Weekend Box Office (March 29 - 31, 2002)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Jodie Foster captured the number one spot for the first time in eight years with the suspense thriller Panic Room which topped the box office during a booming Easter weekend. The baseball drama The Rookie and the sci-fi adventure Clockstoppers both debuted well but the Robin Williams comedy Death to Smoochy was dead on arrival. The animated hit Ice Age crossed the $100M mark while The Lord of the Rings broke the $300M barrier. Overall, the holiday weekend capped off a record March box office which hopes to keep the momentum going in April as the summer season approaches.

Scoring the best opening weekend of her career, two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster kept moviegoers at the edge of their seats with Panic Room which debuted with $30.1M, according to final figures. Sony launched the R-rated thriller in 3,053 theaters and averaged a terrifying $9,845 per location. Directed by David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club), Panic Room finds Foster playing a woman under attack in the safe room of her own home. Produced for $48M, the thriller played best with adult women as 54% of the audience was female and 60% were over 25, according to studio distribution president Jeff Blake.

For Foster, the top spot debut represents her first trip to the box office summit since 1994's western Maverick which also starred Mel Gibson. Panic Room also topped Contact's $20.6M second-place bow from July 1997 as the largest opening ever for the actress. Moviegoers polled by CinemaScore gave Panic Room a good B grade while critics were mixed. The hit film will face stiff competition in the weeks ahead from a series of star-driven thrillers aimed at adults - High Crimes starring Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman, Changing Lanes with Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck, and Sandra Bullock's Murder by Numbers.

Holding steady in second place were the prehistoric mammals of Fox's Ice Age with $18.2M. The animated comedy dropped a reasonable 40% in its third weekend and boosted its 17-day total to $116.9M. On Friday, Ice Age became the first release of 2002 to cross the $100M mark. Oscar winners Black Hawk Down and A Beautiful Mind also crossed the milestone this year but opened in limited release in December to qualify for Academy consideration.

Dennis Quaid pitched a solid first inning with his new baseball drama The Rookie which grossed $16M. Disney's uplifting G-rated film hit the mound in 2,511 stadiums and averaged a brawny $6,381 per theater. Backed with glowing reviews, The Rookie played to an extremely broad age group and attracted slightly more men with males making up 52% of the crowd, according to Buena Vista distribution executive Rod Rodriguez. Strong word-of-mouth could mean a prolonged spring season as a whopping 95% of those polled marked the film as "excellent" or "very good." Those polled by CinemaScore agreed and gave it an A grade.

For Quaid, the opening of The Rookie showed that the actor could finally outmuscle his ex-wife Meg Ryan at the box office by himself. The true-to-life baseball saga debuted stronger than Ryan's last three films - Kate & Leopold ($9.7M), Proof of Life ($10.2M), and Hanging Up ($13.6M). Quaid's last film with a lead role, 2000's Frequency, was a spring sleeper hit arriving with $9M and reaching five times its opening with a $45M domestic take. Plus roles in the ensemble hits Traffic and Any Given Sunday have helped make Dennis Quaid come a long way since Jaws 3-D.

Last week's number one film, New Line's vampire actioner Blade II, fell a sharp 60% in its second weekend to fourth place with $13M. After ten days, the $48M Wesley Snipes sequel has grossed a solid $54.9M and looks headed for $75-85M which would make it the actor's highest-grossing film ever.

Paramount watched its sci-fi kids flick Clockstoppers debut in the number five spot with d $10.1M from 2,540 theaters. The $26M Nickelodeon Films production averaged a decent $3,980 per site and faced heavy competition for family audiences from Ice Age, The Rookie, and E.T. The studio reported that children under 12 and their parents made up most of the audience. Clockstoppers earned a B+ from moviegoers polled by CinemaScore.

The 20th anniversary rerelease of Steven Spielberg's E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial took a strong hit with the new family films in the marketplace and tumbled an alarming 57% to $6.2M. The Universal title has grossed $24.3M in ten days and boosted the blockbuster's lifetime gross to $424.1M. The E.T. rerelease should finish with around $35M.

Robin Williams failed to find fans this weekend with his dark comedy Death to Smoochy which opened miserably with $4.3M. Warner Bros. launched the Danny DeVito-directed film in 2,164 theaters and averaged a morbid $1,972. CinemaScore audiences gave Smoochy a troubling C grade. The former Mork has been absent from theaters during the last couple of years and has not tasted box office success since 1998's Patch Adams.

In its first weekend since winning four major Academy Awards including one for best picture, Ron Howard's Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind climbed a notch to eighth place with $3.9M. Helped by 105 additional theaters, and the Oscars, the Universal/DreamWorks picture was off only 5% from last weekend's gross and lifted its cume to $160.8M. With so many moviegoers having already seen Mind, the post-Oscar box office effect was not as strong as for other recent winners. In 1999, Shakespeare in Love enjoyed a 44% increase with 665 added locations while in 2000, American Beauty rose 34% with 328 additional theaters. A Beautiful Mind could now find itself reaching the vicinity of $175M domestically.

Rounding out the top ten were Paramount's We Were Soldiers in its fifth campaign with $3.7M and Showtime from Warner Bros. with $3.5M in its third weekend. Totals stand at $67.6M and $33.3M respectively.

