Weekend Box Office (January 12 - 15, 2001)

*** Studio Spotlight 2000 ***

THIS WEEKEND Six films opened or expanded nationwide over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday frame driving business to a new January record. A whopping nine pictures grossed more than $10M each over the Friday-to-Monday period. Only three films reached that height a year ago. Led by the surprisingly muscular debut of the teen drama Save the Last Dance, the top ten films collectively grossed a stunning $135M over the long weekend. With so much quality product in the marketplace, consumers sold out of their top choices bought tickets for alternatives instead of leaving the theaters altogether helping to spread dollars around.

Opening triumphantly atop a crowded box office field was Paramount's Save the Last Dance which grossed a stunning $27.5M over the four-day holiday weekend, according to final studio figures. The MTV Films co-production stepped into 2,230 theaters and averaged a sparkling $12,344 per venue. Over the traditional Friday-to-Sunday period, the film grossed $23.4M for a $10,493 average. Last Dance stars Julia Stiles as a white high school student who moves to a mostly black neighborhood in Chicago and uses her love of dancing to overcome race and class differences. The interracial romantic drama delivered the second biggest January opening in history trailing only the reissue of Star Wars which debuted with $35.9M in 1997.

Paramount reported that Save the Last Dance skewed heavily towards teenage girls, as expected. Females made up an incredible 78% of the crowd and 61% of the audience was under 21. About 35% of the audience for the PG-13 film was African American and 90% of patrons polled called the movie "excellent" or "very good." Key to the marketing of Last Dance was support from MTV which launched its promotional campaign in December and never turned down the hype. Produced for just $13M, Last Dance looks to be the first big profitable film of the new year. Two years ago, Paramount and MTV Films used MLK weekend as a launching pad for another teen saga, the high school football pic Varsity Blues, and scored a $17.5M four-day opening leading to an eventual $52.9M cume. So far, Last Dance is on course to be an even bigger and more moneymaking hit.

After three weeks at number one, Tom Hanks slipped to the runnerup position with the island adventure Cast Away which grossed $19.8M over the long weekend. Declining just 24% (comparing three-day periods), the Fox/DreamWorks blockbuster has taken in a towering $167.8M making it the fifth biggest title released in 2000. Produced for $85M, Cast Away should have no problem breaking through the $200M barrier in domestic sales.

Staying put in third place was the ensemble narcotics drama Traffic which dipped 27% to $13.4M over four days in its second weekend of wide release. Nominated for five Golden Globe awards, the USA Films release averaged a potent $8,800 and brought its cume up to $35.3M. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Traffic is the only R-rated picture in the entire top ten.

Mel Gibson reached a new career box office high with the romantic comedy What Women Want which took in $11.7M over the holiday frame pushing its total thus far to a stellar $153.6M. Down 34% from last weekend, the Paramount smash surpassed the $147.2M mark of 1989's Lethal Weapon 2 which had previously been Gibson's highest-grossing blockbuster. Budgeted at $63M, What Women Want seems likely to reach the vicinity of $175M domestically.

Opening in fifth place with $11.7M gross was the action-comedy Double Take starring Eddie Griffin and Orlando Jones. The identity-swapping buddy film debuted in 1,631 theaters and averaged an impressive $7,196 per site. According to Buena Vista, Double Take performed best with young guys as 60% of the audience was between the ages of 12 and 25 and 59% were male.

New Line's military thriller Thirteen Days, which features Kevin Costner attempting a New England accent, launched with $11.3M in 2,029 sites and generated a $5,561 average. With a reported budget of $80M, the Roger Donaldson film has received glowing reviews from several major critics and is considered a strong contender in the Oscar field when nominations are announced next month. The cume for Thirteen Days has reached $11.9M.

Sony's inspirational drama Finding Forrester, which stars Sean Connery as a reclusive writer who befriends an aspiring student writer, played in 2,002 theaters and grossed $11.1M for an average of $5,551 over four days. The studio is expecting a strong performance in the long run as evidenced by the film's solid 51% Friday-to-Saturday jump and a superb CinemaScore rating of A+. Finding Forrester has collected $20.5M to date.

After five weeks of gravity-defying grosses in limited release, the martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon opened nationwide expanding from 172 to 693 theaters. The Sony Pictures Classics title collected $10.3M and generated $14,908 per location over four days giving it the best average in the top ten once again. Crouching Tiger attacked new markets like Miami, Cleveland, and Sacramento and is scheduled for its next major expansion on February 2 when the fantasy action picture will widen into 1,000 venues. Cume to date is $30.3M making the Ang Lee hit the second biggest foreign language picture in domestic box office history behind Italy's Life is Beautiful which grossed $57.6M.

