Weekend Box Office (February 18 - 21, 2000)

*** Oscar 2000 - Box Office Preview ***

THIS WEEKEND Final studio figures released on Tuesday indicated that the Warner Bros. comedy The Whole Nine Yards edged out the Sony film Hanging Up to claim the number one spot over the four-day Presidents' Day weekend. Both studios originally reported matching $15M Friday-to-Sunday estimates and then proceeded to state on Monday that the four-day tallies would again be too close to call as each claimed a $16.1M holiday estimate. With the box office polls closed, the Bruce Willis-Matthew Perry hitman pic held a $205,265 advantage over the sisterhood tale which starred Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton, and Lisa Kudrow. However, Hanging Up played in 300 fewer locations and enjoyed the better per-theater average.

The testosterone power of Bruce Willis as a hired gun and Matthew Perry as a mild-mannered dentist in the slapstick comedy The Whole Nine Yards was enough to collect $15.9M, according to final studio figures. Rubbing out competitors in 2,910 sites, the $25M Warner Bros. release averaged a solid $5,469 per theater over the four days. Willis, red hot from the $600M+ worldwide megablockbuster The Sixth Sense, was last seen in the marital drama The Story Of Us which opened with $9.7M last October. The successful debut of The Whole Nine Yards indicates that audiences will embrace him in almost any genre from comedy to action (Armageddon) to suspense (The Sixth Sense) to indie fare (Pulp Fiction). Could a lavish musical be next?

Warner Bros. distribution chief Dan Fellman reported that Whole Nine's audience was 55% male and 60% age 25 and older. The film's Friday-to-Sunday gross came in at $13.7M which was lower than its original $15M estimate. With strong exit polls, Fellman believes the film "will hang around for a while." The picture's impressive 77% Friday-to-Saturday increase could bode well for the future.

Anchored by Meg Ryan, one of Hollywood's most popular actresses, Hanging Up connected with its core audience of mature women and grossed $15.7M over the long weekend. The Diane Keaton-directed film tells the story of three sisters who come together to care for their aging father played by the grumpy old man himself, Walter Matthau. Ryan has now seen her last five major releases open north of $10M reinforcing her status as one of the industry's most bankable leading ladies. Opening in 2,618 theaters, Hanging Up averaged a strong $6,001 per location over the four days. Its three-day portion totaled $13.6M which was also less than the $15M estimate reported on Sunday morning.

The $40M comedy generated solid results from women of all ages according to Sony distribution head Jeff Blake. "Meg Ryan has tremendous drawing power and Keaton and Kudrow provide great appeal too," Blake noted. "The interplay between the sisters made it a fun film that many people could relate to," he added.

Paramount's hit family film Snow Day remained in third place with a strong showing in its sophomore weekend. The studio grossed $15.3M for the four days which was $500,000 more than originally estimated pushing its cume to a rowdy $31.9M in only eleven days. Snow Day's holiday take was 6% better than last weekend's three-day debut. The $13M Nickelodeon product should go on to generate a lucrative domestic cume in the neighborhood of $60M.

Launching impressively in fourth place was the sci-fi thriller Pitch Black which scored $13.5M over the Friday-to-Monday holiday period. Landing in 1,832 venues, the USA Films/Universal production averaged a terrific $7,351 per site which beat all other pictures in the top ten. Pitch Black, which follows the plight of a group of space travelers stranded on a mysterious planet, saw a good Friday-to-Saturday increase of 42%. Science fiction films have been mostly absent from the box office in recent months allowing Pitch Black to fill a crucial void. An expensive television commercial during the Super Bowl helped its cause too. The action movie's exceptional debut was even more impressive considering it features a little-known cast.

Disney's The Tigger Movie took fifth place with $10.6M over four days bringing its eleven-day total to $22.4M. The animated film's Friday-to-Sunday portion of $8.2M was off only 13% from last weekend's launch. Tigger could be headed for $40-45M overall.

After two weekends atop the charts, the horror sequel Scream 3 tumbled to sixth place with $9.9M over the long weekend. After 18 days of release, the Miramax title has amassed a sizable $71.4M. Its predecessor, Scream 2, bagged $9M in its third frame (a three-day Christmas session) giving it a similar $71.1M in 17 days.

