The Ring ran circles around its box office competition, opening to a well rounded $15 million, while Sweet Home Alabama was still dancing in second place with $9.6 million. Red Dragon finished third, scaring up $8.8 million.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding was fourth with $7.2 million, down only 15 percent in its 27th weekend. It's already done over $169 million and is heading for $185 million. Abandon's soft $5.3 million opening tied for fifth with a less sweet Brown Sugar.
Revolution Studios and Columbia went wider with Punch-Drunk Love, averaging an impressive nearly $21,000 per theater at 78 runs. For details, see EXPANSIONS below.
Columbia also was celebrating strong international openings for XXX, which now has opened number one in 40 territories around the world. The film's worldwide cume is nearly $200 million now and is heading for $300 million. For details, see INTERNATIONAL below.
Key films were up 8 percent over last year -- $84.3 million versus $78.0 million.
THE TOP TEN
DreamWorks' PG-13 rated horror thriller The Ring opened solidly to a chart topping ESTIMATED $15.0 million at 1,981 theaters ($7,572 per theater).
The Ring's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Directed by Gore Verbinski, it stars Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson and Brian Cox.
"People were in the mood for a fun and scary movie," DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning. "I guess you could say the audience had goose bumps on top of goose bumps, but they had a good time with it. We had sneaks last weekend at 400 locations and I think certainly the word of mouth helped Friday night. There was a 31 percent increase from Friday to Saturday, which in itself is remarkable and indicates good word of mouth and that it plays broader than the under-25 crowd."
With Halloween approaching, will DreamWorks go wider with The Ring? "We're going to add 300 to 500 runs on Friday (Oct. 25)," Tharp replied. "Halloween, itself, is not a good movie day, but having movies like this in the (pre-Halloween) marketplace that are both scary and fun helps a lot."
Asked if the World Series had hurt at the box office, Tharp said, "I didn't notice a lot of impact. It might have had a slight negative impact, but not much."
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama held on to second place in its third week, still looking good with an ESTIMATED $9.6 million (-32%) at 3,282 theaters (-31 theaters; $2,926 per theater). Its cume is approximately $98.5 million, heading for $125 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Andy Tennant, it stars Reese Witherspoon.
Universal and Dino De Laurentiis's R rated thriller Red Dragon, presented in association with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, slid two pegs to third place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $8.8 million (-50%) at 3,307 theaters (-56 theaters; $2,660 per theater). Its cume is approximately $77.8 million, heading for $100 million.
Directed by Brett Ratner, it stars Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson, Mary-Louise Parker and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
IFC Films' release of Gold Circle Films and HBO's PG rated romantic comedy blockbuster My Big Fat Greek Wedding rose one slot to fourth place in its 27th week, still showing remarkably strong legs with an ESTIMATED $7.15 million (-15%) at 2,014 theaters (-2 theaters; $3,552 per theater). Its cume is approximately $169.3 million, heading for $185 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Joel Zwick, it stars Nia Vardalos and John Corbett.
Paramount and Spyglass Entertainment's PG-13 rated thriller Abandon kicked off in an uneventful fifth place tie with a weak ESTIMATED $5.3 million at 2,341 theaters ($2,264 per theater).
Written and directed by Stephen Gaghan, it stars Katie Holmes and Benjamin Bratt.
Abandon is another in a series of recent under-performing openings from Paramount. It follows Four Feathers, the romantic historical action epic which opened poorly despite high hopes Sept. 20 to $6.9 million ($3,587 per theater). This summer was a disappointing one for Paramount, which July 19 launched InterMedia Films' expensive Harrison Ford submarine drama K-19: The Widowmaker to a modest $12.8 million ($4,519 per theater).
Paramount failed to connect with family audiences earlier in the summer with Nickelodeon Films' animated feature Hey Arnold! The Movie, which opened June 28 to $5.7 million ($2,258 per theater). It did, however, do unexpectedly well, however, Aug. 2 with its late summer opening of the low budget urban appeal concert film Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat, grossing $7.4 million ($9,806 per theater).
Fox Searchlight Pictures' PG-13 rated urban appeal romantic comedy Brown Sugar, which was third last week, tied for fifth place in its second week with a much less sweet ESTIMATED $5.3 million (-51%) at 1,378 theaters (+6 theaters; $3,853 per theater). Its cume is approximately $18.6 million.
Directed by Rick Famuyiwa, it stars Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan.
20th Century Fox's PG-13 rated action drama The Transporter slipped three notches to seventh place in its second week with a quiet ESTIMATED $5.01 million (-45%) at 2,610 theaters (+37 theaters; $1,920 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17.1 million.
Directed by Cory Yuen, it stars Jason Statham and Shu Qi.
DreamWorks' PG-13 action comedy The Tuxedo, which was sixth last week, tied for eighth place in its fourth week with an unexciting ESTIMATED $4.1 million (-42%) at 2,424 theaters (-561 theaters; $1,691 per theater). Its cume is approximately $43.1 million.
