Weekend Box Office (March 2 - 4, 2001)

THIS WEEKEND Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt stole the number one spot from three-time leader Hannibal as their action-comedy The Mexican opened on top of the North American box office with $20.1M, according to final studio figures. The DreamWorks release played very wide in 2,951 locations and averaged a solid $6,814 per site. The Gore Verbinski-directed picture finds Pitt as a mob hand sent to find an antique pistol and Roberts as his girlfriend insisting he give up his criminal ties. James Gandolfini from the award-winning HBO series The Sopranos also stars.

Though plagued with negative reviews, The Mexican used the starpower of Pitt and Roberts to bring in a sizable audience on opening weekend. Five of Roberts' last seven films have now opened at number one and all have debuted with at least $19M. In fact, her last six films have grossed over $1.5 billion worldwide making her one of the most reliable box office draws today. Pitt on the other hand has starred in several commercial disappointments recently like Fight Club, Meet Joe Black, and Seven Years in Tibet, but the Pitt-Roberts combination proved too appealing for moviegoers to resist. The Mexican delivered the second best opening of Pitt's career after the $36.4M of 1994's Interview with the Vampire which was a Tom Cruise-starrer.

DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp remarked "This opening is a testament to the popularity of the three stars." While The Mexican had no problem premiering at number one (it grossed as much as the next two pictures combined), the R-rated film will have to work hard in order to stay durable. The $40M film, which features very few scenes with Pitt and Roberts on screen together, earned a C+ grade from opening night moviegoers, according to CinemaScore. The Mexican did enjoy a healthy 34% increase in ticket sales on Saturday over Friday.

After a much-publicized box office hat trick, Hannibal slipped from the number one spot in its fourth weekend but only declined by a moderate 36% to $10.1M. Sequels with record-breaking openings tend to depreciate at much faster rates as most of the built-in audience usually shows up in the first week or two. But Hannibal has been holding up quite well and has grossed a mammoth $142.8M in 24 days. Produced by MGM and Universal for $78M, the Ridley Scott blockbuster should be able to gross around $170M domestically and could reach $400M in worldwide box office.

The family film See Spot Run debuted in third with $9.7M. Released in 2,656 theaters, the Warner Bros. entry averaged a mild $3,658 per venue in its opening. The PG-rated film stars David Arquette and an FBI dog on the run from the mob. Budgeted at only $15M, the children's film should easily become a profitable picture.

Chris Rock held on strong with his comedy Down to Earth which dipped only 30% to $7.8M in its third weekend. The $28M Paramount remake has brought in an impressive $43.9M in 17 days, despite bad reviews, and could be headed for a final tally of $65-70M.

A trio of Oscar's most honored films followed experiencing the smallest declines in the top ten. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon slipped just 26% to $4.9M boosting its stellar cume to $88.7M. Steven Soderbergh's Traffic was off 13% in sixth with $4.5M raising the cume for the drug war drama to a terrific $92.3M. The USA Films release is now the highest grossing picture for Michael Douglas since 1992's Basic Instinct which collected $117.7M.

Easing 12% was Miramax's Chocolat with $4.2M for a total of $45.7M. The Juliette Binoche-Johnny Depp comedy is running 23% ahead of The Cider House Rules (the distributor's Best Picture candidate from last year) which had grossed $37.2M at this point on its way to $57.5M.

The family film Recess: School's Out placed eighth with $4M, down 43%, bringing its sum to $27.6M. Warner Bros. rounded out the top ten with two films that audiences are quickly losing interest in. The Kurt Russell-Kevin Costner heist pic 3000 Miles to Graceland plunged 57% to $3.1M in its second weekend bringing its ten-day total to just $12.3M. The romance Sweet November starring Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron tumbled 56% in its third try to $2.3M for a $21.4M cume.

A pair of hit films fell out of the top ten. Sony's romantic comedy The Wedding Planner took in $2.2M in its sixth frame boosting its cume to $55.3M. The $28M pairing of Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey looks to end its domestic run with a solid $60-65M and should perform very well in ancillaries.

The runaway smash Cast Away finally left the top ten after ten weeks and collected $2.1M, lifting its massive total to $223.8M, and putting it at number 23 on the all-time domestic blockbuster list. Produced by Fox and DreamWorks for $85M, the Tom Hanks adventure saga should reach around $230M. Cast Away has also pocketed an additional $150M overseas and continues to thrive in new markets. A worldwide cume north of $400M will result making it the second biggest film ever for both Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis after 1994's Oscar-winning Forrest Gump.

