Weekend Box Office (April 23 - 25, 1999)

THIS WEEKEND Topping a sluggish frame at the box office, The Matrix recaptured the number one spot while last weekend's champ, Life, fell sharply and a pair of new releases had weak openings. Most films enjoyed low declines but for the first time in nearly six months, the top ten movies failed to sell at least $50M in tickets. Despite the cyclical downturn in theatrical activity that is typical in late-April, the month could still set a new box office record anchored by the strength of The Matrix.

Back in the driver's seat, The Matrix was the most popular movie at North American theaters with a final gross of $12.6M. Still enjoying low declines in its fourth frame, the Keanu Reeves-Laurence Fishburne sci-fi smash has thrusted its way to a blockbuster cume of $117.1M and looks headed for $160-170M domestically. The Matrix is the second film this year, after Payback, to debut at number one, fall from the top, and then reclaim the box office crown. The Matrix is also on course to deliver the best April gross ever for a single film with a projected $119M within the 30-day period. Later this week, the action thriller will pass Speed's $121M take to become Keanu Reeves' top domestic performer.

Producer Joel Silver is currently discussing a sequel to The Matrix with directors Andy and Larry Wachowski and Warner Bros. Produced in Sydney, Australia for $60M, the effects-filled action thriller is well on its way to being an extremely profitable global behemoth as it will precede Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in most international markets feeding off the immense hunger for a quality science fiction picture.

Tumbling a disturbing 45% in its second weekend of release, the Eddie Murphy-Martin Lawrence prison comedy Life took in $11.3M to boost its ten-day sum to $37M. If Life continues to decline by roughly 40% per week, the Universal film should eventually top out at around $65M putting it in the same neighborhood as 1992's Boomerang (also starring Murphy and Martin) which rang up $70M in domestic theatrical sales.

Drew Barrymore continued to charm moviegoers with Never Been Kissed which saw $6M in ticket sales in its third undercover operation. The Fox comedy, which was also produced by the young firestarter, depreciated just 29% and boosted its 17-day gross to an impressive $31M. If it keeps up this healthy pace, Never Been Kissed may manage to smooch up a rosy $50M reinforcing Barrymore's status as a bankable star who can make young adults fork over the cash at the box office. The actress will be heard in Fox's upcoming animated feature Planet Ice, and is developing a motion picture update on Charlie's Angels with Cameron Diaz and The Wedding Singer director Frank Coraci.

Pushing Tin, a film about macho air-traffic controllers starring John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton, took off in fourth place with a $3.6M opening. Landing in 1,283 runways, the Fox title averaged a so-so $2,771 per theater - or more than double the average of the weekend's other freshman film Lost and Found. Its Friday-to-Saturday increase of 29% was good but with a mild start and many high-profile summer pictures right around the corner, it will be difficult for Pushing Tin to survive in the weeks ahead.

Closing in on the $100M milestone, Analyze This eased by just 21% and grossed $3.1M this weekend. Starring Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal, the Warner Bros. hit has reached $95.5M in domestic ticket sales and should hit the century mark early next week.

David Spade fans weren't exactly in search of new comedy from the television and film star as his newest pic Lost and Found opened in sixth with a depressing $3M while playing very wide in 2,469 theaters. The awful $1,225 average for the Warner Bros. comedy indicated that moviegoers had almost no interest in spending money on this poorly-reviewed picture. Spade has had better luck in the past when teaming up with other comedians in films like Senseless, Black Sheep, and Tommy Boy.

Buena Vista's high school comedy Ten Things I Hate About You slid only 27% to $2.7M. After its fourth term, the $16M pic has collected a solid $28.8M and has held up very well despite intense competition from other teen-oriented films in the marketplace.

Sony's Go took in another $2M giving it $12.5M thus far. Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn saw their comedy The Out-of-Towners collect $2M as well which puts its total to date at $23.3M. The Paramount film will probably fall short of Martin's previous spring comedy Sgt. Bilko which grossed $30.2M in 1996, and will finish well below the $58.5M of 1992's Housesitter which also paired the two veteran actors. Look for Steve Martin and fellow top ten resident Eddie Murphy this July in the summer comedy Bowfinger. Forces of Nature rounded out the top ten with $1.6M raising its cume to $48.1M surpassing the $46.8M of Sandra Bullock's last film Practical Magic.

