A Crop Of Cash For 'Signs'

Former South African President Nelson Mandela blows out the candles on his birthday cake, alongside his wife Graca Machel, left, as he celebrates his 91st birthday in Johannesburg, Saturday July 18, 2009.
AP/D. Yazbek-Nelson, Mandela Fdn.
All "Signs" pointed to a bumper crop of cash for Mel Gibson and Disney's Touchstone pictures this weekend, as the latest movie from M. Night Shyamalan broke records for both Gibson and the movie studio.

This was Gibson's best opening since "Ransom" in 1996, which opened at $34.2 Million.

Entertainment Contributor Laurie Hibberd gives The Early Show Box Office Plus report.

The following are the numbers from Hollywood.com:

  1. SIGNS/BUENA VISTA (OPENING)
    Gross: $60,300,000
    No. Theaters: 3,264
    Avg.: $18,474
    Cume: $60,300,000
  2. AUSTIN POWERS IN GOLDMEMBER/NEW LINE (Week 2)
    Gross: $32,400,000 (-56%)
    No. Theaters: 3,613 (0)
    Avg.: $8,968
    Cume: $143,000,000
  3. THE MASTER OF DISGUISE/SONY (OPENING)
    Gross: $13,000,000
    No. Theaters: 2,565
    Avg.: $5,068
    Cume: $13,000,000
  4. MARTIN LAWRENCE LIVE: RUNTELDAT/PARAMOUNT (OPENING)
    Gross: $7,500,000
    No. Theaters: 752
    Avg.: $9,973
    Cume: $7,500,000
  5. ROAD TO PERDITION/DREAMWORKS (Week 4)
    Gross: $6,600,000 (-41%)
    No. Theaters: 2,332 (+82)
    Avg.: $2,830
    Cume: $77,200,000
  6. STUART LITTLE 2/SONY (Week 3)
    Gross: $6,000,000 (-43%)
    No. Theaters: 3,095 (-187)
    Avg.: $1,939
    Cume: $46,800,000
  7. MEN IN BLACK II/SONY (Week 5)
    Gross: $4,700,000 (-45%)
    No. Theaters: 2,902 (-640)
    Avg.: $1,620
    Cume: $182,000,000
  8. MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING/IFC FILMS (Week 16)
    Gross: $3,000,000 (0%)
    No. Theaters: 655 (+86)
    Avg.: $4,601
    Cume: $40,200,000
  9. K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER/PARAMOUNT (Week 3)
    Gross: $3,000,000 (-59%)
    No. Theaters: 2,634 (-196)
    Avg.: $1,139
    Cume: $30,900,000
  10. THE COUNTRY BEARS/BUENA VISTA (Week 2)
    Gross: $3,000,000 (-43%)
    No. Theaters: 2,553 (0)
    Avg.: $1,175
    Cume: $11,700,000
  11. FULL FRONTAL/MIRAMAX (OPENING)
    Gross: $725,000
    No. Theaters: 208
    Avg.: $3,486
    Cume: $725,000

"Signs" had an intriguing trailer that didn't give away too much information, but made you want to see the movie, says Hibberd. It had a built in audience of the sci-fi crowd and there hasn't been a good adult scary movie for a while with crossover appeal. It was firing on all cylinders.

The company's distribution president, Chuck Viane, credited the originality of writer/director/producer Shyamalan's script at a time when there is little challenging fare at the summer box office.

Shyamalan's two previous films, "Unbreakable" (2000) and "The Sixth Sense" (1999), opened with $30 million and $27 million respectively. Gibson's previous best opening was $34.2 million for "Ransom" (1996). Disney executives came up with their $30 million-$35 million target on the basis of these films, as well as the recent openings of adult dramas "Minority Report" ($36 million) and "The Bourne Identity" ($27 million).

A spokeswoman said the film was budgeted at $65 million-$70 million.

Austin Powers fell 56 percent. But that's normally expected with summer blockbusters that open big, Hibberd says. The movie's already made 143 million, placing it in the blockbuster category. This will trickle off but it will stay in the top 10 quite a while as people will see it again and again. It will also do well in video, she adds.

The question is now, is this the final installment or are we going to see more of Austin Powers?

At first Mike Myers said the third would be his last and envisioned as a trilogy but you never know - especially when there's money involved, Hibberd says.

"The Master of Disguise" came in third place; even though, the reviews were quite bad. This is a complete testament to the hard work Dana Carvey put into promoting the movie and also the fact that Americans just love from his SNL days. They love him, and are willing to forego the movies and brave the movie to see him, says Hibberd.

"Master of Disguise" cost a mere $16 million to produce, said a spokeswoman for the film's producer, Revolution Films. In a tough market for family films, it performed better than such recent releases as "Country Bears," "Crocodile Hunter," "Like Mike," "The Powerpuff Girls" and "Hey Arnold!" It was released by Columbia Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp.

A movie that has been doing well is "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which has been out for 16 weeks. It opened slow and this is its second week in the top 10 playing in less than 700 screens. It's already made 40.2 Million - that's phenomenal success for a small budget movie with no stars in it - it's slowly driven by word of mouth. It's a PG-rated, live action adult film. And now they're piloting it as a CBS sitcom.

As for "Full Frontal," it made $725,000 on only 208 screens which is pretty good for a film in limited release.