Weekend Box Office (February 8 - 10, 2002)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND A trio of new releases nabbed the top spots at the North American box office on a weekend which saw the start of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Arnold Schwarzenegger's terrorist thriller Collateral Damage won the gold medal, the kid comedy Big Fat Liar scored the silver, and the action remake Rollerball took home the bronze while most existing pictures enjoyed solid holds. However, the overall marketplace continued to fall short of last year's pace as the top ten fell 24% from the same frame in 2001.

After an absence of nearly five years, Arnold Schwarzenegger reclaimed the number one spot at the box office with Collateral Damage which opened with $15.1M, according to final figures. Playing very wide in 2,824 theaters, the R-rated Warner Bros. title averaged a solid $5,332 per venue. Originally slated for an October 5th bow, the studio pushed the Andrew Davis-directed film to 2002 after the attacks on September 11 since the storyline about a firefighter who avenges the deaths of his wife and son by terrorists was too similar to the theme of the national tragedy.

The opening of Collateral Damage marked the first time Schwarzenegger appeared in a number one film since the ensemble franchise film Batman & Robin which opened with $42.9M in June 1997. The former box office titan last headlined a number one pic in June 1996 with Eraser's $24.6M bow. In recent years, his commercial muscle has weakened as his last entry, the expensive cloning thriller The 6th Day, debuted with just $13M on its way to $34.5M. Though the domestic box office grosses for his films have slowed, ancillary revenue from international theatrical markets and home video still remain strong for the action hero.

Television star Frankie Muniz proved his box office worth as his new comedy Big Fat Liar opened well in second place with $11.6M. Playing in 2,531 theaters, the Universal release averaged a good $4,565 and earned an encouraging A- from audiences polled by CinemaScore - the best grade among the weekend's three freshmen. The Malcolm in the Middle star anchored the PG-rated picture about a student who seeks revenge on a slimy Hollywood producer, and demonstrated that he could bring out a sizable audience. Budgeted at $15M, Big Fat Liar should become a profitable film for Universal.

Rolling into third place was MGM's new futuristic action film Rollerball which opened with $9M from 2,762 theaters for a weak $3,263 average. Directed by John McTiernan, the remake of the 1975 James Caan film was delayed from last August and debuted with disappointing results. Chris Klein, L.L. Cool J, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, and Jean Reno star in the PG-13 film aimed at young males. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave Rollerball a B- hinting that word-of-mouth will not be strong enough to carry the critically-panned film very far.

After serving three weeks as commander-in-chief of the box office, Ridley Scott's war film Black Hawk Down dropped to fourth place taking in $8M. Down only 28%, the Sony release has collected $86.7M to date and still has its eye on crossing the $100M mark later this month.

With Big Fat Liar stealing away kids, Disney's Snow Dogs saw its largest decline yet falling 30% to $7.2M in its fourth frame. The PG-rated comedy has taken in a solid $59.9M to date.

Continuing to hold on well was the latest update of the Alexandre Dumas tale The Count of Monte Cristo which slipped just 26% to $6.5M pushing its 17-day take to $32.4M. With their fingers crossed, Russell Crowe and Ron Howard saw $6.3M for A Beautiful Mind in the final weekend before Oscar nominations are announced. Widely expected to snag numerous nods, including best picture, the Universal/DreamWorks co-production upped its cume to $113.3M and should remain a worthy contender throughout the spring.

Teen romance A Walk to Remember dropped 37% to $5.5M giving the Warner Bros. title $30.3M to date. Richard Gere's The Mothman Prophecies was off 34% with $4.9M and a total of $28M. New Line took in $4.6M for I Am Sam lifting the Sean Penn drama's total to $23.8M.

Leaving the top ten in its eighth weekend was New Line's highest-grossing film ever, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, with a take of $3.6M. After 54 days of release, the Peter Jackson epic has amassed $271.4M in North America putting it at number 14 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters ahead of last summer's Shrek. Rings now stands as the second biggest hit of 2001 after Harry Potter's mammoth $313.7M. Both franchises will return to theaters at the end of this year with their highly anticipated sequels.

