Weekend Box Office (March 31 - April 2, 2000)

THIS WEEKEND Box office heavyweight Julia Roberts pinned the competition and retained her title as Erin Brockovich led all films with $13.8M in ticket sales, according to final figures, to spend its third weekend at number one. The Universal release continued to show strong legs slipping just 26% (the smallest decline in the top ten) and raising its 17-day cume to a bouncy $75.8M. Erin Brockovich is the first Julia Roberts starrer since 1991's holiday extravaganza Hook to spend three weeks atop the charts and is poised to become the eighth $100M+ blockbuster for the two-time Oscar nominee. Columbia Pictures will begin rolling out the international release this week in Germany, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe.

DreamWorks scoured the land hunting for gold with its new animated adventure The Road to El Dorado and came up with a decent, but not bountiful, $12.8M. The PG-rated tale of two rogues (voiced by Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline) searching for the City of Gold enjoyed one of the widest bows ever for a toon with a massive 3,218 theaters but managed a mediocre $3,992 average. Given the ultrawide launch, a hefty marketing push, music from Elton John, and the lack of competiton for families, many industry observers were expecting a louder splash. However, El Dorado will be the only major kids offering in theaters for the next four weeks, including the busy Easter recess, so the DreamWorks film could generate some solid results over the long run. Past animated films from the SKG team have included Antz ($17.2M opening/$90.7M final) and The Prince of Egypt ($14.5M/$101.3M).

Universal was back again in the third spot with the new collegiate thriller The Skulls which earned $11M in its freshman term. Landing in 2,412 theaters, the Joshua Jackson suspense pic averaged a good $4,575 per site. The Skulls performed much like the recent teen thrillers The Faculty ($11.6M opening/$39M final) and Urban Legend ($10.5M opening/$38M final). Universal covered $11M of the picture's $16M budget, plus prints and advertising costs, in exchange for distribution rights in seven English-speaking territories.

After a high-energy debut, the martial arts actioner Romeo Must Die got taken down 48% in its second round grossing $9.4M. The $25M Warner Bros. pic has climbed to $38.8M in 12 days and could finish with around $60M.

Fresh from the head of Mr. Malkovich, John Cusack got a haircut and returned to theaters in the romantic comedy High Fidelity which opened in fifth place with $6.4M. The Buena Vista title scored the best average in the top ten with $5,435 from only 1,183 playdates. Based on a best-selling novel, High Fidelity finds Cusack as a thirtysomething record store owner who relives the doomed relationships of the past. Critics were generally supportive of the picture which debuted much like Cusack's Grosse Point Blank which opened in April 1997 with $6.9M in 1,227 theaters and went on to collect $28M. Buena Vista reported that the audience for High Fidelity was evenly split among males and females and 86% of those polled rated the picture "excellent" or "very good".

Climbing 34% to $5.4M was the Oscar-winning blockbuster American Beauty. After taking home five Academy Awards for picture, director, actor, writing, and cinematography, DreamWorks launched a new advertising campaign to tout the honors and added another 328 theaters to the film's run. With all the extra attention, moviegoers looked closer and pushed American Beauty's cume to a rosy $116.7M. The movie's post-Oscar boost was close to last year's Best Picture winner Shakespeare in Love which jumped 44% on the weekend after the Awards. American Beauty should continue to enjoy a strong run at the box office in the weeks ahead. Although it hits video store shelves on May 9th, the Kevin Spacey-Annette Bening satire could climb to $135-140M domestically and $300M+ worldwide.

Easing 26%, the Grim Reaper thriller Final Destination took in $5.4M pushing its total to $28.3M. Mission to Mars dropped to eighth place with $3.3M which lifted its cume to $54.5M.

Rounding out the top ten were the sophomore teen pics Here on Earth and Whatever it Takes which each grossed less than $2.3M. Earth crumbled 50% to an $8M ten-day tally which should eventually reach $13-15M. Whatever fell 46% to a $7.4M cume and is likely to retire with a similar total. Opening day and date with each other proved to be a poor move by Fox and Sony respectively as the films split the high school vote in two with a pair of offerings that were weak in commercial potential to begin with.

Three films were pushed out of the top ten over the weekend. With Oscar night now history, The Cider House Rules dipped 27% to $2.1M and lifted its cume to $53M. The Miramax release, which took home Academy Awards for Supporting Actor and Adapted Screenplay, should conclude its theatrical run with a solid $60M.

Warner Bros. saw its kidpic My Dog Skip fall 43% to $1.7M for a cume of $29.1M. The cheap $7M production should go on to finish with $33-35M. Studio stablemate The Whole Nine Yards spent six weeks in the top ten (three of them in pole position) and has grossed $55.9M to date. Look for the $25M Bruce Willis comedy to conclude with a commendable $60M.

