Weekend Box Office (January 3 - 5, 2003)

THIS WEEKEND The first weekend of 2003 looked hauntingly similar to the last weekend of last year as the top four films, led by The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, remained unchanged on the charts as no new wide releases opened. New Line's About Schmidt and Miramax's Chicago both expanded into wider release and made impressive debuts in the top ten. Overall, ticket sales were generally normal for this time of year.

Just like last year, New Line rang in the new year with an iron grip on first place with its J.R.R. Tolkien megahit as The Two Towers grossed $25M, according to final figures, in its third frame to top the charts. The fantasy smash has upped its 19-day cume to a towering $261M putting it 27% ahead of the pace of the last installment, The Fellowship of the Ring, which had taken in $205.5M at the same point. Playing in 3,622 theaters, Towers averaged a beefy $6,907 and dropped a steep 49% from last weekend's haul.

Already, The Two Towers ranks as the third highest-grossing film released in 2002 behind Spider-Man ($403.7M) and Star Wars Episode II ($310M) and will surpass Attack of the Clones later this month. On the all-time domestic blockbusters chart, the Hobbit sequel jumped up to number 18 right behind 2001's Shrek ($267.7M). At this point last year, Fellowship had collected about two-thirds of its eventual $313.4M haul. Should The Two Towers follow a similar path, the picture could find itself with an eye-popping $370-390M in North America. Overseas, Towers is also outperforming its predecessor's pace and has vaulted its worldwide cume to a jaw-dropping $560M.

Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can remained a strong runnerup collecting $21.1M in its sophomore session for an encouraging 30% decline. After 12 days, the Leonardo DiCaprio-Tom Hanks vehicle has grossed a stellar $97.4M and could break the $100M mark on Monday. When it does, it will be the record 13th such blockbuster in the career of Hanks cementing his position as the most bankable star in Hollywood today. For DiCaprio, Catch is already the actor's second biggest film ever trailing only Titanic. The PG-13 hit will become the 12th $100M blockbuster that Speilberg has directed in his illustrious career. Playing in 3,170 theaters, Catch Me If You Can averaged $6,670 per venue. A final gross of $165-175M may result.

Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant remained in third place with the comedy Two Weeks Notice which grossed $11.1M, down 28%. The Warner Bros. title has banked $68.8M to date and seems headed for the $100M mark. Should Notice join the century club, it would be the fifth such blockbuster for Bullock after Speed, A Time To Kill, The Prince of Egypt, and Miss Congeniality, and only the second for Grant after Notting Hill.

Another New York-set date film, the Jennifer Lopez-Ralph Fiennes pic Maid in Manhattan, followed in fourth with $8.6M. Dropping 31%, the Sony release has collected $76.3M thus far and is also eyeing the $100M milestone. This weekend Maid became the top-grossing live-action film ever for Lopez surpassing the $65.5M of 1997's Anaconda, another Sony release.

Jack Nicholson made an impressive national debut this weekend with his latest effort About Schmidt which widened from 34 to 816 theaters and grossed $8.5M. Taking fifth place, the R-rated film averaged a sturdy $10,457 per location for New Line and lifted its cume to $12M. The three-time Oscar winner's last entry at the box office The Pledge was not as lucky bowing to just $5.8M from 1,275 theaters two years ago this month. Nicholson is hoping that Schmidt will give him his twelfth Academy Award nomination.

Leo's Gangs of New York dropped to sixth place falling 33% to $7.3M in its third weekend. Miramax's big-budget entry has grossed $47.1M to date and could reach $65-70M making it the third highest-grossing film in DiCaprio's career after Titanic and Catch Me If You Can.

The Wild Thornberrys dipped 25% to $5.5M for a $31.5M sum. The Paramount toon may find its way to roughly $45M. Fox's surprise hit Drumline slid 35% to $5.3M pushing its cume to $47.5M. A $60M final could result.

Showing great strength in its expansion, Miramax's Chicago glittered in ninth place with $5M from only 304 theaters. The Catherine Zeta-Jones-Richard Gere pic enjoyed the best average in the top ten by far with $16,332 per venue. Chicago raised its cume to $9.2M and will wait until January 24 to expand nationally.

Rounding out the top ten was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with $4.7M in its eighth weekend, off 28%, lifting its total to $252.1M. That puts the Warner Bros. film at number 21 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters after 2001's Monsters, Inc. ($255.9M). Chamber looks headed for a final stateside haul of around $265M.

Two films dropped from the top ten over the weekend. The Rob Schneider comedy The Hot Chick fell 25% to $3.6M in its fourth frame. The Buena Vista title has collected $29.9M thus far and should conclude with around $40M. MGM's biggest Bond ever, Die Another Day, slid 33% to $2.9M in its seventh mission lifting the domestic cume to $153.8M. The franchise hit looks to reach $160-165M. Worldwide, Day has already grossed well over $300M and should become the highest-grossing pic in the series on a global scale too.

