'Hostel' scares up $19.6 mil to reach No. 1

Boxoffice seized in $19.6 million 'Hostel' takeover

Brian Fuson
Horror fans checked into Lionsgate's "Hostel" in surprisingly large numbers this weekend, as the R-rated horror film from writer-director Eli Roth rang up $19.6 million from 2,195 theaters to capture first place at the boxoffice.

Heading into the frame, the prerelease tracking on "Hostel," co-produced with Screen Gems, was lukewarm at best, and it looked likely that Buena Vista Pictures' "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe" and Universal Pictures' "King Kong" would rule in the top spots again.

As it turned out, "Narnia" and "Kong" ruled in the second and third spots, respectively.

"Narnia" grossed $15.6 million on its fifth week in release, down 40% from the first three days of the four-day New Year's holiday session. The PG-rated fantasy, based on the book by C.S. Lewis and co-produced with Walden Media, has generated $247.7 million to date.

"Kong" scaled $12.6 million on its fourth weekend, down 60% from the New Year's frame. The Peter Jackson-helmed "Kong" is climbing toward the $200 million mark, with a domestic take of $192.7 million so far. Through the weekend, the worldwide cume for "Kong" stands near $464.5 million.

Overall, the weekend looked pretty solid and 2006 was off to respectable start, with the estimated total boxoffice for the top 12 films up 9% from the comparable session in 2005. Holiday releases held up fairly well for the most part, and limited-release expansions also were attracting audiences.

Sony Pictures' "Fun with Dick and Jane" placed fourth with $11.9 million on its third session, down a modest 43% from the previous week. The Jim Carrey starrer has gleaned $81.1 million.

20th Century Fox's "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" pulled in $8.4 million to garner the fifth spot. The PG-rated family comedy, starring Steve Martin, has collected $66.6 million since its debut.

On its third week in release, Universal's "Munich" broke wide for the weekend in 1,485 theaters, up 953 from a week ago. The Steven Spielberg-helmed dramatic thriller placed sixth with $7.6 million, averaging $5,095 per theater. "Munich," which carries an R rating, so far has amassed $25.4 million.

The only other wide release for the weekend was 20th Century Fox's "Grandma's Boy," which failed to place in the top 12 with a dismal $3 million from 2,015 locales. The R-rated raunchy comedy targeted teens and twentysomethings.

Sony's "Memoirs of a Geisha" was in the seventh slot with $6.1 million, off 40% from a week earlier, taking the cume to $39.9 million, while Warner Bros. Pictures' "Rumor Has It" counted $5.7 million to place ninth, off 52% from the previous session while moving its total to $35.2 million.

Focus Features' "Brokeback Mountain" was still in the saddle, rising to the ninth spot on its fifth weekend in release, taking in $5.7 million from 483 houses, up 215 from a week ago. The R-rated romantic drama, about two ranch hands who have an affair, was helmed by Ang Lee and averaged $11,856 per theater, advancing to cume to $22.4 million.

Buena Vista's "Casanova" was in the 12th slot with $3.8 million on its first weekend in more than 1,000 theaters; it was in 1,004 theaters, up 967 from a week earlier. The Lasse Hallstrom-directed romantic comedy has picked up $5 million so far.

By the end of the weekend, it seemed that Romar Entertainment's "BloodRayne" managed to muster $1.5 million from 985 theaters, according to industry estimates, averaging a weak $1,523 per theater. The R-rated horror film, starring Ben Kingsley and directed by Uwe Boll, was originally scheduled to play in 2,500 theaters, a number that dropped to 1,600 before settling at 985 by Sunday.

Industry sources said they understood that some prints were shipped to exhibitors that had not licensed the film and were shipped back.

Regarding the weekend's other new horror film, Lionsgate domestic distribution president Steve Rothenberg said the company "couldn't be happier."

"It's a remarkable achievement when a movie grosses more than four times its production budget in its opening weekend," he said.

The primary audience for "Hostel," starring Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson, was male and younger. The film's genre was the main draw for audiences.

ThinkFilm's "Fateless" opened in one theater in New York and took in an estimated $13,165. Veteran cinematographer Lajos Koltai directed the unrated drama, Hungary's Oscar submission for best foreign-language film. Set in World War II during and after the Nazi occupation, it centers on the experiences of a Hungarian Jewish boy and is based on the novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Imre Kertesz.

A ThinkFilm distributor said the company was pleased with the gross, noting that it came from just four shows in 150-seat theaters.

Other films in limited release this weekend included DreamWorks' "Match Point," which added 296 engagements -- bringing the count to 304 -- and brought in $2.7 million. The Woody Allen-helmed drama averaged a stout $8,912 per theater and has grossed $3.6 million to date.

The Weinstein Co.'s "The Matador" added 24 venues, taking the tally to 28, and grossed an estimated $233,072, averaging a hardy $8,324 per theater for the dark comedy. Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear star in the film, which was written and directed by Richard Shepard and has earned $347,684 so far.

The distributor's "Transamerica" remained in six locales and grossed an estimated $57,317. The transgender drama averaged $9,553 per theater and has garnered about $369,587 to date.

Buena Vista snuck next weekend's "Glory Road" in 820 theaters. The PG-rated sports drama, directed by James Gartner, averaged 66% capacity, which a spokesperson for the distributor said was what they hoped for in order to get positive word-of-mouth moving. In exits, "Road" scored a high 94% in the top two boxes and a robust 88% in the definite recommend category. "Road," based on a true story, debuts Friday in about 2,200 theaters.

The estimated total for this weekend's top 12 films was $106.7 million. The Hollywood Reporter projects the total for all films to be in the low- to mid-$120 million area, up from last year's $118.7 million.

For all of its ups and downs, 2005 went out on a high note. For the week ending Jan. 5 -- the final week of the 2005 boxoffice year -- the national boxoffice was up a stellar 20% from the comparable seven-day period the year before ($240 million vs. $200.8 million). It was the second-biggest New Year's week in boxoffice history behind 2001 ($279.9 million).

The considerable New Year's week jump helped knock a percentage point from the 2005 deficit as compared with 2004. The final boxoffice tally for 2005 was down 4% from the previous year ($9.12 billion vs. $9.54 billion). The final 2005 estimated ticket unit tally remained down 7% from 2004.