Weekend Box Office (April 10 - 12, 1998)

THIS WEEKEND Romance ruled once again as City of Angels, starring Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage, floated to number one at the box office over Easter weekend with a heavenly $15.4M in ticket sales. The Warner Bros. tearjerker posted the fifth best opening of the year and the sixth best April debut ever. Arriving in 2,212 locations, which is not considerably wide by today's standards, Angels averaged a scorching $6,948 per theater resulting in the year's best opening average among wide releases. Cage now has his own angelic hit film like his Face/Off co-star John Travolta whose Michael opened with $17.4M and went on to gross $95.4M.

The starpower of Ryan and Cage was instrumental to the powerful opening of City of Angels. With $15.4M, it opened more like a Cage action film than a Ryan romance. Opening weekends for some of Ryan's recent films include $11.4M for Addicted to Love, $12.5M for Courage Under Fire, and $9M for French Kiss. Cage, who has recently been turning into a summer action hero, has had debuts of $23.4M for Face/Off, $24.1M for Con Air, and $25.1M for The Rock. The strong opening of Angels is also great news to Warner Bros. which has had a long list of big-budget, big-star disappointments to its credit. Their last time at number one was with last September's Steven Seagal picture Fire Down Below. It looks like the studio now has a well-needed success on its hands with City of Angels.

Barry Reardon, distribution president of Warner Bros., stated that the strong opening of City of Angels was on target with studio expectations and that it should have a "nice long run at the box office." He also said that it skewed heavily female and that exit polls have been very positive for the film.

Slipping one notch to second, New Line's Lost in Space collected $13.4M and raised its ten-day gross to $40.2M. Its 34% drop is not bad considering how wide it opened last weekend, the level of competition this weekend, and mixed reviews that surround it. Lost in Space's three- and ten-day grosses of $20.2M and $40.2M are on par with those of last summer's Conspiracy Theory ($19.3M/$40.7M) and New Line's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 ($20M/$39.8M). Conspiracy finished with $76.1M and the Turtles sequel ended with $78.6M so if Lost in Space continues on its present course, the $90M-budgeted movie should be able to achieve a domestic gross of $75-80M. For a review of Lost in Space and other recent films, visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

Down 26%, James Cameron's Titanic reached a new depth with a third place finish of $8.6M. After its 17th weekend, it has now reach $542.9M in domestic ticket sales. This weekend marks the first frame in its record-breaking voyage when the film collected less than $10M. It seems as though the love affair with the Oscar-winning film is cooling off as its repeat business is finally dwindling. Still, Titanic is aiming for the $600M mark which remains a possibility. But what is nearly impossible now is the chance for Titanic to resurface to the number one spot and tie E.T. for the most total weekends at number one with 16. Over on the Billboard album sales charts, the soundtrack to Titanic logged its thirteenth, and maybe final, week at number one.

A handful of other new releases invaded movie theaters over the holiday weekend with varying results. Debuting in fourth was the sci-fi/horror entry Species II starring Natasha Henstridge with $7.3M. The MGM/UA sequel averaged $2,898 in 2,510 sites and did not open anywhere near the $17.2M that the original grossed when it bowed in July 1995. Species II held its own over the busy weekend, but its overall prospects do not look too bright and it should end up with about $20-25M with better success on video.

The Players Club stripped its way to the fifth spot with an opening tally of $5.9M with $8.4M collected since its Wednesday opening. The directorial debut of Ice Cube was a smash hit with moviegoers as its per-theater average of $9,940 was easily the best among all films in the top ten. Playing in only 593 cinemas, Club beat out numerous movies that were playing in three or four times as many theaters. Budgeted at about $5M, The Players Club will become another highly-profitable venture for Ice Cube and New Line following 1995's low-budget comedy Friday which grossed $27.4M.

Last weekend's new release Mercury Rising tumbled by a mighty 46% and made $5.5M making its ten-day gross stand at $18.8M. Mercury is a formula action movie with familiar faces and a familiar plot meaning that it should erode rapidly and end with a final gross of only $25-30M.

Other freshmen titles over the weekend included the The Odd Couple 2, which took seventh place with $4.8M, and My Giant which landed in eighth with a diminutive take of $3.1M. The latest pairing of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon performed below the $5.9M opening of their last film Out to Sea which went on to gross $28M. Meanwhile, the Billy Crystal comedy My Giant barely made pocket change as moviegoers virtually ignored the film. It seemed that the premise of Crystal with a huge giant of a friend was not interesting enough for people to hand over their money. Both comedies are likely to fade away quickly with The Odd Couple 2 having some more stamina and possibily reaching $20M.

