Weekend Box Office (March 26 - 28, 1999)
Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck charmed enough moviegoers to remain the
most popular item in North American theaters as Forces
of Nature earned $9.4M in its second weekend
of release, according to final
figures. The DreamWorks romantic comedy added 166 theaters and declined
just 30% in its sophomore frame and has grossed a nice sum of $26.8M in
ten days. At its current pace, Forces of
Nature should conclude its domestic run
in the vicinity of $50M.
Still attracting solid business in its fourth hit, Analyze This slipped just 26% and grossed $8.7M. The Warner Bros. comedy has generated a cume of $69.3M and still has its crosshairs on the $100M mark. After just 24 days, Analyze This ranks as the second biggest new release of the year behind Payback which has reached $78.8M. It should top the Mel Gibson actioner within two weeks. The Robert De Niro-Billy Crystal mob comedy has already begun a lucrative overseas campaign as it has topped the Australian box office its first two weeks of release with a strong second weekend hold.
Debuting moderately in third place with $8.3M was Ron Howard's new comedy Ed TV starring Matthew McConaughey, Jenna Elfman, Woody Harrelson, and Ellen Degeneres. Universal went very wide with its opening launching it in 2,627 theaters but scored a mediocre debut average of $3,164. Moviegoers have been asking themselves if this is just another version of last summer's popular blockbuster The Truman Show. Apparently, many thought it was. Without a huge A-list star to anchor the film, this Ron Howard picture will need excellent word-of-mouth to reach a decent domestic gross. Universal's Sunday estimate, which some rival studios criticized as being inflated, turned out to be $700,000, or 8%, too high.
Stumbling from the boob tube to the big screen, The Mod Squad opened in fourth place with a not-so-explosive $6.1M. The MGM/UA action pic features the rising young stars Claire Danes, Omar Epps, and Giovanni Ribisi as juvenile delinquents who become undercover crimefighters. Chasing bad guys in 2,290 locations, The Mod Squad averaged only $2,648 per theater. The studio aimed this critically-panned feature squarely at teens and young adults with its slick packaging but the target audience was not entirely convinced. MGM/UA has now suffered three years without having a film hit number one at the box office.
Another new film adapted from a television series performed poorly at the box office as Disney's kidpic Doug's First Movie managed to gross $4.5M in its debut outing. Released in 2,268 theaters, the animated feature averaged just $1,971 per site. The opening of Doug was in line with other family films this month like Baby Geniuses and The King and I which premiered with just $5.6M and $4M respectively.
After winning seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress, Shakespeare in Love expanded into more theaters and surged 44% from last weekend to gross $4.3M. To capitalize on the Oscar wins, and the added publicity, Miramax added 665 locations bringing the theatercount to 1,931 and the cume to a robust $79.3M. Shakespeare in Love performed much like Miramax's last Best Picture winner, The English Patient, which jumped 50% the weekend after its big win with the help of an additional 407 theaters. With the Oscar momentum behind it, Shakespeare in Love now has a realistic chance to break the $100M barrier.
Clint Eastwood slipped to seventh place with True Crime which grossed $3.4M in its sophomore frame. Down 37%, the Warner Bros. drama has grossed just $10.5M in ten days and should only be able to reach about $17-19M.
Another Miramax Oscar winner, Life is Beautiful, made a triumphant splash into the top ten for the first time after five months of limited play. Roberto Benigni's Italian-language comic film went into full national release by playing in 1,121 theaters (up 474 from last weekend) and grossed $3.2M. With an incredible $40.7M in the bank, Life is Beautiful is close to doubling the previous recordholder for highest-grossing foreign language film which was fellow Italian pic Il Postino with $21.8M. With the help of a trio of Oscars for Best Actor, Dramatic Score, and Foreign Language Picture, audiences flocked to La Vita č Bella to see the film that everyone has been talking about.
Sony rounded out the top ten with the kidpic Baby Geniuses and the teen romance Cruel Intentions which took in grosses of $2.7M and $2.3M respectively.
Four films suffered steep declines and quickly left the top ten over the weekend. The animated musical The King and I crumbled 50% in its sophomore session and reached $7M in ten days. Look for it to finish with a measly $11-13M. New Line's The Corruptor is up to $13.5M and should conclude with only $15-17M. The Rage : Carrie 2 has reached $15.2M on its way to a $16-18M final. And Michelle Pfeiffer's The Deep End of the Ocean is sinking rapidly and is set to finish with $14-16M.
Saving Private Ryan, which won five Oscars last Sunday including a trophy for Best Director, saw sales ease by only 9% from last weekend and earned $1M. The Steven Spielberg war epic, which became the first movie in nine years to win Best Director and not Best Picture, has raised its domestic haul to $211.7M and could conclude its campaign with about $215M. Elsewhere in the world, Saving Private Ryan has grossed an additional $256M and is nearing the end of its successful worldwide release. A final global tally of $475-500M seems likely for the DreamWorks/Paramount co-production. Ryan hits the domestic home video market on May 25, ten months after its theatrical release date.
Once again ticket sales were sluggish as for the first time since October, no film could gross at least $10M. Overall, the box office is suffering from too much quantity and not enough quality. With the first quarter of 1999 coming to a close, the total theatrical box office is down from last year when December holdovers Titanic, As Good As It Gets, and Good Will Hunting were sizzling, and also down from 1997 when the Star Wars trilogy and Liar, Liar were attracting large crowds. Very few movies in recent weeks have excited the moviegoing public. Of 14 pictures debuting in wide release this month, only Analyze This has really brought in stellar business as most titles have debuted with less than $6M in this crowded marketplace. Overall, weekend number 13 of 1999 was the worst box office frame of the year.
In Star Wars: Episode I news, Lucasfilm and Twentieth Century Fox have announced that advance purchases of tickets to The Phantom Menace will not be allowed in order to curb unauthorized scalping. Variety also reports that exhibitors are being asked to accept unorthodox terms such as keeping the prequel in the best auditoriums for a minimum of up to 12 weeks. Terms have not been finalized, but Fox is expected to create an environment that ensures healthy long-term sales this summer for the long-awaited Episode I which of course means ... long lines.
Compared to projections, Ed TV opened weaker than my $14M forecast. The Mod Squad debuted very close to my $7M prediction while Doug's First Movie performed worse than my $7M projection.
Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on your choice for next year's Oscar host. In last week's survey, readers were asked which actor was more responsible for the box office success of Analyze This. Of 964 responses, 82% said Robert De Niro while 18% chose Billy Crystal.
Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which looks back at the year 1990. This Wednesday's new column will report on the top April openings of the decade. For reviews of Ed TV and The Mod Squad visit Chief's Movie Review Page.
The top ten films grossed $52.8M which was down 20% from last year when Titanic sailed away with $15.2M, and down 25% from 1997 when Liar, Liar stood at number one with $25.4M.
Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Matrix is unleashed nationwide.
Below are final studio figures for the weekend. Click on the title to jump to its official home page:
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.
Written by Gitesh Pandya