Weekend Box Office (February 4 - 6, 2000)

THIS WEEKEND A record-breaking debut for the highly anticipated horror pic Scream 3 single-handedly gave the box office the cure it needed to overcome its recent woes. Compared to Miramax's killer picture, the rest of the marketplace was a virtual cemetery as every other movie grossed less than $5M a piece. However, most holdover films enjoyed remarkably small declines despite the Scream vacuum.

Scaring moviegoers in packed auditoriums from coast to coast, Scream 3 exploded in its opening weekend collecting an eye-popping $34.7M, according to final figures, grossing more than the rest of the top ten films combined. Director Wes Craven's final installment in the popular horror series bowed in a record 3,467 theaters and carved up a bloody $10,013 average per venue. By comparison, Scream 2 launched in December 1997 with $32.9M in 2,663 theaters for a $12,364 average. Scream regulars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox Arquette, and David Arquette reunited for the concluding chapter and were joined by newcomers Parker Posey, Patrick Dempsey, and Jenny McCarthy. Scream 3 takes the whodunit story to Hollywood where actors on the set of the film Stab 3 are being killed off in the order of their characters' murders in the script.

A number of new records were set over the weekend by Scream 3 including the biggest February debut (beating the $22M bow of The Empire Strikes Back - Special Edition in 1997) and the largest company opening for Miramax (surpassing Scream 2's $32.9M). Scream 3 easily posted the biggest opening of the new year and may hold onto that distinction for some time given the spring release schedule. It also generated the third best debut ever for an R-rated picture (after Air Force One's $37.1M and Interview with the Vampire's $36.4M) and the third highest launch for the third installment of a franchise (after Batman Forever's $52.8M and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade's $37M holiday opening). Most sequels, this far into their series, do not attract a massive audience like Scream 3 did.

Many factors contributed to the scorching $34.7M opening. The Scream films have a large, loyal following who were eager to see how the series would come to an end. Miramax turned up the marketing hype in recent weeks and secured more theaters than any other film has ever had on opening weekend. With an otherwise dead marketplace filled with stale titles, exhibitors everywhere were eager to book multiple screens for Scream 3 and consumers were excited to finally have something new and worthwhile to spend their money on. With over 5,500 prints in circulation, there was enough supply to soak up the massive demand which was heightened by the fact that the film's core audience of teens and young adults have been mostly ignored by the recent crop of mature dramas and kids movies that have been filling screens. In fact, New York City's Loews E-Walk complex in Times Square quadruple-screened the hit film and offered a whopping 57 showtimes over the Friday-to-Sunday period allowing anybody who wanted a Scream 3 ticket to actually get one.

Accounting for 51% of all ticket sales for the top ten movies, Scream 3 was the savior that the box office desperately needed to lift itself out of its doldrums. Delayed from a planned December 1999 launch, the slasher sequel won big by debuting in a less crowded field. The production cost for the comedic frightfest has been estimated to be between $30-40M. Long term prospects are questionable as audiences for horror films, sequels, and teen pics tend to show up early in a movie's run leaving less potential for future weeks but it is certainly possible for Scream 3 to reach the century mark like its two predecessors. The original Scream opened in December 1996 and grossed $87M domestically but was reissued in April 1997 allowing it to eventually climb to $103M. Scream 2 bowed in December 1997 and collected $96M before an April rerelease pushed it to $101M.

A few other movies managed to sell some tickets too this weekend. Golden Globe winner Denzel Washington keeps hanging tough round after round as his boxing tale The Hurricane climbed one notch to second place with $4.9M. Now in its fourth weekend of national release, the Universal release slipped just 13% and brought its cume to $37.6M. The Hurricane should continue its stellar run as it is expected to snag some Academy Award nominations next week which will bring further attention to the story of the wrongly prisoned pugilist.

Sony's durable kidpic Stuart Little experienced a microscopic 1% decline from last weekend taking in another $4.7M upping its cume to a grand $128.6M. With virtually no competition for the family audience, the talking mouse has been hording all the dollars to itself. However, next weekend will see a shakeup as two new kidpics finally enter the marketplace. Disney's The Tigger Movie and Paramount's Snow Day launch in over 2,700 and 2,500 theaters respectively.

Next Friday laughed up $4.3M and watched as its total reached $45.5M. Last week's number one film Eye of the Beholder lost 29% of its vision and finished in fifth place with $4.2M. The Ewan McGregor-Ashley Judd pic has collected a reasonable $12M in ten days and looks headed for a final gross of $20-25M.

Tom Hanks and his rodent co-star Mr. Jangles placed sixth this weekend with The Green Mile which pulled in $4M pushing its cume to $120.4M. Galaxy Quest enjoyed a slim 3% decline slipping to $3.3M for a $62.9M total. Miramax's teen romance Down to You fell 33% to eighth place with an estimated $2.7M pushing its 17-day total to $16.6M.

