Weekend Box Office (February 9 - 11, 2001)

THIS WEEKEND The highly anticipated thriller Hannibal rocked the box office with a record-shattering $58M opening weekend grossing more than the rest of the top ten combined. Although it was a one-picture marketplace, holdovers were not hurt too much as most films suffered only low-to-moderate declines.

Starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as the refined cannibal Dr. Lecter and Julianne Moore as FBI agent Clarice Starling, Hannibal debuted in 3,230 theaters and averaged a monstrous $17,958 per location. The Ridley Scott-directed film stands as the third largest Friday-to-Sunday opening in history behind 1997's The Lost World ($72.1M) and 1999's Star Wars: Episode I ($64.8M). Hannibal was budgeted at $78M with domestic distributor MGM and overseas partner Universal sharing equally both the cost and worldwide revenue.

The sequel to 1991's Oscar-winning hit The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal has spent the last several weeks building up audience excitement and exploded over the weekend becoming the first event film of the year. Hopkins reprised his role as one of the most popular cinematic villains of the past decade while Moore was offered the role of the heroine after Jodie Foster passed on returning as Starling. In Hannibal, Dr. Lecter resurfaces in Florence, Italy after a decade-long disappearance and is hunted down by various enemies. Also absent from the sequel is Silence director Jonathan Demme and the now-defunct studio Orion Pictures.

Aside from setting new career bests for the star and director, Hannibal also set some other box office benchmarks. It was the largest and widest opening ever for MGM beating 1999's The World Is Not Enough which held both records with $35.5M from 3,163 theaters. Hannibal scored the best debut for an R-rated picture leaping past the $42.3M bow of last summer's Scary Movie. The previous record for February openers had been $34.7M for last year's horror sequel Scream 3.

Larry Gleason, distribution president for MGM, was overwhelmed by the powerful opening and stated that the audience was 51% female and 60% over 25. Describing the release date, Gleason said "There are two reasons we picked this date - it's ten years after the opening of The Silence of the Lambs, and our second weekend will be a holiday (Presidents' Day weekend) which will help bolster that frame." The studio was extremely aggressive in their release by spending heavily on advertising, having the stars take over magazine covers and talk shows, and booking over 4,900 total prints. The success of Hannibal could not come at a better time as MGM has been without a big hit for over a year. The studio aims to get back into the game this year with an ambitious slate of about 20 releases.

Gleason also noted that Hannibal opened day and date in Italy (where much of the movie was filmed) and is generating one of the biggest debuts ever in that market this weekend. Universal will continue the rapid rollout with bows in Australia, Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom next weekend.

The Silence of the Lambs opened ten years ago with $13.8M over the four-day Presidents' Day weekend from 1,497 theaters and spent five straight weeks at number one. It went on to gross $130.7M domestically and swept the Academy Awards winning trophies for picture, director, actor, actress, and adapted screenplay. Like most horror sequels, Hannibal is expected to see a sizable drop next weekend but should still rule the box office with ease.

After two weeks atop the box office charts, Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey got bumped into second place with their romantic comedy The Wedding Planner, but fell only 27% to $7.7M. After 17 days, the Sony release has grossed $37.9M and looks headed for a final tally of $60-65M. Mirroring her box office ranking, Jennifer Lopez's latest album "J. Lo" also dropped a spot to second place on the music charts.

Opening in third place was the comedy Saving Silverman with $7.4M from 2,467 theaters for a mild $3,004 average. Directed by Dennis Dugan (Big Daddy, Happy Gilmore), the PG-13 film stars Jason Biggs and Amanda Peet as a young couple about to get married which displeases the young man's friends. Saving Silverman was released opposite Hannibal in hopes of being a lighthearted comedy alternative for all ages but instead sparked only moderate moviegoer interest. The audience for the $22M film was mostly under 25, according to a Sony spokesman, and its Friday-to-Saturday jump of 32% was solid.

Climbing one position to fourth place was the Mandarin-language sensation Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which became the highest-grossing foreign lingo picture in U.S. box office history with a total of $60.3M to date. The Sony Pictures Classics release eased 21% to $5.4M from 1,204 theaters. Until this weekend, Italy's Life is Beautiful held the foreign-language record with $57.6M. In anticipation of multiple Oscar nominations this Tuesday, Sony Classics plans to widen Crouching Tiger on Friday into roughly 1,500 theaters. Worldwide, the Ang Lee hit has grossed over $100M thus far.

Cast Away drifted down a notch to the number five spot with $5.2M. Off 31% in its eighth weekend, the Fox/DreamWorks co-venture has raised its cume to $209.8M putting it at number 28 on the all-time domestic blockbuster list. Cast Away is now nestled in between last year's Mission: Impossible 2 which grossed $215.4M and Robert Zemeckis' own 1985 smash Back to the Future which took in $208.2M at a time when ticket prices were much less expensive.

