Weekend Box Office (April 19 - 21, 2002)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND With the summer box office just on the horizon, Universal got the pre-party started with the explosive number one debut of the action-adventure film The Scorpion King which set a new April opening weekend record. Sandra Bullock's new detective thriller Murder by Numbers, however, suffered a disappointing bow in third place while most major holdovers enjoyed moderate declines.

Moviegoers flocked to the multiplexes to see WWF superstar The Rock in his first leading role and propelled The Scorpion King to a muscular $36.1M debut, according to final studio figures. Universal backed the PG-13 film with an extensive marketing campaign and a massive 3,444 theaters (with over 4,900 total prints) for a $10,475 per-theater average. The launch represented the largest opening weekend ever for the current month beating The Matrix which grossed $27.8M during its April 2-4, 1999 three-day debut frame. Budgeted at $60M, The Scorpion King also generated the second biggest premiere of the year trailing Ice Age's $46.3M from last month.

Young men, not surprisingly, were the core audience for the spinoff of The Mummy franchise. Males made up 56% of the crowd while those under age 25 accounted for 54%, according to studio exit polls. Though reviews were not kind for the ancient tale, audiences polled by CinemaScore enjoyed The Scorpion King giving it a B grade overall, and a strong A- from males under 21. Friday saw $12.6M in ticket sales with Saturday witnessing a decent 13% increase to $14.2M. Sunday fell 35% to $9.3M.

Universal is looking at The Scorpion King to be a new franchise and even has The Rock signed for the upcoming action picture Helldorado. The studio is wasting no time spreading the sting of Scorpion worldwide. The Chuck Russell-directed film opened in Australia, New Zealand, Russia, and the United Kingdom this weekend and aims to conquer much of Europe and parts of South America next weekend. Universal hit gold three years ago using the same strategy for The Mummy which the studio quickly opened in most international territories weeks ahead of Star Wars Episode I making it the pre-summer action of choice raking in a dazzling $258M overseas in the process.

Far back in the rearview mirror was last weekend's top film, Paramount's Changing Lanes, which fell to second place with $11.1M in its sophomore session. Dropping a reasonable 35%, the Ben Affleck-Samuel L. Jackson revenge thriller has banked $32.8M in ten days and seems headed for a total of $60-65M.

Sandra Bullock's new homicide drama Murder by Numbers delivered the worst opening for a wide release for the actress in over five years with a $9.3M debut. Warner Bros. released the R-rated thriller in 2,663 theaters and averaged a mild $3,495 per crime scene. Bullock's last film, 2000's Miss Congeniality, became one of her highest grossing pictures taking in $106.8M. The actress has not seen an opening this weak for a wide release since 1997's romantic drama In Love and War which bowed to just $5.5M.

With so many other thrillers targeting adults in the marketplace, Murder by Numbers had a difficult time standing out from the crowd. Reviews were not especially strong, though Bullock's performance has been hailed by many critics as one of her best. Moviegoers were not as thrilled as CinemaScore audiences gave the picture a disappointing C+ grade hinting a rough road ahead. Bullock hopes to deliver a bigger bang on June 7 when she teams up with Ashley Judd in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood - the film adaptation of the best-selling novel.

Youth-oriented pics The Rookie and Ice Age continued to show good legs and placed fourth and sixth, respectively. Disney's inspirational baseball tale once again displayed the smallest decline in the top ten easing just 20% to $6.5M. With $53.8M in 24 days, The Rookie should record a complete game victory with $75-80M. The Fox toon Ice Age declined 31% to $5.9M in its sixth weekend pushing its mammoth cume to $159.6M. Look for a $175-180M final tally for the PG-rated blockbuster.

Sony witnessed steep declines and took the fifth and seventh spots with the femme-led pictures Panic Room starring Jodie Foster and The Sweetest Thing with Cameron Diaz. The David Fincher-directed thriller fell 44% to $6M lifting its total to $82M. A final cume of roughly $100M is likely. The studio also reported that Panic Room opened at number one this weekend in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria bringing the total number of top spot overseas debuts to 12 over the past two weeks. The Sweetest Thing stumbled 46% in its second weekend to $5.1M for a ten-day sum of $16.9M. The romantic comedy looks to end with just $25-30M.

