Weekend Box Office (May 7 - 9, 1999)

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers were walking like Egyptians, lining up by the millions to see The Mummy as the update on the horror classic opened with a gargantuan $43.4M, according to final studio figures. Chasing frightened movie fans in a mammoth 3,209 theaters, the Universal release averaged a phenomenal $13,515 per tomb. The Mummy's launch stands as the ninth-largest opening weekend gross in movie history and the mightiest debut since last May's Godzilla which grossed $44M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of its four-day Memorial Day opening. For Universal, it was the third best opening in studio history trailing the two Jurassic Park films. Also, The Mummy now claims the biggest opening for any film outside of the traditional summer period (Memorial Day-to-Labor Day) beating Deep Impact's $41.2M launch a year ago this weekend.

The turnout this weekend for The Mummy was nothing short of monumental. In the $80M special-effects bonanza, Brendan Fraser stars as a soldier who accidentally awakens and then battles an ancient Egyptian mummy. Grossing over $40M this weekend in early May is nothing new. Last year's Deep Impact and 1996's Twister both used the formula of eye-popping effects, mixed with death and destruction, to land openings of $41M each this very frame. The advantages all three films enjoyed were that they were major event films with recognizable but not hugely popular stars, released after a spring drought and before an onslaught of potential summer blockbusters making them the only game in town. Let the jockeying for May 5, 2000 begin!

The mammoth $43.4M haul of The Mummy accounted for an amazing 57% of all dollars spent on the top ten films. Its Friday-to-Saturday increase of 20% matched that of last year's Deep Impact. In its first day of release, The Mummy grossed more than director Stephen Sommers' previous film did in its entire domestic run (his sci-fi thriller Deep Rising grossed $11.2M in early 1998). This weekend's monster mash should certainly help Universal get back on its feet after a troubling series of costly flops. The studio is well-positioned in the weeks ahead to take on the incoming firepower of The Phantom Menace with The Mummy looking to pick up those fans sold out of the Star Wars prequel, and the Julia Roberts-Hugh Grant romance Notting Hill aiming for those ticket buyers who want nothing to do with explosions and special effects. The Mummy could very well have about $90M encased in its tomb even before Episode I arrives on May 19th.

Combining a perfect release date, a huge marketing push, and an overall marketplace with few worthy competitors, The Mummy succeeded in surpassing many industry expectations to bow with over $43M in just three days. Its pre-Star Wars launch allowed it to cash in on the immense hunger movie fans have right now for action, special effects, and science fiction that has built up in anticipation for the George Lucas epic. Movie lovers who just could not wait another two weeks got their two hours of thrills with The Mummy. Similarly, in the fall of 1994, the Egyptian-themed effects pic Stargate hit the jackpot by opening three weeks ahead of the eagerly-awaited Star Trek : Generations and scored a domestic gross that nearly matched the Trek film which was backed by significantly more hype.

Last weekend's most popular film, Entrapment, was bumped to second place with $12.3M in its second heist. Depreciating a so-so 39%, the Sean Connery-Catherine Zeta-Jones action film has captured $37.5M from moviegoers in ten days. Entrapment now looks on course for a solid $65-70M domestic tally unless it can capture significant spillover business from Fox stablemate Star Wars : Episode I in the weeks ahead. Still, the globe-trotting caper pic will become Connery's third biggest hit of the decade trailing The Rock ($134M) and The Hunt For Red October ($121M). Plus, Entrapment has already multiplied Zeta-Jones' star wattage making her one of Hollywood's next big female superstars.

The Matrix continued to bring in strong business in its sixth weekend of release as it claimed third place. The Keanu Reeves-Laurence Fishburne actioner grossed $5.9M (easing 33%) and pushed its total to a hefty $138.5M. Warner Bros. has not released a hit this big since Twister which opened three years ago this weekend. Overseas, The Matrix has topped the Australian box office for a month and has rapidly become one of the highest-grossing films Down Under in recent years. The $60M sci-fi thriller, which was shot in Oz, also delivered the year's biggest opening in Singapore and invades Malaysia, Denmark, South Korea, Brazil, and Thailand this month ahead of numerous European openings in June.

Slipping a notch to fourth was Eddie Murphy's prison comedy Life which grabbed $3.6M in its fourth term. Off 44%, the Universal film has raked in $51.5M thus far and is destined to finish short of the $70M gross of 1992's Boomerang which also starred Murphy and Martin Lawrence.

After two weeks of solid grosses in limited markets, Paramount's Election expanded into 827 locations and grossed $3.2M taking fifth place. The critically-acclaimed high school story stars Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon in a teacher-student rivalry during an election for class president. Moving into wider release, the modestly-budgeted Election averaged a good $3,824 per classroom. By comparison, Rushmore, another well-reviewed film in an academic setting, opened in February with $1.8M in just 103 theaters followed by a $3.2M sophomore take in 573 sites.

