Weekend Box Office (March 5 - 7, 1999)

THIS WEEKEND Warner Bros. was laughing all the way to the bank this weekend after the explosive opening of the Robert De Niro-Billy Crystal comedy Analyze This which debuted with $18.4M according to final figures - a full $700,000 better than originally estimated. Playing in 2,518 locations, the story of a stressed out mobster who seeks help from a psychiatrist averaged a powerful $7,301 per theater and gave De Niro, Crystal, and director Harold Ramis the biggest opening of their long careers. Reviews have been very positive for Analyze This and the marketplace has been in need of a good mainstream comedy. The studio also helped its cause by offering sneak previews of the film over the last two weekends which generated a strong buzz leading into this weekend's opening.

The starpower of Robert De Niro (who is hardly known for making audiences laugh) and Billy Crystal certainly was at the center of the successful launch of Analyze This. This decade, De Niro has now seen six of his films open at number one while Crystal has only hit the top with 1991's City Slickers. While De Niro has taken a wide range of leading and supporting roles in films with differing commercial success, Crystal has stalled at the box office for years until now. The opening performances for the previous films by the actors include $12.7M last September for De Niro's action pic Ronin and a puny $3.1M last April for Crystal's buddy comedy My Giant.

The superb opening of Analyze This was especially good for Warners which now looks like it has its house in order after nearly two years of expensive flops. The studio has enjoyed three consecutive strong number one openings from its star-driven release slate. Analyze This follows Message in a Bottle which debuted with $16.8M last month and You've Got Mail which launched with $18.4M in December. With $18.4M, Analyze This ranks as the second best opening of 1999 and the fourth largest debut in the month of March. And with a promising 55% Friday-to-Saturday boost, Analyze This should continue to play to packed crowds for weeks to come as word-of-mouth spreads.

Debuting in second place with a strong performance of its own was the romantic teen thriller Cruel Intentions starring Sarah Michelle Gellar along with real-life engaged couple Ryan Phillipe and Reese Witherspoon. Sony's modern day version of Dangerous Liaisons grossed $13M in 2,312 theaters for a seductive average of $5,632 per bed. Cruel Intentions opened stronger than such recent teen and young adult flicks as Urban Legend ($10.5M) and The Faculty ($11.6M), but could not reach the heights of this year's high school hits Varsity Blues ($15.2M) and She's All That ($16.1M).

Nevertheless, like most movies aimed at younger moviegoers, Cruel Intentions should easily be a profitable film with its production cost of $10.5M. As expected, women under 25 made up the largest portion of the film's opening weekend audience, according to Sony. With a Friday-to-Saturday decline of 4%, don't expect Cruel Intentions to have a long shelflife, especially with more teen-oriented offerings on the way.

After topping the charts with an impressive debut last weekend, Nicolas Cage's dark thriller 8MM lost over half of its business as its sophomore frame brought in just $7M. The Sony release's 51% dropoff was the worst for any of Cage's recent films such as his last thriller, Snake Eyes, which tumbled 47% in its second roll of the dice. After ten days, the $40M-budgeted 8MM has managed to gross $25.3M and looks set to reach $40-45M domestically but should surpass $100M worldwide.

Fellow sophomore The Other Sister earned $5.7M giving it fourth place. Buena Vista expanded the release of the Juliette Lewis pic by 503 theaters and thus enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten with a slim 14% dip. The Other Sister is finding most of its success with female patrons who have powered the film to a ten-day total of $14.3M. Look for this movie, which also stars Giovanni Ribisi and Diane Keaton, to eventually climb to $30-35M.

Taking fifth place, Mel Gibson's Payback grossed $4.1M boosting its cume to $72.3M. Universal's October Sky is still holding on very well with a $3.7M take, according to estimates, giving it $16.8M in 17 days.

My Favorite Martian collected $3.6M, down 28%, and increased its overall cume to $30.2M. Message in a Bottle stumbled 47% to eighth place with $3.4M which raised its total to $46.4M.

Shakespeare in Love, which picked up trophies for Gwenyth Paltrow and the entire cast on Sunday at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, brought home $3.3M. Off just 24%, the Miramax-Universal production has grossed $64.8M thus far and remains one of the steadiest performers at the box office this year. Miramax stablemate She's All That enjoyed its sixth and final weekend in the top ten with $2.6M pushing its overall sum to an impressive $57.3M. The film's 29% decline showed that it was not affected by the opening of teen rival Cruel Intentions.

Two movies dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. New Line's comedy Blast From The Past grossed $1.8M giving it $23.6M to date and a likely $30M finish. 200 Cigarettes was extinguished in its sophomore frame tumbling 62% to $1.2M. Its ten-day sum of $5.3M should lead to a weak final tally of just $8M.

