Weekend Box Office (February 27 - March 1, 1998)

THIS WEEKEND It may be a new month, but there's no changing how moviegoers spend their money. For the eleventh consecutive weekend, Titanic won the gold medal with another $19.6M in the cash register bringing its domestic haul to a record-breaking $427M. The James Cameron love boat, off just 6.7% from last weekend, has now grossed more money than the director's last three films combined as True Lies, Terminator 2, and The Abyss grossed a cumulative total of $405M at the domestic box office. Titanic is also red hot overseas and became the first motion picture in history to sell $1 billion in theatrical tickets. Another full sweep of overseas markets over the weekend pushed Titanic's offshore cume to $575.7M allowing the epic romance to reach $1,002,706,625 after only 73 days of release.

Only $34M shy of the lifetime domestic gross of Star Wars, Titanic will soon become the highest-grossing movie in history, no matter which way you look at it. As Paramount and Fox are swimming in cash from the film's global ticket sales, Sony Music is rejoicing over the sales of two of its albums - the Titanic soundtrack (still the number one album in the U.S. after seven weeks) and Celine Dion's latest disc which features the theme song from the blockbuster film. The icy soundtrack disc has become the fastest-selling album by moving eight million copies in just fourteen weeks.

Holding steady in second place with another silver medal was the Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore comedy The Wedding Singer with a rad $8.7M over the weekend raising its total to $48.8M. Singer, down a respectable 29%, now stands as Sandler's highest-grossing film eclipsing Happy Gilmore's $38.6M which, like Singer, was released over Presidents Day weekend but in 1996. At its current healthy pace, Singer could eventually take in a final gross of about $75-80M. A serious drought of comedies is obviously helping this picture out.

The bronze medal was claimed by Good Will Hunting which kept on going as it landed in third place with $6.6M which is up almost 3% from last weekend's performance. Now in its eighth straight weekend in the top five, Hunting's overall gross stands at $96.4M with the $100M mark just over the horizon. Who would have thought back in November, that the Robin Williams movie to break the bank this winter would NOT have flying green goo? Hunting has now collected more in ticket sales than the Disney holiday film Flubber which has oozed its way to $90.9M. Also, Hunting is on course to become the highest-grossing film in Miramax history beating Pulp Fiction's $107.9M domestic gross probably by Oscar night when Matt Damon and Ben Affleck hope to take home a screenwriting statue.

As has been the case all this year, weak competition has helped fuel the success of Titanic. This weekend was no exception. Four new films debuted over the weekend totaling a theater count of over 5,700 but managed to rake in only $13.5M together. Opening in fourth place was New Line's Dark City with just $5.6M with a per-theater average of $3,180 which is about even with The Wedding Singer. City is the first directorial outing for Alex Proyas since 1994's hit The Crow which opened to $11.8M and ended with a strong $50.6M showing. For a review of Dark City, visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

Dark City is the latest in a line of science-fiction films cursed at the box office. Earlier this year Phantoms opened to a paltry $3.1M and Deep Rising struck out with a $4.7M debut weekend. Even Sphere, with 3 big stars, an Oscar-winning director, and a best-selling author, managed a disappointing $16.6M over a four-day holiday weekend and has been deflating fast ever since. Plus, two of last November's most eagerly awaited and megabudgeted movies, Starship Troopers and Alien: Resurrection, both performed below expectations and grossed $54.8M and $47.8M respectively. Moviegoers are getting tired of seeing the same stories with the same effects and are voting with their wallets.

Rounding out the top five, As Good As It Gets with seven Oscar nominations grossed $4.1M, down only 12%, and boosted its cume to $112.9M. Freshmen films with failing grades included Krippendorf's Tribe, a comedy starring Richard Dreyfuss, which earned just $3.3M for Disney. LIVE's urban drama Caught Up took tenth place with $2.4M but posted the second-best per-theater average in the top ten with a solid $3,398 per site. Meanwhile, David Schwimmer's friends were not there for him as his new comedy Kissing A Fool landed in eleventh place earning a weak $2.3M resulting in an average of only $1,325 per location. This comes as no surprise as Schwimmer's 1996 romantic comedy The Pallbearer also bombed with an opening tally of $2.3M and finished with a puny $5.7M. Yet another Friends star bites the dust at the box office. Next on deck, Matt LeBlanc in Lost in Space.

