Weekend Box Office (April 17 - 19, 1998)

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THIS WEEKEND Amorous moviegoers voted with their hearts once again as romances were the most popular movies at the box office claiming three of the top four spots. City of Angels, a romantic drama starring Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage, held onto the number one spot for the second weekend with $12.3M in ticket sales. The slim 20% decline from last weekend's debut indicates that the film has generated good word of mouth and will be a durable performer in the weeks ahead. After ten days of release, the Warner Bros. tearjerker has collected an adoring $34.1M. City of Angels is turning into a solid hit for the studio which has not had a film repeat in the top spot since Sleepers in October 1996. At the current pace, City of Angels should be able to gross a minimum of $80 domestically, and has a chance to be Cage's fourth consecutive $100M grosser.

Opening in second place was the Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy The Object of My Affection with $9.7M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. The Fox comedy about a straight woman who falls for a gay man averaged a solid $5,146 per theater while playing in 1,890 engagements. The successful debut was the biggest for Aniston whose previous romantic comedy Picture Perfect opened with $7.8M last August and finished with $31.1M. It was also Fox's largest opening of the year inching past January's Great Expectations, another love story, which arrived with $9.6M. The $15M-budgeted Affection should be able to achieve around $35M in domestic ticket sales.

The Object of My Affection clearly benefited from the current popularity of romances ignited by the lovefest blockbuster Titanic and prolonged by City of Angels. Also there was very weak competition from the other new releases. Jennifer Aniston has proved that she can indeed open and carry a picture and will undoubtedly be sent dozens of romantic comedy scripts in the coming months. For a review of The Object of My Affection and other recent films, visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

Aniston's Friends co-star Matt LeBlanc and company claimed third place with Lost in Space which grossed $7.5M pushing its total thus far to $52.3M. Down a hefty 44% from last weekend, the New Line adventure film continues to be on a course nearly identical to last summer's Conspiracy Theory. Lost in Space and Conspiracy Theory have grossed similar amounts after three days ($20.2M/$19.3M), ten days ($40.2M/$40.7M), and now seventeen days ($52.3M/$53.5M). With Conspiracy Theory finishing with a $76.1M take, look for the $90M-budgeted Lost in Space to end up with around $75M.

Dropping another notch to fourth place, Titanic took in $7.4M in its 18th weekend boosting its cume to a mammoth $554.1M. Its 13% slide was the lowest among films in the top ten signaling that it remains a favorite with ticket buyers. However, it remains to be seen whether or not Titanic can remain sturdy enough to hit the $600M mark in domestic sales which will be its next and final hurdle. Around the world, the ocean liner epic has sold a staggering $1.5 billion worth of torn ticket stubs. Meanwhile, the Oscar-winning soundtrack by James Horner continued its iron grip on the Billboard album sales charts spending its 14th week on top.

Rounding out the top five was the family comedy Paulie from DreamWorks with a $5.4M take in its first weekend. Playing in 1,553 birdcages, Paulie averaged a decent $3,458 per site. The talking parrot flick came close to the debut performance of the new studio's last kidpic offering Mousehunt which bowed to $6.1M. But don't expect Paulie to fly to the heights of Mousehunt's $61M gross. Instead, Paulie might reach a moderate-sized $15M final gross.

Sophomores Species II, The Players Club and My Giant saw heavy dropoffs of 45%, 39%, and 52% respectively while The Odd Couple 2 was off by just 22%. The strongest per-theater average, however, was claimed once again by Ice Cube's The Players Club with $6,054 which disrobed in only 593 cinemas. It was a swing and a miss for the Warner Bros. rookie Major League : Back to the Minors which opened in a disappointing tenth place with a miserable $2.1M.

Miramax's Ewan McGregor thriller Nightwatch was dead on arrival with just $585,733 in 300 morgues for a $1,952 average. Sony's Sour Grapes, from Seinfeld co-creator Larry David, launched in only 28 houses and grossed an impressive $123,104 for an average $4,397 per theater. A strong early buzz could make this into a sleeper hit. Also opening over the weekend in limited release was Suicide Kings starring Christopher Walken which took in $558,081 in 135 locations for a $4,134 average. Wild Man Blues, a documentary on Woody Allen, debuted in just a trio of houses and took home $54,458, for a boffo $18,153 per venue. The marijuana-laced comedy Homegrown bagged $2,226 per site in 35 locations.

