Weekend Box Office (March 12 - 14, 1999)

** Star Wars Episode I - Box Office Preview **

THIS WEEKEND For the second straight weekend, the Warner Bros. smash Analyze This easily dominated the North American box office despite a flood of new releases that were met with mostly disappointing sales. Except for the top film, every movie in wide release averaged less than $3,500 per theater which meant there were too many films playing in front of too many empty seats. The overall marketplace barely expanded to fit all the newcomers as aggregate sales for the top fifteen films was roughly even with last week.

Mob comedy Analyze This had no problem holding onto its box office crown as its $15.6M gross, according to final studio results, more than doubled its nearest competitor. Off only 15% from its debut frame, the Robert De Niro-Billy Crystal pic has amassed a lavish $39.9M in just ten days and looks headed for $100M territory. So far, Analyze This has performed about as well as another star-driven March comedy blockbuster - The Birdcage. The Robin Williams hit opened similarly with $18.3M in 1996 and earned $41.3M in its first ten days on its way to a $124M domestic haul. Analyze This also enjoyed the smallest decline and highest per-theater average in the top ten. Barry Reardon, distribution head of Warner Bros., stated that word-of-mouth is very strong on the film and that younger audiences are now finding the picture.

Freshman horror film The Rage : Carrie 2 premiered in second place with $7.1M in ticket sales. Opening in 2,286 theaters (most of any new film) the $21M-budgeted MGM/UA pic averaged $3,091 per site. The Rage's debut performance was similar to the studio's horror/sci-fi sequel Species II from last spring which launched with $7.3M and finished with $19.2M.

Sony Pictures, which placed four films in the top ten, saw its teen pic Cruel Intentions fall a spot to third with $7M over the weekend bringing its ten day total to $23.4M. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Philippe, and Reese Witherspoon, the romantic thriller tumbled 46% in its sophomore session and should hit $35-40M by the end of its run.

New Line's action entry The Corruptor, starring Chow Yun-Fat and Mark Wahlberg, debuted in fourth place with $5.8M. The Chinatown cop pic averaged a so-so $3,196 in 1,804 precincts and failed to match the openings of the previous films by the two actors. Chow Yun-Fat's The Replacement Killers debuted at number two behind Titanic with $8M last February while Wahlberg's The Big Hit crashed into the number one position with $10.8M last April. The Corrupter also had to compete for the attention of young males this weekend with sporting events like the NCAA college basketball tournament and the Holyfield-Lewis boxing title match. With a scant 5% increase from Friday-to-Saturday, The Corruptor does not seem like a film that will last long at theaters.

A surprisingly strong performance was delivered by the talking tot pic Baby Geniuses which grossed $5.6M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Napping in 1,689 cribs, the Sony release averaged a decent $3,324 per theater. Few in the industry expected a top five finish for Baby Geniuses but apparently the family audience was ready for a new title and had the market virtually to itself. With a $12M negative cost, the kidpic should go on to achieve a respectable gross.

Michelle Pfeiffer's latest film The Deep End of the Ocean saw a disappointing sixth place opening with $5.6M. Based on the best-selling novel about a mother who finds her son who was missing for nine years, the Sony release played in 1,907 theaters and averaged only $2,915 per milk carton. Deep End is the latest in a long line of recent star-driven family dramas aimed at mature women that have failed to open with any strength. Last fall offered Meryl Streep's One True Thing and Oprah Winfrey's Beloved which debuted with $6.6M and $8.2M respectively, while this year Sharon Stone's Gloria arrived with just $2.1M. Even Pfeiffer's last theatrical, A Thousand Acres, opened with a poor $2.9M in September of 1997.

The Deep End of the Ocean reached its target audience of women over 35, according to Sony distribution chief Jeff Blake, and exit polls showed that audiences liked the film very much. However, with a production cost of $35-40M, the drama is unlikely to become profitable when worldwide box office receipts are tallied. While being one of Hollywood's highest paid actresses, Michelle Pfeiffer has lost some of her box office muscle in the last couple of years but will try to regain her form in the May period piece A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Debuting in seventh place, Fox's Wing Commander managed to shoot up just $5.1M. The science-fiction film based on the popular video game jetted into 2,019 theaters and averaged a meager $2,533 per site. Wing Commander's low Friday-to-Saturday boost of 10% bodes poorly for the film's long term prospects. With The Corruptor also going after the core audience of young males, Wing Commander had to share the wealth. Clearly moviegoers who love adventure stories in space voted to save their dollars for the main course which arrives on May 19th from master chef George Lucas.

Finishing the weekend in eighth place was The Other Sister with $3.8M pushing its 17-day gross to a respectable $19.9M. Sony's 8MM has suffered massive erosion since opening at number one two weeks ago. This weekend the Nicolas Cage thriller was spliced in half again and earned $3.5M giving it $31M. October Sky delighted audiences once more slipping just 19% to $3M for the weekend and a good $20.8M to date.