With just two weeks before the Academy Awards, Steven Spielberg reminded the world just which film was in fact the Oscar frontrunner. Saving Private Ryan was named the best picture of the year by the Producers Guild of America and on Saturday picked up the prestigious Directors Guild of America award honoring Spielberg for his World War II masterpiece. Ryan has also collected the Golden Globes for Best Picture - Drama and Best Director in addition to numerous other accolades including being named the top film of 1998 by critics associations in New York and Los Angeles. Rarely has a motion picture swept all these awards and not gone on to win the Oscar. Saving Private Ryan still attracted interest from moviegoers this weekend and has lifted its domestic gross to $207.3M.

Another Best Picture nominee, Life is Beautiful, is still bringing in new business with every passing week. Roberto Benigni's Holocaust-era pic took in $1.9M (up 1% from last weekend) raising its total domestic haul to an incredible $30.1M. The Miramax entry, which is the favorite to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Picture, should surge past the $40M mark in the weeks ahead.

Crashing into limited release in New York and Los Angeles were the blokes of the British sensation Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Gramercy released the crime caper in 8 joints and made off with a cool $143,321, according to estimates, giving it a red hot $17,915 average in its first endeavor in the States. That gives the picture a stronger opening average than recent films from across the Atlantic like Waking Ned Devine ($16,552), Little Voice ($15,620), Hilary & Jackie ($15,493), and Still Crazy ($7,355). Costing just $2M to produce, Lock, Stock has already done killer business in the United Kingdom and Australia and expands its North American release in two weeks.

Compared to projections, both new films Analyze This and Cruel Intentions opened better than my forecasts of $11M and $10M respectively.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on upcoming films based on Spider-Man and The X-Men. In last week's survey, readers were asked which film would open bigger - Analyze This or Cruel Intentions. Of 2,297 responses, 55% selected Analyze This while 45% picked Cruel Intentions.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which looks at the top March openings of the decade. This Wednesday's new column reviews the box office record of Michelle Pfeiffer. For a review of Cruel Intentions visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films grossed $64.9M which was down 9% from last year when Titanic sailed away with $17.6M, and up 3% from 1997 when Howard Stern's Private Parts opened at number one with $13.8M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend's busy frame when The Corruptor, Wing Commander, and The Deep End of the Ocean all debut.

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

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

# Title Mar 5 - 7 Feb 26 - 28 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Analyze This $ 18,383,507 2,518 1 $ 7,301 $ 18,383,507 Warner Bros.
2 Cruel Intentions 13,020,565 2,312 1 5,632 13,020,565 Sony
3 8MM 7,011,136 14,252,888 -50.8 2,370 2 2,958 25,326,673 Sony
4 The Other Sister 5,731,839 6,624,445 -13.5 1,846 2 3,105 14,291,047 BV
5 Payback 4,128,407 6,788,367 -39.2 2,855 5 1,446 72,255,061 Paramount
6 October Sky 3,701,640 4,808,150 -23.0 1,698 3 2,180 16,768,600 Universal
7 My Favorite Martian 3,591,888 4,973,960 -27.8 2,309 4 1,556 30,238,135 BV
8 Message in a Bottle 3,411,546 6,412,737 -46.8 2,489 4 1,371 46,388,358 Warner Bros.
9 Shakespeare in Love 3,306,893 4,372,632 -24.4 1,721 13 1,921 64,826,518 Miramax
10 She's All That 2,566,767 3,608,973 -28.9 1,865 6 1,376 57,375,560 Miramax
11 Life is Beautiful 1,925,622 1,915,628 0.5 672 20 2,866 30,131,649 Miramax
12 Blast From The Past 1,836,995 3,503,125 -47.6 2,018 3 910 23,608,666 New Line
13 200 Cigarettes 1,228,775 3,244,277 -62.1 978 2 1,256 5,297,182 Paramount
14 Saving Private Ryan 1,177,743 1,635,318 -28.0 945 33 1,246 207,317,275 DreamWorks
15 Rushmore 1,127,342 1,974,063 -42.9 830 5 1,358 14,155,278 BV
16 Office Space 1,005,897 2,494,756 -59.7 1,240 3 811 9,699,263 Fox
17 Elizabeth 620,623 787,961 -21.2 492 18 1,261 26,106,939 Gramercy
18 The Rugrats Movie 596,049 704,009 -15.3 590 16 1,010 99,064,772 Paramount
19 Patch Adams 504,645 873,260 -42.2 608 11 830 131,417,750 Universal
20 The Prince of Egypt 426,625 538,859 -20.8 830 12 514 97,676,468 DreamWorks
Top 5 $ 48,275,454 $ 39,052,397 23.6
Top 10 64,854,188 58,589,554 10.7
Top 20 75,304,504 71,124,701 5.9

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

Last Updated : March 8, 1999 at 8:30PM ESTHome

Written by Gitesh Pandya