There continued to be plenty of action in the limited-release scene as a number of films prepare to test the nationwide waters.

Fox Searchlight grossed $1.5M for the Denzel Washington-directed Antwone Fisher in its third weekend. The PG-13 drama played in 192 locations and averaged a solid $7,582 with an expansion into about 1,000 playdates set for this Friday, January 10. Total to date is $6.1M.

The Nicolas Cage pic Adaptation screened in 109 sites and grossed $903,927 for a $8,293 average. Cume is $6.1M and the Sony release widens into about 550 theaters on Friday.

Focus Features saw a similar average from its Holocaust pic The Pianist which took in $744,588 from 90 venues for a $8,273 average. The drama expanded from six sites last weekend and has grossed $1M to date. Pianist was named best picture of the year over the weekend by the National Society of Film Critics and hopes to continue its campaign for Oscar glory.

The Hours, starring Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman, remained in eleven sites and grossed $355,116 in its second weekend. The Paramount release's muscular $32,283 average was tops among all films this weekend and the cume reached $1.1M. The Hours enters additional markets on Friday and expands nationally on January 17.

Buena Vista's Spike Lee joint 25th Hour grossed $134,720 from 5 theaters for a potent $26,944 average and $624,933 cume. Paramount's drug saga Narc captured $66,593 from six locations for a $11,098 average and $315,168 total. Both films expand nationwide this Friday.

The top ten films grossed $102.2M which was up 4% from last year when The Fellowship of the Ring remained at number one with $23M; and up 3% from 2001 when Cast Away stayed on top with $22.2M.

Compared to projections, both About Schmidt and Chicago were very close to my respective forecasts of $7M and $4M. The Two Towers came in below my $30M prediction while Catch Me If You Can was on target with my $21M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on which film will win the Golden Globe for Best Picture - Drama. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of this year's comic book films they wanted to see the most. Of 3,020 responses, 41% picked X-Men 2, 40% selected The Hulk, and 19% said Daredevil.

For a review of The Two Towers visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Just Married opens alongside a number of national expansions.

Marketplace: Shop for videos, DVDs, music, books, and posters at discounted prices using search engines

# Title Jan 3 - 5 Dec 27 - 29 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers $ 25,017,279 $ 48,875,549 -48.8 3,622 3 $ 6,907 $ 261,031,601 New Line
2 Catch Me If You Can 21,142,434 30,082,000 -29.7 3,170 2 6,670 97,437,621 DreamWorks
3 Two Weeks Notice 11,126,397 15,518,420 -28.3 2,755 3 4,039 68,810,079 Warner Bros.
4 Maid in Manhattan 8,621,757 12,524,396 -31.2 3,050 4 2,827 76,328,613 Sony
5 About Schmidt 8,533,162 816 4 10,457 12,028,464 New Line
6 Gangs of New York 7,327,177 10,948,803 -33.1 2,305 3 3,179 47,082,059 Miramax
7 The Wild Thornberrys 5,510,465 7,364,432 -25.2 2,881 3 1,913 31,526,879 Paramount
8 Drumline 5,303,002 8,110,000 -34.6 1,653 4 3,208 47,539,218 Fox
9 Chicago 4,964,938 304 2 16,332 9,241,533 Miramax
10 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 4,653,389 6,474,267 -28.1 2,015 8 2,309 252,097,945 Warner Bros.
11 The Hot Chick 3,632,237 4,813,878 -24.5 2,160 4 1,682 29,852,872 Buena Vista
12 Die Another Day 2,938,007 4,365,536 -32.7 1,808 7 1,625 153,760,933 MGM
13 My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,661,106 2,760,697 -3.6 1,194 38 2,229 227,898,505 IFC Films
14 Star Trek: Nemesis 2,506,191 4,054,107 -38.2 2,423 4 1,034 39,691,177 Paramount
15 Antwone Fisher 1,455,805 1,801,384 -19.2 192 3 7,582 6,118,566 Fox Searchlight
16 The Lion King IMAX 1,363,882 1,825,849 -25.3 66 2 20,665 5,986,626 Buena Vista
17 Treasure Planet 1,155,978 1,549,980 -25.4 1,253 6 923 35,820,872 Buena Vista
18 Analyze That 1,112,353 2,068,396 -46.2 1,235 5 901 30,777,692 Warner Bros.
19 Adaptation 903,927 1,033,875 -12.6 109 4 8,293 6,100,371 Sony
20 The Santa Clause 2 816,138 2,070,255 -60.6 1,202 10 679 138,277,797 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 74,441,029 $ 117,949,168 -36.9
Top 10 102,200,000 149,075,364 -31.4
Top 20 120,745,624 169,498,794 -28.8

Last Updated : January 6, 2003 at 6:30PM EST