Directed by Kevin Donovan, it stars Jackie Chan and Jennifer Love Hewitt.
The G rated animated feature Jonah: A Veggie Tale Movie from Artisan's FHE Pictures and Big Idea Productions, which was eleventh last week, expanded and tied for eighth place in its third week with a still tasty ESTIMATED $4.1 million (+12%) at 1,581 theaters (+407 theaters; $2,593 per theater). Its cume is approximately $16.2 million.
Directed by Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki, it was produced by Ameake Owens.
"We expanded and we went up in gross, so we're very happy," Artisan distribution head Steve Rothenberg said Sunday morning.
"We opened up the eastern seaboard this weekend. Te numbers were very solid in the Philadelphia and the Washington, D.C. branches (and) a little spotty in New England. But the bottom line is, the expansion worked. It helped boost our gross 12 percent from last weekend. We're on our way, hopefully, to around a $25 million gross (in domestic theaters)."
Rounding out the Top Ten was Buena Vista/Disney's PG rated fantasy family film Tuck Everlasting, down two slots in its second week with a calm ESTIMATED $3.7 million (-29%) at 1,448 theaters ($2,583 per theater). Its cume is approximately $10.6 million.
Directed by Jay Russell, it stars Alexis Bledel, Ben Kingsley, Sissy Spacek, Jonathan Jackson and William Hurt.
This weekend also saw the arrival via Sony's Screen Gems of the action comedy Formula 51 to a disappointing ESTIMATED $2.9 million at 1,857 theaters ($1,562 per theater).
Directed by Ronny Yu, it stars Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Carlyle. The film was distributed in the U.S. by Screen Gems and in Canada by Alliance/Atlantis.
"It's an acquisition of a film that has already been released in Europe under the title Fifty-First State and had some success in the U.K., but obviously we're disappointed with the results here," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning.
Sony, however, won't get hurt by Formula's weak showing. "It is a no cost acquisition where our losses are limited to strictly a modest p&a campaign," Blake said.
HBO Films and Newmarket Films' PG-13 rated comedy drama Real Women Have Curves kicked off to a hopeful ESTIMATED $0.18 million at 56 theaters ($3,277 per theater).
Directed by Patricia Cardoso, it stars America Ferrera, Lupe Ontiveros and George Lopez.
Sony Pictures Classics' R rated drama Auto Focus opened to a solid ESTIMATED $0.14 million at 11 theaters ($12,514 per theater).
Directed by Paul Schrader, it stars Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe.
Lions Gate Films' R rated drama The Grey Zone arrived to a slow ESTIMATED $24,000 at 8 theaters ($2,984 per theater).
Written and directed by Tim Blake Nelson, it stars David Arquette, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel and Mira Sorvino.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend Revolution Studios and Columbia's R rated romantic comedy drama Punch-Drunk Love expanded in its second week to a sizzling ESTIMATED $1.63 million at 78 theaters (+73 theaters; $20,897 per theater). Its cume is approximately $2.2 million.
Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, it stars Adam Sandler and Emily Watson.
"It seems definitely ready to expand," Sony's Jeff Blake said Sunday. "We're going to expand next week on Oct. 25. We're going to really work on it Monday to try and come up with the right number, but we'll definitely be national. It certainly seems to be a great demand and we'll go out there and see what the right number (of theaters) should be. I would imagine somewhere in the 400 to 500 range. The first two steps have been absolutely spectacular. Certainly, a $20,000 average would be very respectable in step one and to have it in step two in 78 theaters, really including many middle America multiplexes is pretty terrific."
United Artists' R rated satiric documentary Bowling For Columbine released via MGM widened in its second week with an outstanding ESTIMATED $0.77 million at 45 theaters (+37 theaters; $16,799 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.1 million.
Written, produced and directed by Michael Moore, it won the Special Jury Prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
Bowling will widen to 14 additional markets this Friday (Oct. 25).
Buena Vista/ Disney's PG rated animated feature Spirited Away went wider in its fifth week with an okay ESTIMATED $0.5 million (-16%) at 151 theaters (+13 theaters; $3,514 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.4 million.
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, it was the Golden Bear best picture winner at the Berlin International Film Festival. Spirited is the all-time top grossing film at the Japanese box office.
United Artists' R rated dark comedy Igby Goes Down added one more theater in its fifth week with an okay ESTIMATED $0.35 million (-20%) at 156 theaters (+1 theater; $2,250 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.8 million.
Written and directed by Burr Steers, it stars Kieran Culkin, Claire Danes, Jeff Goldblum, Jared Harris, Amanda Peet, Ryan Phillippe, Bill Pullman and Susan Sarandon.
Igby will expand this Friday (Oct. 25) into another 12 markets, putting it in 168 theaters.
Paramount Classics' R rated drama Bloody Sunday expanded in its third week to a grim ESTIMATED $0.1 million at 44 theaters (+31 theaters; $2,370 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.2 million.