After six weeks of limited play, Monster's Ball starring Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton expanded from 29 to 342 theaters and grossed $2.3M. Averaging a healthy $6,787 per location, the Lions Gate release succeeded in establishing itself more broadly in the marketplace before Tuesday's announcements of the Academy Award nominations. With $3.9M total, Monster's Ball is expected to at least secure an acting nod for Berry.

The top ten films grossed $78.6M which was down 24% from last year when Hannibal opened in the top spot with $58M; but up 9% from 2000 when Scream 3 remained at number one with $16.3M.

Compared to projections, Collateral Damage debuted below my $18M forecast. Big Fat Liar debuted a little stronger than my $10M prediction while Rollerball was on target with my $9M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on whether Star Wars Episode II will outgross Episode I. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether The Lord of the Rings will pass $300M. Of 3,124 responses, 79% said Yes while 21% thought No.

For a review of Collateral Damage visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend's Presidents Day holiday frame when Crossroads, Hart's War, John Q, Return to Neverland, and Super Troopers all open.

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

# Title Feb 8 - 10 Feb 1 - 3 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Collateral Damage $ 15,058,432 2,824 1 $ 5,332 $ 15,058,432 Warner Bros.
2 Big Fat Liar 11,554,015 2,531 1 4,565 11,554,015 Universal
3 Rollerball 9,013,548 2,762 1 3,263 9,013,548 MGM
4 Black Hawk Down 8,003,621 11,112,555 -28.0 2,964 7 2,700 86,716,746 Sony
5 Snow Dogs 7,178,790 10,199,650 -29.6 2,454 4 2,925 59,914,940 Buena Vista
6 The Count of Monte Cristo 6,455,196 8,772,280 -26.4 2,199 3 2,936 32,361,185 Buena Vista
7 A Beautiful Mind 6,304,800 8,403,690 -25.0 2,220 8 2,840 113,271,766 Universal
8 A Walk to Remember 5,542,525 8,836,201 -37.3 2,311 3 2,398 30,297,954 Warner Bros.
9 The Mothman Prophecies 4,870,476 7,364,011 -33.9 2,275 3 2,141 28,002,044 Sony
10 I Am Sam 4,619,148 6,303,148 -26.7 1,450 7 3,186 23,843,342 New Line
11 The Lord of the Rings 3,618,397 5,704,259 -36.6 1,706 8 2,121 271,416,919 New Line
12 Monster's Ball 2,321,246 314,439 638.2 342 7 6,787 3,938,683 Lions Gate
13 Gosford Park 1,891,252 2,362,403 -19.9 836 7 2,262 22,020,111 USA Films
14 In the Bedroom 1,694,211 1,827,414 -7.3 737 12 2,299 19,291,142 Miramax
15 The Royal Tenenbaums 1,533,098 2,300,761 -33.4 729 9 2,103 47,055,390 Buena Vista
16 Kung Pow! Enter the Fist 1,402,834 3,851,312 -63.6 1,266 3 1,108 14,225,681 Fox
17 Brotherhood of the Wolf 1,172,450 1,904,085 -38.4 407 5 2,881 14,553,452 Universal
18 Birthday Girl 1,134,136 2,370,809 -52.2 977 2 1,161 4,276,160 Miramax
19 Slackers 1,125,926 2,785,283 -59.6 1,877 2 600 4,814,244 Sony
20 Orange County 1,118,456 4,418,401 -61.1 1,406 5 795 39,505,756 Paramount
Top 5 $ 50,808,406 $ 47,324,376 7.4
Top 10 78,600,551 73,420,948 7.1
Top 20 95,612,557 92,406,929 3.5
Top 20 vs. 2001 95,612,557 120,580,822 -20.7

Last Updated : February 11, 2002 at 9:30PM EST