Dropping 33% to $4.8M was the high school hit Save the Last Dance which has now collected a fantastic $74.5M to date. Traffic slid 30% to seventh place with $4.4M giving the Steven Soderbergh drama $70.9M thus far.

The horror film Valentine watched in terror as its audience fled to the auditoriums playing Hannibal this weekend. The Warner Bros. release plunged 62% to $3.8M bringing its ten-day total to $15.9M. Budgeted at only $10M, Valentine should make its way to $20-25M domestically and enjoy a healthy run on video.

Entering the top ten for the first time was the Coen brothers' quirky comedy O Brother, Where Art Thou? which made off with $3.1M. Down only 15%, the Buena Vista release, which won George Clooney a Golden Globe award for best actor, has taken in $21.1M to date. Miramax's Chocolat took ninth place with $3.1M, off only 16%, for a $26.6M total.

Three films fell out of the top ten over the weekend. Freddie Prinze Jr. continued to see his stock plummet as his romantic comedy Head Over Heels fell 46% in its second weekend to $2.6M pushing the ten-day sum to $8.3M. Budgeted at $14M, the Universal release should finish with only $12-15M and become yet another flop for the teen heartthrob.

Sean Connery's inspirational drama Finding Forrester grossed $2.5M, dropping 41%, and brought its cume to $44.8M. The $43M Sony release should reach about $50M. The studio's British crime caper Snatch tumbled 49% to $2.1M giving it a $25.1M total. The $10M Guy Ritchie pic looks to end with nearly $30M.

Compared to projections, Hannibal surged past my $36M forecast while Saving Silverman was very close to my $8M prediction.

The top ten films grossed $102.9M which was up a healthy 43% from last year when Scream 3 remained at number one for the second week with $16.3M; and up 32% from 1999 when Message in a Bottle debuted in the top spot with $16.8M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on whether Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon will reach $100M domestically. In last week's survey, readers were asked if Hannibal's opening weekend would be over $30M. Of 2,804 responses, 81% correctly said yes while 19% thought no.

Read the Weekly Rewind column which looks at the top February openings. For a review of Hannibal visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Down to Earth, Sweet November, and Recess : School's Out all open over Presidents' Day weekend.

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

# Title Feb. 9 - 11 Feb. 2 - 4 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Hannibal $ 58,003,121 3,230 1 $ 17,958 $ 58,003,121 MGM/UA
2 The Wedding Planner 7,704,284 10,605,542 -27.4 2,726 3 2,826 37,918,568 Sony
3 Saving Silverman 7,411,852 2,467 1 3,004 7,411,852 Sony
4 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 5,404,223 6,816,527 -20.7 1,204 10 4,489 60,335,388 Sony Classics
5 Cast Away 5,157,519 7,469,464 -31.0 2,347 8 2,197 209,798,303 Fox
6 Save the Last Dance 4,815,748 7,172,510 -32.9 2,506 5 1,922 74,515,420 Paramount
7 Traffic 4,432,404 6,303,110 -29.7 1,740 7 2,547 70,891,867 USA Films
8 Valentine 3,826,454 10,024,648 -61.8 2,310 2 1,656 15,854,156 Warner Bros.
9 O Brother, Where Art Thou? 3,095,782 3,647,208 -15.1 835 8 3,708 21,086,088 Buena Vista
10 Chocolat 3,071,948 3,649,243 -15.8 1,148 9 2,676 26,580,585 Miramax
11 Head Over Heels 2,611,120 4,804,595 -45.7 2,363 2 1,105 8,281,675 Universal
12 Finding Forrester 2,506,165 4,213,168 -40.5 1,586 8 1,580 44,810,828 Sony
13 What Women Want 2,114,223 3,254,151 -35.0 1,542 9 1,371 175,625,449 Paramount
14 Snatch 2,053,845 4,006,923 -48.7 851 4 2,413 25,082,092 Sony
15 Miss Congeniality 1,917,300 3,253,551 -41.1 1,529 8 1,254 100,345,956 Warner Bros.
16 Thirteen Days 1,547,779 2,814,394 -45.0 1,002 7 1,545 30,654,174 New Line
17 The Pledge 1,335,420 3,056,254 -56.3 1,105 4 1,209 17,607,793 Warner Bros.
18 The Emperor's New Groove 1,330,561 1,985,657 -33.0 1,091 9 1,220 83,498,624 Buena Vista
19 Sugar and Spice 1,204,358 3,621,274 -66.7 1,346 3 895 12,353,614 New Line
20 Double Take 1,036,716 2,090,974 -50.4 637 5 1,627 27,613,610 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 83,680,999 $ 42,088,691 98.8
Top 10 102,923,335 65,065,730 58.2
Top 20 120,580,822 92,608,781 30.2
Top 20 vs. 2000 120,580,822 84,396,831 42.9

Last Updated : February 13, 2001 at 1:15AM EST