Weekend Box Office (March 20 - 22, 1998)

THIS WEEKEND Tossing three more competitors overboard, Titanic easily remained the number one movie at the domestic box office for the fourteenth consecutive weekend - a new box office record. The previous record was held by 1982's Tootsie and 1984's Beverly Hills Cop which each spent thirteen straight frames in the top spot. With a $17.2M haul over the Friday-to-Sunday period, down just 2%, Titanic's treasure chest is now filled with $494.5M and still rapidly climbing. James Cameron's vessel, which is destined to be showered with Oscars, has now grossed more than his last four films put together as True Lies, Terminator 2, The Abyss, and Aliens weigh in at a combined domestic gross of $487M. By midweek, the ocean liner will have crossed the $500M mark in domestic ticket sales. With overseas sales adding $756.2M, Titanic's worldwide gross is now up to a staggering $1.25 billion and still climbing (see International).

Once again, a strong freshman contender had to settle for the bridesmaid spot as Primary Colors, starring John Travolta as a troubled presidential candidate running for the White House, took second place with $12M. The political satire failed to unseat the popular incumbent Titanic, but still posted a respectable, though not spectacular, performance with voters at the box office. Its per-theater average of $6,133 was tops among all films in the top ten as its long running-time reduced the number of screenings per day. Primary Colors relied on the starpower of Travolta and the current life-imitates-art turmoil revolving around President Clinton to make it a top choice among moviegoers. It is uncertain whether the excessive media coverage of Clinton's personal affairs turned people away from seeing this film. Though it is the biggest opening for Universal this year, the studio must have been hoping for a larger turnout.

For Travolta, the $12M debut of Primary Colors falls short of the openings of his other recent hits such as Face/Off ($23.4M), Michael ($17.4M), Phenomenon ($16.2M), and Broken Arrow ($15.6M). 1995's Get Shorty opened to a $12.7M gross and cruised to a $72M final tally. Colors has been getting strong reviews which could allow it to generate positive word-of-mouth and lead to steady sales over the next two or three weeks. Still, a final gross of $60M for Primary Colors will be tough and will take a lot of campaigning to achieve. The Mike Nichols-directed film follows Travolta's megaflop Mad City which was released in November and grossed a puny $10.6M at the box office.

Dropping from second to third place in its sophomore showing was The Man in the Iron Mask with $11.1M. Last weekend, Leonardo DiCaprio was the king of the world as his two films Titanic and Iron Mask led all films at the box office. This weekend, his Three Musketeers film dropped 36% and brought its ten-day loot to $34.5M. Iron Mask still looks on course to finish its run with $50-60M.

Opening in fourth place was the Sony thriller Wild Things starring Neve Campbell, Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, and Denise Richards with $9.6M. Jeff Blake, head of Sony Pictures Releasing, described the performance as "very good considering the competition." He also noted that the film played mostly to the under-25 audience, was evenly split between males and females, and should do well for a movie that cost about $20M. Campbell is still a top draw among teens and young adults and her starpower had much to do with the opening of this film. However, with a strong showing on Friday and relatively weak performances on Saturday and Sunday, don't expect Wild Things to stay around for too long. Its final box office gross could end up in the $25-30M range. For reviews of Wild Things and other recent films, visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

Rounding out the top five was U.S. Marshals which took in $7.2M in its third chase with ticket buyers. The Warner Bros. sequel/spinoff hybrid has grossed $43.6M after 17 days of release. The weekend's other new wide release was Mr. Nice Guy which stars Jackie Chan as a television chef. It debuted in sixth with an appetizer-size $5.3M. Nice Guy joins his other similar-performing menu items Operation Condor ($4.7M opening/$10.4M total), First Strike ($5.8M/$14.5M), and Supercop ($5.5M/$16.3M). Chan's killer smile, and martial arts skill, will only get him so far with Nice Guy. It should end off with $12-14M before heading to more tasty sales on video.

Compared to my projections, Titanic came in very close to my $17M forecast. Primary Colors and Wild Things opened a bit less than my predictions of $14M and $11M respectively. And Mr. Nice Guy did better than my $4M projection. Holdover Iron Mask fell by more than my 25% forecast while U.S. Marshals dropped about 35%, as predicted.

