Weekend Box Office (April 28 - 30, 2000)

*** Summer 2000 Box Office Preview ***

THIS WEEKEND The underwater action film U-571 successfully defended its tactical position atop the box office charts despite incoming attacks from three new wide releases to spend its second weekend at number one. The Universal war pic grossed $12.2M according to final studio figures, dropping a moderate 38% from its strong opening frame, and lifted its ten-day cume to a solid $38.1M. U-571 will face tough competition for its core male audience in the next two weeks with the arrivals of big-budget heavyweights like Gladiator and Battlefield Earth. Look for the $62M submarine adventure to soak up $70-75M domestically by the end of its voyage.

Universal became the first studio in eight months to have the top two films in the marketplace with the debut of their family film The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas which collected $10.5M over the weekend. Launching ultrawide in 3,040 theaters, the $58M prequel to the 1994 blockbuster averaged only $3,460 per site. Rock Vegas stars Mark Addy, Kristen Johnson, and Stephen Baldwin and gets even more prehistoric by showing the modern stone-age characters when they were young and single. The studio hoped The Flintstones would benefit by opening ahead of all the other major summer kidpics but instead registered the second worst debut ever for a film opening in over 3,000 theaters. By comparison, the original Flintstones movie, which starred a more believable John Goodman as the Yabba Dabba Dude, opened six years ago with a hefty $37.2M in 2,498 theaters over the four-day Memorial Day weekend frame.

Bowing in third place with $9M was the time-shifting thriller Frequency from New Line Cinema. James Caviezel plays a man who contacts his father (Dennis Quaid) on a radio living thirty years in the past and attempts to alter the present by changing events in 1969. Frequency tuned into 2,621 theaters and averaged a mediocre $3,444 per location. The $22M drama enjoyed a good 32% Friday-to-Saturday jump and may hold up well in the weeks ahead.

Where the Heart Is, another new release, landed in fourth place with $8.3M. Fox's dramedy about a single teen mother delivered a so-so $3,403 average in 2,437 venues. According to studio distribution chief Tom Sherak, 70% of the audience was female and exit polls showed 90-95% of women rated the film "excellent" or "very good". Starring Natalie Portman with Ashley Judd, Sally Field, and Joan Cusack, Where the Heart Is cost Fox $9M to pick up and with the month of May packed with mostly testosterone flicks, the pregnancy saga could generate respectable numbers in the weeks ahead.

Dribbling down to fifth place was the romantic drama Love and Basketball which took in $5.1M in its sophomore weekend, dropping an understandable 37%, giving it a ten-day score of $15.4M. Still claiming the second best average in the top ten with $4,099, the New Line release should end its season with roughly $30M.

Rules of Engagement placed sixth with $4.6M pushing its cume to $50.2M. The Edward Norton-directed comedy Keeping the Faith collected $4.5M bringing its tally to $25.5M. 28 Days followed with $4M putting the Sandra Bullock rehab story at $28.6M to date.

Slipping 32% to ninth place was the blockbuster Erin Brockovich with $3.6M for a $112.9M cume. Rounding out the top ten with the smallest decline as usual was Final Destination with $2.35M giving the suspense sleeper $45.9M to date.

Three very different spring offerings fell out of the top ten over the weekend. The romantic comedy Return to Me reached a cume of $25M and is on its way to a respectable final gross of about $30M. The DreamWorks animated adventure The Road to El Dorado has discovered $46.4M thus far and should end up with about $50M domestically. The collegiate thriller The Skulls has captured $32.5M to date and looks headed for a final grade of around $35M, or about twice its production cost.

The limited release arena saw plenty of activity over the weekend. Disney's IMAX hit Fantasia 2000 conjured up $2.1M during the final weekend of its record-setting four-month run. The animated spectacle has grossed an amazing $49.6M from only 54 large format screens in North America and $63.9M worldwide. Fantasia 2000 will return for a four-week engagement in selected cities beginning on June 16th in a conventional 35mm format. With a reported budget of $85M, the lavishly-produced toon is successfully using unorthodox methods in making its money back.

Also in limited release, Sony's experimental film Time Code bowed with $93,148 in seven sites for an impressive $13,307 per theater. The $4M Mike Figgis picture stars Salma Hayek and Jeanne Tripplehorn and consists of four simultaneous takes of an improvised story on screen together. Time Code gets burnt into 16 new markets next weekend.

