Weekend Box Office (March 13 - 15, 1998)

THIS WEEKEND Titanic's heart will go on as MGM/UA stated Monday afternoon that the final weekend gross for their picture The Man in the Iron Mask will be "a few hundred thousand shy" of Titanic's weekend tally meaning the James Cameron disaster epic has continued its reign as the box office monarch for a record-tying thirteen consecutive weekends.

Andy Gruenberg, Executive Vice President with MGM/UA, confirmed that Iron Mask's final gross for the Friday-to-Sunday period will be $17.3M. He also stated that the studio was very pleased with the opening of Iron Mask, that it performed strongly across the board in all demographic groups, and described its international prospects as being "one word - HUGE."

Over at Paramount, Blaise Noto, Senior Vice President of Publicity, confirmed that Titanic's final weekend gross was $17.6M boosting its total to $471,446,140. That puts it even with last weekend's gross. Both films were tied at number one with an estimated $17.5M weekend gross as of Sunday.

Now at number one for a lucky thirteenth time, Titanic ties the record for most consecutive weekends at number one joining 1982's Tootsie and 1984's Beverly Hills Cop. However, Saturday was a night to remember as Titanic sailed past the $461M lifetime domestic gross of Star Wars to become the all-time domestic box office leader with a cumulative total thus far of $471.4M. This Star Wars gross is of course measured in nominal dollars and includes sales from many years and at different ticket prices.

Nevertheless, it was an impressive opening for The Man in the Iron Mask with $17.3M - the fifth biggest March opener on record. MGM/UA gave the film the widest release in the distributor's history as it swashbuckled its way onto over 3,700 screens in 3,103 theaters yielding a per-theater average of $5,566. A launch of this magnitude is rare as the last film to debut this wide was The Lost World which charged into 3,281 theaters last May. With DiCaprio's films taking the top two spots, it was one for all and all for one as one star, two films, and three roles combined to make moviegoers spend $34.9M on tickets to his films over the weekend. Iron Mask, which also stars Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gerard Depardieu, and Gabriel Byrne, easily exceeded the $10.6M opening of Disney's The Three Musketeers from November 1993 which featured Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, and Chris O'Donnell.

Helmed by rookie director Randall Wallace, Iron Mask used the soaring popularity of Leonardo DiCaprio to attract scores of moviegoers. Leo's roar has let the lion studio continue its resurgence. Since The Birdcage, MGM/UA hit a severe slump which lasted about 20 months until Tomorrow Never Dies arrived last December. Now, Iron Mask hopes to keep the momentum going. Coincidentally, the last four commercial hits for MGM/UA (Iron Mask, Tomorrow Never Dies, The Birdcage, and Goldeneye) have all been produced by the United Artists half of the company. Clearly, Iron Mask was able to ride the Titanic wave and connected with DiCaprio's new fans.

Titanic now has a shot at not only setting a new record for consecutive weekends at number one with fourteen, but also has a chance to catch E.T. which holds the record for most total weekends at number one with sixteen, only six of which were consecutive. Iron Mask is not likely to have the staying power of the James Cameron film so it will decline more next weekend, but newcomers Primary Colors and Wild Things will be looking for a run at the top. During weekend thirteen, Titanic still stood at only 38.6% below its debut weekend gross from December.

The iceberg romance continued to collide with destiny as it picked up more outstanding achievement awards in editing, cinematography, and sound mixing from the American Cinema Editors, American Society of Cinematographers and the Cinema Audio Society respectively. This is in addition to the award from the Directors Guild of America for James Cameron and the four Golden Globes it captured including statues for Best Picture and Best Director. Over on the Billboard music charts, the soundtrack to Titanic has acted like the film itself and has not moved from the number one spot as it spent its ninth straight week at the top. Cameron and crew have only a week left to practice their acceptance speeches and clean their tuxedos and gowns until the Academy Awards which will be presented in front of a global audience on March 23rd.

Among non-Leonardo DiCaprio films, U.S. Marshals slipped one notch and placed third with a $11.4M gross - down a respectable 33% in its sophomore session. Its ten-day haul stands at $32.9M and seems to be on course to capture $50-60M in its final domestic tally. Good Will Hunting grabbed another $4.8M popping its head back into the top five and became the highest-grossing movie in Miramax history passing Pulp Fiction's $107.9M with its latest cume of $109.8M. Down a slim 6%, this multiple Oscar nominee is still a crowdpleaser and is finding repeat customers as well as new fans. Rounding out the top five is The Wedding Singer, still playing well, as it grossed $4.7M which was down only 25%. Singer is the third hit comedy from New Line to perform surprisingly well in less than a year. Austin Powers collected a shagadelic $53.8M and Money Talks took in a solid $41.1M last summer.

