Weekend Box Office (April 2 - 4, 1999)

THIS WEEKEND Racing past his Speed co-star Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves snatched the box office crown with the record-breaking opening of his futuristic thriller The Matrix causing overall ticket sales to surge to their highest level in seven weeks. The Easter frame also saw debuts from two comedies which together could not come close to the power of The Matrix.

Keanu Reeves led the box office into an alternate reality over the weekend with the explosive launch of his new film The Matrix which grossed a mammoth $27.8M over the weekend according to final studio figures. Debuting on Wednesday, the sci-fi thriller has amassed a sizzling $37.4M over its five-day opening period. The Friday-to-Sunday figure set a new record for April openings beating out the $20.2M that Lost in Space commanded this weekend last year. The Warner Bros. action pic also delivered the biggest opening of the year besting Payback's $21.2M. Invading 2,849 theaters, The Matrix, which carries a production cost of $60M, scored a dynamite $9,754 per site.

Overflowing with impressive visual effects, The Matrix, which also stars Laurence Fishburne, ignited a box office that had been on life support for weeks. With so many bad movies hitting the multiplexes in March, moviegoers finally had something big to rally behind and they showed their support with their dollars. Daily grosses for The Matrix have so far shown stability indicating the thriller is not burning out once diehard sci-fi fans rush out in the early days. The competition in the weeks ahead looks weak so the Keanu Reeves film could see a vast amount of riches come pouring in during the month of April as The Matrix dominates the box office landscape. Fans of quality science fiction and special effects films, which have been lacking in recent months, found The Matrix to be a wonderful offering to help curb the hunger that is growing for the arrival of The Phantom Menace.

After sailing rough seas for nearly two years, Warner Bros. seems to have regained its strength. The Matrix, which was filmed Down Under in Sydney, marks the fourth number one opening for the studio in the last four months and its best debut since last July's Lethal Weapon 4, which was also produced by Joel Silver. Sales have been so good for Warners that the studio is just a week or two away from stealing the year-to-date market share crown from Buena Vista. For Keanu Reeves, The Matrix gave the actor the second-best opening of his career after the $30.2M debut of 1992's Dracula.

Teens and young adults powered the new Buena Vista comedy Ten Things I Hate About You into the runnerup spot with a respectable opening of $8.3M. Debuting in 2,271 high schools, Ten Things averaged $3,668 per theater. Based loosely on Shakespeare's 'Taming of the Shrew', the $16M teen comedy opened Wednesday and collected an encouraging $11.5M over the five-day period. However, with Never Been Kissed and Go set to open on Friday, the under-25 crowd will soon have lots of options for entertainment meaning Ten Things will have its hands full in the weeks ahead.

The weekend's final new release, The Out-of-Towners, took third place with an opening of $8.2M. Playing in 2,102 locations, the Steve Martin-Goldie Hawn comedy averaged $3,913 per theater. The debut performance of The Out-of-Towners was almost identical to the opening of Martin's last spring comedy Sgt. Bilko which launched three years ago with $8.1M and went on to gross $30.2M.

Analyze This grossed $6.3M in its fifth weekend pushing its total to $78.5M. The Robert De Niro-Billy Crystal comedy is just days away from surpassing Payback to become the highest-grossing release of 1999. In about a month's time, the Warner Bros. smash should be able to cross the $100M mark.

After two weeks of being the box office queen, Sandra Bullock moved down to fifth place with her romantic comedy Forces of Nature which took in $6.2M. Off 34%, the DreamWorks pic, which also stars Ben Affleck, has cumed a loving $36.5M and has displayed good stamina.

In its second episode, Ron Howard's media satire Ed TV lost a disturbing 47% of its audience from its premiere weekend to earn $4.4M. In its first ten days, the Universal comedy starring Matthew McConaughey and Jenna Elfman has collected $15.4M and seems on its way to a final domestic take of around $25M. For director Howard, that would make it his lowest-grossing film in at least 15 years and possibly ever. Apparently, the similar storyline to The Truman Show and the lack of a big star caused audiences to shy away from Ed TV.

Juggling its seven Oscar trophies, Shakespeare in Love eased just 27% to claim $3.1M in ticket sales. The romantic comedy, produced by Miramax and Universal, has achieved a domestic tally of $84.1M to date and is charming moviegoers worldwide with an additional $93M in overseas coin. Shakespeare in Love currently ranks fifth among all-time Miramax domestic box office hits trailing Good Will Hunting, Pulp Fiction, Scream, and Scream 2. With an impressive collection of Oscar wins, and a marketing campaign that has had new life injected into it, the John Madden-directed film continues to reach a wider-than-expected audience.

Kidpic Doug's First Movie enjoyed respectable holiday sales as the Disney title declined 31% and grossed $3.1M over Easter weekend. After ten days, the family film has rounded up $9.3M and looks set to finish its run with a modest $15-18M.