Arthouses were busy over the weekend as films in limited release generated healthy results. Debuting in 16 theaters in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago was The Caveman's Valentine from Universal Focus with $112,041. Averaging a solid $7,003, the R-rated dramatic thriller stars Samuel L. Jackson as a tormented underground dweller in Manhattan with a mysterious past.

Lions Gate platformed the French-language romance The Widow of St. Pierre at the Paris Theatre in New York City and collected a powerful $31,702 from the solo venue. Juliette Binoche stars as a French-Canadian woman who befriends a murderer set for execution by guillotine. Tom Ortenberg, distribution president of Lions Gate, stated that Widow played mostly to adults and that the R-rated film will expand into Los Angeles on March 9 and add more markets on the following Friday.

The Brazilian tale Me You Them opened in two exclusive engagements in New York City and grossed $17,750 for an encouraging $8,875 average. Released by Sony Pictures Classics, the film played at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

Nominated for an Academy Award for best actor, Ed Harris saw his biographical drama Pollock expand into the top 20 markets and gross $667,160. The Sony Classics title played in 104 theaters and averaged $6,450 per site. Pollock, which Harris also directed, has now taken in $1.7M.

Compared to projections, The Mexican opened a few notches below my $26M forecast while See Spot Run debuted better than my $7M prediction.

The top ten films grossed $70.6M which was up 37% from last year when The Whole Nine Yards remained at number one for the third straight week with $7.2M; and up 9% from 1999 when Analyze This debuted in the top spot with $18.4M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the Robert De Niro action film 15 Minutes. In last week's survey, readers were asked to predict the opening of The Mexican. Of 2,901 responses, 43% said Over $30M, 38% thought $23-30M, 15% correctly guessed $15-22M, and 4% said Under $15M.

Read the Weekly Rewind column which reports on the top March 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 15 Minutes and the teen comedy Get Over It both open.

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

# Title Mar. 2 - 4 Feb. 23 - 25 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Mexican $ 20,108,829 2,951 1 $ 6,814 $ 20,108,829 Dream Works
2 Hannibal 10,051,008 15,767,006 -36.3 3,272 4 3,072 142,783,661 MGM
3 See Spot Run 9,715,102 2,656 1 3,658 9,715,102 Warner Bros.
4 Down to Earth 7,815,382 11,211,225 -30.3 2,521 3 3,100 43,883,112 Paramount
5 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 4,906,007 6,592,223 -25.6 1,751 13 2,802 88,655,907 Sony Classics
6 Traffic 4,475,069 5,136,889 -12.9 1,638 10 2,732 92,267,376 USA Films
7 Chocolat 4,200,052 4,761,167 -11.8 1,857 12 2,262 45,737,220 Miramax
8 Recess: School's Out 3,961,773 6,931,509 -42.8 2,503 3 1,583 27,588,843 Buena Vista
9 3000 Miles to Graceland 3,110,377 7,160,521 -56.6 2,545 2 1,222 12,250,978 Warner Bros.
10 Sweet November 2,275,493 5,125,388 -55.6 2,037 3 1,117 21,438,765 Warner Bros.
11 The Wedding Planner 2,203,626 3,952,643 -44.2 1,708 6 1,290 55,281,306 Sony
12 Cast Away 2,073,578 3,105,171 -33.2 1,499 11 1,383 223,776,964 Fox
13 O Brother, Where Art Thou? 1,940,193 2,269,941 -14.5 833 11 2,329 30,823,163 Buena Vista
14 Save the Last Dance 1,415,477 2,286,909 -38.1 1,210 8 1,170 84,629,963 Paramount
15 Monkeybone 1,130,071 2,685,078 -57.9 1,748 2 646 4,342,668 Fox
16 Carman : The Champion 769,080 232 1 3,315 769,080 8X
17 Saving Silverman 707,812 2,048,719 -65.5 950 4 745 18,409,177 Sony
18 Pollock 667,160 450,677 48.0 104 3 6,415 1,735,842 Sony Classics
19 Finding Forrester 655,716 1,093,331 -40.0 578 11 1,134 50,041,645 Sony
20 What Women Want 523,232 903,551 -42.1 512 12 1,022 179,685,609 Paramount
Top 5 $ 52,596,328 $ 47,662,484 10.4
Top 10 70,619,092 69,743,742 1.3
Top 20 82,705,037 83,753,703 -1.3
Top 20 vs. 2000 82,705,037 75,450,356 9.6

Last Updated : March 6, 2001 at 10:00AM EST