Elsewhere in the top ten, Sphere continued its freefall losing another 50% of its audience. As it rapidly comes crashing back to Earth, look for the Dustin Hoffman starrer to finish with a final tally of about $40-45M. The Borrowers, from Polygram, has found its audience and has played at a normal pace which is good considering most films lately have been hit or miss. It could finish with about $20M or so. The Marlon Wayans comedy Senseless dropped a hefty 48% in its sophomore session and is likely to end up with $12-14M before heading to video store shelves where it should perform better with kids on summer vacation.

With two months of the new year finished and so many weak new releases this year, the usual suspects have dropped out of the list of market share leaders. Paramount of course leads all distributors because of Titanic, with Sony taking second place driven by its own Oscar candidate As Good As It Gets as well as some coin from Spice World and The Replacement Killers. But in third place thus far in 1998 is Miramax fueled primarily by Good Will Hunting whose remarkable staying power has been overshadowed by Titanic's press. New Line Cinema currently stands at number four with solid grosses from Wag the Dog and The Wedding Singer. Parent company Warners sits in fifth place with various pocket change from Fallen, Sphere, L.A. Confidential, and The Postman. Disney, Universal, and Fox and waiting for their bigger releases to vault them into the top five in market share.

Overall, the top ten films grossed $59.8M over the weekend which was down 6% from last year when the Special Edition of Empire Strikes Back ruled the box office with $13.1M and openers included Donnie Brasco with $11.7M and Booty Call with $6.4M. However, this weekend's top ten was up 16% from 1996.

Finally, I'd like to thank all the readers for continuing to check into this column while I was on assignment in Nagano, Japan. Special thanks go to Sujit Chawla (a.k.a. Chief) for doing a fantastic job writing this column. Look for more of his writing here in the future. If you are interested in worldwide motion picture distribution as I am, you may enjoy some of these photos of movie posters from Japan. Notice how some differ from the ones in your home country:

Seven Years in Tibet / Men in Black (Tokyo)

Air Force One / Titanic (Tokyo)

Alien: Resurrection / Flubber (Nagano)

The Postman / Good Will Hunting (Nagano)

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

# Title Feb 27 - Mar 1 Feb 20 - 22 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Titanic $ 19,633,056 $ 21,036,343 -6.7 3,035 11 $ 6,469 $ 426,983,888 Paramount
2 The Wedding Singer 8,719,890 12,228,970 -28.7 2,826 3 3,086 48,833,850 New Line
3 Good Will Hunting 6,636,861 6,471,601 2.6 2,203 13 3,013 96,394,357 Miramax
4 Dark City 5,576,953 1,754 1 3,180 5,576,953 New Line
5 As Good As It Gets 4,058,350 4,608,900 -11.9 1,831 10 2,216 112,852,318 Sony
6 Sphere 3,809,123 7,684,122 -50.4 2,238 3 1,702 32,462,849 WB
7 Krippendorf's Tribe 3,316,377 1,529 1 2,169 3,316,377 BV
8 The Borrowers 2,831,184 4,011,304 -29.4 1,606 3 1,763 14,533,004 Polygram
9 Senseless 2,786,952 5,337,651 -47.8 1,850 2 1,506 9,249,606 Miramax
10 Caught Up 2,422,631 713 1 3,398 2,422,631 Live
11 Kissing a Fool 2,308,145 1,742 1 1,325 2,308,145 Universal
12 The Apostle 2,304,203 2,403,800 -4.1 751 11 3,068 10,954,109 October
13 L.A. Confidential 2,151,911 2,376,331 -9.4 859 24 2,505 51,405,394 WB
14 Palmetto 1,309,012 2,876,753 -54.5 1,505 2 870 5,146,351 Sony
15 Wag the Dog 987,084 1,607,788 -38.6 850 11 1,161 40,506,685 New Line
16 The Full Monty 828,536 977,637 -15.3 561 30 1,477 42,169,934 Fox Search.
17 The Replacement Killers 618,400 1,658,125 -62.7 634 4 975 18,405,603 Sony
18 Great Expectations 560,570 1,552,001 -63.9 686 5 817 25,336,293 Fox
19 Flubber 531,651 701,468 -24.2 647 15 822 90,921,307 BV
20 Dangerous Beauty 478,454 105,989 351.4 127 2 3,767 636,889 WB
Top 5 $ 44,625,110 $ 52,758,687 -15.4
Top 10 59,791,377 69,035,775 -13.4
Top 20 71,869,343 78,974,529 -9.0

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

    Last Updated : March 3, 1998 at 10:20AM ESTHome

    Written by Gitesh Pandya