Weekend Box Office (March 6 - 8, 1998)

THIS WEEKEND Facing its strongest competition yet, Titanic narrowly managed another box office victory staying at number one for twelve consecutive weekends. According to final figures, Titanic held onto the top spot by less than one million dollars as it collected $17.6M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. The Warner Bros. action thriller U.S. Marshals arrived on the scene in a close second with an impressive $16.9M haul. Titanic has now tied 1990's family blockbuster Home Alone with a dozen straight frames at number one.

Down a modest 10%, the James Cameron film about romance on the doomed ocean liner has amassed $449.2M in 80 days of domestic release. It also continued its dominance of the awards circuit as the ship's captain was honored with the Best Director trophy by the Directors Guild of America on Saturday night. This will only make it harder for Cameron to make room on his already cluttered mantle for the Oscars he'll take home in just two weeks. Titanic is now just $12M shy of the record domestic gross of Star Wars.

Although U.S. Marshals has to settle for the silver medal, it does have the strongest per-theater average of any film in the top ten with $5,987 per site - edging out Titanic's $5,674. The Tommy Lee Jones-Wesley Snipes chase film is the sequel/spin-off to the Harrison Ford blockbuster The Fugitive which opened to $23.8M in August 1993. With $16.9M, Marshals scored the second-best debut of any film this year (behind The Wedding Singer's $18.9M launch) and was the biggest opening for Warners since last August when Conspiracy Theory arrived with $19.3M. Also, the performance of Marshals over the weekend was better than the openings for both stars' films from last spring when Volcano, starring Jones, erupted with $14.6M and Murder at 1600, starring Snipes, opened with just $8M. Many thought U.S. Marshals would be the film to unseat Titanic from the number one spot but the Paramount/Fox heavyweight is not ready to leave the spotlight just yet.

Moving down one notch to third, the 80's comedy The Wedding Singer grossed $6.2M, off just 29%, pushing its total to a totally awesome $57.1M in 24 days. However, its per-theater average of $2,194 ranked seventh in the top ten. Newcomers claimed the next three spots on the box office chart. Taking in $5.9M in its first lap was Twilight, a murder mystery featuring Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, and Gene Hackman. Playing in 600 fewer locations than fellow freshman Hush, Twilight posted a solid $4,342 average indicating strong interest in the picture. Good word-of-mouth could help this picture as it already has a fabulous cast which will make people want to try it out. By comparison, Paul Newman's Nobody's Fool grossed $7.1M in 792 theaters during its first weekend of wide release and Sarandon's Dead Man Walking took in $3.6M in 714 sites during its first wide outing. Hush, a domestic thriller starring Jessica Lange and Gwenyth Paltrow, took in $5.7M in its opening frame with a per-theater average of $2,921 per site. The opening was weaker than Paltrow's last film Great Expectations which debuted with $9.6M just five weekends ago. Look for Hush to silently fade away and achieve a final gross of about $18M.

The weekend's other new opening was The Big Lebowski - the long-awaited followup to Fargo by Joel and Ethan Coen. Lebowski grossed $5.5M in only 1,207 theaters giving it a stellar $4,585 average per location which was third-highest in the top ten. This is the third best opening ever for Gramercy Pictures trailing Bean ($12.7M in November 1997) and Candyman : Farewell to the Flesh ($6M in March 1995). In 1996, Fargo had a much different release as it gradually expanded over time reaching 716 theaters at its widest point of distribution. Lebowski will need a good buzz in order to have legs but with only one new film entering the marketplace next weekend and with Oscar fever in the air, the Coen brothers film could have a solid March ahead of it. For a review of The Big Lebowski or other recent films, visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

Elsewhere in the top ten, Good Will Hunting on Saturday became Miramax's third $100M darling joining 1994's Pulp Fiction ($107.9M) and 1996's Scream ($103M). The Matt Damon drama was off a modest 22% grossing $5.2M and brought its cume to $103.4M. By next weekend, Hunting will become the highest-grossing film in Miramax history. The critical favorite is also likely to become an Oscar winner as it has secured nine nominations including Best Picture. Another strong performer in the top ten has been the kidpic The Borrowers which has taken advantage of the fact that there are no other films aimed at children right now. With a $2.1M take this weekend, The Borrowers has quietly spent its fourth weekend in the top ten bringing its cume to $17.3M.