Academy Award contenders continued to pack them in as the moviegoing public was eager to catch them before the big Oscar ceremony on Monday. Titanic remained steady in the $17-18M range for the third straight frame. Good Will Hunting, up for nine awards, was off just 17% bringing its cume to $115.6M. As Good As It Gets, which many think will nab both Best Actor and Best Actress trophies, was the only film in the top ten that was actually up from last weekend. The Sony comedy now stands at $125.8M and obsessively counting. American and Canadian audiences have now spent $736M on ticket sales to these three Oscar-nominated movies over the last three months. This is evidence that movie fans will embrace original films that are well-written, well-acted, and well-directed as opposed to the constant diet of sequels, tv-remakes, and other recycled trash that Hollywood feeds them. Meanwhile, L.A. Confidential was up 5% with a total gross of $57.5M to date, and The Apostle declined just 9% bringing its cume to $16.6M thus far.

Miramax's Wide Awake from director M. Night Shyamalan debuted in limited release in 29 theaters and grossed $95,875 for a good $3,306 average per location.

Titanic sailed off with 11 Academy Awards, tying Ben-Hur for most ever, while As Good As It Gets, Good Will Hunting, and L.A. Confidential each picked up a pair and hope to parlay the wins into continued box office gold. Click here for a complete list of Oscar winners.

Overall, the top ten films grossed $74.8M which was up 1% from last year when Liar, Liar opened to a March record $31.4M, and up a boffo 57% from 1996 when Diabolique was the top new release with $5.5M. Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend's box office lineup which will include the re-release of Grease.

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

# Title Mar 20 -22 Mar 13 - 15 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Titanic $ 17,165,239 $ 17,578,815 -2.4 3,169 14 $ 5,417 $ 494,514,331 Paramount
2 Primary Colors 12,045,395 1,964 1 6,133 12,045,395 Universal
3 The Man in the Iron Mask 11,077,005 17,271,450 -35.9 3,101 2 3,572 34,483,255 MGM/UA
4 Wild Things 9,622,444 2,177 1 4,420 9,622,444 Sony
5 U.S. Marshals 7,225,511 11,355,259 -36.4 2,817 3 2,565 43,556,768 WB
6 Mr. Nice Guy 5,250,704 1,463 1 3,589 5,250,704 New Line
7 Good Will Hunting 4,026,752 4,844,784 -16.9 1,805 16 2,231 115,597,415 Miramax
8 As Good As It Gets 3,260,123 3,051,172 6.8 1,604 13 2,032 125,803,127 Sony
9 The Wedding Singer 3,254,479 4,666,969 -30.3 2,065 6 1,576 68,391,968 New Line
10 The Big Lebowski 1,830,628 3,497,794 -47.7 1,123 3 1,630 13,771,141 Gramercy
11 Twilight 1,624,714 3,245,628 -49.9 1,354 3 1,200 13,192,612 Paramount
12 L.A. Confidential 1,496,331 1,424,423 5.0 723 27 2,070 57,505,024 WB
13 Hush 1,250,392 3,228,841 -61.3 1,591 3 786 12,622,611 Sony
14 The Apostle 1,169,836 1,283,750 -8.9 712 14 1,643 16,636,186 October
15 The Borrowers 1,041,278 1,313,706 -20.7 1,241 6 839 20,601,297 Polygram
16 Everest (IMAX) 620,262 623,311 -0.5 20 3 31,013 2,360,472 Freeman
17 Dark City 415,245 1,443,008 -71.2 512 4 811 13,562,437 New Line
18 The Apostle 369,448 664,184 -44.4 347 4 1,065 5,966,586 Live
19 The Full Monty 364,703 462,708 -21.2 285 33 1,280 44,288,450 Fox Search.
20 Dangerous Beauty 356,414 663,337 -46.3 276 5 1,291 2,965,591 WB
Top 5 $ 57,135,594 $ 55,717,277
Top 10 74,758,280 70,183,720
Top 20 83,466,903 78,710,719

    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 24, 1998 at 11:15AM EST

Written by Gitesh Pandya