'Signs' Back On Top

The last movie in which the New York-born , Australia-reared actor appeared was 2002's "Signs." In a scene from that movie, Gibson, center left, plays widowed minister Graham Hess who investigates strange occurrences with characters played by Rory Culkin (left), Abigail Breslin (center right), and Joaquin Phoenix (right).
There are more "Signs" of suffering at the box office this weekend. Sitting in for Early Show Entertainment Contributor Laurie Hibberd for this week's "Box Office Plus" report is Mark Steines of "Entertainment Tonight."

The movie "Signs," which opened at No. 1 three weeks ago was back in the no. 1 spot this weekend with $14.4 million.

Vin Diesel's "XXX" came in second with $13.7 million. Not only has this film grossed about $85 million so far, but it has launched Diesel's career. The studio (Columbia) is hoping this will be a long-running franchise (like the James Bond series) and is already planning a sequel. Diesel seems poised to take over the action/adventure mantle from "older" actors like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Willis.

No. 3 was "Spy Kids 2," making another $7.8 million. And rounding out the top five were the summer's sleeper hit, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," and "Blue Crush." Even though it opened in limited release way back in April, the low-budget "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" is the indie success story of the year, and is still going strong. It's grossed an incredible $52 million (probably over $55 million by Mon., 8/26) so far and has recently moved into the Top 10 films of the week. The movie was produced by Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson's production company. No other indies released this summer even come close.

Now, you may be wondering... all those movies look pretty familiar. Didn't Hollywood open any NEW movies over the weekend? Well, they did, but they might have wished they didn't. Matthew Perry didn't exactly get a "Friendly" reception for "Serving Sara." It opened in sixth place. And Al Pacino's "Simone" about a Virtual Reality star was Virtually Unseen... down in 9th place.

It was a pretty sorry weekend, altogether. In fact, this is the sixth weekend in a row where the box office has been behind last year's performance.

Box Office movies of the summer:
The summer started incredibly strong with "Spider-Man" and "Star Wars Episode II," but the end of summer is weak and getting weaker. It'll probably still break last year's box office record, but not by much.

"Spider-Man," which opened May 3, set the world on fire posted biggest weekend ever, $114.9 million opening weekend.

"We thought it would be big, but it really raised the bar; $90 million for 'Harry Potter' was the previous record," says Paul Dergarabedian of Exhibitor Relations. "Raised the bar for what was thought to be the cap. Never been over a hundred million before."

Why the success of "Spider-Man"? Marketing, brand name, female appeal, male appeal, ages 6 to 60 all wanted to see it. The same with "Titanic"; it had across the board appeal. People just enjoyed the story, the characters, says Dergarabedian.

In the shadow of "Spider-Man," "Star Wars" opened at $80 million, ($300 million now). Though opening weekend was strong, Dergarabedian says there's a higher standard for "Star Wars" movies, so it was seen as disappointment. "But for an old franchise, it's still great, for old material," he adds.

A surprisingly strong movie: "Scooby Doo." It opened mid-June at $54 million, and it is still playing, now 151 million. Baby boomers, and kids, both liked it, says Dergarabedian.

All summer, no R-rated movie ever opened at No. 1. And only one R-rated film reached No. 1: "Road to Perdition, did it in its second week. Even thrillers and action movies, "Signs" and "XXX" were PG-13.

Other popular PG-13 films, "Bourne Identity," "Sum of all Fears" and "Men in Black 2," says Dergarabedian. 'Men in Black 2' has made $190 million now, but the first one grossed 250.7," "Goldmember, 183.9, will likely surpass MIB2," he adds.

"We're probably going to still have a record summer, but we're not going to blast last year's record to bits. May and June were record months, July slow, August abysmal. But we've had huge August openings. $3.06 billion was last year's record, counting the summer as starting the Friday before Memorial Day, through end of Labor Day week. This year so far, it's $2.8 billion," says Dergarabedian.

Possible Oscar contenders:
Possible Oscar contenders are "Road to Perdition" (DreamWorks, released July 12), "Unfaithful" (Fox, released May 10) and "About a Boy" (Universal, released May 17). There is also Oscar buzz over the October release "Frida" starring Salma Hayek as the famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The movie could get Best Picture and Actress nominations. Hayek also produced the film. Madonna and J.Lo were also attached to "Frida," either in earlier stages of development or rival films that never came to be.

The following are the biggest bombs of the summer:
"Reign of Fire" (Disney) - Matthew McConaughey - $41 1/2 million
"Windtalkers" (MGM) - Nicolas Cage - $40 ½ million
"K-19: The Widowmaker" (Paramount) - Harrison Ford - about $34 million
"Halloween: Resurrection" (Dimension) - almost $30 million
"The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course" (MGM) - Steve Irwin - $27 1/2 million
"Eight Legged Freaks" (Warner Bros.) - David Arquette - $16 1/2 million
"The Country Bears" (Disney) - $15 million
"The Adventures of Pluto Nash" (Warner Bros.) - The long-delayed Eddie Murphy space comedy made only $2.1 million on its opening weekend.
"Full Frontal" (Miramax) - Despite the star power of Julia Roberts and the recent track record of director Steven Soderbergh ("Ocean's 11," "Traffic," "Erin Brockovich"), this low-budget experimental film has failed to catch on with moviegoers, grossing a paltry $2 million, so far, in limited release. It will go down as one of Julia Roberts' lowest-grossing films, ever.

Family Movies trailed off. They started off strong this summer with "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" (DreamWorks) - $73 million and "Lilo & Stitch" (Disney) - about $140 million, but the rest of the family films this summer disappointed:
"The Powerpuff Girls Movie" (Warner Bros.) - $11 million
"The Country Bears" (Disney) - $15 million
"Stuart Little 2" (Columbia) - $57 million, so far since July 19. The 1999 original grossed $140 million.