Weekend Box Office (January 22 - 24, 1999)

THIS WEEKEND Though the numbers fail to show it, this was actually an eventful weekend at the box office. Varsity Blues saw a strong sophomore session holding onto the top spot, Sharon Stone tanked with her new film, two movies joined the $100M club, and two other pictures widened their runs and saw solid business.

Spending its second weekend at number one, Paramount's Varsity Blues scored $10.6M according to final figures pushing its ten-day cume to an impressive $30.8M. The high school football tale dipped 40% from its four-day holiday opening and just 29% from the Friday-to-Sunday portion of last weekend. With a young cast of rising stars including teen idol James Van Der Beek, and a sports storyline, the Brian Robbins film has been playing well to both males and females. A boost of 218 theaters (or about 10%) certainly helped the film stay stable. On its present course, Varsity Blues, which was produced for about $15M, should finish its domestic run with around $60M turning a handsome profit for its distributor Paramount and its producer MTV Films.

Golden Globe nominee Robin Williams enjoyed his fifth straight weekend in one of the top two box office slots with Patch Adams. The Universal hit took in $8.1M to place second and has now grossed $108.6M. On Thursday, its 28th day of release, Patch Adams crossed the $100M mark giving the troubled studio its first such blockbuster since May 1997's The Lost World. For Robin Williams, Patch Adams gives the zany comic his seventh $100M+ smash of the decade tying him with Tom Hanks who achieved the same feat on the same day with You've Got Mail. Previous blockbusters in the 1990s for Williams were Hook ($120M), Aladdin ($217M), Mrs. Doubtfire ($219M), Jumanji ($100M), The Birdcage ($124M), and Good Will Hunting ($138M). Add in 1987's Good Morning, Vietnam ($124M) and the former Mork can claim eight domestic blockbusters on his resume.

Another box office heavyweight, John Travolta, remained in third with his legal thriller A Civil Action which earned $7.6M. Off 35% from last weekend's four-day holiday sum, the Buena Vista title has amassed $40.8M in 17 days of wide release and seems destined for a final tally of about $60-65M.

Fourth place was once again claimed by The Thin Red Line with $5.8M. Falling 49% from its four-day holiday gross last weekend, the Fox film has collected $22.3M in ten days of wide release and three weeks of limited play. After playing to sold out crowds in New York and Los Angeles, Terrence Malick's epic World War II drama seems to have its hands full trying to become digestable to mainstream America. With a reported pricetag of $53M, The Thin Red Line looks to capture $40-45M at the domestic box office.

Sony's Stepmom climbed a notch to fifth with a take of $5.1M raising its wicked cume to $78.6M. At First Sight fell 43% compared to last weekend's four-day holiday opening taking sixth with $4.8M. With its ten-day total now at $14.6M, the Val Kilmer-Mira Sorvino romance should see about $25-30M by the end of its run.

Nora Ephron's You've Got Mail grossed $4.1M pushing its total into nine-digit territory with $104.1M. The romantic comedy crossed the mark on Thursday, its 35th day of release. For Tom Hanks, it marks his seventh $100M+ domestic blockbuster of the decade following A League of Their Own ($108M), Sleepless in Seattle ($127M), Forrest Gump ($329M), Apollo 13 ($172M), Toy Story ($192M), and Saving Private Ryan ($191M). Throw in 1988's Big ($115M) and the former busom buddy has joined the elite club eight times in his career.

With Patch Adams and You've Got Mail both vaulting over the $100M mark, the number of 1998 releases to reach that milestone climbs to 15 with the holiday toons The Rugrats Movie ($93.6M) and The Prince of Egypt ($87.3M) trying their hardest to join the party as well.

You've Got Mail's strong showing also sheds some light on the success of female directors in Hollywood. Three movies directed by women have become huge blockbusters in the last nine months - Mimi Leder's Deep Impact and Doctor Dolittle from Betty Thomas both grossed over $140M last summer while Mail now makes it a triple crown.

Taking eighth with $3.9M was the DreamWorks animated feature The Prince of Egypt which raised its cume to $87.3M. Miramax's Shakespeare in Love enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten slipping just 23% from the long weekend to $3.6M. Its per-theater average of $5,541 beat every other picture in the top ten.

Expanding from 80 locations to 660 theaters, A Simple Plan jumped into the top ten and landed in tenth place with $3.4M. The Sam Raimi thriller's average of $5,185 was second best in the top ten after Shakespeare's. The Paramount film has now grossed $7.1M since its platform release in mid December and should see sustained activity over the weeks ahead due to word-of-mouth and award consideration.