It now seems that it will take another week before Titanic relinquishes its hold on the weekly box office crown. MGM/UA's The Man in the Iron Mask, with Titanic heartthrob Leo DiCaprio, will be looking to swashbuckle its way into the number one slot next weekend. After 12 weeks on top, Titanic may not spend unlucky weekend 13 at number one which is only fitting since the ocean liner of the same name had little luck to begin with. However, this weekend Titanic did match Home Alone's twelve week reign at the top. By the end of frame twelve, it had $213.6M in the bank which was 74.7% of its final tally of $285.8M. If Titanic sails on at the same rate, it is on course to reach $563M. But Home Alone's weekend gross in frame 12 was 51.9% less than its opening gross while Titanic's is only 38.5% less plus it has an Oscar hurricane looming ahead which will also boost ticket sales so Titanic should have no problem reaching $600M at the North American box office at its current rate.

Compared to my projections, U.S. Marshals performed better ($16.9M vs. $14M projected). Twilight and Hush, with $5.9M and $5.7M respectively, came in close to my $7M forecast for each. The Big Lebowski was also close with $5.5M vs. my projection of $5M.

Overall, the top ten films grossed $71.1M which was up 13% from last year when Private Parts opened to $13.8M and Jungle 2 Jungle debuted with $12.8M. This weekend's top ten was also up 16% from 1996. Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend's activity which will include the possible #1 opening of The Man in the Iron Mask.

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

# Title Mar 6 - 8 Feb 27 - Mar 1 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Titanic $ 17,605,849 $ 19,633,056 -10.3 3,103 12 $ 5,674 $ 449,157,395 Paramount
2 U.S. Marshals 16,863,988 2,817 1 5,987 16,863,988 WB
3 The Wedding Singer 6,198,896 8,719,890 -28.9 2,826 4 2,194 57,076,673 New Line
4 Twilight 5,866,411 1,351 1 4,342 5,866,411 Paramount
5 Hush 5,742,431 1,966 1 2,921 5,742,431 Sony
6 The Big Lebowski 5,533,844 1,207 1 4,585 5,533,844 Gramercy
7 Good Will Hunting 5,175,514 6,636,861 -22.0 2,049 14 2,526 103,427,470 Miramax
8 As Good As It Gets 3,220,350 4,058,350 -20.6 1,788 11 1,801 117,231,402 Sony
9 Dark City 2,837,941 5,576,953 -49.1 1,754 2 1,618 10,190,659 New Line
10 The Borrowers 2,073,962 2,831,184 -26.7 1,581 4 1,312 17,270,127 Polygram
11 Krippendorf's Tribe 1,616,203 3,316,377 -51.3 1,523 2 1,061 5,640,404 BV
12 The Apostle 1,512,756 2,304,203 -34.3 747 12 2,025 13,231,775 October
13 L.A. Confidential 1,421,752 2,151,911 -33.9 826 25 1,721 53,492,067 WB
14 Sphere 1,239,387 3,809,123 -67.5 1,512 4 820 34,751,717 WB
15 Senseless 1,132,430 2,786,952 -59.4 1,042 3 1,087 11,070,677 Miramax
16 Caught Up 1,024,103 2,422,631 -57.7 722 2 1,418 4,077,613 Live
17 Kissing a Fool 684,050 2,308,145 -70.4 1,754 2 390 3,628,960 Universal
18 Dangerous Beauty 562,906 478,454 17.7 196 3 2,872 1,397,847 WB
19 The Full Monty 552,112 828,536 -33.4 408 31 1,353 43,028,630 Fox Search.
20 Flubber 422,406 531,651 -20.5 558 16 757 91,458,324 BV
Top 5 $ 52,277,575 $ 44,625,110 17.1
Top 10 71,119,186 59,791,377 18.9
Top 20 81,287,291 71,869,343 13.1

    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 9, 1998 at 11:45PM ESTHome

    Written by Gitesh Pandya