Weekend Box Office (March 22 - 24, 2002)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Vampire hunters slayed the competition as the horror sequel Blade II captured the top spot in its debut weekend edging out last week's box office leader Ice Age which finished close behind in second place. Steven Spielberg's re-release of E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial attracted families in its return while the college comedy Sorority Boys opened poorly. Oscar weekend saw sales increases for best picture candidates as the overall box office remained well ahead of year-ago levels.

Wesley Snipes enjoyed a career-best opening with the debut of the vampire thriller Blade II which rocked the box office with a powerful $32.5M bow, according to final studio figures. Playing in 2,707 theaters, the $48M New Line film averaged a bloody $12,016 per venue and enjoyed the second largest March opening ever after last weekend's Ice Age which debuted with $46.3M. The R-rated action adventure almost doubled the $17.1M bow of Blade which opened in August 1998 and went on to gross $70.1M domestically and over $125M worldwide. Audiences were generally entertained by Blade II which scored a B+ from moviegoers polled by CinemaScore. For New Line, the successful opening meant yet another thriving franchise for the company joining Rush Hour, Austin Powers, and The Lord of the Rings.

After a mammoth number-one opening last weekend, Fox's animated film Ice Age slipped to second place but held up quite well against the competition. The PG-rated film eased 35% to $30.1M in its sophomore frame and watched its ten-day total zoom to a fabulous $87.3M. Ice Age continues to enjoy the widest release of any film now playing with 3,345 theaters and a muscular $8,986 average. Produced for $58M, the computer-animated film looks to gross $175-200M domestically and will also generate substantial revenue from ancillaries. The studio reported that initial overseas openings have mirrored domestic success.

Universal celebrated the 20th anniversary of Steven Spielberg's megablockbuster E.T. with a heavily marketed re-release over the weekend and was met with an opening of $14.2M. The former all-time box office champ played ultrawide in 3,007 theaters and averaged a decent $4,730 per location. With Ice Age taking in over twice as much over the weekend, E.T. settled for a third place showing as it targeted family audiences as well as nostalgic sci-fi fans. Widely available on home video, E.T. upped the ante with its new theatrical edition adding extra footage, new sound, and enhanced special effects. Adding to the $399.8M earned during its previous releases in the 1980s, The Extra-Terrestrial has boosted its lifetime domestic gross to $414M which still puts it at number four all-time after Titanic ($600.8M), Star Wars ($461M including re-releases), and Star Wars Episode I ($431.1M).

Falling 46% in its second weekend was the Robert De Niro-Eddie Murphy comedy Showtime with $8.2M in its second weekend. With $26.8M in ten days, the Warner Bros. release looks to cuff $45-50M overall. Dropping even more dramatically in its sophomore frame was Sony's horror flick Resident Evil which collected $6.7M. With Blade II stealing away much of its audience, Evil tumbled 62% from its impressive debut last weekend and has grossed $28.9M in ten days. A final cume of around $40M seems likely.

Showing more box office stamina was Paramount's war pic We Were Soldiers which grossed $5.7M, off 33%, for a $61.6M cume. DreamWorks claimed seventh place with the sci-fi actioner The Time Machine which took in $5.3M, down 51%, giving it a sum of $48.2M.

Universal's four-time Oscar champ A Beautiful Mind watched sales climb 21% on Oscar weekend to $4.1M bringing the total for the Ron Howard film to $154.7M. Co-produced by DreamWorks, the Russell Crowe starrer lost 78 theaters and still generated an average of $2,805 per location - an amazing figure for a movie in its fourteenth week of release. Mind's primary nemesis The Lord of the Rings also enjoyed a boost this weekend climbing 12% to $2.4M to remain in eleventh place.

The college sex comedy Sorority Boys debuted poorly in eighth place with $4.1M from 1,801 theaters. Averaging just $2,292 per site, the R-rated Buena Vista release stars comedian Harland Williams. Rounding out the top ten was Josh Hartnett's own sex comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights which collected $2.7M pushing its total to $34.2M.

