According to The Hollywood Reporter, horror fans checked into Lionsgate's Hostel in surprisingly large numbers this weekend, as the R-rated horror film from writer-director Eli Roth rang up an estimated $20.1 million from 2,195 theaters to capture first place at the boxoffice. Heading into the frame, the prerelease tracking on Hostel, co-produced with Screen Gems, was lukewarm at best, and it looked likely that Buena Vista Pictures' "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe" and Universal Pictures' King Kong would rule in the top spots again.
As it turned out, Narnia and Kong ruled in the second and third spots, respectively. Narnia grossed an estimated $15.4 million on its fifth week in release, down 40% from the first three days of the four-day New Year's holiday session. The PG-rated fantasy, based on the book by C.S. Lewis and co-produced with Walden Media, has generated an estimated $247.6 million to date.
Kong scaled an estimated $12.5 million on its fourth weekend, down 50% from the New Year's frame. The Peter Jackson-helmed Kong is climbing toward the $200 million mark, with a domestic take of about $192.5 million so far. Through the weekend, the worldwide cume for Kong stands near $464.5 million.
Overall, the weekend looked pretty solid and 2006 was off to respectable start, with the estimated total boxoffice for the top 12 films up 9% from the comparable session in 2005. Holiday releases held up fairly well for the most part, and limited-release expansions also were attracting audiences.
Sony Pictures' Fun with Dick and Jane placed fourth with an estimated $12.2 million on its third session, down a modest 26% from the previous week. The Jim Carrey starrer has gleaned an estimated $81.4 million.
20th Century Fox's Cheaper By the Dozen 2 pulled in an estimated $8.3 million to garner the fifth spot. The PG-rated family comedy, starring Steve Martin, has collected an estimated $66.4 million since its debut.
On its third week in release, Universal's Munich broke wide for the weekend in 1,485 theaters, up 953 from a week ago. The Steven Spielberg-helmed dramatic thriller placed sixth with an estimated $7.5 million, averaging $5,051 per theater. Munich, which carries an R rating, so far has amassed an estimated $25.2 million.
The only other wide release for the weekend was 20th Century Fox's Grandma's Boy, which failed to place in the top 12 with a dismal estimate of $2.9 million from 2,015 locales. The R-rated raunchy comedy targeted teens and twentysomethings.
Sony's Memoirs Of A Geisha was in the seventh slot with an estimated $6 million, off 23% from a week earlier, taking the cume to about $39.8 million, while Warner Bros. Pictures' Rumor Has It counted an estimated $5.9 million to place eighth, off 37% from the previous session while moving its total to about $35.4 million.
Focus Features' Brokeback Mountain was still in the saddle, rising to the ninth spot on its fifth weekend in release, taking in an estimated $5.8 million from 483 houses, up 215 from a week ago. The R-rated romantic drama, about two ranch hands who have an affair, was helmed by Ang Lee and averaged $12,008 per theater, advancing to cume to about $22.5 million.
Buena Vista's Casanova was in the 12th slot with an estimated $4 million on its first weekend in more than 1,000 theaters; it was in 1,004 theaters, up 967 from a week earlier. The Lasse Hallstrom-directed romantic comedy has picked up an estimated $5.2 million so far.
By the end of the weekend, it seemed that Romar Entertainment's BloodRayne managed to muster an estimated $1.2 million from 985 theaters, according to industry estimates, averaging a weak $1,218 per theater. The R-rated horror film, starring Ben Kingsley and directed by Uwe Boll, was originally scheduled to play in 2,500 theaters, a number that dropped to 1,600 before settling at 985 by Sunday.
Industry sources said they understood that some prints were shipped to exhibitors that had not licensed the film and were shipped back.
Regarding the weekend's other new horror film, Lionsgate domestic distribution president Steve Rothenberg said the company "couldn't be happier."
"It's a remarkable achievement when a movie grosses more than four times its production budget in its opening weekend," he said.
The primary audience for Hostel, starring Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson, was male and younger. The film's genre was the main draw for audiences.
ThinkFilm's Fateless opened in one theater in New York and took in an estimated $13,165. Veteran cinematographer Lajos Koltai directed the unrated drama, Hungary's Oscar submission for best foreign-language film. Set in World War II during and after the Nazi occupation, it centers on the experiences of a Hungarian Jewish boy and is based on the novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Imre Kertesz.
A ThinkFilm distributor said the company was pleased with the gross, noting that it came from just four shows in 150-seat theaters.
Other films in limited release this weekend included DreamWorks' Match Point, which added 296 engagements -- bringing the count to 304 -- and brought in an estimated $2.8 million. The Woody Allen-helmed drama averaged a stout $9,211 per theater and has grossed $3.7 million to date.
The Weinstein Co.'s The Matador added 24 venues, taking the tally to 28, and grossed an estimated $227,057, averaging a hardy $8,109 per theater for the dark comedy. Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear star in the film, which was written and directed by Richard Shepard and has earned an estimated $341,669 so far.
The distributor's Transamerica remained in six locales and grossed an estimated $57,317. The transgender drama averaged $9,553 per theater and has garnered about $369,587 to date.
Buena Vista snuck next weekend's Glory Road in 820 theaters. The PG-rated sports drama, directed by James Gartner, averaged 66% capacity, which a spokesperson for the distributor said was what they hoped for in order to get positive word-of-mouth moving. In exits, Road scored a high 94% in the top two boxes and a robust 88% in the definite recommend category. Road, based on a true story, debuts Friday in about 2,200 theaters.
The estimated total for this weekend's top 12 films was $106.7 million. The Hollywood Reporter projects the total for all films to be in the low- to mid-$120 million area, up from last year's $118.7 million.
For all of its ups and downs, 2005 went out on a high note. For the week ending Jan. 5 -- the final week of the 2005 boxoffice year -- the national boxoffice was up a stellar 20% from the comparable seven-day period the year before ($240 million vs. $200.8 million). It was the second-biggest New Year's week in boxoffice history behind 2001 ($279.9 million).
The considerable New Year's week jump helped knock a percentage point from the 2005 deficit as compared with 2004. The final boxoffice tally for 2005 was down 4% from the previous year ($9.12 billion vs. $9.54 billion). The final 2005 estimated ticket unit tally remained down 7% from 2004.
Dont't forget to also check out: Hostel, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, King Kong