Weekend Box Office (May 4 - 6, 2001)

*** NEW 2001 Summer Box Office Preview ***

THIS WEEKEND Universal Pictures opened the summer box office with a bang with the record-breaking launch of its action-adventure sequel The Mummy Returns which took total control of the marketplace with a staggering $68.1M debut, according to final studio figures. The effects-filled thriller delivered the largest opening ever for a non-holiday weekend beating the $64.8M haul that Star Wars Episode I generated two years ago. Among overall opening weekends in history, The Mummy Returns ranks second behind another effects-heavy Universal sequel, The Lost World, which premiered over the Memorial Day holiday weekend in 1997 with $72.1M over the Friday-to-Sunday span.

Attacking 3,401 theaters across North America, The Mummy Returns averaged a scorching $20,035 per location. The PG-13 film's predecessor - 1999's The Mummy - debuted this same weekend with $43.4M from 3,209 venues for a strong $13,515 average. Its sequel opened 57% better this weekend. The Mummy went on to gross $155.3M domestically and a mammoth $414M worldwide.

Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz reprised their roles as a pair of fearless adventurers searching for ancient Egyptian tombs. In the new installment, the couple is married and living in London with their son when the evil spirit is resurrected and resumes his quest for immortality. Adding to the cast, and to the commercial appeal of the picture, is WWF superstar The Rock. Writer/director Stephen Sommers also returned for the sequel.

Produced for $98M, The Mummy Returns was positioned a year ago to be the film which opens in early May and launches the summer movie season just as its predecessor did two years ago. Universal picked its date carefully and other studios responded by programming their films away from the eventual blockbuster's opening frame. Hence, with virtually no competition, The Mummy Returns created a one-picture marketplace this weekend as the film grossed more than every other movie in release combined.

The studio reported that Friday sales accounted for $23.4M, Saturday increased by 15% to $26.9M, and Sunday dipped 34% to $17.8M. That allowed the sequel to post the biggest Friday and Saturday grosses ever beating the previous recordholders Toy Story 2 and The Lost World respectively.

In addition to generating massive ticket sales, The Mummy Returns also performed very well in audience surveys. The studio noted that 90% of those polled rated the film "excellent" or "very good" while CinemaScore audiences gave the movie a solid A grade. Males made up 52% of the crowd and 70% said they would definitely recommend the picture. With such positive results from moviegoers, and with so few new movies opening in the next couple of weeks, The Mummy Returns should dominate theatrical business in the near term.

Universal plans to quickly unleash the fury of The Mummy Returns on the rest of the world with several international openings scheduled for later this month. The film opens in Australia on Thursday, Italy on Friday, and then in 20 other markets on May 18 including Germany, Spain, Brazil, and the United Kingdom. With lackluster ticket sales around the globe this spring, exhibitors worldwide are eagerly waiting for The Mummy Returns to jumpstart the coming movie season.

While traditionally Hollywood has utilized Memorial Day weekend as the starting point for big-budget summer event films, recent years have shown that there are a tremendous amount of dollars to be made by getting a headstart in the beginning of May. Such earlybird blockbusters include 1996's Twister ($41.1M opening), 1998's Deep Impact ($41.2M), 1999's The Mummy, and last year's Gladiator ($34.8M). Sony is betting that the formula will work for them next year when they launch their tentpole picture Spider-Man on May 3, 2002 - three weeks ahead of Star Wars Episode II.

Dropping to second place with less than one-tenth of the gross of The Mummy Returns was last weekend's top film Driven with $6M. The auto racing thriller featuring Sylvester Stallone fell a disturbing 51% in its second lap and brought its ten-day cume to $21.5M. The Warner Bros. release did however fare a bit better than Stallone's last movie Get Carter which tumbled 56% in its sophomore session. Carrying a reported production cost of $72M, Driven should find its way to $35-40M domestically with brighter returns from international markets.

Counting calories in third place was Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary which weighed in with $5.7M in its fourth helping. Off a slim 24%, the Miramax release has grossed $44.5M and should find its way to a domestic tally of $60-65M and over $100M between North American and the United Kingdom.

Miramax's hit family film Spy Kids inched closer to nine figures with a weekend gross of $3.8M lifting its cume to $98.4M. Next weekend, the Robert Rodriguez-helmed adventure film will become only the seventh film in the distributor's history to cross the $100M mark following Scary Movie, Good Will Hunting, Pulp Fiction, Shakespeare in Love, Scream, and Scream 2. With the help of Spy Kids, Bridget Jones's Diary, and Chocolat, Miramax has found its way to fourth place in year-to-date box office market share ahead of such established studios as Universal, Fox, and even its parent company Disney.