Leonardo DiCaprio's latest film The Beach got contaminated in its sophomore try as half its audience deserted the dramatic thriller. The Fox release grossed $8.3M over the four-day period which translated into a steep 50% drop when comparing Friday-to-Sunday portions. After eleven days of play, the Danny Boyle-directed entry has soaked up $28.7M. Poor reviews and negative word-of-mouth seem to be punishing The Beach as the $50M picture may conclude its domestic run with $40-45M. However, stronger overseas results should push the global tally north of $100M in the weeks ahead.

The weekend's final freshman entry, Boiler Room, opened in eighth place with $6.7M over the Presidents' Day frame. The New Line picture about young renegade stock brokers stars Giovanni Ribisi and Ben Affleck. Boiler Room launched in 1,335 theaters and averaged a hot $5,036 per trade. While only giving a supporting performance in Boiler Room, Hollywood hunk Ben Affleck should see more steam from next weekend's action thriller Reindeer Games in which he plays the lead.

DreamWorks reissued American Beauty on Friday after securing eight Academy Award nominations and took in $6.6M over the four-day period. Playing in 1,287 houses, the Kevin Spacey-Annette Bening satire averaged an encouraging $5,132 per theater and raised its impressive cume to $81.4M. The performance was well ahead of previous Oscar reopenings by Saving Private Ryan ($3.6M), Forrest Gump ($3M), L.A. Confidential ($2.7M), and Braveheart ($1.5M). Jim Tharp, distribution head of DreamWorks, stated that this time around, all markets were reporting solid attendance for American Beauty as opposed to when the film was first released last fall when only larger cities were embracing the picture.

The suburban tale is now in the same position as 1997's L.A. Confidential which is another Kevin Spacey critical hit, released in mid-September, which was relaunched after landing a large number of Oscar nods. Though the crime drama failed to take home Best Picture or Best Director, it did boost its overall box office take by more than 50% after nominations were announced surging from $42M to $65M. With renewed interest and a new advertising campaign centered around its Academy Award nods, American Beauty should have no problem cruising past the $100M mark in the weeks ahead on its way to a possible victory on Oscar Sunday, March 26th.

Miramax's inspirational drama The Cider House Rules won seven Oscar nominations and more fans over the weekend allowing it to sneak into the top ten for the first time ever. Doubling last weekend's gross, the Tobey Maguire-Charlize Theron pic took in $3.4M during the Friday-to-Monday session to boost its cume to $27M. With the approval of the Academy, and strong support from Miramax, Cider House should continue to post solid results in the weeks leading up to the big Billy Crystal-hosted night. The distributor will add about 700 extra theaters to its run next weekend.

The Green Mile locked up $3.2M in ticket sales in its eleventh weekend of release while still playing in 2,102 theaters. Directed by Frank Darabont, the death row saga saw a slim 8% decline in sales over last weekend (when comparing three-day periods) and brought its blockbuster cume to $128.7M. Warner Bros. sees the Tom Hanks hit reaching $140M by the end of its run.

The remaining two Best Picture nominees also saw substantial gains at the box office on the heels of their multiple Oscar nods. The Sixth Sense grossed $1.7M over the three-day period (up 49%) and $1.9M over the long holiday frame to push its domestic cume to a staggering $282M. The Insider, which already concluded its regular theatrical run, expanded from 36 to 132 theaters and collected $241,266 giving it a good $1,828 average. With its cume standing at $27M, the Michael Mann picture will widen to about 700 playdates on Friday in hopes of cashing in on its seven Academy Award nominations.

Elsewhere in the Disney stable, Toy Story 2 brought in $942,115 over the long weekend lifting its hefty total to $239.9M . IMAX feature Fantasia 2000 grossed $2.3M during the holiday frame giving the large-screen toon $24.4M domestically and $31M worldwide.

The avalanche of new product sent many films falling out of the top ten. The Hurricane, starring Denzel Washington in an Oscar-nominated role, collected $2.75M over the holiday weekend pushing its cume to $46.4M. The $38M Universal film should complete its run with at least $55-60M although a gold-plated trophy for Washington could take the sum higher. The acclaimed star also won the Silver Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival this weekend for Best Actor.