Two Good Academy Award winners dropped out of the top ten after spending months there. Sony's As Good As It Gets spent fifteen weeks prancing around in the top ten and is still performing well with a $139.6M cumulative gross. Miramax's all-time box office champ Good Will Hunting spent thirteen weeks in the top ten and now stands at $129.2M. Also exiting the top ten were Wild Things ($26.7M thus far), The Man in the Iron Mask ($52.2M), and The Newton Boys ($9.2M).

Playing in 33 theaters, Michael Moore's latest film The Big One grossed $146,909 in its first weekend giving it a decent $4,452 average. Sony quietly offered the latest installment of the 3 Ninjas kid franchise titled 3 Ninjas : High Noon at Mega Mountain. Securing only 120 sites, it bagged just $150,127 for a horrible average of $1,251 per theater.

In limited release, The Spanish Prisoner averaged a mighty $12,503 in only 18 sites bringing its ten-day gross to $407,170. The Butcher Boy from Warners, also in its second weekend, cut up $115,477 in 10 theaters for a meaty $11,548 average. Meanwhile, Love and Death on Long Island continued its run with a $2,407 average playing in 79 houses bringing its cume to $1.7M.

City of Angels landed on the scene louder than I had anticipated as its $15.4M tally exceeded my $9M forecast. I underestimated the starpower that this film packed and thought that it was not as strongly advertised as some of the other new releases. My projection of $7M for Species II, however, was very close to its $7.3M and my $6M prediction for The Players Club almost matched its take of $5.9M. The Odd Couple 2's $4.8M was a notch below my forecast of $6M and My Giant could not reach the $6M projection I had expected.

Overall, the top ten films grossed $68.8M which was up 7% from last year when Anaconda opened with $16.6M, and up 41% from 1996 when Primal Fear was number one with $8.1M. Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Object of my Affection hits theaters.

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

# Title Apr 10 - 12 Apr 3 - 5 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 City of Angels $ 15,369,048 2,212 1 $ 6,948 $ 15,369,048 WB
2 Lost in Space 13,395,392 20,154,919 -33.5 3,306 2 4,052 40,222,322 New Line
3 Titanic 8,558,241 11,533,480 -25.8 3,265 17 2,621 542,853,691 Paramount
4 Species 2 7,274,008 2,510 1 2,898 7,274,008 MGM/UA
5 The Players Club 5,894,607 593 1 9,940 8,421,172 New Line
6 Mercury Rising 5,457,725 10,104,715 -46.0 2,399 2 2,275 18,843,190 Universal
7 Odd Couple 2 4,810,288 1,650 1 2,915 4,810,288 Paramount
8 My Giant 3,117,795 1,948 1 1,601 3,117,795 Sony
9 Grease - (rerelease) 2,505,029 5,466,763 -54.2 2,031 3 1,233 24,344,061 Paramount
10 Primary Colors 2,410,545 4,702,920 -48.7 1,779 4 1,355 32,735,465 Universal
11 As Good As It Gets 2,056,290 3,330,431 -38.3 1,414 16 1,454 139,621,599 Sony
12 Good Will Hunting 2,002,821 3,169,473 -36.8 1,301 19 1,539 129,217,957 Miramax
13 The Man in the Iron Mask 1,601,607 3,507,255 -54.3 1,658 5 966 52,218,103 MGM/UA
14 Wild Things 1,558,505 3,617,127 -56.9 1,405 4 1,109 26,679,513 Sony
15 Barney's Great Adventure 1,382,373 2,203,865 -37.3 809 2 1,709 4,883,130 Polygram
16 Everest (IMAX) 875,865 814,368 7.6 32 6 27,371 6,366,112 Freeman
17 U.S. Marshals 791,428 2,180,893 -63.7 1,203 6 658 54,496,269 WB
18 The Newton Boys 613,995 2,303,889 -73.3 877 3 700 9,174,069 Fox
19 The Wedding Singer 601,711 1,178,282 -48.9 772 9 779 73,966,535 New Line
20 L.A. Confidential 478,019 1,063,576 -55.1 433 30 1,104 62,013,016 WB
Top 5 $ 50,491,296 $ 51,962,797 -2.8
Top 10 68,792,678 67,890,972 1.3
Top 20 80,755,292 79,698,785 1.3

    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 13, 1998 at 10:45PM EST

Written by Gitesh Pandya