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Box Office Analysis, June 27: "Fahrenheit 9/11" Burns Up Competition

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Jun 28, 2004 | 9:37am EDT

Smokin'!

Michael Moore's searing documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, which rails against the Bush administration, scorched the box office competition in its opening weekend with a respectable $21.8 million. Opening in only 868 theaters, the film had a whopping $25,115 per theater average.

It now stands as the best documentary opener ever, topping Moore's previous record holder, the Oscar-winning Bowling for Columbine. Astoundingly, too, Fahrenheit has already become the highest grossing documentary ever, besting in its first weekend Columbine's total annual 2002 grosses of $21.5 million.

"It's like how The Passion of the Christ redefined what a certain genre of movie could do at the box office, Fahrenheit 9/11 is doing the same thing," Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations told The Associated Press. "This blows away any conceivable record for box office of a documentary."

Fahrenheit 9/11, which won the coveted Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival, certainly benefited from the tremendous word-of-mouth it has received in the last few months--both from thousands of liberal-minded supporters as well as detractors who are trying to discredit the film. "It always helps when there's a group out there that says, 'Don't go see this movie. It's bad for you,'" Jonathan Sehring, president of IFC Films, one of Fahrenheit's distributors, told AP.

The rest of this weekend's openers paled in comparison. The raucous Wayans comedy White Chicks, which opened in nearly a third more theaters than Fahrenheit, came in second with $19.6 million, while the sudsy romance The Notebook debuted in fifth with $13 million. The tiger tale Two Brothers opened in ninth with $6.2 million.

The top 12 films this week grossed an estimated $135.6 million, up 20.48 percent from this time last year when they totaled $112.5 million, and up 3.88 percent from last week's $130.5 million take.

The top three films at the box office this time last year were: Sony's PG-13 rated Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, which opened with $37.6 million in 3,459 theaters, averaging $10,880 per theater; Universal's PG-13 rated The Hulk, which came in second in its second week with $18.8 million in 3,674 theaters, averaging $5,130 per theater; and Disney and Pixar's G rated Finding Nemo, which took third in its fifth week with $13.9 million in 3,333 theaters, averaging $4,191 per theater.

BOX OFFICE TOP 10, ESTIMATES: (Source: Exhibitor Relations, Inc.)

No. 1: Fahrenheit 9/11 (Lions Gate, IFC Films; R)

Gross: $21.8 million (opened Wed.)

Weeks opened: NEW!

Theaters: 868

Per-theater average: $25,115

Cume to date: $21.9 million

No. 2: White Chicks (Sony Pictures, PG-13)

Gross: $19.6 million (opened Wed.)

Weeks opened: NEW!

Theaters: 2,726

Per-theater average: $7,190

Cume to date: $27.1 million

No. 3: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (20th Century Fox, PG-13)

Gross: $18.5 million (-38%)

Weeks opened: 2

Theaters: 3,020 (+326)

Per-theater average: $6,126

Cume to date: $67.1 million

No. 4: The Terminal (DreamWorks, PG-13)

Gross: $13.9 million (-27%)

Weeks opened: 2

Theaters: 2,914 (+103)

Per-theater average: $4,770

Cume to date: $41.8 million

No. 5: The Notebook (New Line Cinema, PG-13)

Gross: $13 million

Weeks opened: NEW!

Theaters: 2,303

Per-theater average: $5,656

No. 6: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Warner Bros., PG)

Gross: $11.4 million (-37%)

Weeks opened: 4

Theaters: 3,404 (-401)

Per-theater average: $3,355

Cume to date: $211.7 million

No. 7: Shrek 2 (Dreamworks, PG)

Gross: $10.5 million (-25%)

Weeks opened: 6

Theaters: 2,937 (-369)

Per-theater average: $3,575

Cume to date: $397.1 million

No. 8: Garfield (20th Century Fox, PG)

Gross: $7 million (-38%)

Weeks opened: 3

Theaters: 2,880 (-270)

Per-theater average: $2,431

Cume to date: $55.7 million

No. 9: Two Brothers (Universal Pictures, PG)

Gross: $6.2 million

Weeks opened: NEW!

Theaters: 2,175

Per-theater average: $2,851

No. 10: The Stepford Wives (Paramount Pictures, PG-13)

Gross: $5.2 million (-41%)

Weeks opened: 3

Theaters: 2,437 (-620)

Per-theater average: $2,134

Cume to date: $49 million

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