Three solid performers fell from the top ten this weekend. New Line's action-comedy All About the Benjamins grossed $2.3M in its third frame pushing its loot to $21.1M. The $14M film should finish with just under $25M. The distributor's Denzel Washington drama John Q hit $67.4M while Disney's animated film Return to Neverland reached $46.5M.

In the limited-release arena, USA Films continued to lead the pack with its hit from India Monsoon Wedding which grossed $746,693 from 128 theaters for a $5,834 average. Mira Nair's award-winning film added 30 more theaters and watched its gross inch up 4% while its cume climbed to $3.2M after its fifth weekend. Fox Searchlight also widened its romantic comedy Kissing Jessica Stein adding 40 locations for a weekend take of $511,229 from 66 sites. Averaging $7,746 per theater, the independent film has taken in $1.1M in just 12 days and will expand to about 130 venues this coming weekend.

The top ten films grossed $113.6M which was up 80% from last year when Heartbreakers opened at number one with $11.8M; and up 62% from 2000 when Erin Brockovich remained in the top spot with $18.5M.

Compared to projections, Blade II slaughtered my revised $18M forecast while E.T. debuted well below my revised $27M prediction. Sorority Boys opened a little weaker than my $6M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Panic Room. In last week's survey, readers were asked which film would win the Oscar for Best Picture. Of 906 responses, 46% picked The Lord of the Rings, 21% correctly chose A Beautiful Mind, 18% selected Moulin Rouge, 12% said In the Bedroom, and 3% went with Gosford Park. For a review of Showtime visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Panic Room, Clockstoppers, The Rookie, and Death to Smoochy all open.

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

# Title Mar 22 - 24 Mar 15 - 17 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Blade II $ 32,528,016 2,707 1 $ 12,016 $ 32,528,016 New Line
2 Ice Age 30,056,721 46,312,454 -35.1 3,345 2 8,986 87,292,481 Fox
3 E.T. (re-release) 14,223,110 3,007 1 4,730 14,223,110 Universal
4 Showtime 8,145,446 15,011,430 -45.7 2,917 2 2,792 26,803,761 Warner Bros.
5 Resident Evil 6,705,076 17,707,106 -62.1 2,528 2 2,652 28,937,585 Sony
6 We Were Soldiers 5,728,150 8,488,331 -32.5 2,859 4 2,004 61,638,534 Paramount
7 The Time Machine 5,324,159 10,795,951 -50.7 2,809 3 1,895 48,158,947 DreamWorks
8 Sorority Boys 4,127,903 1,801 1 2,292 4,127,903 Buena Vista
9 A Beautiful Mind 4,081,270 3,380,260 20.7 1,455 14 2,805 154,704,651 Universal
10 40 Days and 40 Nights 2,719,233 4,358,186 -37.6 1,831 4 1,485 34,176,683 Miramax
11 The Lord of the Rings 2,363,869 2,118,375 11.6 1,317 14 1,795 297,530,963 New Line
12 All About the Benjamins 2,257,026 4,990,628 -54.8 1,123 3 2,010 21,136,968 New Line
13 John Q 2,084,070 3,622,711 -42.5 1,302 6 1,601 67,416,080 New Line
14 Gosford Park 1,598,355 1,450,159 10.2 843 13 1,896 37,756,788 USA Films
15 Monster's Ball 1,557,337 1,333,960 16.7 543 13 2,868 19,678,781 Lions Gate
16 In the Bedroom 1,290,356 1,020,397 26.5 688 18 1,876 34,212,351 Miramax
17 Dragonfly 787,535 1,977,955 -60.2 736 5 1,070 29,457,380 Universal
18 Monsoon Wedding 746,693 774,150 -3.5 128 5 5,834 3,227,647 USA Films
19 Return to Never Land 711,918 2,122,386 -66.5 1,004 6 709 46,466,029 Buena Vista
20 Iris 570,090 430,310 32.5 204 15 2,795 3,895,942 Miramax
Top 5 $ 91,658,369 $ 98,315,272 -6.8
Top 10 113,639,084 116,789,443 -2.7
Top 20 127,606,333 130,026,055 -1.9
Top 20 vs. 2001 127,606,333 76,394,063 67.0

Last Updated : March 25, 2002 at 9:15PM EST