Opening in New York and Los Angeles this weekend was the Kevin Spacey-Danny De Vito picture The Big Kahuna which grossed $80,957 in eight theaters. The Lions Gate release about dueling salesmen generated a robust $10,120 average and will expand into seven more markets on May 12th and then march into 400 theaters on May 19th, according to distribution head Tom Ortenberg.

Paramount Classics added eleven more playdates to the run of The Virgin Suicides and collected $174,120 from 29 houses for a solid $6,004 average in its sophomore weekend. Its cume after ten days is $496,995.

Miramax's romantic comedy Committed fell apart in its platform bow grossing just $11,452 from six locations giving the Heather Graham starrer a jilted $1,909 average.

Compared to projections, The Flintstones prequel came in a couple of notches below my $13M forecast while both Frequency and Where the Heart Is both opened close to my respective predictions of $8M and $7M.

Coming on Wednesday, May 3rd, will be the Summer 2000 Box Office Preview which will examine all the major releases and their chances with ticket buyers this summer.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on whether box office performance affects your desire to see a movie. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of seven summer films they were looking forward to the most. Of 3,011 responses, 30% chose Mission: Impossible 2, 28% picked X-Men, 13% voted for Dinosaur, 10% chose Me, Myself, and Irene, 9% selected The Patriot, 6% said Battlefield Earth, and 3% went with The Nutty Professor II.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which looks at the poorest opening weekends of the year. This Wednesday's new column will report on the biggest debuts in May during the last decade. For reviews of Frequency and U-571 visit The Chief Report.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $64.2M which was up 31% from last year when Entrapment opened at number one with $20.1M, and up 41% from 1998 when He Got Game debuted on top with $7.6M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when the summer movie season gets an early start with Gladiator.

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

# Title Apr. 28 - 30 Apr. 21 - 23 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 U-571 $ 12,203,655 $ 19,553,310 -37.6 2,616 2 $ 4,665 $ 38,111,145 Universal
2 The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas 10,518,435 3,040 1 3,460 10,518,435 Universal
3 Frequency 9,025,584 2,621 1 3,444 9,025,584 New Line
4 Where the Heart Is 8,292,939 2,437 1 3,403 8,292,939 Fox
5 Love and Basketball 5,102,637 8,139,180 -37.3 1,245 2 4,099 15,442,913 New Line
6 Rules of Engagement 4,643,307 8,007,551 -42.0 3,027 4 1,534 50,218,007 Paramount
7 Keeping the Faith 4,451,562 7,233,699 -38.5 2,171 3 2,050 25,503,160 Buena Vista
8 28 Days 4,001,803 7,301,753 -45.2 2,523 3 1,586 28,576,947 Sony
9 Erin Brockovich 3,622,105 5,500,790 -34.2 2,498 7 1,450 112,873,260 Universal
10 Final Destination 2,351,452 2,761,900 -14.9 1,153 7 2,039 45,923,800 New Line
11 Return to Me 2,292,245 3,961,664 -42.1 2,006 4 1,143 25,039,855 MGM/UA
12 Fantasia 2000 2,141,916 1,939,997 10.4 53 18 40,414 49,550,091 Buena Vista
13 The Road to El Dorado 2,005,892 5,225,727 -61.6 2,247 5 893 46,447,127 DreamWorks
14 American Psycho 1,340,015 2,705,028 -50.5 1,012 3 1,324 12,213,067 Lions Gate
15 High Fidelity 1,267,055 2,251,076 -43.7 806 5 1,572 22,107,509 Buena Vista
16 The Skulls 1,259,685 2,712,065 -53.6 1,333 5 945 32,526,305 Universal
17 Gossip 944,887 2,321,729 -59.3 1,525 2 620 4,142,325 Warner Bros.
18 Romeo Must Die 807,871 1,542,329 -47.6 709 6 1,139 53,670,898 Warner Bros.
19 American Beauty 670,739 1,357,651 -50.6 791 33 848 128,144,856 DreamWorks
20 Scream 3 656,627 29,357 1,108 13 593 87,656,929 Miramax
Top 5 $ 45,143,250 $ 50,235,493 -10.1
Top 10 64,213,479 70,397,639 -8.8
Top 20 77,600,411 85,709,634 -9.5

Last Updated : May 1 at 10:30PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya