`Kong' is box-office king with $50.1 million weekend debut

Tuesday, October 18th 2005, 5:30 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ ``King Kong'' was not the 900-pound box-office gorilla Hollywood expected during its opening weekend, debuting with a merely respectable $50.1 million and leaving the studio pinning its hopes on the film's possible long-term staying power.

In its first five days since premiering Wednesday, Peter Jackson's remake of the great-ape adventure took in $66.2 million. Some box-office analysts had predicted ``King Kong'' would gross at least $60 million during its opening weekend and as much as $100 million in its first five days.

But distributor Universal compares ``King Kong'' to the first of Jackson's ``The Lord of the Rings'' films, ``The Fellowship of the Ring,'' with the three-hour lengths of both films limiting the number of screenings theaters can squeeze in each day.

``The Fellowship of the Ring'' took in $47.2 million its first weekend and $75.1 million in its first five days. But then came a steady climb to blockbuster status, with a $315 million take domestically.

``King Kong'' also lacked the pent-up demand of the fan base that waited decades for J.R.R. Tolkien's ``Lord of the Rings'' to hit the big screen.

With schools letting out, ``King Kong'' could hold strongly through the holidays, buoyed by critical acclaim and audience word of mouth. Crowds for the film surged Saturday compared to Friday, generally a sign that fans are talking a movie up to friends.

But if grosses for ``King Kong'' drop significantly over Christmas weekend, it would dash Hollywood's hopes that the movie would help the industry recover from a prolonged slump in which admissions are off 7 percent compared to 2004.

It also would raise a broader question in an era when movie theaters face stiff competition from DVDs and other entertainment options: If a movie as big as ``King Kong,'' created by a director as big as Jackson, is not a guaranteed blockbuster, then what is?

The top 20 movies at U.S. and Canadian theaters Friday through Sunday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Monday by Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.:

1. ``King Kong,'' Universal, $50,130,145, 3,568 locations, $14,050 average, $66,181,645, one week.

2. ``The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,'' Disney, $31,837,683, 3,680 locations, $8,652 average, $113,169,644, two weeks.

3. ``The Family Stone,'' 20th Century Fox, $12,521,027, 2,466 locations, $5,077 average, $12,521,027, one week.

4. ``Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,'' Warner Bros., $5,952,452, 3,185 locations, $1,869 average, $252,598,259, five weeks.

5. ``Syriana,'' Warner Bros., $5,605,167, 1,775 locations, $3,158 average, $22,462,362, four weeks.

6. ``Walk the Line,'' 20th Century Fox, $3,688,031, 2,667 locations, $1,383 average, $82,607,528, five weeks.

7. ``Yours, Mine & Ours,'' Paramount, $3,511,110, 2,723 locations, $1,289 average, $45,202,963, four weeks.

8. ``Brokeback Mountain,'' Focus, $2,508,494, 69 locations, $36,355 average, $3,474,311, two weeks.

9. ``Just Friends,'' New Line, $2,080,852, 1,882 locations, $1,106 average, $29,572,142, four weeks.

10. ``Aeon Flux,'' Paramount, $1,751,220, 2,058 locations, $851 average, $23,215,672, three weeks.

11. ``Pride & Prejudice,'' Focus, $1,579,825, 1,141 locations, $1,385 average, $29,237,853, six weeks.

12. ``Memoirs of a Geisha,'' Sony, $1,302,331, 52 locations, $25,045 average, $2,274,320, two weeks.

13. ``The Polar Express,'' Warner Bros., $1,091,215, 66 locations, $16,534 average, $168,201,420, four weeks in IMAX re-release.

14. ``Chicken Little,'' Disney, $1,054,952, 1,602 locations, $659 average, $128,829,279, seven weeks.

15. ``Rent,'' Sony, $752,122, 926 locations, $812 average, $28,274,336, four weeks.

16. ``Derailed,'' Weinstein Co., $368,918, 547 locations, $674 average, $35,402,054, six weeks.

17. ``Good Night, and Good Luck,'' Warner Independent, $341,905, 322 locations, $1,062 average, $22,432,374, 11 weeks.

18. ``Capote,'' Sony Pictures Classics, $301,468, 193 locations, $1,562 average, $10,790,585, 12 weeks.

19. ``The Squid and the Whale,'' Samuel Goldwyn, $218,053, 132 locations, $1,652 average, $4,299,500, 11 weeks.

20. ``In the Mix,'' Lions Gate, $211,653, 348 locations, $608 average, $10,105,281, four weeks.