Written and directed by Paul Greengrass, it stars James Nesbitt.
Warner Bros.' R rated crime comedy Welcome To Collinwood widened in its third week to a calm ESTIMATED $38,000 at 21 theaters (+9 theaters; $1,795 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.2 million.
Written and directed by Anthony & Joe Russo, it stars William H. Macy, Isaiah Washington and Sam Rockwell.
Revolution Studios and Columbia's blockbuster XXX scored well at the international box office this weekend.
Directed by Rob Cohen and produced by Neal H. Moritz, it stars Vin Diesel, Asia Argento and Marton Csokas. XXX has grossed about $141 million in domestic theaters.
"It was a very big weekend for XXX internationally," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning.
"It opened number one in the U.K., Germany and Spain over the weekend. It did $5.2 million in the U.K., which is very big, and $4.7 million in Germany, which also is very big. Nine territories opened this weekend and all nine were number one."
XXX, Blake pointed out, has "now had 40 number one openings around the world. We're at $56 million (internationally now), so we're approaching $200 million worldwide. And with Japan and others still to come, it looks like we'll be at about $300 million worldwide."
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $84.28 million for the weekend, up about 8.11 percent from last year when they totaled $77.96 million.
Key films were down about 16.22 percent from the previous weekend this year when they totaled $100.6 million.
Last year, Fox's opening week of From Hell was first with $11.01 million at 2,305 theaters ($4,779 per theater); and Sony's opening week of Riding In Cars With Boys was second with $10.4 million at 2,770 theaters ($3,756 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $21.4 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $24.6 million.
It all begins in the quiet village of Hobbiton where Gandalf the wizard (Ian McKellen) comes to visit his old friend Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) on his 111th birthday and talk about the ring Bilbo found many years ago. Gandalf discovers the ring is indeed the One Ring of Sauron-the Dark Lord who once ruled Middle-earth with a terrible hand and has now risen to reclaim the Ring and rule again. Bilbo gives the Ring to his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood) who learns how it gives its possessor unspeakable power and why it has now put his village in danger. Suddenly Frodo is thrust into a treacherous mission. With his hobbit friends Merry (Dominic Monaghan) Pippin (Billy Boyd) and Samwise (Sean Astin) Frodo leaves his beloved home to travel to the Cracks of Doom and destroy the Ring before it falls into the wrong hands. The journey is fraught with dangers--from the evil Ringwraiths Sauron's henchmen to the powerful wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee) and his army of horrible mutants called the Uruk-Hai. Luckily the hobbits receive help along the way from Legolas (Orlando Bloom) an elf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) a dwarf and the brave humans Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Boromir (Sean Bean) who all join the Fellowship of the Ring to protect Frodo and help save Middle-earth. But can they escape the lure of the Ring?
The all-star cast does an admirable job bringing the vivid characters of Tolkien's books to life. They've all managed to personalize their roles while dealing with the responsibility of portraying fictional icons. The film belongs to Wood who has proven he can carry a film (even at the tender age of 11...remember Radio Flyer?). His Frodo is so wrought with emotion and gets kicked around so much you feel like joining the Fellowship yourself just to help him out. Yet the hobbit's strong resolve is also quite evident. As Gandalf McKellen seems to personify the kindly wizard as if Tolkien had written the part for him and as the hyper-kinetic Bilbo Holm tries on big hairy feet and brings something new to his repertoire of characters. Other worthy performances include Bloom as the ultra-cool elf Legolas Astin as the stalwart Sam and Bean an underrated actor as the tortured Boromir who falls under the Ring's spell and sacrifices all to break from it. Some of the other characters didn't have the same amount of screen time but will more than likely be getting more play in the sequels including Mortensen's heroic Aragorn the man who would be king and his lady love the elven princess Arwen played by the beautiful Liv Tyler. It'll be interesting to see how the cast will handle their characters in the sequels to come.
Lord of the Rings looks nothing less than spectacular. What is even more impressive is the fact that director Peter Jackson decided to film all three of the books at one time no easy task by any stretch of the imagination. He uses all the technology and wizardry available to filmmakers today and thrusts the audience deep within the treacherous and exciting Middle-earth. From the diminutive hobbits to the Elven city Rivendell to the dark Mines of Moira it's all there. The amount of talent involved in creating the film--the conceptual artistry the production design the costumes--should be recognized come Oscar time. The pacing of the movie is excellent with enough down time and heartfelt if sometimes stilted speeches to counteract the incredible action sequences. You hardly notice the three hours passing by and it leaves you at the end wanting the quest to continue. The only one deterring fact is that the film really is for its die-hard fans. Certainly in the literary world Tolkien's story is the mother of all epic fantasies and Jackson has remained faithful to the material. In that the movie doesn't necessarily have the universal appeal of say a Harry Potter. Nonetheless Rings is a breathtaking piece of filmmaking.