Weekend Box Office (March 23 - 25, 2001)

THIS WEEKEND The mother-daughter comedy Heartbreakers swiped the number one spot from the cop thriller Exit Wounds over the weekend while the friendship tale The Brothers debuted impressively in second place despite playing in half as many theaters. Films competing for Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards remained popular with North American moviegoers, however the overall box office was once again below the levels from a year ago.

Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt took control of the top spot with the $11.8M debut of their new film Heartbreakers, according to final studio figures. Playing very wide in 2,750 theaters, the MGM release finds the pair playing a con artist team swindling money from wealthy men. Rated PG-13, Heartbreakers averaged a moderate $4,291 per site and witnessed a respectable 25% increase in sales on Saturday over Friday.

The audience for the comedy was 60% female and split evenly between those over and under age 25, according to MGM distribution president Larry Gleason. "The sneak previews we did really helped get the word out and we think it will hold up well in the coming weeks," he added. Budgeted at $40M, the studio is only handling domestic distribution. For Weaver, Heartbreakers marks her first number one opening since 1989's Ghostbusters II. Hewitt's only stint on top was with 1997's teen thriller I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Opening with strength in second place was the male-bonding tale The Brothers with $10.3M from only 1,378 theaters. Sony's Screen Gems release enjoyed the best per-theater average in the top ten taking in $7,477 per venue. Starring D.L. Hughley, Bill Bellamy, Morris Chestnut, and Shemar Moore, the R-rated picture follows four close friends who must reevaluate their romances and friendships after one of them announces his engagement. The Brothers played to a mostly African-American audience this weekend and slightly more female which Screen Gems attributed to the allure of the handsome stars.

Exit polls were quite encouraging as the film earned a 93% "definite recommend" while CinemaScore audiences gave the film an A grade. With only a $6M budget, The Brothers will be a very profitable title for the company which hopes to surpass the $34M gross of 1999's Taye Diggs-starrer The Best Man.

Tumbling 48% from its powerful opening, the Warner Bros. action thriller Exit Wounds dropped to third place with $9.7M in its second weekend. Budgeted at about $40M, the Steven Seagal-DMX crime picture has grossed $33.1M in ten days and should finish its domestic run in the vicinity of $50M.

Paramount's sniper film Enemy at the Gates dropped 40% to $8.3M in its sophomore frame despite playing in 168 additional theaters. Averaging $4,924 per location, the $70M Jude Law-Joseph Fiennes war film has collected $26.1M in ten days and may reach $50M domestically. Last weekend, Enemy debuted at number one in the United Kingdom (where much of the cast is from) but suffered softer openings in Germany (where filming took place) and France.

Moviegoers continued to sample the Best Picture nominees over Oscar weekend. Sony Classics added 167 theaters to the run of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which collected $4.6M putting it at number six. The Ang Lee action-romance, which won Independent Spirit Awards for best picture, director, and supporting actress on Saturday, saw its weekend take climb 14% pushing its gravity-defying cume to $106.3M.

Steven Soderbergh's narcotics saga Traffic jumped 16% (without the assistance of additional theaters) to $3.9M putting it in seventh place. The USA Films release has grossed $107.7M to date. Miramax's Chocolat eased just 4% to $3.3M giving it $60.7M thus far.

The Brad Pitt-Julia Roberts collaboration The Mexican slipped to fifth place with $4.6M for a $58M cume. See Spot Run placed eighth with $3.6M and a total of $29.5M. Each picture was in its fourth weekend.

Stumbling into tenth place in its opening weekend was the raunchy Farrelly brothers-produced comedy Say It Isn't So with $2.9M. Averaging a dismal $1,450 from 1,974 venues, the Fox release stars Heather Graham and Chris Klein as two people who fall in love only to learn that they might be siblings. Bruce Snyder, distribution chief for Fox, noted that the audience was mostly between the ages of 18 and 30 and 60% was male. Say It Isn't So's production budget fell in the range of "the mid to high 20s," and Snyder believed that the subject matter may have been the reason the turnout was not strong.

In limited release, the Indian-American comedy American Desi grossed $250,079 from 37 theaters for a $6,759 average and a cume of $630,133 in ten days. The thriller Memento starring Guy Pearce took in $217,497 from 12 theaters for a $18,125 average. The Australian comedy The Dish grossed $53,287 in six locations for a $8,881 average per site.