Also in the top ten were Miss Congeniality with $10.6M for a $79.4M total and The Emperor's New Groove with $7.8M giving it a $71.5M cume.

Opening poorly outside of the top ten was MGM's suspense thriller Antitrust with $5.5M over the Friday-to-Monday period. With 2,433 locations, the PG-13 picture played in the most theaters of all six new national releases, yet suffered the worst debut. Its average of $2,255 over four days was discouraging. "We're a little disappointed by the opening. Much of our audience went to see Save the Last Dance instead," said Larry Gleason, the studio's distribution president. Carrying a $30M negative cost, Antitrust stars Ryan Phillppe as a young software genius and Tim Robbins as a corporate head who hires him for questionable reasons.

Universal's holiday tale The Family Man dropped out of the top ten with $6.6M. With $65.2M to date, the $60M Nicolas Cage-Tea Leoni film could finish with $80-85M. Vertical Limit pulled in $3M pushing its cume to $63.8M. The $78M action picture should end its run with $70-75M domestically.

Tumbling out of the top ten were the fright flick Dracula 2000 and the teen comedy Dude, Where's My Car? which have reached $31.2M and $44.1M respectively.

The Coen brothers comedy O Brother, Where Art Thou? expanded into 431 locations grossing $3.1M. The Buena Vista title averaged an encouraging $7,096 per venue and lifted its total to $7.3M.

The top ten films grossed $135.3M over the four-day span which was up a whopping 47% from last year when Next Friday opened in the top spot with $16.9M; and up 46% from 1999 when Varsity Blues debuted at number one with $17.5M.

Read the NEW Studio Spotlight 2000 story which reviews last year's box office activities with Top 50 lists and individual studio breakdowns.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the Oscar chances of Traffic and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of this weekend's new movies would have the best opening. Of 2,897 responses, 39% picked Antitrust, 36% correctly chose Save the Last Dance, and 25% voted for Double Take.

Read the Weekly Rewind column on the top films over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend from the last several years. For reviews of Thirteen Days and Traffic visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Pledge, Snatch, and The Gift all open.

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

# Title Jan. 12 - 15 Jan. 5 - 7 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Save the Last Dance $ 27,526,443 2,230 1 $ 12,344 $ 27,526,443 Paramount
2 Cast Away 19,777,426 22,220,725 -11.0 3,048 4 6,489 167,758,651 Fox
3 Traffic 13,437,010 15,517,549 -13.4 1,527 3 8,800 35,339,764 USA Films
4 Double Take 11,736,236 1,631 1 7,196 11,736,236 Buena Vista
5 What Women Want 11,632,456 15,555,033 -25.2 3,092 5 3,762 153,551,869 Paramount
6 Thirteen Days 11,283,041 161,902 2,029 3 5,561 11,919,279 New Line
7 Finding Forrester 11,112,139 2,212,810 402.2 2,002 4 5,551 20,537,936 Sony
8 Miss Congeniality 10,587,474 13,021,316 -18.7 2,668 4 3,968 79,408,245 Warner Bros.
9 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 10,331,296 3,408,397 203.1 693 6 14,908 30,325,865 Sony Classics
10 The Emperor's New Groove 7,840,544 7,462,207 5.1 2,237 5 3,505 71,484,885 Buena Vista
11 The Family Man 6,602,905 9,121,855 -27.6 2,441 4 2,705 65,216,960 Universal
12 Antitrust 5,486,209 2,433 1 2,255 5,486,209 MGM/UA
13 O Brother, Where Art Thou? 3,058,452 1,392,926 119.6 431 4 7,096 7,348,420 Buena Vista
14 Vertical Limit 3,010,054 5,010,353 -39.9 2,042 6 1,474 63,761,520 Sony
15 Chocolat 1,936,761 1,538,146 25.9 261 5 7,421 9,096,869 Miramax
16 Dracula 2000 1,876,405 4,310,742 -56.5 1,604 4 1,170 31,239,719 Miramax
17 Dude, Where's My Car? 1,849,954 3,832,533 -51.7 1,493 5 1,239 44,132,638 Fox
18 State and Main 1,744,970 441,898 294.9 459 4 3,802 4,112,803 Fine Line
19 102 Dalmatians 1,164,895 1,630,491 -28.6 820 7 1,421 62,608,326 Buena Vista
20 All the Pretty Horses 1,010,215 2,477,053 -59.2 1,043 3 969 14,713,716 Miramax
Top 5 $ 84,109,571 $ 75,436,478 11.5
Top 10 135,264,065 99,460,710 36.0
Top 20 163,004,885 115,459,392 41.2
Top 20 vs. 2000 163,004,885 119,649,067 36.2

Last Updated : January 16 at 8:30PM EST