Sharon Stone brought her basic maternal instincts to theaters with Gloria which flopped miserably for Sony with just $2.1M in 1,527 locations. The Sidney Lumet picture averaged a poor $1,403 per location making it one of the worst openings in the past twelve months. Though Stone has had box office success with films starring other popular actors, her headlining efforts have always come up short. Debut grosses for her previous films where she received top billing include $623k in 518 sites for last fall's The Mighty, $2.7M for 1996's Last Dance, $5.5M for the same year's Diabolique, and $6.5M for 1995's The Quick and the Dead. Gloria is a remake of the 1980 film starring Gena Rowlands.

Rowlands, meanwhile, starred in Playing By Heart which Miramax opened in 305 theaters after an Oscar-qualifying limited engagement. Collecting $1.5M in ticket sales, the romantic ensemble comedy averaged a promsing $5,016.

Check the list of 1999 Golden Globe Winners which includes domestic grosses.

Compared to projections, A Simple Plan opened very close to my $3M forecast while Gloria could not reach my $6M prediction. Holdovers Varsity Blues, Patch Adams, and A Civil Action were quite near my respective projections of $10M, $8M, and $7M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the upcoming releases in February. In last week's survey, readers were asked which film would win the Golden Globe for Best Picture - Comedy or Musical. Of 1,493 gurus voting, 54% selected Shakespeare in Love, 25% chose There's Something About Mary, 12% said Patch Adams, 4% picked Still Crazy, 3% voted for Bulworth, and 3% chose The Mask of Zorro.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which reports on the biggest openings in the month of January. For a review of A Simple Plan visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films grossed $57.1M which was down 23% from last year when Titanic remained at number one with $25.2M, and up 27% from 1997 when Jerry Maguire inched back into first place with just $5.5M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Miramax's She's All That debuts.

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

Below are final studio figures for the weekend. Click on the title to jump to its official home page:

# Title Jan 22 - 24 Jan 15 - 18 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Varsity Blues $ 10,574,508 $ 17,515,723 -39.6 2,339 2 $ 4,521 $ 30,757,799 Paramount
2 Patch Adams 8,101,565 12,049,345 -32.8 2,909 5 2,785 108,588,660 Universal
3 A Civil Action 7,648,388 11,761,043 -35.0 2,026 5 3,775 40,786,181 BV
4 The Thin Red Line 5,794,840 11,362,226 -49.0 1,538 5 3,768 22,313,555 Fox
5 Stepmom 5,145,549 7,780,255 -33.9 2,358 5 2,182 78,556,192 Sony
6 At First Sight 4,787,150 8,444,321 -43.3 1,838 2 2,605 14,553,552 MGM/UA
7 You've Got Mail 4,112,471 6,622,424 -37.9 2,331 6 1,764 104,139,449 Warner Bros.
8 The Prince of Egypt 3,926,434 6,289,465 -37.6 2,001 6 1,962 87,327,191 DreamWorks
9 Shakespeare in Love 3,629,432 4,729,645 -23.3 655 7 5,541 25,882,499 Miramax
10 A Simple Plan 3,422,072 401,509 752.3 660 7 5,185 7,078,184 Paramount
11 Virus 3,012,430 6,013,640 -49.9 2,015 2 1,495 10,014,890 Universal
12 A Bug's Life 2,720,616 4,552,139 -40.2 1,521 10 1,789 151,734,828 BV
13 In Dreams 2,700,741 4,593,872 -41.2 1,682 2 1,606 8,161,434 DreamWorks
14 Mighty Joe Young 2,575,283 4,565,278 -43.6 1,773 5 1,453 43,401,380 BV
15 Gloria 2,143,089 1,527 1 1,403 2,143,089 Sony
16 Waking Ned Devine 1,862,298 2,214,290 -15.9 506 10 3,680 14,675,667 Fox Searchlight
17 Playing By Heart 1,529,922 305 2 5,016 1,577,494 Miramax
18 Enemy of the State 1,205,443 2,025,063 -40.5 993 10 1,214 106,000,618 BV
19 The Faculty 1,059,016 2,321,458 -54.4 1,512 5 700 36,710,893 Miramax
20 Life is Beautiful 1,055,993 1,263,249 -16.4 213 14 4,958 15,838,666 Miramax
Top 5 $ 37,264,850 $ 61,132,658 -39.0
Top 10 57,142,409 92,568,087 -38.3
Top 20 77,007,240 118,177,779 -34.8

    This column is updated three times each week : Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Source : EDI, Exhibitor Relations. Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.

Last Updated : January 25, 1999 at 9:00PM ESTHome

Written by Gitesh Pandya