| Will Smith, whose Hitch is the biggest hit so far this year
Los Angeles, April 19: Moviegoers are lacking passion these days ' or at least a hit the size of The Passion of the Christ they can flock to ' resulting in a box office slump now in its eighth consecutive week.
As of Sunday, domestic box office revenue had fallen behind 2004 numbers by more than 4 per cent. Even more troubling, actual attendance figures are down by 7 per cent, according to the box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co.
The downturn began in large part because this year's numbers must be compared with those of Passion, an unexpected February blockbuster last year that grossed more than $370 million domestically.
'As of mid-February, we were 10 per cent ahead of 2004,' said Exhibitor Relations Co. President Paul Dergarabedian. 'But we can't blame everything on Passion eight weeks out. Moviegoers have definitely lost interest a little bit and the marketplace as a whole has been in a depression.'
The year's biggest hit so far is the Will Smith romantic comedy Hitch. It earned an astounding $175.4 million since its February release and was still in the top 12 last weekend.
The only other 2005 releases to have crossed the $100 million mark in the US are the animated movie Robots ($115.8 million) and the Vin Diesel comedy The Pacifier ($103.7 million). The comedy Are We There Yet' was also a solid hit, taking in $81.4 million.
Moviegoers have given a lukewarm reception to the sequels Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous ($41.7 million), The Ring Two ($74.4 million), Son of the Mask ($16.9 million), and the Get Shorty follow-up Be Cool ($55.6 million), none of which comes close to matching the gross of is predecessors.
In recent weeks, romantic comedy Fever Pitch starring Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon has underperformed ($23.7 million) and Beauty Shop ($31.2 million) failed to reach the level of box office success of the Barbershop movies from which it was spun off.
'In general, this has been the weakest April in a few years,' said Brandon Gray, president of Box Office Mojo. 'Last April, you had Kill Bill Vol. 2, Hellboy and Mean Girls. It was a much stronger slate.'
The major studios have a trio of films bowing Friday but none is expected to be a major blockbuster: the Ashton Kutcher romantic comedy A Lot Like Love; the suspense-drama The Interpreter starring Oscar winners Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn; and the comedy King's Ransom.
Despite scathing reviews, the fright flick The Amityville Horror was last weekend's No. 1 movie with an opening gross of $23.3 million. Action-adventure Sahara has posted respectable numbers, with a cumulative gross of $36.4 million.