Weekend Box Office (March 28 - 30, 2003)

THIS WEEKEND Chris Rock seized control of the North American box office as his new comedy Head of State debuted at number one nudging fellow cross-cultural laugher, the three-term incumbent Bringing Down the House, to the runner-up spot. The disaster thriller The Core and the military suspense pic Basic both opened in the top five with mediocre results.

DreamWorks topped the charts with Head of State which premiered with $13.5M from 2,151 theaters for a solid $6,278 average, according to final studio figures. The PG-13 comedy marked the directorial debut of Rock who also co-wrote, produced, and starred. Bernie Mac also starred in the story of an ordinary black man who turns the white political establishment upside-down when he runs for the White House. The performance was similar to that of Rock's 2001 hit Down to Earth which in its opening weekend averaged $6,850 from a $17.3M bow in a wider 2,521 theaters. State gave the former Saturday Night Live star his first number-one opening in a headlining role since the gangsta rap spoof CB4 topped the charts a decade ago in March 1993.

Studio research indicated that 55% of the audience was under 25 while 53% was female. African-Americans made up a majority of the crowd accounting for 60% of the turnout. Moviegoers polled by CinemaScore.com gave the $35M State a B+ grade. By beating out competing new releases The Core and Basic, both of which had several hundred more theaters, Head of State proved once again that comedy was king in the current box office climate and moviegoers would rather laugh than spend their time and money on dark and violent films.

After three weeks at number one, Buena Vista's Bringing Down the House settled for second place, but dipped only 23% to $12.5M. That allowed the Steve Martin-Queen Latifah comedy to reach $100.1M after 24 days of release.

Paramount debuted the center-of-the-earth thriller The Core in third place with $12.1M from an ultrawide 3,017 locations for a decent $3,995 average. Rated PG-13, the $60M disaster pic was clobbered by critics and scored only a B grade from moviegoers polled by CinemaScore.com.

Opening close behind in fourth was the John Travolta mystery Basic with $11.5M. The R-rated thriller averaged $4,003 from 2,876 sites and earned the best reviews among the three freshmen, even though they were not very glowing. CinemaScore.com patrons gave the Sony release a B grade.

Climbing one notch in the standings, and 17% in grosses, was the six-time Oscar winner Chicago with $7.2M. In its first frame since being honored as the best picture of last year, the Miramax title watched its cume soar to $144.7M and is aiming for at least $175M by the end of its run. Dreamcatcher from Warner Bros. suffered the worst fall in the top ten plunging 56% to $6.6M in its second weekend putting its ten-day gross at $25.6M.

MGM's kidpic Agent Cody Banks slid 30% to $6.4M for a $35.2M total. The Disney toon Piglet's Big Movie eased just 19% to $4.9M upping the sum to $12.7M. Paramount's The Hunted followed with $3.6M and a $29.2M cume. View From the Top rounded out the top ten with $3.5M giving the Miramax comedy only $12.3M in ten days.

Fresh from its big Oscar night where it surprised most of the industry with three big wins including best director and best actor, The Pianist jumped 138% to $2.5M putting the Focus title in eleventh place. An additional 233 theaters also helped the cause as the Roman Polanski pic averaged $3,177 from 773 sites and raised its cume to $23.6M.

Best animated film winner Spirited Away was put into national release with a new ad campaign and grossed $1.8M from 711 theaters for a $2,483 average. Cume since its September domestic release stands at $7.4M.

Fox Searchlight expanded its hit soccer comedy Bend It Like Beckham from eight to 46 theaters and grossed $655,741 for a superb $14,255 average. The award-winning British film entered the top twenty despite its narrow release and will widen to 24 more cities on Friday for a total of 100 playdates. Cume is $1.2M.

Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Old School fell 38% to $2.4M giving the DreamWorks comedy $70.8M to date. A $75-80M final cume is likely. Sony's Bruce Willis war pic Tears of the Sun crumbled 55% to $2M for a $41.4M sum. Look for a $45M final. Also falling apart was the Artisan comedy Boat Trip which sank 56% to $1.7M. With only $6.7M in the bank, the R-rated pic should conclude with under $10M.

The top ten films grossed $81.9M which was down 25% from last year when Panic Room opened at number one with $30.1M; but up 5% from 2001 when Spy Kids debuted on top with $26.5M.

Compared to projections, Head of State debuted a couple of notches below my $16M forecast. The Core opened well below my $17M prediction, but Basic was very close to my $13M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on next weekend's new action films. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of three Oscar events was most surprising. Of 1,081 responses, 58% said Roman Polanski winning for Best Director, 34% said Gangs of New York winning nothing, and 8% said Spirited Away winning for Best Animated Film.

For reviews of The Core and Bend It Like Beckham visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when What A Girl Wants, Phone Booth, A Man Apart, and Dysfunktional Family all open.

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

# Title Mar 28 - 30 Mar 21 - 23 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Head of State $ 13,503,484 2,151 1 $ 6,278 $ 13,503,484 DreamWorks
2 Bringing Down the House 12,481,803 16,204,468 -23.0 2,910 4 4,289 100,068,024 Buena Vista
3 The Core 12,053,131 3,017 1 3,995 12,053,131 Paramount
4 Basic 11,511,960 2,876 1 4,003 11,511,960 Sony
5 Chicago 7,210,721 6,176,021 16.8 2,701 14 2,670 144,652,474 Miramax
6 Dreamcatcher 6,638,459 15,027,423 -55.8 2,945 2 2,254 25,641,912 Warner Bros.
7 Agent Cody Banks 6,419,524 9,227,614 -30.4 2,786 3 2,304 35,166,724 MGM
8 Piglet's Big Movie 4,931,308 6,097,758 -19.1 2,084 2 2,366 12,730,591 Buena Vista
9 The Hunted 3,616,241 6,510,154 -44.5 2,244 3 1,612 29,222,759 Paramount
10 View From The Top 3,516,872 7,009,513 -49.8 2,508 2 1,402 12,250,828 Miramax
11 The Pianist 2,456,117 1,031,666 138.1 773 14 3,177 23,595,709 Focus
12 Old School 2,413,368 3,904,358 -38.2 1,407 6 1,715 70,818,475 DreamWorks
13 Tears of the Sun 2,006,425 4,435,782 -54.8 1,764 4 1,137 41,434,588 Sony
14 How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days 1,786,884 2,946,064 -39.3 1,176 8 1,519 101,051,022 Paramount
15 Spirited Away 1,765,491 5,011 711 28 2,483 7,386,075 Buena Vista
16 Boat Trip 1,691,121 3,815,075 -55.7 1,803 2 938 6,729,131 Artisan
17 The Hours 744,712 1,002,679 -25.7 506 14 1,472 40,117,829 Paramount
18 Bend It Like Beckham 655,741 178,076 268.2 46 3 14,255 1,171,713 Fox Searchlight
19 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 623,597 768,554 -18.9 425 15 1,467 335,800,124 New Line
20 Daredevil 622,947 1,419,555 -56.1 681 7 915 99,488,672 Fox
Top 5 $ 56,761,099 $ 53,979,172 5.2
Top 10 81,883,503 78,408,166 4.4
Top 20 96,649,906 90,628,242 6.6
Top 10 vs. 2002 96,649,906 125,243,398 -22.8

Last Updated : March 31, 2003 at 7:00PM EST