Sony's hit family film Stuart Little, which snagged a Visual Effects nomination, has upped its cume to $134.8M and is likely to reach around $140M. With a production cost of less than $10M, New Line's lucrative comedy sequel Next Friday has hit $52.6M and looks headed for a $56M final. Galaxy Quest from DreamWorks carried a budget of $60M and has reached $68M to date. After a surprisingly lengthy run, the Tim Allen sci-fi comedy should end with roughly $70-72M. The crime thriller Eye of the Beholder is up to $16.2M and is likely to reach $18M.

Compared to projections, both Hanging Up and The Whole Nine Yards opened a few notches higher than my respective forecasts of $13M and $12M. Pitch Black performed much better than my $6M prediction while Boiler Room and American Beauty were both very close to my $6M projection for each.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on The Sixth Sense reaching the $300M domestic mark. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of this weekend's new releases would have the biggest opening. The 2,270 respondants were on the right track as both Hanging Up and The Whole Nine Yards scored 37% of the vote, 15% chose Pitch Black, and 11% picked Boiler Room.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which looks at Meg Ryan's box office track record during the past decade. For reviews of The Beach and Snow Day visit The Chief Report.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $105.8M which was up 17% from Presidents' Day weekend last year when Message in a Bottle and Payback led the way, but down 2% from 1998's four-day holiday when Titanic grossed a mammoth $32.9M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Reindeer Games and Wonder Boys open.

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# Title Feb. 18 - 21 Feb. 11 - 13 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Whole Nine Yards $ 15,915,676 2,910 1 $ 5,469 $ 15,915,676 Warner Bros.
2 Hanging Up 15,710,411 2,618 1 6,001 15,710,411 Sony
3 Snow Day 15,261,526 14,331,819 6.5 2,702 2 5,648 31,920,881 Paramount
4 Pitch Black 13,467,546 1,832 1 7,351 13,467,546 USA Films
5 The Tigger Movie 10,604,433 9,427,532 12.5 2,755 2 3,849 22,399,467 Buena Vista
6 Scream 3 9,884,695 16,318,053 -39.4 3,368 3 2,935 71,434,782 Miramax
7 The Beach 8,251,779 15,277,921 -46.0 2,587 2 3,190 28,745,219 Fox
8 Boiler Room 6,722,884 1,335 1 5,036 6,722,884 New Line
9 American Beauty 6,604,951 64,292 1,287 23 5,132 81,422,935 DreamWorks
10 The Cider House Rules 3,409,131 1,529,188 122.9 857 11 3,978 26,962,998 Miramax
11 The Green Mile 3,237,158 3,087,632 4.8 2,102 11 1,540 128,699,984 Warner Bros.
12 The Hurricane 2,754,810 3,615,625 -23.8 1,711 8 1,610 46,380,951 Universal
13 Fantasia 2000 2,336,719 1,693,439 38.0 54 8 43,273 24,430,783 Buena Vista
14 Stuart Little 2,202,112 2,712,397 -18.8 1,714 10 1,285 134,785,316 Sony
15 Next Friday 2,073,613 2,814,341 -26.3 1,209 6 1,715 52,571,546 New Line
16 The Sixth Sense 1,933,879 1,116,186 73.3 894 29 2,163 282,005,620 Buena Vista
17 Galaxy Quest 1,619,047 2,180,374 -25.7 1,186 9 1,365 67,994,316 DreamWorks
18 The Talented Mr. Ripley 951,425 1,686,151 -43.6 954 9 997 79,397,608 Paramount
19 Toy Story 2 942,115 1,153,651 -18.3 764 14 1,233 239,930,711 Buena Vista
20 Angela's Ashes 741,753 1,086,608 -31.7 614 9 1,208 11,339,958 Paramount
Top 5 $ 70,959,592 $ 58,970,950 20.3
Top 10 105,833,032 71,894,913 47.2
Top 20 124,625,663 84,396,831 47.7

Last Updated : February 22 at 10:00PM EST

Written by Gitesh Pandya