Weekend Box Office (April 9 - 11, 1999)

THIS WEEKEND Neo and Morpheus continued to dominate moviegoing in North America as The Matrix, starring Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne, easliy held onto the number one spot at the box office with a dazzling $22.6M, according to final studio figures. Down a slim 19% from its debut last weekend, the dark futuristic thriller has managed to download a mighty $73.3M in ticket sales in just 12 days and looks set to smash through the $100M mark sometime next week. The Warner Bros. film's extraordinarily low dropoff rate was quite amazing, especially for a science-fiction picture since that genre tends to attract a higher percentage of fans on opening week which leads to steeper declines in subsequent weeks. The first two weekends for The Matrix now stand as the month of April's two biggest weekend grosses ever.

While originally connecting with its target audience of young males, The Matrix has now reached out and captured moviegoers of all ages according to Dan Fellman, distribution chief at Warners. "The Matrix is benefiting from strong word-of-mouth and exhibitors are already seeing repeat business for this event film" said Fellman who also confirmed that producer Joel Silver and directors Andy and Larry Wachowski have discussed a storyline for a possible sequel.

In just a dozen days, The Matrix has surpassed the grosses of most of Keanu Reeves' past films and stands an excellent chance of beating Speed's 1994 domestic tally of $121M to become the actor's top box office hit. The overseas potential of the $60M cyberthriller is equally mammoth. Filmed in Sydney, Australia, The Matrix opened explosively at number one Down Under over the weekend and infiltrates much of Europe in June.

Moviegoers not looking for special effects, guns, and martial arts, helped Drew Barrymore claim the runnerup spot as her latest romantic comedy Never Been Kissed opened well with $11.8M. Debuting in 2,455 homerooms, the Fox comedy averaged a good $4,821 per theater. Never Been Kissed, which the actress also helped produce, has already grossed more than her last effort Home Fries which took in just $10.5M overall, and even opened north of Ever After's $8.5M launch last summer. However, its mere 7% increase in Saturday sales over Friday indicates that the film will have to work hard in order to score long-term success at theaters. As expected, Never Been Kissed's primary business came from young females.

Ten Things I Hate About You held up farely well considering the increased competition for its teen audience. The Buena Vista high school comedy scored $5M in its second weekend. A decline of 39% left Ten Things with $20.4M in its first ten days. Look for the film to gross a total of around $35M before graduating to home video.

Paramount's comedy The Out-of-Towners slipped a spot to fourth place with $5M in its sophomore outing. The Steve Martin-Goldie Hawn vehicle was also off 39% and pushed its ten-day total to $16.2M. A total gross of about $30M might be achieved by The Out-of-Towners.

The boss of all comedy films this spring has been Analyze This which laughed up $5M in its sixth frame. Off a slender 21%, the Warner Bros. pic has banked an impressive $85.8M and has become the highest-grossing film of Robert De Niro's illustrious career.

Freshman flick Go, from Swingers director Doug Liman, got stuck at a red light and debuted quietly in sixth place with $4.7M. Sony launched the tale of sex and drugs in 1,563 joints and managed a mild average of $3,011 per theater. Go, budgeted at just $7M, has been well-reviewed by critics but the core audience of young adults were more interested in choices like The Matrix, Never Been Kissed, and even Ten Things. Starring Jay Mohr, Scott Wolf, and Katie Holmes, Go saw virtually no boost in Saturday sales compared to Friday.

Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck took seventh place with their romantic comedy Forces of Nature which grossed $3.5M. The DreamWorks picture has climbed to $42.4M.

Jackie Chan's latest import, Twin Dragons, barely made a dent into the box office. Miramax opened the martial arts flick in 1,129 theaters and took in just $2.8M for a weak average of $2,507 per site. This was the poorest opening for a Chan pic among his seven entries in the last three years. Apparently, the enormous exposure of last fall's Rush Hour did nothing for the Hong Kong star's newest offering which unsuccessfully went after male action fans currently being drawn in by The Matrix.

Disney's kidpic Doug's First Movie grossed $2.4M, off only 22%, which pushed its cume to $14M. Rounding out the top ten was Artisan's limited release of the urban comedy Foolish which collected an impressive $2.2M in only 305 theaters. The Master P-Eddie Griffin comedy generated an almost Matrix-sized $7,163 average. Rap star Master P's last cinematic offering, I Got The Hook Up, debuted last May with a $3.3M take and a $5,054 average. The low-budget Foolish could bring home some tidy profits as it expands into more cities.