New Line debuted the boxing-themed family drama Price of Glory in 802 theaters over the weekend but only collected $1.6M at the gate. The Jimmy Smits starrer averaged a featherweight $2,010 per ring.

Fox Searchlight added 85 more runs to the true-life drama Boys Don't Cry which snagged the Best Actress Oscar for Hilary Swank last weekend. Sales spiked 42% to their highest level yet with $984,311 giving the tragic pic $9.3M in six months of limited release.

Selected cities saw a sneak preview on Saturday of Buena Vista's religious-themed romantic comedy Keeping the Faith starring Ben Stiller, Edward Norton, and Jenna Elfman. The distributor reported that the sneaks were at 65% capacity, females comprised 55% of the crowd, and that 99% of those polled rated the picture in the top two boxes. Keeping the Faith will sneak again next Saturday before bowing nationally on April 14th.

In other Buena Vista news, Toy Story 2 climbed another spot to number 16 on the All-Time Domestic Blockbusters list with a cume of $242.6M surpassing Raiders of the Lost Ark. Across the globe, the animated sequel has grossed a mammoth $457M.

Compared to projections, both The Road to El Dorado and The Skulls opened very close to my forecasts of $13M and $10M respectively. Erin Brockovich came in right near my $13M prediction and High Fidelity debuted close to my $7M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on which April release you are looking forward to the most. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of this weekend's new releases would have the best opening. Of 1,891 responses, 64% correctly chose The Road to El Dorado, 19% said The Skulls, and 16% picked High Fidelity.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which looks at how winning an Oscar has helped Best Picture winners at the box office. This Wednesday's new column will report on how studios have fared in the first quarter of 2000. For reviews of The Road to El Dorado and Beyond the Mat visit The Chief Report.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $72.1M which was off 1% from last year when The Matrix crashed into the top spot with $27.8M, but up 6% from 1998 when Lost in Space finally knocked Titanic out of the number one spot after fifteen weeks with a $20.2M opening.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when theaters learn the three R's - Rules of Engagement, Ready to Rumble, and Return to Me.

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

# Title Mar. 31 - Apr. 2 Mar. 24 - 26 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Erin Brockovich $ 13,798,460 $ 18,545,755 -25.6 2,908 3 $ 4,745 $ 75,811,060 Universal
2 The Road to El Dorado 12,846,652 3,218 1 3,992 12,846,652 DreamWorks
3 The Skulls 11,034,885 2,412 1 4,575 11,034,885 Universal
4 Romeo Must Die 9,378,376 18,014,503 -47.9 2,641 2 3,551 38,844,556 Warner Bros.
5 High Fidelity 6,429,107 1,183 1 5,435 6,429,107 Buena Vista
6 American Beauty 5,407,279 4,024,983 34.3 1,990 29 2,717 116,658,175 DreamWorks
7 Final Destination 5,355,284 7,218,840 -25.8 2,314 3 2,314 28,344,513 New Line
8 Mission to Mars 3,324,853 5,720,133 -41.9 2,505 4 1,327 54,459,333 Buena Vista
9 Here on Earth 2,262,462 4,510,705 -49.8 1,713 2 1,321 7,978,813 Fox
10 Whatever It Takes 2,237,341 4,104,298 -45.5 2,272 2 985 7,377,558 Sony
11 The Cider House Rules 2,051,924 2,799,556 -26.7 1,468 17 1,398 52,984,775 Miramax
12 My Dog Skip 1,747,722 3,058,430 -42.9 2,010 12 870 29,050,659 Warner Bros.
13 Price of Glory 1,611,833 802 1 2,010 1,611,833 New Line
14 Fantasia 2000 1,257,778 1,332,858 -5.6 54 14 23,292 38,131,912 Buena Vista
15 The Whole Nine Yards 1,065,025 2,003,905 -46.9 1,501 7 710 55,851,307 Warner Bros.
16 Boys Don't Cry 984,311 695,333 41.6 365 26 2,697 9,326,087 Fox Searchlight
17 The Sixth Sense 902,491 1,280,345 -29.5 722 35 1,250 291,745,637 Buena Vista
18 The Ninth Gate 802,128 1,930,263 -58.4 1,021 4 786 17,178,615 Artisan
19 The Tigger Movie 388,145 883,586 -56.1 701 8 554 43,809,334 Buena Vista
20 Snow Day 377,316 946,452 -60.1 1,056 8 357 58,593,583 Paramount
Top 5 $ 53,487,480 $ 54,009,936 -1.0
Top 10 72,074,699 70,001,108 3.0
Top 20 83,263,372 79,574,249 4.6

Last Updated : April 3 at 9:00PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya