Like the Trojan Horse that plays a pivotal, albeit utterlywooden, role in Warner Bros' Troy,everybody thought they knew what they were getting as the picture's releasedate approached. And sure enough Wolfgang Petersen's abridged adaptation ofHomer's Iliad generated plenty of publicity and opened number one. The onlypart that didn't go to plan was the $46.9m weekend gross and the studio chiefswere disappointed. They bounced back a day later, trumpeting the inevitablestring of records designed to create the semblance of legitimacy after anupset. We were told that Troy'sopening weekend marked the biggest May bow for an R-rated non-sequel (passing2000's Gladiator on $34.8m), thatdirector Wolfgang Petersen scored his biggest ever opening (overtaking 2000's
'Blockbuster-elect' seems the appropriate phrase herebecause studio executives and producers shouldn't even begin to regard theirlatest offering as a bona fide tentpole hit until it's passed $100m - and eventhat amount is starting to pale in comparison to the cost of making andmarketing an event movie. Troyreportedly had a $150m negative cost and marketing could easily bump up theprice to more than $200m. In theory ancillary markets should prove profitablefor Warner Bros but successive theatrical weekends are surely necessary tomaintain a strong profile and build up anticipation for the DVD and videorelease. Troy averaged $13,739 from3,411 sites and stars Pitt and Eric Bana as rival warriors Achilles and Hectorwhose armies clash when the Trojan prince Paris steals the Greek queen Helen.Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson and Peter O'Toole alsostar. Exit polls showed even gender splits with roughly 60% aged under 30.
In its second weekend Universal's Van Helsing fell 60% on $20.7m for an $85.1m running total. Itwasn't as bad as Hulk's notorious 70%slide last year but it doesn't bode well at a time when the studios areemploying saturation releasing to chase similar demographics among increasinglysophisticated audiences in an overcrowded market. It is early days in the 2004summer season but by the end we will see which, if any, of this year's tentpolereleases have become the poster children of the new era of $175m-$200mwrite-downs predicted recently by News Corp chief operating officer PeterChernin.
Elsewhere Screen Gems' comedy Breakin' All The Rules opened to poor reviews in fourth place on$5.1m, averaging $3,861 from 1,318 screens. Jamie Foxx stars as a jilted loverwho writes a bestseller on how to get over break-ups and Daniel Taplitz'spicture also stars Gabrielle Union and Morris Chestnut.
UA's Coffee &Cigarettes from Jim Jarmusch opened in 38th place on $99,162 from five forthe biggest average of the top 60 on $19,832. Wellspring's second world warromance Strayed from Andre Techineopened on an unconfirmed $20,988 from two New York screens.
Meanwhile, Televisa Cine's release A Day Without A Mexican achieved a respectable average of $11,071from 56 locations, despite poor reviews and hefty competition.
Overall the total domestic box office came to $112m, exactlythe same as the corresponding weekend in 2003.