×

‘Poke’ pockets monster B.O.

$32 mil weekend caps kidpic's 5-day record

Throw out the tracking studies. Ignore the insight of studio sages. And tell all the pollsters to scram.

You really want to know what makes a hit movie?

Ask an 8-year-old.

Warner Bros. did. And now the studio is riding high with “Pokemon: The First Movie,” the latest wave in a synergistic kiddie tide spanning continents and cultures.

Acquired for just $5 million, animated pic took in an estimated $32.4 million over the weekend and boasts a 5-day cume of $52.1 million. That’s the best 5-day tally of any pic ever released outside of May, June or July.

Toon averaged $10,642 on each of 3,043 screens.

Modest beginnings

“Pokemon” began life as a video game in Japan. Its success spawned toys, trading cards and then a TV show that now airs on the WB net. To release the toon as a feature, Warners did little more than redub it into English and add a soundtrack. That kept studio’s total cost well under $10 million.

Gail Tilden, veep of product acquisition and development for vidgame maker Nintendo, said Warner Bros. was picked to release the film because of Time Warner’s “cross-divisional support.”

Reached at her home outside Seattle, Tilden also answered the question on the minds of many Americans: What is the deal with Pokemon?

Munchkin talk

“Kids love the fact it’s their own language,” she said. “They really enjoy becoming experts at something. It empowers them and builds their confidence. … You become part of the fantasy as you try to become a Pokemon master.”

Warners, too, felt empowered by its second weekend B.O. win in past three frames. Also-rans included “The Bone Collector,” holding nicely for Universal, Lions Gate’s surprising “Dogma” and Sony’s limp “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.”

USA Films’ “Being John Malkovich” took in $2.4 million on 467 screens, for a so-so average of $5,041. Cume is $6.1 million.

Top 10 films did an estimated $84.1 million, up 38% from last weekend’s take but roughly flat compared with the same frame a year ago.

Unstoppable engine

Nothing could slow the Pokenomenon, which started with last Wednesday’s $10.1 million bow, the best B.O. Wednesday by any toon in history.

Promotional partners like Burger King faced massive crowds and inventory shortages. Supplies of trading cards given with each movie ticket ran out in many areas, boosting traffic on Internet auction sites.

Tellingly, Warners creative film execs aren’t doing “Pokemon” interviews. Press releases for the past week have instead touted the efforts of marketers. When Tilden was asked Sunday which execs at Warners worked closest on the pic, she cited marketing prexy Brad Ball.

Speaks to all

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. distrib chief Dan Fellman hailed the “cross-cultural” appeal of “Pokemon.” He said many of the top-grossing sites screening the film are in areas with heavy black, Asian and Latino populations. The two busiest theaters Saturday night were in the Bronx, he said.

“Dogma” may not have a line of plush toys — yet, anyway — but it is destined to be helmer Kevin Smith’s best-performing pic. With $8.8 million after three days, it’ll surely overtake $12 million cume of his 1997 effort “Chasing Amy.” In fact, his three previous films have a combined B.O. tally of $17.2 million.

Ribald, religious-themed comedy’s per-screen average of $6,907 beat any wide release except “Pokemon.”

Protests threatened

Lions Gate picked up star-studded pic after threat of protests unnerved Miramax. Tom Ortenberg, co-prexy of Lions Gate, said debut went off without incident. Catholic and “pro-family” activists had vowed to picket.

“We don’t see Dogma as a controversial movie,” Ortenberg asserted. “It’s a pro-faith, pop-culture entertainment.”

The only other pic to make a real weekend dent was “Bone Collector,” which dropped just 28% in its second week. Thriller starring Denzel Washington served as “the perfect alternative” to younger-skewing fare, said Nikki Rocco, U’s head of distribution.

Contenders slowed

Otherwise, chart shows the ravages of the Poke-purge, as the top seven films are either debuts or second-week releases. Poked out of the top 10 were Universal’s “The Best Man,” DreamWorks’ “American Beauty,” Miramax’s “Music of the Heart” and Fox’s “Fight Club.”

“Fight Club” is beating a hasty retreat just a month after reigning as weekend champ. It managed just $1 million in 745 rings. Domestic cume is $34 million, and Fox will be lucky if pic does half that overseas, based on weak bows last week in 13 territories.