Four titles fell out of the top ten over the weekend. Ron Howard's media satire Ed TV stands at $19M, is declining rapidly, and should finish with a disappointing $23-25M. The Mod Squad has failed to excite movie patrons and is set to conclude its run with roughly $15M. Miramax's Oscar winners Shakespeare in Love and Life is Beautiful are still holding on well and have reached domestic cumes of $87.5M and $47.7M respectively. Worldwide tallies have reached $200M and $170M and are still climbing.

In limited release, Robert Altman's newest film Cookie's Fortune widened from 10 to 179 theaters and grossed $1M. The per-theater average for the October Films release was a solid $5,640 while its ten-day cume stood at $1.27M. It will expand into 500 theaters this coming weekend.

On the animation front, DreamWorks' expensive and ambitious holiday release The Prince of Egypt crossed the $100M barrier on Saturday April 10, its 114th day of release. That would make it the second non-Disney animated feature to reach that milestone in domestic ticket sales following Paramount's hit The Rugrats Movie. Egypt has also grossed over $115M at the overseas box office while Rugrats has just begun its international campaign with number one openings in the United Kingdom and Australia. With the Biblical epic reaching nine digits, it brings the total number of 1998 releases crossing the $100M mark to 17 - five of which passed that level in 1999.

Compared to projections, Never Been Kissed opened a couple of notches better than my $9M forecast. Both Go and Twin Dragons debuted below my respective predictions of $7M and $5M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on this summer's Julia Roberts movies. In last week's survey, readers were asked if they thought Shakespeare in Love would cross the $100M mark in domestic sales. Of 2,071 responses, the voting was practically dead even.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which looks back at the first quarter of 1999. This Wednesday's new column reports on the highest-grossing films of Eddie Murphy. For a review of Go visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films grossed $65.1M which was down 5% from last year when City of Angels opened with $15.4M, and up 1% from 1997 when Anaconda opened at number one with $16.6M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Eddie Murphy's Life debuts.

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 9 - 11 Apr 2 - 4 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Matrix $ 22,563,331 $ 27,788,331 -18.8 2,903 2 $ 7,772 $ 73,310,417 Warner Bros.
2 Never Been Kissed 11,836,707 2,455 1 4,821 11,836,707 Fox
3 Ten Things I Hate ... 5,049,227 8,330,681 -39.4 2,276 2 2,218 20,431,363 BV
4 The Out-of-Towners 5,010,781 8,224,215 -39.1 2,105 2 2,380 16,203,092 Paramount
5 Analyze This 4,997,020 6,332,089 -21.1 2,351 6 2,125 85,848,183 Warner Bros.
6 Go 4,706,795 1,563 1 3,011 4,706,795 Sony
7 Forces of Nature 3,537,259 6,200,540 -43.0 2,335 4 1,515 42,393,313 DreamWorks
8 Twin Dragons 2,829,990 1,129 1 2,507 2,829,990 Miramax
9 Doug's First Movie 2,407,375 3,071,684 -21.6 2,152 3 1,119 14,018,000 BV
10 Foolish 2,184,633 305 1 7,163 2,184,633 Artisan
11 Shakespeare in Love 2,156,955 3,115,017 -30.8 1,614 18 1,336 87,485,574 Miramax
12 Ed TV 2,055,075 4,446,390 -53.8 2,491 3 825 18,961,780 Universal
13 Life is Beautiful 1,910,801 2,669,480 -28.4 1,136 25 1,682 47,739,741 Miramax
14 Baby Geniuses 1,515,473 2,022,132 -25.1 1,590 5 953 21,558,662 Sony
15 Cookie's Fortune 1,009,581 186,828 440.4 179 2 5,640 1,274,342 October
16 True Crime 941,307 1,853,534 -49.2 1,401 4 672 15,051,388 Warner Bros.
17 The Mod Squad 818,602 2,568,784 -68.1 1,630 3 502 12,252,807 MGM/UA
18 October Sky 680,050 836,995 -18.8 670 8 1,015 27,738,275 Universal
19 The King & I 571,625 1,018,084 -43.9 1,231 4 464 10,202,602 Warner Bros.
20 Saving Private Ryan 455,512 705,892 -35.5 498 38 915 213,564,566 DreamWorks
Top 5 $ 49,457,066 $ 56,875,856 -13.0
Top 10 65,123,118 72,747,211 -10.5
Top 20 77,238,099 82,243,048 -6.1

    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 12, 1999 at 10:00PM ESTHome

Written by Gitesh Pandya