evanalmighty_bigteaserposter1.jpgSUNDAY AM: Hollywood’s most expensive comedy ever needed divine intervention and didn’t get it at the box office this weekend as Universal’s Evan Almighty debuted to a disappointing $32.1 million. That’s well below the $50 mil which box office gurus initially expected and the studio’s own lowered expectations of 40+ mil. The PG faith-based pic made less than half the $68 million that the original PG-13 Bruce Almighty took in its opening weekend at the box office. Neither Saturday night nor Friday date night boosted weak matinees for Universal’s terribly reviewed family-targeted Noah’s Ark retelling which did $11.4 million on Friday and $11.4 million on Saturday and a projected $9.5 mil Sunday from 3,602 theaters. The Tom Shadyac-directed pic will see at most $100 mil domestic this summer despite its runaway cost of $210 mil. (Universal insists the final budget came in at $175 mil.) The pic’s business was strongest in the South and Mid-West, average in the West Coast and Mountain regions, and softest in the East and Canada. But the studio had marketed the movie’s religious theme heavily to faith-based sectors whose crowds never translated into multitudes of moviegoers. Exit polls showed 47% of the non-child audience considered themselves frequent attenders of religious services, and ratings were markedly higher among frequent religious service attenders vs. non-frequent attenders. “Suffice to say without ‘frequent church attenders, this film might have gone down as one of the biggest bombs in Hollywood history,” an insider who helped market the film explained to me. All along, tracking scores for “Unaided Awareness” had been too low. 1408_posterbig.jpgAnd even with the book and toilet jokes removed, parents didn’t want to take their kids to a sequel based on a movie they felt was too mature. According to exit polls, the pic drew a wide range of ages, with 52% over age 25, but family moviegoers comprised only 45% of the audience, with just 24% parents and 21% children under age 13. But the major problem in the end seemed to be that Evan Almighty sacrificed too many laughs at the altar of heartwarming. Exit polls showed that the top reason adults wanted to see the movie was the humor (76%). But Evan‘s reviews were god awful. According to RottenTomatoes.com, it garnered only 21% positive reviews among the pool of 112 film critics, and only 9% from major media outlets.). For details about what went wrong, including an analysis of the movie’s marketing and a meltdown by the director, read my previous: ‘Evan Almighty’: Going To Heaven Or Hell?.

Internationally, Evan Almighty opened No. 1 in Russia and Ukraine day and date with domestic. Russia grossed an estimated $1.5M at 329 venues, which is 10% bigger than Bruce Almighty. Ukraine grossed an estimated $178K at 64 dates, which is 11% bigger than Bruce.  Evan debuts in Greece July 5th, UK on August 3rd, Germany on August 9th, and France on August 15th during school holidays.

I’m told MGM / The Weinstein Co’s Stephen King horror film 1408 starring John Cusack amightyheart_posterbig.jpgdebuted well in 3rd place this weekend earning $20.3 million from 2,678 venues. So fright pics are alive and well — as logn as their content isn’t torture porn. Another movie opening was Paramount Vantage’s A Mighty Heart, starring Angelina Jolie in the story of journalist Daniel Pearl’s terrorist murder. It finished in 10th place this weekend with only $4 mil from 1,355 playdates. But the real gauge here is its per screen average, which was extremely low, indicating weak interest in this well-reviewed pic despite a ton of publicity featuring tabloid-favorite Jolie. I believe releasing it this blockbuster-crowded summer, even as counter-programming, was a dumb move. September would have been a better time.

The 2nd biggest movie, Fox’s Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer, suffered a 65% drop-off (and -72% on Friday night alone) at the start of its second week out to make $20.5 mil this weekend from 3,963 theaters for a new cume of $97.9 mil. Warner’s sequel Ocean’s Thirteen three weeks in release was 4th with a new cume of $91.1 after raking in $11.5 mil from Friday through Sunday from 3,450 venues. Universal has had much better luck with its R-rated Judd Apatow laugher Knocked Up in 5th place at the start of four weeks. Its new cume is $108.9 mil after taking in $10.6 mil this weekend from 2,975 venues. In 6th place starting five week in release, Disney’s Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End added another $7.2 mil Friday from 2,802 playdates for a new cume of $287.1 mil. Overseas, the Johnny Depp threequel just reached $585 mil for a whopping new worldwide gross receipts of $872 mil. Sony’s toon Surf’s Up was 7th, making $6.4 mil this weekend from 3,309 theaters beginning its third week. for a new cume of $47 mil. DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek The Third came in 8th at the start of six weeks out after making $5.7 mil from Friday through Sunday from 2,822 theaters for a new cume of $307.9 mil. And, finally, 9th place Nancy Drew from Warner’s dropped 34% after one week to make $4.5 mil from 2,612 venues for a new cume of $16.1 mil. Here’s the Top 10 chart:

  1. 1. Evan Almighty $11.4M Fri, $11.4M Sat, and est $9.5M Sun. (cume $32.1M)
  2. 2. Silver Surfer $6.2M Fri, $7.9M Sat, and est $6.4M Sun. ($97.9M)
  3. 3. 1408 $7.6M Fri, $7.4M Sat, and est $5.3M Sun. ($20.3M)
  4. 4. Ocean’s Thirteen $3.5M Fri, $4.6M Sat, and est $3.4M Sun. ($91.1M)
  5. 5. Knocked Up $3.3M Fri, $4.3M Sat, and est $3M Sun. ($108.9M)
  6. 6. Pirates 3 $2.1M Fri, $2.9M Sat, and est $2.2M Sun. ($287.1M)
  7. 7. Surf’s Up $2.1M Fri, $2.5M Sat, and est $2.1M Sun. ($47.3M)
  8. 8. Shrek The Third $1.7M Fri, $2.2M Sat, and est $1.9M Sun. ($307.9M)
  9. 9. Nancy Drew $1.5K Fri, $1.6M Sat, and est $1.2K Sun. ($16.1M)
  10. 10. A Mighty Heart $1.1M Fri, $1.6M Sat, and est $1.1M Sun. ($4M)

tom3.jpgFRIDAY AFTERNOON: Starting yesterday, box office analysts started to lower their weekend estimates for Universal’s Evan Almighty, which is Hollywood’s most expensive comedy ever. The PG sequel that isn’t really a sequel to PG-13 Bruce Almighty opened today in 3,602 theaters. What was once a minimum $50 million debut by any rightful measure has dropped down to projections as low as $35.5 million. Already, I’m being told that, based on today’s so-so matinees turnout, expectations are for a Friday through Sunday gross take of around $37.5 million. “It’s one of those weird coincidences where tracking and early matinees seem to be in sync,” an analyst told me. The studio itself has been hoping for $40 million (and gently asking prognosticators to make lower projections so the movie by Monday looks like it exceeded their expectations). Evan Almighty will need a miraculous Friday date night or Saturday kid matinee to help reach a decent domestic haul. “With Ratatouille opening next week, this film will be lucky to get to $100 mil,” one guru told me. Yikes!