With four Academy Awards of its own, New Line's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings held up quite nicely inching up 1% to $2.4M. The Peter Jackson epic crossed the $300M mark over the weekend ending the frame with $301.3M. The fantasy adventure was also helped by the distributor debuting a special preview to the sequel The Two Towers on Friday. The Lord of the Rings has spent an amazing fifteen consecutive weeks in the Top 12 and should find its way to $305-310M.

Artisan reported encouraging Saturday night sneak previews for its gross-out campus comedy National Lampoon's Van Wilder. Screening in 700 locations nationwide, the R-rated film skewed 60% male and played predominantly to the 18-34 age bracket, according to distribution president Steve Rothenberg. Attendance was between 75% and 90% and 80% categorized the comedy as "excellent" or "very good." Starring Ryan Reynolds and Tara Reid, Van Wilder opens in approximately 2,000 theaters on Friday.

Four films fell out of the top ten this weekend. Sony's video game-inspired horror flick Resident Evil dropped 56% to $2.9M in its third try pushing its total to $34.4M. The thriller should see its game over with about $40M. The teen sex comedy Sorority Boys stumbled 49% in its sophomore frame to $2.1M putting its ten-day cume at just $8.1M. The Buena Vista flop looks to end its disappointing term with roughly $12M.

The sci-fi film The Time Machine has grossed $52.6M for DreamWorks and should reach about $58M. Miramax's romantic comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights has collected $36.5M thus far and will end with approximately $40M.

USA Films continued to bring in audiences for the award-winning Indian hit Monsoon Wedding which grossed $793,698, up 6%, in its sixth weekend. Averaging $5,669 from 140 theaters, the Mira Nair film has upped its cume to $4.3M.

Fox Searchlight doubled the theatercount for the dating comedy Kissing Jessica Stein and collected $718,572 from 131 locations. With a $5,485 average, the girl-meets-girl tale has reached $2M to date and expands to 300 playdates on Friday.

Miramax collected $33,203 from 13 theaters for a weak $2,554 average for its Project Greenlight picture Stolen Summer in its second weekend.

The top ten films grossed $108.9M which was up 39% from last year when Spy Kids opened at number one with $26.5M; and up 51% from 2000 when Erin Brockovich spent its third weekend in the top spot with $13.8M.

Compared to projections, Panic Room and The Rookie both opened very close to my respective forecasts of $28M and $16M. Death to Smoochy was also close to my prediction of $7M. Clockstoppers debuted well below my $15M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on which Marvel Comics movie you are most looking forward to. In last week's survey, readers were asked if Panic Room would open north of $25M. Of 3,100 responses, 55% correctly guessed Yes while 45% thought No.

For a review of Panic Room and National Lampoon's Van Wilder visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when High Crimes, Van Wilder, and Big Trouble all open.

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

# Title Mar 29 - 31 Mar 22 - 24 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Panic Room $ 30,056,751 3,053 1 $ 9,845 $ 30,056,751 Sony
2 Ice Age 18,135,449 30,056,721 -39.7 3,333 3 5,441 116,862,514 Fox
3 The Rookie 16,021,684 2,511 1 6,381 16,021,684 Buena Vista
4 Blade II 13,021,698 32,528,016 -60.0 2,707 2 4,810 54,921,131 New Line
5 Clockstoppers 10,108,333 2,540 1 3,980 10,108,333 Paramount
6 E.T. (rerelease) 6,163,305 14,223,110 -56.7 3,007 2 2,050 24,294,365 Universal
7 Death to Smoochy 4,266,463 2,164 1 1,972 4,266,463 Warner Bros.
8 A Beautiful Mind 3,884,455 4,081,270 -4.8 1,560 15 2,490 160,844,681 Universal
9 We Were Soldiers 3,723,298 5,728,150 -35.0 2,046 5 1,820 67,601,100 Paramount
10 Showtime 3,532,984 8,145,446 -56.6 2,321 3 1,522 33,300,131 Warner Bros.
11 Resident Evil 2,935,111 6,705,076 -56.2 1,919 3 1,530 34,386,355 Sony
12 The Lord of the Rings 2,382,794 2,363,869 0.8 1,120 15 2,127 301,308,405 New Line
13 The Time Machine 2,283,410 5,324,159 -57.1 1,748 4 1,306 52,648,064 DreamWorks
14 Sorority Boys 2,095,065 4,127,903 -49.2 1,801 2 1,163 8,067,440 Buena Vista
15 Monster's Ball 2,060,118 1,557,337 32.3 676 14 3,048 22,931,442 Lions Gate
16 All About the Benjamins 982,107 2,257,026 -56.5 550 4 1,786 22,935,822 New Line
17 40 Days and 40 Nights 977,962 2,719,233 -64.0 901 5 1,085 36,465,089 Miramax
18 John Q 919,769 2,084,070 -55.9 720 7 1,277 69,242,125 New Line
19 Gosford Park 898,944 1,598,355 10.2 545 14 1,649 39,343,053 USA Films
20 Monsoon Wedding 793,698 746,693 -3.5 140 6 5,669 4,315,138 USA Films
Top 5 $ 87,343,915 $ 91,658,369 -4.7
Top 10 108,914,420 113,639,084 -4.2
Top 20 125,243,398 127,606,333 -1.9
Top 20 vs. 2001 125,243,398 90,925,668 37.7

Last Updated : April 1, 2002 at 9:00PM EST