The flood of new films sent five competitors below the ranks of the top ten. Miramax's Shakespeare in Love slipped just 14% to $2.8M in its final frame before Oscar weekend. With $68.9M in domestic sales, the Gwenyth Paltrow hit should finish its run with $80-90M depending on its fate at next Sunday's Academy Awards. Whether it wins big or not, Shakespeare is still on course to gross more than Oscar champ The English Patient's $78.7M and rank as Miramax's fifth highest-grossing film ever.

After five solid weeks in the top ten, Paramount's Payback earned $2.5M and boosted its cume to $75.9M. The top grossing new release of 1999 should end up with an $85-90M domestic score. Kevin Costner's Message in a Bottle has reached $49.4M and should finish with $55-60M. My Favorite Martian from Disney has beamed up $32.8M and looks to conclude with $35-40M.

And finally Miramax's She's All That has been charming young moviegoers to the sound of $59.2M. With a low pricetag of around $10M, the high school romantic comedy is one of the most profitable titles of the year and is likely to finish its theatrical run with an impressive $65M in domestic ticket sales.

With Oscar night just around the corner, movie fans continued to sample the Best Picture nominees. Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful has upped its cume to $32.8M and continues to enjoy microscopic weekly declines as more and more ticket buyers line up to see Guido and family. Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, which picked up top honors on Saturday from the American Cinema Editors, managed to increase its own war chest to $208.7M thus far.

Compared to projections, The Rage and Baby Geniuses opened much stronger than my respective forecasts of $4M and $2M. Conversely, The Corruptor and The Deep End of the Ocean debuted weaker than my predictions of $10M and $9M respectively. Fox's Wing Commander opened close to my $6M projection.

Now online, read the in-depth box office preview of Star Wars Episode I : The Phantom Menace.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on your choice for Best Actor in this year's Oscars. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of two Marvel comic book heroes they most wanted to see a feature film about. Of 2,168 responses, 42.2% picked The X-Men, 42.0% chose Spider-Man, and 16% said neither.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which reviews the box office record of Michelle Pfeiffer. For reviews of recent films visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films grossed $62.1M which was down 12% from last year when Titanic sailed away with $17.6M, but up 3% from 1997 when the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi opened at number one with $16.3M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for another busy weekend when Forces of Nature, True Crime, and The King & I 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 12 - 14 Mar 5 - 7 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Analyze This $ 15,567,669 $ 18,383,507 -15.3 2,537 2 $ 6,136 $ 39,936,107 Warner Bros.
2 The Rage: Carrie 2 7,065,123 2,286 1 3,091 7,065,123 MGM/UA
3 Cruel Intentions 7,006,829 13,020,565 -46.2 2,312 2 3,031 23,391,114 Sony
4 The Corruptor 5,765,300 1,804 1 3,196 5,765,300 New Line
5 Baby Geniuses 5,613,587 1,689 1 3,324 5,613,587 Sony
6 The Deep End of the Ocean 5,558,400 1,907 1 2,915 5,558,400 Sony
7 Wing Commander 5,114,365 2,019 1 2,533 5,114,365 Fox
8 The Other Sister 3,839,269 5,731,839 -33.0 1,863 3 2,061 19,863,414 BV
9 8MM 3,520,356 7,011,136 -49.8 2,241 3 1,571 30,970,380 Sony
10 October Sky 3,007,710 3,701,640 -18.7 1,583 4 1,900 20,769,640 Universal
11 Shakespeare in Love 2,848,931 3,306,893 -13.8 1,405 14 2,028 68,887,013 Miramax
12 Payback 2,528,130 4,128,407 -38.8 1,982 6 1,276 75,948,099 Paramount
13 My Favorite Martian 1,897,188 3,591,888 -47.2 1,880 5 1,009 32,789,825 BV
14 Life is Beautiful 1,865,738 1,925,622 -3.1 646 21 2,888 32,801,942 Miramax
15 Message in a Bottle 1,838,140 3,411,546 -46.1 1,876 5 980 49,354,471 Warner Bros.
16 She's All That 1,294,473 2,566,767 -49.6 1,406 7 921 59,206,946 Miramax
17 Saving Private Ryan 858,625 1,177,743 -27.1 616 34 1,394 208,671,338 DreamWorks
18 Rushmore 646,259 1,127,342 -42.7 446 6 1,449 15,189,195 BV
19 Blast From The Past 645,784 1,836,995 -64.8 1,001 4 645 24,689,174 New Line
20 Elizabeth 559,754 620,623 -9.8 340 19 1,646 26,935,779 Gramercy
Top 5 $ 41,018,508 $ 48,275,454 -15.0
Top 10 62,058,608 64,854,188 -4.3
Top 20 77,041,630 75,304,504 2.3

    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 15, 1999 at 8:45PM ESTHome

Written by Gitesh Pandya