Weekend Box Office (April 14 - 16, 2000)

THIS WEEKEND Paramount's military drama Rules of Engagement remained in command for the second straight weekend leading a crowded box office with $10.9M, according to final studio figures. The Tommy Lee Jones-Samuel L. Jackson feature held up remarkably well against four new enemies declining only 27% and airlifted its ten-day cume to a solid $30.6M. Budgeted at $60M, Rules of Engagement may reach $65-70M at domestic turnstiles.

Sandra Bullock crashed into theaters over the weekend with her new comedy 28 Days and generated $10.3M in ticket sales. Sony released the Betty Thomas-directed film about a woman sentenced to an alcohol rehab center in 2,523 venues and averaged $4,087 which led all other top ten contenders. However, the bow was the weakest for a Bullock starring vehicle in over three years. Studio distribution head Jeff Blake noted that "the audience was comprised mostly of young women and exit polls were well above average." Saturday grosses were up an appropriate 28% over Friday. Budgeted in the low $40M range, Sony will waste no time releasing 28 Days worldwide as the picture bows in Germany on May 4th and in Australia on May 5th.

Another new romantic comedy, Keeping the Faith, premiered over the weekend and landed in third place with $8.1M. Ben Stiller and Edward Norton (who also helmed) play a rabbi and a priest in love with the same woman, played by Jenna Elfman. Buena Vista launched the film in 2,152 theaters and averaged a moderate $3,754 per site. The studio credited two weekends of very positive sneak previews for helping to get the word out about Keeping the Faith which attracted mostly couples in their 20s and 30s. The female/male split was 54/46 and 97% of patrons polled graded the film "excellent" or "very good". With strong exit polls, and a healthy 42% Friday-to-Saturday increase, the love triangle pic could enjoy a sustained run in the weeks ahead.

Erin Brockovich kept on strutting her stuff with $7M in her fifth weekend of release lifting the Universal hit's cume to a sassy $99.3M. Off only 28% from last weekend, the Julia Roberts legal drama has been one of the most durable pics of the year and could reach the century mark by Tuesday, its 33rd day of release. Erin Brockovich would then become the first $100M smash of Y2K and the eighth career blockbuster for the pretty woman including three in the last year alone. Overseas, where Sony is handling distribution, Erin Brockovich scored three more number one openings this weekend in Mexico, Italy, and Argentina. Incredible sophomore performances saw grosses up 7% in the United Kingdom and steady in Germany while the pic landed at number two in Australia behind studio stablemate Stuart Little.

Two movies just barely managed to average over $4,000 per theater indicating a marketplace with too much product leading to dollars being spread out across the spectrum. The box office is in the middle of a 30-day period where an amazing 19 new wide releases are shoving their way into theaters competing for the attention of a fixed number of moviegoers. That's up almost 50% from the 13 titles launched during the same period last year. April is normally a crowded month as distributors unload their midlevel players to avoid going up against the heavy hitters of May, but this year the calendar is extremely packed. Despite the fact that the megaplex era allows a theater to play virtually every title in national release, ticket buyers only have a finite amount of time and money to invest into moviegoing causing many films to be instantly overlooked.

Kidpic The Road to El Dorado dipped 32% to fifth place with $6.2M pushing its cume to $33M. David Duchovny and Minnie Driver placed sixth with their romantic comedy Return to Me which slipped a respectable 36% to $5M. With $15.5M in ten days, the MGM/UA release looks to conclude with about $30M which is a considerable improvement over the $4.1M that The X-Files star's 1997 flop Playing God grossed.

The controversial serial killer film American Psycho debuted in seventh place with $5M. Decapitating victims in 1,236 theaters, the Lions Gate release averaged a good $4,014 per site giving it the second best per-theater average in the top ten after 28 Days. Based on the violent Bret Easton Ellis novel, American Psycho stars Christian Bale as a Wall Street power player battling an uncontrollable need to murder those around him. The $7M R-rated picture experienced only a slight 8% Friday-to-Saturday boost so long-term prospects could be shaky.

Universal's The Skulls collected $4M (off 38%) raising its total to $25.7M to date. Fellow teen thriller Final Destination kept up its leggy run easing just 21% to $3M which put its impressive sum at $38.2M. The pro wrestling comedy Ready to Rumble got hammered in its second weekend tumbling 49% to $2.7M giving the Warner Bros. pic $9.1M in ten days.