Winona Ryder and Golden Globe winner Angelina Jolie took ninth place with Sony's Girl, Interrupted which pulled in $2.6M for a $24.9M cume. A take of $2.5M was scooped up by Paramount's The Talented Mr. Ripley giving the Anthony Minghella picture $75.6M to date.

The Disney/Pixar blockbuster Toy Story 2, left the ranks of the top ten again and grossed $2.25M allowing its cume to climb to $237.1M. The animated hit now occupies the number nineteen spot on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters, and should cruise past the $238.6M tally of Ghostbusters next weekend. Of course, ticket prices were much lower in 1984 when the Bill Murray-Dan Akroyd hit ruled theaters.

Disney's IMAX film Fantasia 2000 continues its marathon run easing only 1% to $1.8M giving the animated film $18.9M from just 54 screens and a sizzling weekend average of $34,093. Worldwide, Fantasia 2000 is playing in 75 sites and has amassed $24M in just over a month of release.

While the toons remained hot, live action woes surfaced for Buena Vista as its new release Gun Shy opened poorly with $703,109 from 296 playdates. Featuring Liam Neeson, Oliver Platt, and co-star/producer Sandra Bullock, the crime comedy averaged a weak $2,375 per theater.

Fine Line offered Simpatico, starring Nick Nolte, Jeff Bridges, and Sharon Stone, in 256 houses and walked away with only $459,020 to estimates, giving it a disappointing $1,793 average.

Compared to projections, Scream 3 opened extremely close to my $36M forecast.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the movie sequel you would most want to see. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Scream 3 would open with at least $25M. Of 3,322 responses, 70% correctly chose yes while 30% said no. Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which looks at the top February openings. For a review of Scream 3 visit The Chief Report.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $67.9M which was up 17% from last year when Payback debuted on top with $21.2M, and up 1% from 1998 when Titanic spent its eighth weekend at number one with $23M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Leonardo DiCaprio tries to become king of the world with his new film The Beach which sets sail nationwide.

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

# Title Feb. 4 - 6 Jan. 28 - 30 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Scream 3 $ 34,713,342 3,467 1 $ 10,013 $ 34,713,342 Miramax
2 The Hurricane 4,940,420 5,701,085 -13.3 2,148 6 2,300 37,559,916 Universal
3 Stuart Little 4,713,252 4,778,048 -1.4 2,702 8 1,744 128,636,752 Sony
4 Next Friday 4,286,355 5,752,715 -25.5 1,420 4 3,019 45,536,739 New Line
5 Eye of the Beholder 4,213,996 5,959,447 -29.3 1,751 2 2,407 12,014,004 Destination
6 The Green Mile 4,017,133 4,022,589 -0.1 2,335 9 1,720 120,403,882 Warner Bros.
7 Galaxy Quest 3,312,708 3,402,102 -2.6 1,939 7 1,708 62,940,730 DreamWorks
8 Down To You 2,707,955 4,019,014 -32.6 2,003 3 1,352 16,551,741 Miramax
9 Girl, Interrupted 2,556,403 3,254,074 -21.4 1,863 7 1,372 24,906,736 Sony
10 The Talented Mr. Ripley 2,488,414 2,780,431 -10.5 1,819 7 1,368 75,610,389 Paramount
11 Toy Story 2 2,254,993 2,341,447 -3.7 1,618 12 1,394 237,113,435 Buena Vista
12 The Cider House Rules 1,934,415 1,751,673 10.4 834 9 2,319 20,587,459 Miramax
13 Fantasia 2000 1,841,001 1,855,056 -0.8 54 6 34,093 18,907,800 Buena Vista
14 Angela's Ashes 1,539,191 1,822,355 -15.5 614 7 2,507 8,636,345 Paramount
15 Magnolia 1,290,415 1,586,327 -18.7 829 8 1,557 19,300,617 New Line
16 The End of the Affair 1,054,011 1,176,105 -10.4 681 10 1,548 8,437,884 Sony
17 Any Given Sunday 1,020,667 1,437,548 -29.0 1,557 7 656 73,866,223 Warner Bros.
18 Play it to the Bone 809,594 1,687,668 -52.0 1,249 3 648 7,720,389 Buena Vista
19 Bicentennial Man 794,701 981,842 -19.1 861 8 923 56,718,027 Buena Vista
20 Snow Falling on Cedars 732,035 905,005 -19.1 800 7 915 12,868,743 Universal
Top 5 $ 52,867,365 $ 26,213,914 101.7
Top 10 67,949,978 42,010,982 61.7
Top 20 81,221,001 56,917,241 42.7

Last Updated : February 7 at 8:30PM EST

Written by Gitesh Pandya