Weekend Box Office (January 10 - 12, 2003)

THIS WEEKEND Wedding bells rang loudly at the North American box office as the romantic comedy Just Married opened at number one putting an end to the three-week reign of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. A glut of dramas targeting similar audiences expanded into nationwide release with each pushing and shoving their way into the marketplace attracting mixed results. Though simmering down from last weekend, the overall marketplace was basically flat when compared to last year's levels.

Fox's young adult comedy Just Married starring real-life couple Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy opened at the top of the charts over the weekend grossing $17.5M. Playing in 2,764 theaters, the PG-13 film averaged a solid $6,345 per engagement. Budgeted at $18M, Just Married looks to be a moneymaker for Fox which fueled the fire with encouraging sneak previews earlier in the month.

With nothing else in the marketplace exciting young females, the demo came out in strong numbers and brought their guy pals along too. According to studio exit polls, 52% of the audience was female while two-thirds were under the age of 21. Rising stars Kutcher (Dude Where's My Car?) and Murphy (8 Mile) proved their drawing power among teens and young adults and the plot, about a newlywed couple on a botched honeymoon in Italy, was appealing. Critics were not impressed, but moviegoers polled by CinemaScore.com gave Just Married a promising A- grade.

After three weeks at number one, The Two Towers fell 41% to $14.8M. The New Line blockbuster's drop indicates that the hit sequel is depreciating faster than The Fellowship of the Ring which slid 30% to $16.2M a year ago this weekend when it remained atop the charts. After 26 days of release, Two Towers has grossed a mighty $283.4M (24% ahead of Fellowship's pace) putting it at number 17 on the list of all-time domestic blockbuster ahead of 2001's Shrek ($267.7M). Overseas, Towers smashed the $300M mark last week and should leap over the $350M hurdle this coming week.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks captured $14.6M with their flick Catch Me If You Can which eased just 31% in its third chase. The Steven Spielberg film has displayed strong legs and has grossed a hefty $119.4M in just 19 days.

The Sandra Bullock-Hugh Grant comedy Two Weeks Notice dropped 39% to $6.8M lifting its cume to $79M. Following in fifth place was New Line's Jack Nicholson pic About Schmidt with $6.4M, off only 25%, for a $21.6M total and strong $7,403 average.

The Miramax musical Chicago climbed three spots to sixth place with $5.7M from only 362 theaters. The Richard Gere pic added 58 engagements and averaged a glamorous $15,721. As it builds its Oscar momentum, Chicago is giving Miramax something it truly needs - a top-notch contender.

Falling 40% to $5.1M was Sony's Maid in Manhattan which has grossed $83.9M thus far. Miramax's Gangs of New York collected $4.8M, down 34%, giving the big-budget drama a $54.9M total.

Denzel Washington's directorial debut, Antwone Fisher, expanded into nationwide release and grossed $3.8M from 1,007 theaters for a ninth-place finish. The Fox Searchlight release averaged $3,757 per venue and upped its cume to $10.4M.

Paramount's The Wild Thornberrys tumbled 48% to $2.8M boosting its cume to $35.2M.

Sony's Adaptation went from 109 to 560 theaters and grossed $2.6M. The Nicolas Cage film averaged a decent $4,709 per location and has taken in $9.2M to date.

A pair of critically-acclaimed dramas expanded from limited release into national play with mixed results. Paramount widened the drug drama Narc from six to 822 theaters and grossed $2.8M for a not-so-compelling $3,438 average. The Jason Patric-Ray Liotta film has taken in $3.2M to date. Spike Lee's 25th Hour expanded from five to 490 locations and grossed $2.8M for a good $5,781 average. The Buena Vista title has a cume of $3.5M.

Paramount's The Hours still enjoyed the best per-theater average of any film grossing $907,621 from 45 sites for a muscular $20,169 per. The drama bows nationwide on Friday.

Two films fell from the top ten over the weekend. Fox's surprise hit Drumline dipped 47% to $2.8M for a $51.4M sum. The $20M production should end its march with a terrific $56-58M.

After two months in the top ten, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets finally fell out and has grossed $255.4M to date putting it at number 22 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters after 2001's Monsters, Inc. ($255.9M). The wizard sequel should be able to find its way to $260-263M which would be 18% less than its predecessor, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which grossed $317.6M.

The top ten films grossed $82.5M which was off 1% from last year when The Fellowship of the Ring remained at number one with $16.2M; but down 28% from 2001's MLK holiday frame when Save the Last Dance opened on top with $23.4M over the three-day portion.

Compared to projections, Just Married opened much better than my $10M forecast. The Two Towers and Catch Me If You Can were both close to my respective predictions of $15M and $14M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Catch Me If You Can.

For a review of Gangs of New York visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Kangaroo Jack, National Security and A Guy Thing all open.

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

# Title Jan 10 - 12 Jan 3 - 5 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Just Married $ 17,548,993 2,766 1 $ 6,345 $ 17,548,993 Fox
2 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 14,755,306 25,017,279 -41.0 3,477 4 4,244 283,421,517 New Line
3 Catch Me If You Can 14,630,444 21,142,434 -30.8 3,225 3 4,537 119,370,261 DreamWorks
4 Two Weeks Notice 6,833,423 11,126,397 -38.6 2,755 4 2,480 78,993,281 Warner Bros.
5 About Schmidt 6,403,691 8,533,162 -25.0 865 5 7,403 21,597,264 New Line
6 Chicago 5,690,875 4,964,938 14.6 362 3 15,721 17,171,239 Miramax
7 Maid in Manhattan 5,144,633 8,621,757 -40.3 2,926 5 1,758 83,850,874 Sony
8 Gangs of New York 4,829,938 7,327,177 -34.1 2,340 4 2,064 54,925,876 Miramax
9 Antwone Fisher 3,783,122 1,455,805 159.9 1,007 4 3,757 10,434,944 Fox Searchlight
10 The Wild Thornberrys 2,844,770 5,510,465 -48.4 2,608 4 1,091 35,165,937 Paramount
11 25th Hour 2,832,622 134,720 490 4 5,781 3,546,790 Buena Vista
12 Narc 2,825,807 66,593 822 4 3,438 3,175,704 Paramount
13 Drumline 2,803,256 5,303,002 -47.1 1,534 5 1,827 51,359,523 Fox
14 Adaptation 2,636,924 903,927 191.7 560 5 4,709 9,187,001 Sony
15 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 2,408,476 4,653,389 -48.2 1,550 9 1,554 255,449,301 Warner Bros.
16 My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,102,547 2,661,106 -21.0 1,212 39 1,735 230,876,712 IFC Films
17 The Hot Chick 1,718,807 3,632,237 -52.7 1,601 5 1,074 32,543,830 Buena Vista
18 Die Another Day 1,489,564 2,938,007 -49.3 1,180 8 1,262 156,156,363 MGM
19 Star Trek: Nemesis 1,038,702 2,506,191 -58.6 1,777 5 585 41,614,360 Paramount
20 The Pianist 1,019,754 744,588 37.0 161 3 6,334 2,414,040 Focus
Top 5 $ 60,171,857 $ 74,441,029 -19.2
Top 10 82,465,195 102,200,000 -19.3
Top 20 103,341,654 120,745,624 -14.4
Top 10 vs. 2001 103,341,654 102,531,225 0.8

Last Updated : January 14, 2003 at 1:30AM EST