Screen legend Paul Newman returned to cinemas with his new picture Where the Money Is but suffered a weak debut outside of the top ten. The USA Films caper pic about a veteran thief out for one last scam opened with $2.5M in 1,538 theaters for a poor $1,634 average.

A trio of films fell out of the top ten over the weekend including 1999's Best Picture American Beauty. The $15M DreamWorks Oscar magnet pushed its spectacular domestic cume to $124.7M and should max out at $130M. Overseas, American Beauty enjoyed healthy jumps after winning its five Academy Awards and has amassed over $165M in international coin putting the Kevin Spacey-Annette Bening smash within striking distance of the $300M worldwide mark.

John Cusack's flashback comedy High Fidelity took in $2.7M which brought its overall mark to $16.8M. Meanwhile, Jet Li's martial arts action film Romeo Must Die upped its cume to $49.7M. The $25M flick looks to end with roughly $55M.

In limited release, Miramax released the British hit comedy East is East in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles and scored $53,569 for a scorching $13,392 average. Starring Om Puri as a traditional Pakistani father trying to raise his modern kids in England, East is East has already grossed $25M overseas and won the BAFTA award last weekend for Best British Film.

Compared to projections, 28 Days and Keeping the Faith opened very close to my respective forecasts of $11M and $9M. American Psycho came in two notches below my $7M prediction while Where the Money Is did not reach my $5M projection. Rules of Engagement came in a little higher than my $10M forecast.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on this Friday's submarine action picture U-571. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Oscar winner Angelina Jolie was a good choice to play Lara Croft in the new Tomb Raider film. Of 1,992 responses, 48% said yes, 10% voted no, while 42% said Who Cares?

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which reports on the top April openings. For reviews of American Psycho and East is East visit The Chief Report.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $62.2M which was down 7% from last year when Life premiered atop the charts with $20.4M, but up 5% from 1998 when City of Angels remained at number one with $12.3M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when U-571, Gossip, and Love and Basketball all sail into theaters.

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

# Title Apr. 14 - 16 Apr. 7 - 9 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Rules of Engagement $ 10,933,627 15,011,181 -27.2 3,190 2 $ 3,427 $ 30,595,672 Paramount
2 28 Days 10,310,672 2,523 1 4,087 10,310,672 Sony
3 Keeping the Faith 8,078,671 2,152 1 3,754 8,078,671 Buena Vista
4 Erin Brockovich 7,030,315 9,808,065 -28.3 3,070 5 2,290 99,321,020 Universal
5 The Road to El Dorado 6,156,329 9,085,803 -32.2 3,223 3 1,910 33,045,722 DreamWorks
6 Return to Me 5,008,744 7,820,836 -36.0 2,320 2 2,159 15,529,916 MGM/UA
7 American Psycho 4,961,015 1,236 1 4,014 4,916,015 Lions Gate
8 The Skulls 4,023,025 6,450,720 -37.6 2,409 3 1,670 25,719,750 Universal
9 Final Destination 3,049,212 3,835,071 -20.5 1,509 5 2,021 38,211,312 New Line
10 Ready to Rumble 2,685,718 5,257,778 -48.9 2,585 2 1,039 9,093,168 Warner Bros.
11 High Fidelity 2,685,024 4,241,028 -36.7 1,229 3 2,185 16,785,014 Buena Vista
12 Romeo Must Die 2,672,609 4,552,754 -41.3 1,824 4 1,465 49,734,334 Warner Bros.
13 Where the Money Is 2,513,530 1,538 1 1,634 2,513,530 USA Films
14 American Beauty 1,966,874 3,348,307 -41.3 1,467 31 1,341 124,714,413 DreamWorks
15 Fantasia 2000 1,494,303 1,295,458 15.3 53 16 28,194 42,479,663 Buena Vista
16 Black and White 907,902 2,212,535 -59.0 1,284 2 707 4,560,153 Sony
17 Mission to Mars 673,661 1,563,984 -56.9 762 6 884 58,087,271 Buena Vista
18 My Dog Skip 572,230 964,300 -40.7 1,023 14 559 31,374,283 Warner Bros.
19 The Cider House Rules 547,058 1,108,712 -50.7 644 19 849 55,688,841 Miramax
20 Boys Don't Cry 344,404 674,451 -48.9 252 28 1,367 10,968,569 Fox Searchlight
Top 5 $ 42,509,614 $ 48,176,605 -11.8
Top 10 62,237,328 69,411,543 -10.3
Top 20 76,614,923 79,979,597 -4.2

Last Updated : April 17 at 9:30PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya