Weekend Box Office (March 3 - 5, 2000)

THIS WEEKEND The month of March came in like a lamb as theatrical ticket sales slumped to one of its lowest levels in months. Five new films crowded into the marketplace but suffered disappointing openings as moviegoers kept spending their dollars on the popular pic The Whole Nine Yards. Only one movie in the top ten averaged more than $3,000 per theater - the six-month-old Oscar favorite American Beauty. The recent slowdown can be blamed mostly on an abundance of bad product as studios are going through a spring cleaning phase dumping their least commercially appealing movies into theaters.

Mafia madness ruled the box office once again as the hit man comedy The Whole Nine Yards was the most popular movie in North America for the third straight weekend. Taking in $7.2M, according to final figures, the Bruce Willis-Matthew Perry picture continued to show legs sliding just 25% from last weekend and raised its 17-day total to an encouraging $38.3M. Despite the arrival of a batch of new comedies, movie fans kept supporting Whole Nine which could be on its way to a $60M final gross. However, the film's $2,569 per-theater average ranked seventh in the top ten.

Madonna returned to the big screen after three years with her new movie The Next Best Thing but only managed to convince moviegoers to spend $5.9M during its opening weekend. Striking a pose in 2,007 theaters, the Paramount film averaged a weak $2,925 per venue. Also starring Rupert Everett and Benjamin Bratt, The Next Best Thing tells the story of a woman who is accidentally impregnated by her gay best friend and decides to keep her baby and to raise him together as a family. Madonna's last feature film was Evita which opened nationwide in January 1997 with $8.4M from only 704 theaters for a sparkling $11,905 average and proceeded to capture over $140M worldwide. The Next Best Thing's slim 19% Friday-to-Saturday increase does not bode well for the weeks ahead.

After seven weeks of limited release, Warner Bros. expanded the family film My Dog Skip into theaters nationwide but barked up just $5.9M. Playing in 2,331 theaters, the story of a boy and his dog averaged a poor $2,515 per site and has lifted its overall gross to $6.6M. Skip's reported production cost was a modest $7M hinting that profitability is just around the corner.

Opening in fourth place was another comedy, Drowning Mona starring Danny DeVito, Bette Midler, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Neve Campbell with $5.8M. Destination Films released the movie in 1,981 locations and generated a sluggish $2,929 average.

The sci-fi thriller Pitch Black slipped only 29% in its third mission grossing $5.1M pushing its 17-day total to a solid $29.7M making it the highest-grossing release in USA Films' short company history. Paramount's hit kids film Snow Day moved down to sixth place with $4.8M pushing its impressive tally to $49M.

Ben Affleck's action picture Reindeer Games dropped a not-so-good 42% in its sophomore session to $4.8M which boosted its ten-day sum to a disappointing $15.1M. Produced for $40M, the Miramax entry should end its game with $25-28M. Paramount added 251 theaters to the run of Wonder Boys and saw sales decline 30% to $4.1M. With $11.4M in ten days, the Michael Douglas film is likely to reach just $20-25M.

Moviegoers were still sampling the Oscar contenders as multiple nominees American Beauty and The Cider House Rules enjoyed very small dropoffs and took in $4M each. The Kevin Spacey-Annette Bening tale slipped only 13% and brought its cume to $93M including $18.2M since the Academy Award nominations were announced. On Thursday, the suburban satire was named Best Picture by the Producers Guild of America and on Sunday won the Best Original Screenplay award from the Writers Guild of America keeping its momentum red hot going into Oscar night on March 26th. Cider House saw virtually no decline from last weekend and has climbed to $37.2M, $14.4M of which came after the nominations.

Three films ended up falling out of the top ten over the weekend. Sony's sisterhood comedy Hanging Up starring Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton, and Lisa Kudrow, fell sharply in its third frame dropping 50% to $3.7M. With $31.5M thus far, the $40M picture should finish its domestic run with $38-40M.

Disney's The Tigger Movie has collected $35.5M to date and looks headed for a final cume of $41-43M. Scream 3, which set a new February opening weekend record, spent a month in the top ten and has grossed $82.2M so far. The $40M Miramax franchise pic should eventually reach $87-89M domestically. The House of Weinstein rereleased the first two Scream flicks in order to get its gross over the $100M mark so a similar strategy is always possible for the concluding chapter.

