Weekend Box Office (April 3 - 5, 1998)

THIS WEEKEND Director James Cameron's reign as "king of the world" is over, at the domestic box office that is, as moviegoers powered Lost in Space past Titanic for the top spot at theaters over the weekend. Budgeted at $90M, Lost in Space invaded multiplexes everywhere and collected $20.2M. It was the largest April opening on record besting 1993's Indecent Proposal which debuted with $18.4M. The New Line sci-fi action film took advantage of the widest opening in history as they invaded a massive 3,306 cinemas giving it an average of $6,096 per location. That was good enough to give Lost in Space the largest three-day opening of the year beating fellow New Line movie The Wedding Singer's $18.9M debut. Singer, however, grossed $21.9M over the four-day Presidents Day holiday weekend.

Lost in Space's opening is also the fifth largest debut performance by a New Line picture ever trailing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ($25.4M), Mortal Kombat ($23.3M), The Mask ($23.1M), and Spawn ($21.2M). Overall, it was a solid launch for Lost in Space but its chances for longevity look iffy. With such an ultrawide release this weekend, New Line was able to satisfy much of the demand upfront which could lead to much smaller grosses down the line. Also reviews have not been very positive so the film should depreciate at an average or above-average rate next weekend. Still, New Line can forever lay claim to the film that unseated Titanic. The last film to reach number one before the ocean liner was December's Scream 2. For a review of Lost in Space and other recent films, visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

Does this mean that Titanic has hit an iceberg and disaster awaits? Hardly. But the Oscar champion did drop by 24% from last weekend and grossed $11.5M pushing its domestic total to a mammoth $530.4M. This drop is the second-largest in its 16-week run and is showing that moviegoers are ready to start embracing other films. But Titanic still has a chance to resurface to the number one spot in the weeks ahead. The April releases are not very promising and if Lost in Space fizzles away rapidly, Titanic could regain the box office crown it wore so proudly for fifteen weeks. If it does return to number one, it will tie E.T. for the most total weekends at number one with sixteen. Meanwhile, the Titanic soundtrack continued its lock on album sales registering its twelfth straight week at number one with over 20 million units sold worldwide.

Opening in third place was the new Bruce Willis action offering Mercury Rising with a decent, but not powerful, gross of $10.1M. Its per-theater average of $4,233 was second-best among films in the top ten beating Titanic's but trailing Lost in Space's. Mercury Rising's performance was also below the standards of the A-list action star's recent films. The Jackal and The Fifth Element from last year both arrived much stronger with debuts of $15.2M and $17M respectively. However, those films did not open against powerhouses like Lost in Space. But Bruce Willis still has considerable drawingpower around the world as those two movies sold a combined $280M in tickets in overseas markets to date.

Universal, the movie's distributor, may have found better luck had it not decided to go head-to-head with the effects-heavy space adventure film. Mercury Rising is the second major film in three weeks from Universal to star one of Hollywood's top actors only to perform just moderately at the box office. Primary Colors, with John Travolta, opened with $12M two weekends ago. Universal must have been expecting more potent openings from these two films with such expensive talent onboard. Other commercial disappointments for the studio this year include Blues Brothers 2000 ($14M total) and Kissing A Fool ($4.2M).

The 20th anniversary reissue of Grease plunged 57% and took fourth place with $5.5M. Suffering one of the biggest second-weekend drops of the year, Grease is slipping away at the box office and has totaled $20.1M in ten days. It now looks on course to finish with about $30M. Rounding out the top five was that other Travolta film Primary Colors which was off a decent 33% and grossed $4.7M pushing its 17-day sum to $28.9M.

Meanwhile, Oscar's little darlings continued to show the best holds. Good Will Hunting edged just 23% as its total reached $126M, and As Good As It Gets was also off only 23% with its total now at $136.4M. Both films have shown new signs of life since winning their trophies.

The top ten's only remaining sophomore The Newton Boys tumbled 43% and took tenth place. With only $7.6M rounded up in ten days, this posse should end up with only $10-12M in loot. Debuting below the top ten in just 540 playpens, kidpic Barney's Great Adventure collected $2.2M, showing good strength for a movie with no chance of nighttime revenue and only a narrow release.

Both new releases opened as projected. Lost in Space's $20.2M was very close to my $20M forecast and Mercury Rising's $10.1M was slightly below my $11M prediction.

Overall, the top ten films grossed $67.9M which was up 2% from last year when The Saint opened with $16.3M, and up 33% from 1996 when Primal Fear debuted with $9.9M. Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend's releases which include My Giant and Species 2.

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

# Title Apr 3 - 5 Mar 27 - 29 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Lost in Space $ 20,154,919 3,306 1 $ 6,096 $ 20,154,919 New Line
2 Titanic 11,533,480 15,213,500 -24.2 3,265 16 3,532 530,406,538 Paramount
3 Mercury Rising 10,104,715 2,387 1 4,233 10,104,715 Universal
4 Grease - (rerelease) 5,466,763 12,705,463 -57.0 2,064 2 2,649 20,132,531 Paramount
5 Primary Colors 4,702,920 7,005,780 -32.9 1,975 3 2,381 28,944,755 Universal
6 Wild Things 3,617,127 5,668,105 -36.2 1,981 3 1,826 23,649,384 Sony
7 The Man in the Iron Mask 3,507,255 6,334,914 -44.6 2,504 4 1,401 49,047,279 MGM/UA
8 As Good As It Gets 3,330,431 4,302,498 -22.6 1,556 15 2,140 136,381,511 Sony
9 Good Will Hunting 3,169,473 4,117,121 -23.0 1,576 18 2,011 126,001,553 Miramax
10 The Newton Boys 2,303,889 4,010,245 -42.5 1,968 2 1,171 7,571,210 Fox
11 Barney's Great Adventure 2,203,865 540 1 4,081 2,585,292 Polygram
12 U.S. Marshals 2,180,893 4,116,646 -47.0 1,979 5 1,102 52,918,384 WB
13 Ride 1,412,575 2,513,334 -43.8 509 2 2,775 4,479,424 Miramax
14 The Wedding Singer 1,178,282 1,821,287 -35.3 1,026 8 1,148 72,880,931 New Line
15 L.A. Confidential 1,063,576 1,477,015 -28.0 643 29 1,654 61,178,262 WB
16 Mr. Nice Guy 961,084 2,585,530 -62.8 1,091 3 881 10,964,561 New Line
17 Meet the Deedles 947,854 2,006,751 -52.8 1,763 2 538 3,408,666 BV
18 Everest (IMAX) 814,368 714,821 13.9 31 5 26,270 4,940,996 Freeman
19 The Apostle 559,567 822,509 -32.0 488 16 1,147 18,689,891 October
20 The Big Lebowski 485,749 833,871 -41.7 356 5 1,364 16,018,437 Gramercy
Top 5 $ 51,962,797 $ 46,927,762
Top 10 67,890,972 66,059,802
Top 20 79,698,785 77,706,478

    This column is updated three times each week : Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Source : Variety, EDI. Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.

Last Updated : April 7, 1998 at 10:30PM EST

Written by Gitesh Pandya