Two familiar titles still linger in the top 10: “Double Jeopardy” and “The Sixth Sense.”

Paramount’s “Jeopardy” dropped just 24%, scooping up $3.1 million for a cume of $108.7 million. On the flip side for Par is “Bringing Out the Dead.” Martin Scorsese pic dialed 911 in its fourth week with a 65% dropoff. Cume is just shy of $16 million.

‘Sense’ still soars

Disney’s “The Sixth Sense” clocked a 15th week in the top 10. The last pic to spend as long there was “Titanic.” Chiller slipped just 15% despite losing 384 sites.

Having passed the $350 million mark worldwide, “Sense” needs about $18 million domestic to eclipse “Home Alone” and become No. 11 all-time film.

“The Insider,” though, isn’t showing such historic legs for Disney. In its second week, it fell just 24% but averaged a tame $2,767 per screen.

Studio distrib chief Chuck Viane said he opted not to platform critically hailed drama for fear it might get buried in holiday blizzard. Mouse House is banking on year-end awards and Oscar buzz for stars Russell Crowe and Al Pacino.

After a couple of blazing weeks, limited-release arena calmed. Artisan bowed “Felicia’s Journey” by Canuck helmer Atom Egoyan to $45,000 on five screens. It’ll add a handful of markets Friday.

Limp ‘Limey’

Another Artisan release, Steven Soderbergh’s “The Limey,” is fading. On 75 screens, 30 less than the previous frame, it collected $150,000 to bring six-week cume to $2.1 million.

Fox Searchlight’s “Boys Don’t Cry” remains durable in urban areas, but rural appeal looks sketchy. It totaled $5,000 at each of 30 sites. Cume is $1.5 million.

Similar story for “The Straight Story,” Disney’s David Lynch-lensed tale of a man’s lawnmower ride through the heartland. In 181 pastures, pic grossed a feeble $410,000. In five weeks, it’s harvested $2.2 million.

More Film

  • European Union Placeholder

    European Parliament Gives Final Approval to Controversial Article 13 Copyright Directive

    The European Parliament on Tuesday gave final approval of Article 13, a controversial directive that shakes up the rules around copyright in the continent with ramifications for online platforms, content owners and creators, and the general public. The proposed new framework, now approved, has sparked widespread debate among the platforms, public, and content firms. The platforms, [...]

  • Fox Disney Layoffs

    Fox Studio Quickly Fades Away as Disney Starts Work on Integration

    In the waning days of 21st Century Fox, there was a run on the searchlight. As Disney neared the completion of its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox, employees on the Fox lot rushed into the studio’s gift shop to pick up mugs, shot glasses, sweatshirts, hats and T-shirts emblazoned with 20th Century Fox’s [...]

  • Small Theaters Struggle to Survive in

    Inside Indie Movie Theaters' Battle to Survive

    Nestled at the foot of a large hill on the edge of downtown Providence, R.I., Cable Car Cinema was known to local moviegoers as ”the one with the couches.” That was a charitable description. They were love seats, really — perfect if you were with a date but awkward if you went to see a [...]

  • Nadine Labaki

    Cannes: Nadine Labaki to Head Un Certain Regard Jury

    Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki has been named president of the jury for Un Certain Regard in Cannes. The Festival said Labaki had been chosen after “moving hearts and minds at the last Festival de Cannes with her Academy Award- and Golden Globe-nominated ‘Capernaum,’ which won the Jury Prize.” The organizers noted Labaki’s films have all [...]

  • Osmosis

    Netflix Unveils Four More French Originals, 'Gims,' 'Anelka,' 'Move,' 'Of Earth And Blood'

    As it prepares to open a fully-staffed office in France and ramp up its investment in local originals, Netflix has unveiled three new documentaries, “Move” (working title), “Gims” (working title), and “Anelka” (working title), and the feature film “Of Earth And Blood” while at Series Mania in Lille. Announced during a panel with Netflix’s commissioning [...]

  • Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home

    Film News Roundup: Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home for Christmas'

    In today’s film news roundup, “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” is in the works, the NFL has made a documentary about female team owners and D Street Pictures has signed Kenny Gage and Devon Downs to direct the dance feature “Move.” HOLIDAY PROJECT Miramax has acquired film rights to Lauren Iungerich’s holiday-themed screenplay “I [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content