures Distribution. "So we're very pleased with the opening. It's a good start." After modest openings, both The Ring and The Others did very well at the boxoffice.
The opening for Deuce was a disappointment, but on the up side it had a negative cost of about a relatively low $22 million. "We would have liked a little more, but we had fun doing it," said Jeff Blake, president of worldwide marketing and distribution at Columbia Pictures. Blake noted that the sweet spot for the film was the 18-30 year-old age demographic, which comprised a sizable 60% of Deuce's audience this weekend.
Remarking on that appeal, "I think you are limited sometimes when the bottom is 18 and there isn't much interest older than 30," Blake said. "It didn't have the broad concept of Wedding Crashers that would have allowed it to go older," he added. The male-female ratio was fairly even.
While Great Raid opened in fewer theaters and in 10th, Mike Rudnitsky, sr. exec. vp domestic distribution at Miramax, said the picture scored very high in exit polls, generating a sterling 70% "excellent" score. "People who have seen this movie love it, and we think that continued great word of mouth will carry the movie through. We're looking for this to build," Rudnitsky said. Raid played older this weekend, with half the audience in the over 50 demographic.
In the world of limited releases, Lions Gate's Grizzly Man debuted in 29 locales and grossed an estimated $265,000. The documentary about an amateur grizzly bear expert who, along with his girlfriend, was killed by a bear, averaged a strong $9,138 per theater and adds 30 more theaters this Friday.
Paramount Classic's Asylum was in five houses in New York and Los Angeles and took an estimated $39,212. The suspense-thriller from director David Mackenzie, starring Natasha Richardson and Ian McKellen, averaged a hopeful $7,842 per theater. In its 14th week of release the domestic cume for distributor's Mad Hot Ballroom crossed the $7 million mark.
IDP's Pretty Persuasion, from Samuel Goldwyn and Roadside Attractions, was in eight locations and took in around $62,400. The unrated black comedy-drama, starring Evan Rachel Wood, James Woods and Ron Livingston, averaged a reasonable $7,800 per theater. Marcos Siega helmed "Pretty."
Focus Features' Broken Flowers added 91 engagements in its sophomore weekend, taking the tally to 118, and generated a stout estimate of $1.7 million. The Jim Jarmusch-directed picture, starring Bill Murray, averaged a robust $14,407 per theater and has taken in around $2.8 million to date.
ThinkFilm's The Aristocrats went laughing to the bank with an estimated $874,562 from 86 sites, up 77 from a week earlier. The unrated comedy documentary has grossed an estimated $1.6 million after three weekends. "Aristocrats" moves into the top 20 markets on Friday.
On its second weekend Sony Classics' Junebug took in around $130,440 from 22 locations, averaging $5,929 per theater, moving its cume to $271,196. The company's 2046, also in its second session, garnered an estimated $97,727 from just seven screens, averaging a robust $13,961 per theater and taking its total to approximately $266,642.
The estimated total for this weekend's top 12 films was $103.5 million, down nearly 16% from the comparable session in 2004. The Hollywood Reporter projects the total for all films this weekend to be in the low- to mid-$110 million area, down considerably from last year's $137.3 million.
The national boxoffice for the week ending Aug. 11 was down 3% from the comparable seven-day period a year ago ($183.5 million vs. $189.6 million). The year-to-date total holds onto an 8% deficit ($5.57 billion vs. $6.05 billion), as compared with the record pace of 2004. Estimated admissions for the year-to-date are off some 9% from last year at this time.