Three films fell out of the top ten over the weekend. Paramount's comedy Down to Earth grossed $2.4M in its sixth frame pushing its cume to $60.2M. Chris Rock's $28M remake of Heaven Can Wait should end up with $65-70M. Robert De Niro's action thriller 15 Minutes took in $2.2M in its third lap lifting its total to $21.6M. The New Line release looks to finish with $25-30M.

The year's biggest blockbuster, Hannibal starring Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore, left the top ten in its seventh weekend but has grossed a towering $160.1M to date. The $78M MGM/Universal co-production should reach about $165M domestically and has already eaten up over $125M internationally.

Compared to projections, Heartbreakers and The Brothers were both very close to my respective forecasts of $11M and $9M. Say It Isn't So failed to reach my $8M prediction.

The top ten films grossed $63M which was down 10% from last year when Erin Brockovich remained at number one with $18.5M; but up 19% from 1999 when Forces of Nature spent a second week in the top spot with $9.4M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the opening weekend potential of The Mummy Returns. In last week's survey, readers were asked who would win the Oscar for Best Director. Of 1,251 responses, 58% picked Ang Lee, 19% selected Steven Soderbergh (Traffic), 19% said Ridley Scott, 3% picked Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich), and 1% selected Stephen Daldry.

Read the Weekly Rewind column which goes back to March 1990. For a review of Say It Isn't So visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Tomcats, Spy Kids, and Someone Like You all open.

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

# Title Mar. 23 - 25 Mar. 16 - 18 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Heartbreakers $ 11,801,323 2,750 1 $ 4,291 $ 11,801,323 MGM
2 The Brothers 10,302,846 1,378 1 7,477 10,302,846 Sony
3 Exit Wounds 9,710,747 18,485,586 -47.5 2,830 2 3,431 33,132,004 Warner Bros.
4 Enemy at the Gates 8,258,312 13,810,266 -40.2 1,677 2 4,924 26,054,136 Paramount
5 The Mexican 4,623,578 8,011,263 -42.3 3,043 4 1,519 57,979,920 DreamWorks
6 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 4,613,172 4,044,988 14.0 2,027 16 2,276 106,253,538 Sony Classics
7 Traffic 3,948,118 3,414,195 15.6 1,684 13 2,344 107,681,527 USA Films
8 See Spot Run 3,605,570 5,005,784 -28.0 2,605 4 1,384 29,488,322 Warner Bros.
9 Chocolat 3,308,107 3,428,184 -3.5 1,781 15 1,857 60,657,943 Miramax
10 Say It Isn't So 2,861,903 1,974 1 1,450 2,861,903 Fox
11 Down to Earth 2,436,212 4,006,506 -39.2 2,044 6 1,192 60,175,669 Paramount
12 15 Minutes 2,203,182 4,300,356 -48.8 2,013 3 1,094 21,649,365 New Line
13 Hannibal 1,914,209 3,566,601 -46.3 1,812 7 1,056 160,116,695 MGM
14 Get Over It 1,643,898 2,833,982 -42.0 1,740 3 945 10,381,640 Miramax
15 O Brother, Where Art Thou? 1,310,111 1,488,876 -12.0 816 14 1,606 37,091,203 Buena Vista
16 Cast Away 1,050,300 1,229,032 -14.5 786 14 1,336 229,168,596 Fox
17 Recess: School's Out 984,061 1,649,102 -40.3 1,308 6 752 34,801,195 Buena Vista
18 Pollock 807,443 745,854 8.3 271 6 2,979 4,905,216 Sony Classics
19 Save the Last Dance 539,977 846,061 -36.2 615 11 878 88,034,423 Paramount
20 The Wedding Planner 470,994 902,823 -47.8 483 9 975 59,471,197 Sony
Top 5 $ 44,696,806 $ 49,613,255 -9.9
Top 10 63,033,676 68,073,729 -7.4
Top 20 76,394,063 79,096,666 -3.4
Top 20 vs. 2000 76,394,063 79,574,249 -4.0

Last Updated : March 26, 2001 at 8:15PM EST