High Crimes, another female-led film that is showing no legs, dropped 48% to $3.9M in its third trial. The Ashley Judd thriller has grossed $30.9M in 17 days and should adjourn with $35-40M. Paramount's kid adventure Clockstoppers held up better declining a moderate 39% to $2.8M. The Nickelodeon film has grossed $31.8M and is headed for $40M. Rounding out the top ten was Frailty from Lions Gate with $2.2M in its second weekend, down 49%, for a $7.8M ten-day tally. The Bill Paxton-directed entry will end with $11-13M.

Two films made their exit from the top ten. National Lampoon's Van Wilder took in $2.2M, off 48%, for a $17.2M cume. The Artisan release should graduate with $20-22M. New Line's Blade II collected $2.1M, down a troubling 52%, giving the vampire sequel $77.3M after its fifth bite. The $48M Wesley Snipes franchise flick is set to reach $80M.

Ethnic films remained alive and kicking at the box office as the new IFC Films comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding opened in the Top 20 with $597,362 from 108 theaters. The film's $5,531 average was second best in the Top 20 after The Scorpion King's $10,475. The distributor's Mexican hit Y Tu Mama Tambien widened to 241 theaters and collected another cool $1M ($4,150 average) pushing its cume to $5.8M. USA Films brought in another $732,688 for its Indian moneymaker Monsoon Wedding which climbed to $7.2M.

The top ten films grossed $88.8M which was up 38% from last year when Bridget Jones's Diary climbed into the number one spot with $10.2M; and up 26% from 2000 when U-571 opened in the top position with $19.6M.

Compared to projections, The Scorpion King debuted a few notches below my revised $39M forecast. Murder by Numbers also came in below my $13M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on The Rock. In last week's survey, readers were asked how big the opening for The Scorpion King would be. Of 4,177 responses, 33% guessed Under $30M, 44% correctly predicted $30-45M, and 23% projected Over $45M.

For a review of The Scorpion King visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Jason X and Life, or Something Like It both open nationally.

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

# Title Apr 19 - 21 Apr 12 - 14 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Scorpion King $ 36,075,875 3,444 1 $ 10,475 $ 36,075,875 Universal
2 Changing Lanes 11,068,372 17,128,062 -35.4 2,642 2 4,189 32,761,402 Paramount
3 Murder By Numbers 9,307,394 2,663 1 3,495 9,307,394 Warner Bros.
4 The Rookie 6,451,593 8,076,763 -20.1 2,507 4 2,573 53,830,527 Buena Vista
5 Panic Room 6,004,655 10,618,796 -43.5 2,825 4 2,126 81,981,736 Sony
6 Ice Age 5,903,510 8,577,478 -31.2 2,820 6 2,093 159,626,661 Fox
7 The Sweetest Thing 5,105,706 9,430,667 -45.9 2,670 2 1,912 16,912,036 Sony
8 High Crimes 3,922,243 7,485,414 -47.6 2,409 3 1,628 30,907,865 Fox
9 Clockstoppers 2,826,455 4,652,393 -39.2 2,188 4 1,292 31,837,557 Paramount
10 Frailty 2,165,374 4,208,655 -48.5 1,497 2 1,446 7,804,141 Lions Gate
11 National Lampoon's Van Wilder 2,159,909 4,110,802 -47.5 1,806 3 1,196 17,231,822 Artisan
12 Blade II 2,085,961 4,315,697 -51.7 1,643 5 1,270 77,306,658 New Line
13 Y Tu Mama Tambien 1,000,261 1,016,570 -1.6 241 6 4,150 5,838,402 IFC Films
14 We Were Soldiers 892,201 1,428,885 -37.6 838 8 1,065 75,327,562 Paramount
15 A Beautiful Mind 854,170 1,457,335 -41.4 746 18 1,145 168,418,991 Universal
16 Monster's Ball 793,121 1,040,241 -23.8 488 17 1,625 28,131,294 Lions Gate
17 The Lord of the Rings 771,711 1,219,369 -36.7 706 18 1,093 306,999,514 New Line
18 E.T. (re-release) 738,720 1,538,825 -52.0 864 5 855 34,047,765 Universal
19 Monsoon Wedding 732,688 620,804 18.0 189 9 3,877 7,153,030 USA Films
20 My Big Fat Greek Wedding 597,362 108 1 5,531 597,362 IFC Films
Top 5 $ 68,907,889 $ 53,831,766 28.0
Top 10 88,831,177 78,604,727 13.0
Top 20 99,457,281 90,079,264 10.4
Top 20 vs. 2001 99,457,281 76,546,210 29.9

Last Updated : April 22, 2002 at 9:00PM EDT