Morgan Freeman's kidnapping thriller Along Came A Spider nabbed fifth place easing 33% to $3.8M in its fifth weekend. Later this week, the Paramount release will surpass the $60.5M gross of 1997's Kiss the Girls which also starred Freeman as investigator Dr. Alex Cross. Spider looks set to reach about $70M.

Dropping 33% in its third frame was Paramount's Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles with $3.1M putting its cume at $17.9M. New Line's drug saga Blow slipped just 27% to $2.45M for a $44.2M total. Joe Dirt took in $1.5M, off 45%, lifting its sum to $24.7M.

In their second weekends, the horror film The Forsaken and the comedy Town & Country saw sales crumble. Sony's The Forsaken collected $1.4M giving it a steep 53% drop and a ten-day cume of only $5.3M. The expensive Warren Beatty film plunged 56% to $1.3M for an embarrassing cume of $5.2M in ten days.

Sony held sneak previews for its jousting film A Knight's Tale on Saturday and saw encouraging results. Attendance was split evenly between males and females as well as between age groups. From 766 sneaks, 85% of those polled rated the picture "excellent" or "very good" while 80% said they would definitely recommend it. A Knight's Tale opens in about 2,800 theaters on Friday.

Leaving the top ten after two weeks was Fox's $15M Tom Green comedy Freddy Got Fingered which should finish with a domestic gross equivalent to its cost.

Compared to projections, The Mummy Returns blasted past my $45M forecast.

The top ten films grossed $97.2M which was up 31% from last year when Gladiator opened in the top spot with $34.8M; and up 28% from 1999 when The Mummy debuted at number one with $43.4M.

Read the NEW Summer 2001 Box Office Preview which looks at the exciting season of blockbuster films ahead.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on which of three recent hits you most want to see a sequel to. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether The Mummy Returns would open with at least $40M. Of 3,514 responses, 84% correctly said yes, while 16% thought no.

Read the Weekly Rewind column which reports on the biggest openings in May. For a review of The Mummy Returns visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when A Knight's Tale opens.

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

# Title May 4 - 6 Apr. 27 - 29 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Mummy Returns $ 68,139,035 3,401 1 $ 20,035 $ 68,139,035 Universal
2 Driven 6,002,516 12,174,504 -50.7 2,905 2 2,066 21,503,718 Warner Bros.
3 Bridget Jones's Diary 5,730,131 7,528,349 -23.9 2,547 4 2,250 44,465,598 Miramax
4 Spy Kids 3,812,829 5,784,764 -34.1 2,815 6 1,354 98,408,649 Miramax
5 Along Came a Spider 3,762,266 5,603,083 -32.9 2,573 5 1,462 60,004,520 Paramount
6 Crocodile Dundee in LA 3,108,663 4,659,727 -33.3 2,141 3 1,452 17,941,159 Paramount
7 Blow 2,447,638 3,354,646 -27.0 1,558 5 1,571 44,245,722 New Line
8 Joe Dirt 1,475,282 2,708,925 -45.5 1,783 4 827 24,742,333 Sony
9 The Forsaken 1,406,246 3,020,159 -53.4 1,514 2 929 5,293,681 Sony
10 Town and Country 1,333,504 3,029,858 -56.0 2,222 2 600 5,231,574 New Line
11 One Night at McCools's 1,283,322 2,520,041 -49.1 1,814 2 707 4,663,851 USA Films
12 Memento 1,233,751 1,272,481 -3.0 408 8 3,024 8,531,767 New Market
13 Kingdom Come 1,155,869 2,130,440 -45.7 850 4 1,360 20,477,514 Fox Searchlight
14 Freddy Got Fingered 985,220 2,522,946 -60.9 1,543 3 639 13,043,155 Fox
15 The Tailor of Panama 966,407 941,720 2.6 436 6 2,217 9,384,002 Sony
16 Enemy at the Gates 661,030 1,087,706 -39.2 808 8 818 49,211,930 Paramount
17 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 584,302 775,304 -24.6 563 22 1,038 124,729,749 Sony Classics
18 Josie and the Pussycats 500,955 1,205,845 -58.5 759 4 660 13,825,855 Universal
19 Heartbreakers 416,775 700,250 -40.5 727 7 573 39,054,974 MGM
20 Someone Like You 383,339 543,284 -29.4 481 6 797 26,388,058 Fox
Top 5 $ 87,446,777 $ 35,750,427 144.6
Top 10 97,218,110 50,386,961 92.9
Top 20 105,389,080 62,098,052 69.7
Top 20 vs. 2000 105,389,080 83,542,568 26.2

Last Updated : May 7, 2001 at 8:30PM EDT