Academy Award winner Life is Beautiful placed ninth with $2.7M, off only 18% giving it the lowest decline in the top ten. With a remarkable $44.7M in domestic ticket sales, the Italian film has more than doubled the previous recordholder for highest-grossing foreign-language picture. 1995's Il Postino, also distributed by Miramax, earned $21.8M and scored an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, as did the Roberto Benigni comedy this year. Life is Beautiful's global tally has now hopped over $156M while the subtitled pic's domestic total rapidly approaches the grosses of such English-language foreign films as Bean ($45.3M), The Full Monty ($45.9M), and Four Weddings and a Funeral ($52.7M).

Rounding out the top ten, The Mod Squad plunged 58% in its second stakeout grossing just $2.6M. In ten days, the MGM/UA flick has arrested a measly $10.4M and looks set to retire to flopville with a disappointing $14-16M. Despite the casting of three recognizable young stars, a slick marketing campaign, and a presold concept adapted from a television series, The Mod Squad failed to excite moviegoers enough to invest their valuable dollars.

Three titles fell out of the top ten over Easter weekend. Sony's family film Baby Geniuses grabbed a little chunk of holiday business with $2M, down 26%, which pushed its total to $18.5M. Produced for about $12M, Baby Geniuses should conclude with a commendable $22-24M in its crib. Clint Eastwood's True Crime is being ignored by audiences and should reach a final total of $16-18M making it the tough guy's worst performer since 1989's Pink Cadillac. And the $11M Cruel Intentions is on course for a $37-39M finish giving Sony another profitable teen hit.

In limited release, Robert Altman's murder mystery Cookie's Fortune was released by October Films into just ten theaters but earned a mighty $186,828 for a healthy $18,683 average. Sony Pictures Classics debuted The Dreamlife of Angels (an award winner at last year's Cannes Film Festival) and scored $61,200 from six locations giving it a good average of $10,200.

Compared to projections, The Matrix powered well past my three-day forecast of $15M. Ten Things I Hate About You also did better than my $5M prediction while The Out-of-Towners came very close to my $9M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of five stars they would like to see host the next Academy Awards show. Of 1,018 responses, 40% chose Jim Carrey, 25% picked Robin Williams, 18% selected Roberto Benigni, 17% voted for Billy Crystal, and 0% said Whoopi Goldberg.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which looks back at the top April openings of the decade. This Wednesday's new column reviews the box office for the first quarter of 1999. For reviews of The Matrix and The Out-of-Towners visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films grossed $72.7M which was up 7% from last year when Lost in Space opened with $20.2M, and up 10% from 1997 when Liar, Liar stood at number one with $18.3M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Never Been Kissed and Go both debut.

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

Below are final studio figures for the weekend. Click on the title to jump to its official home page:

# Title Apr 2 - 4 Mar 26 - 28 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Matrix $ 27,788,331 2,849 1 $ 9,754 $ 37,352,692 Warner Bros.
2 Ten Things I Hate About You 8,330,681 2,271 1 3,668 11,521,216 BV
3 The Out-of-Towners 8,224,215 2,102 1 3,913 8,224,215 Paramount
4 Analyze This 6,332,089 8,671,921 -27.0 2,335 5 2,712 78,536,130 Warner Bros.
5 Forces of Nature 6,200,540 9,439,629 -34.3 2,278 3 2,722 36,466,898 DreamWorks
6 Ed TV 4,446,390 8,311,290 -46.5 2,631 2 1,690 15,357,405 Universal
7 Shakespeare in Love 3,115,017 4,284,169 -27.3 1,735 17 1,795 84,105,704 Miramax
8 Doug's First Movie 3,071,684 4,470,489 -31.3 2,268 2 1,354 9,348,264 BV
9 Life is Beautiful 2,669,480 3,244,284 -17.7 1,130 24 2,362 44,720,425 Miramax
10 The Mod Squad 2,568,784 6,064,716 -57.6 2,290 2 1,122 10,417,855 MGM/UA
11 Baby Geniuses 2,022,132 2,732,501 -26.0 1,702 4 1,188 18,522,531 Sony
12 True Crime 1,853,534 3,352,244 -44.7 1,801 3 1,029 13,442,309 Warner Bros.
13 Cruel Intentions 1,162,178 2,274,293 -48.9 1,405 5 827 35,421,906 Sony
14 The King & I 1,018,084 2,004,503 -49.2 1,932 3 527 8,828,334 Warner Bros.
15 October Sky 836,995 1,177,225 -28.9 731 7 1,145 26,654,110 Universal
16 Saving Private Ryan 705,892 970,435 -27.3 542 37 1,302 212,824,628 DreamWorks
17 The Rage: Carrie 2 646,609 1,674,550 -61.4 872 4 742 16,398,714 MGM/UA
18 A Bug's Life 423,476 529,461 -20.0 649 20 653 161,235,002 BV
19 T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous 414,746 382,012 8.6 30 24 13,825 10,368,300 IMAX
20 The Corruptor 412,191 1,460,737 -71.8 766 4 538 14,312,688 New Line
Top 5 $ 56,875,856 $ 36,958,045 53.9
Top 10 72,747,211 52,845,536 37.7
Top 20 82,243,048 64,744,488 27.0

    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.

Last Updated : April 5, 1999 at 11:30PM ESTHome

Written by Gitesh Pandya