Two arthouse favorites slipped out of the top ten over the weekend. Multiple Academy Award winner Shakespeare in Love grossed $1.3M, off 28%, to push its cume to $91.7M. The Gwenyth Paltrow picture has spent a total of fourteen frames in the top ten (more than any other movie this year) but has never enjoyed a weekend gross of more than $8M. Meanwhile, Robert Altman's latest feature, Cookie's Fortune, also absorbed $1.3M, down 28%, putting its total at $5.2M. The October Films release is still playing in just 559 theaters.

Launching in 256 theaters, Miramax's eXistenZ from director David Cronenberg grossed $810,262. That gave the psychological thriller a decent average of $3,165 per theater.

Movie patrons living in New York and Los Angeles rallied behind Paramount's dark comedy Election which grossed a superb $119,080 in only six locations (with eight total screens) giving it a strong $19,847 per-theater average. Directed by Alexander Payne (Citizen Ruth), Election is a satirical look at high school politics and student-teacher relationships which stars Matthew Broderick as the faculty advisor whose life is crumbling apart and Reese Witherspoon as the overachieving candidate for class president. The well-reviewed film experienced a promising 53% boost in sales on Saturday compared to Friday which indicates that it is reaching beyond teens flocking to high school flicks, and that good word-of-mouth may be spreading. Paramount will expand Election into more markets this Friday.

Compared to projections, The Matrix came close to my $13.5M forecast while Life was below my $14M prediction. Newcomers Pushing Tin and Lost and Found opened a little worse than my $5M projections for each.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Entrapment. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of five non-Star Wars summer movies they were most looking forward to. Of 2,373 responses, 42% selected Eyes Wide Shut, 24% voted for Wild Wild West, 19% said Austin Powers 2, 8% indicated Tarzan, and 7% chose South Park.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which reports on this week in 1995. This Wednesday's new column focuses on Sean Connery's films from the 1990's. For reviews of The Matrix and Life visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films grossed $48M which was up 3% from last year when The Big Hit opened at number one with $10.8M, but down 10% from 1997 when Volcano erupted at the top with $14.6M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Fox's Entrapment 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 23 - 25 Apr 16 - 18 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Matrix $ 12,642,717 $ 17,941,314 -29.5 2,903 4 $ 4,355 $ 117,082,992 Warner Bros.
2 Life 11,257,995 20,414,775 -44.9 2,597 2 4,335 37,016,425 Universal
3 Never Been Kissed 6,014,493 8,411,489 -28.5 2,500 3 2,406 31,012,917 Fox
4 Pushing Tin 3,555,032 1,283 1 2,771 3,555,032 Fox
5 Analyze This 3,107,637 3,925,813 -20.8 2,130 8 1,459 95,467,098 Warner Bros.
6 Lost and Found 3,024,709 2,469 1 1,225 3,024,709 Warner Bros.
7 Ten Things I Hate ... 2,717,023 3,733,562 -27.2 2,235 4 1,216 28,771,494 BV
8 Go 2,020,829 3,018,312 -33.0 1,563 3 1,293 12,502,151 Sony
9 The Out-of-Towners 2,017,725 3,114,729 -35.2 2,128 4 948 23,310,698 Paramount
10 Forces of Nature 1,624,689 2,464,522 -34.1 1,950 6 833 48,125,915 DreamWorks
11 Cookie's Fortune 1,306,479 1,801,083 -27.5 559 4 2,337 5,169,339 October
12 Shakespeare in Love 1,256,967 1,750,254 -28.2 1,181 20 1,064 91,661,717 Miramax
13 Life is Beautiful 1,222,901 1,636,781 -25.3 1,019 27 1,200 51,808,890 Miramax
14 Twin Dragons 894,557 1,395,126 -35.9 1,025 3 873 6,204,038 Miramax
15 eXistenZ 810,262 256 1 3,165 810,262 Miramax
16 Doug's First Movie 781,823 1,359,867 -42.5 1,532 5 510 16,947,604 BV
17 Foolish 718,813 549,363 30.8 410 3 1,753 4,078,695 Artisan
18 Baby Geniuses 626,325 920,555 -32.0 1,167 7 537 23,618,520 Sony
19 A Walk on the Moon 605,887 370,118 63.7 238 5 2,546 1,840,525 Miramax
20 October Sky 514,280 578,160 -11.0 598 10 860 29,146,575 Universal
Top 5 $ 36,577,874 $ 54,426,953 -32.8
Top 10 47,982,849 66,575,853 -27.9
Top 20 56,721,143 76,044,674 -25.4

    This column is updated three times each week : Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Source : EDI, Exhibitor Relations. Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.

Last Updated : April 26, 1999 at 9:00PM ESTHome

Written by Gitesh Pandya