The freshman comedy Three Strikes opened in 678 theaters this weekend and took in $3.7M giving the MGM/UA release a solid per-theater average of $5,435. Since its Wednesday launch, the D.J. Pooh-directed picture has grossed $4.6M.

Award-winning comedian Garry Shandling played an alien in search of a woman in What Planet Are You From? which crashlanded over the weekend and grossed just $3M. Debuting in 2,248 sites, the $50M Sony release averaged a pitiful $1,338 per location giving it the worst opening average of any wide release this year.

Artisan premiered its Forest Whitaker action pic Ghost Dog : Way of the Samurai in 14 New York joints and grossed $166,344 for a strong average of $11,882 per theater.

Compared to projections, The Next Best Thing did not live up to my $10M forecast but Drowning Mona opened close to my $5M prediction. Both My Dog Skip and Three Strikes debuted near my respective projections of $5M and $3M each, however What Planet Are You From? did not reach my $7M forecast.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the presidential candidate you think will support the motion picture industry the most. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of five March releases they wanted to see the most. Of 2,687 responses, 44% picked Mission to Mars, 24% said The Next Best Thing, 21% selected Erin Brockovich, 6% voted for The Ninth Gate, and 5% went with What Planet Are You From?

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which looks back at the top March opening weekends of the last decade. For a review of Reindeer Games visit The Chief Report.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $51.4M which was down 21% from last year when Analyze This opened on top with $18.4M, and down 28% from 1998 when Titanic grossed $17.6M in its twelfth weekend at number one.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Mission to Mars and The Ninth Gate hit theaters.

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

# Title Mar. 3 - 5 Feb. 25 - 27 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Whole Nine Yards $ 7,174,183 $ 9,563,311 -25.0 2,793 3 $ 2,569 $ 38,334,645 Warner Bros.
2 The Next Best Thing 5,870,387 2,007 1 2,925 5,870,387 Paramount
3 My Dog Skip 5,863,545 62,674 2,331 8 2,515 6,585,669 Warner Bros.
4 Drowning Mona 5,802,229 1,981 1 2,929 5,802,229 Destination
5 Pitch Black 5,066,884 7,136,877 -29.0 1,903 3 2,663 29,707,222 USA Films
6 Snow Day 4,804,112 8,336,189 -42.4 2,717 4 1,768 49,014,953 Paramount
7 Reindeer Games 4,757,095 8,128,356 -41.5 2,204 2 2,158 15,081,249 Miramax
8 Wonder Boys 4,053,266 5,808,919 -30.2 1,504 2 2,695 11,372,006 Paramount
9 American Beauty 4,030,713 4,607,709 -12.5 1,339 25 3,010 93,014,479 DreamWorks
10 The Cider House Rules 4,018,764 4,066,251 -1.2 1,496 13 2,686 37,220,816 Miramax
11 Hanging Up 3,705,778 7,437,898 -50.2 2,618 3 1,415 31,460,628 Sony
12 3 Strikes 3,684,704 678 1 5,435 4,575,673 MGM/UA
13 The Tigger Movie 3,618,729 6,307,178 -42.6 2,646 4 1,368 35,518,139 Buena Vista
14 What Planet Are You From? 3,008,746 2,248 1 1,338 3,008,746 Sony
15 Scream 3 2,864,360 5,021,034 -43.0 1,826 5 1,569 82,153,193 Miramax
16 Boiler Room 1,773,739 3,095,758 -42.7 1,004 3 1,767 13,735,383 New Line
17 The Beach 1,619,130 3,714,845 -56.4 1,484 4 1,091 36,909,604 Fox
18 Fantasia 2000 1,454,519 1,595,442 -8.8 54 10 26,936 28,932,220 Buena Vista
19 The Sixth Sense 1,193,004 1,547,640 -22.9 759 31 1,572 285,519,660 Buena Vista
20 The Green Mile 1,086,469 1,947,106 -44.2 1,097 13 990 132,666,530 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 29,777,228 $ 40,602,631 -26.7
Top 10 51,441,178 66,413,722 -22.5
Top 20 75,450,356 83,115,403 -9.2

Last Updated : March 6 at 10:00PM EST

Written by Gitesh Pandya