Three of last weekend's freshmen followed with The Big Lebowski, from the Coen brothers, slipping 37%, Twilight falling a heavy 45%, and Hush dropping 44%. Lebowski fell by more than my 25% projection, Twilight dropped by much more than my 20% forecast, while Hush declined by a rate close to my 45% projection. The 33% depreciation of U.S. Marshals was close to the 35% I predicted and The Man in the Iron Mask's $17.3M debut came in at less than my forecast of $20M. For reviews of recent films, visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

Among films not playing in wide release, Love and Death in Long Island expanded its run from 6 to 80 theaters and averaged a solid $4,583 per site. Screening in just 18 theaters, Men With Guns from director John Sayles continues to post strong numbers as it averaged $4,468 per location. Sony's Mrs. Dalloway, in 62 houses, took in a $3,792 average moving its total gross thus far to nearly one million dollars. Dangerous Beauty from Warner Bros. collected $663,337 in 313 sites for an average of $2,119 per location. Chairman of the Board, starring Carrot Top, debuted in 195 theaters, grossed a lackluster $181,233, and should be filing for bankruptcy soon.

Overall, the box office remained strong as the top ten films grossed $70.2M which was up 17% from last year when Return of the Jedi - Special Edition opened to $16.3M. This weekend's top ten was also up 35% from 1996 when Executive Decision debuted at number two with $12.1M. Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete review, including projections, for next weekend's activity which includes the openings of Primary Colors and Wild Things.

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

    # Title Mar 13 - 15 Mar 6 - 8 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
    1 Titanic $ 17,578,815 $ 17,605,849 -0.2 3,116 13 $ 5,641 $ 471,446,140 Paramount
    2 The Man in the Iron Mask 17,271,450 3,103 1 5,566 17,271,450 MGM/UA
    3 U.S. Marshals 11,355,259 16,863,988 -32.7 2,817 2 4,031 32,879,111 WB
    4 Good Will Hunting 4,844,784 5,175,514 -6.4 1,899 15 2,551 109,843,236 Miramax
    5 The Wedding Singer 4,666,969 6,198,896 -24.7 2,550 5 1,830 63,482,769 New Line
    6 The Big Lebowski 3,497,794 5,533,844 -36.8 1,235 2 2,832 10,719,123 Gramercy
    7 Twilight 3,245,628 5,866,411 -44.7 1,353 2 2,399 10,597,391 Paramount
    8 Hush 3,228,841 5,742,431 -43.8 1,966 2 1,642 10,388,242 Sony
    9 As Good As It Gets 3,051,172 3,220,350 -5.3 1,710 12 1,784 121,407,160 Sony
    10 Dark City 1,443,008 2,837,941 -49.2 1,520 3 949 12,591,256 New Line
    11 L.A. Confidential 1,424,423 1,421,752 0.2 793 26 1,796 55,434,736 WB
    12 The Borrowers 1,313,706 2,073,962 -36.7 1,514 5 868 19,008,365 Polygram
    13 The Apostle 1,283,750 1,512,756 -15.1 739 13 1,737 15,028,633 October
    14 The Wings of the Dove 708,297 186,296 280.2 704 19 1,006 12,641,472 Miramax
    15 Caught Up 664,184 1,024,103 -35.1 578 3 1,149 5,248,727 Live
    16 Dangerous Beauty 663,337 562,906 17.8 313 4 2,119 2,311,201 WB
    17 Krippendorf's Tribe 646,428 1,616,203 -60.0 1,245 3 519 6,694,127 BV
    18 Senseless 633,774 1,132,430 -44.0 580 4 1,093 11,991,679 Miramax
    19 Everest (IMAX) 623,311 364,244 71.1 10 2 62,331 1,276,758 Freeman
    20 Fallen 565,789 11,629 4765.3 659 9 859 24,887,358 WB
    Top 5 $ 55,717,277 $ 52,277,575 6.6
    Top 10 70,183,720 71,119,186 -1.3
    Top 20 78,710,719 81,287,291 -3.2

      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 16, 1998 at 7:30PM ESTHome

    Written by Gitesh Pandya