Wayne Wang's latest film Chinese Box, starring Gong Li and Jeremy Irons, set off fireworks in Manhattan and L.A. averaging $8,160 per theater in only a dozen sites. Given the name recognition of the director and stars, not to mention its strong first outing, the Hong Kong handover drama looks to have strong prospects as it expands in the weeks ahead. Wang's last film Smoke opened in June 1995 and averaged $17,686 in only four theaters during its debut weekend and went on to reach a final gross of $8.3M.

Elsewhere, As Good As It Gets became Jack Nicholson's highest-grossing film of the decade as it bested the $141.4M of 1992's A Few Good Men. With $142.1M in the bank, the Oscar-winning comedy could conceivably finish with $150M domestically while its overseas tally has zoomed past $100M.

The Object of My Affection's $9.7M opening was better than my $7M forecast while Paulie and Major League 3 were both weak as expected.

Overall, the top ten films grossed $59.5M which was up 14% from last year when Anaconda topped the charts with $12M, and up 41% from 1996 when Primal Fear was number one with $6.6M.

Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, of next weekend's activity which will include the opening of The Big Hit and the rerelease of Scream 2.

And don't forget to voice your opinion in the Box Office Guru Reader Survey.

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

# Title Apr 17 - 19 Apr 10 - 12 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 City of Angels $ 12,332,194 $ 15,369,048 -19.8 2,329 2 $ 5,295 $ 34,051,685 WB
2 The Object of My Affection 9,725,855 1,890 1 5,146 9,725,855 Fox
3 Lost in Space 7,451,911 13,395,392 -44.4 3,306 3 2,254 52,349,496 New Line
4 Titanic 7,407,989 8,558,241 -13.4 3,012 18 2,459 554,067,203 Paramount
5 Paulie 5,369,800 1,553 1 3,458 5,369,800 DreamWorks
6 Species II 4,013,009 7,274,008 -44.8 2,510 2 1,599 13,820,142 MGM/UA
7 Odd Couple 2 3,775,347 4,810,288 -21.5 1,852 2 2,039 10,660,814 Paramount
8 Mercury Rising 3,728,905 5,457,725 -31.7 2,213 3 1,685 24,666,610 Universal
9 The Players Club 3,589,903 5,894,607 -39.1 593 2 6,054 14,287,584 New Line
10 Major League 3 2,087,011 2,322 1 899 2,087,011 WB
11 As Good As It Gets 1,558,025 2,056,290 -24.2 1,205 17 1,293 142,064,798 Sony
12 Primary Colors 1,534,305 2,410,545 -36.4 1,317 5 1,165 35,158,705 Universal
13 My Giant 1,482,052 3,117,795 -52.5 1,948 2 761 6,524,603 Sony
14 Barney's Great Adventure 1,473,999 1,382,373 6.6 817 3 1,804 7,444,154 Polygram
15 Good Will Hunting 1,465,824 2,002,821 -26.8 1,069 20 1,371 131,555,851 Miramax
16 Grease - (rerelease) 1,228,490 2,505,029 -51.0 1,989 4 618 26,737,490 Paramount
17 The Man in the Iron Mask 969,675 1,601,607 -39.5 1,037 6 935 54,040,815 MGM/UA
18 Everest (IMAX) 861,058 875,865 -1.7 32 7 26,908 7,969,118 Freeman
19 Wild Things 744,205 1,558,505 -52.2 757 5 983 28,147,161 Sony
20 L.A. Confidential 743,979 478,019 55.6 853 31 872 62,958,687 WB
Top 5 $ 42,287,749 $ 50,491,296 -16.2
Top 10 59,481,924 68,792,678 -13.5
Top 20 71,543,536 80,755,292 -11.4

    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 21, 1998 at 9:10AM EST

Written by Gitesh Pandya