Drew Barrymore's latest film, Never Been Kissed, placed sixth with $3M. Off 26%, the Fox title continues to show durability at the box office and has reached a total of $40.5M.

Analyze This crossed the magical $100M mark on Saturday, its 65th day of release, with a weekend gross of $1.7M. The Robert De Niro-Billy Crystal mob comedy, now at $100.8M, has been a steady performer during the spring season with most weekend declines falling between 20-25%. In its tenth frame, Analyze This is still amazingly playing in nearly 2,000 theaters.

Ten Things I Hate About You took in $1.1M taking eighth place. October Films' Cookie's Fortune and Miramax's Oscar champ Shakespeare in Love suffered very slim declines allowing them to re-enter the top ten. Robert Altman's Fortune finished in ninth with $850,072 while the Gwenyth Paltrow romance earned $785,199 pushing its cume to a robust $94M. Shakespeare in Love still has its sights set on crossing the $100M mark.

Four spring lightweights tumbled out of the top ten over the weekend. Sony's horror-comedy Idle Hands has grossed a horrible $3M in ten days in over 1,600 theaters and should close up shop with less than $5M. The David Spade vehicle Lost and Found fell 66% in its third frame. The $13M Warner Bros. comedy stands at a skinny $5.8M and should conclude with a poor $7M. Fox's Pushing Tin dropped 46% in its third flight. With a reported production budget of $33M, the pic will lose cash and is set to finish its domestic run with only $9M. None of these films display signs of recouping their costs through overseas theatrical or worldwide video revenue streams. Finally, Sony's edgy film Go has upped its total to $15.4M and is likely to stop at around $18M.

In limited release, a trio of international movies opened in New York and Los Angeles with varied results. The Chinese film Xiu Xiu : The Sent-Down Girl debuted with a strong $7,960 per theater in only 3 locations. This Is My Father, an Irish tale from Sony Pictures Classics, averaged a solid $6,097 in nine cinemas. Australia's hit comedy The Castle, imported by Miramax, generated a passable $4,207 average in 7 sites. Meanwhile, the Vietnam-themed Sundance champ Three Seasons expanded into more cities and averaged a splendid $7,913 in 22 theaters.

Compared to projections, The Mummy surged past my forecast of $26M. Election came close to my $5M prediction while Entrapment was a notch below my $13M projection.

Got something to say about the box office potential of Star Wars : Episode I? Submit your thoughts (200 words or less) on this topic to the Box Office Guru Reader Forum on The Phantom Menace including your name with city and country of residence. New reader comments will be published daily until the film's opening day. Once in theaters, check back with Box Office Guru for daily updates on the performance of Star Wars prequel.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Austin Powers 2 vs. Big Daddy. In last week's survey, readers were asked if they thought there is too much violence in today's movies. Of 2,016 responses, 69% answered no while 31% said yes.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which looks at the top opening weekends in the month of May. This Wednesday's new column will report on the performance of limited release films this year. For reviews of The Mummy and Election visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films grossed $75.9M which was up 13% from last year when Deep Impact opened at number one with $41.2M, and up 33% from 1997 when The Fifth Element debuted on top with $17M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for the final frame before Star Wars when A Midsummer Night's Dream and Jet Li's Black Mask premiere.

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 May 7 - 9 Apr 30 - May 2 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Mummy $ 43,369,635 3,209 1 $ 13,515 $ 43,369,635 Universal
2 Entrapment 12,326,723 20,145,595 -38.8 2,855 2 4,318 38,452,755 Fox
3 The Matrix 5,881,558 8,715,866 -32.5 2,860 6 2,056 138,505,386 Warner Bros.
4 Life 3,644,810 6,481,175 -43.8 2,438 4 1,495 51,484,410 Universal
5 Election 3,162,540 245,582 1187.8 827 3 3,824 3,696,536 Paramount
6 Never Been Kissed 3,004,927 4,072,477 -26.2 2,404 5 1,250 40,503,981 Fox
7 Analyze This 1,726,565 2,175,397 -20.6 1,995 10 865 100,843,305 Warner Bros.
8 Ten Things I Hate ... 1,130,857 1,811,809 -37.6 1,712 6 661 32,639,900 BV
9 Cookie's Fortune 850,072 1,001,113 -15.1 552 5 1,540 7,715,766 October
10 Shakespeare in Love 785,199 825,962 -4.9 903 21 870 93,965,332 Miramax
11 The Out-of-Towners 777,036 1,104,467 -29.6 1,306 5 595 26,051,758 Paramount
12 Life is Beautiful 767,739 831,732 -7.7 812 28 945 54,168,264 Miramax
13 Idle Hands 701,678 1,807,181 -61.2 1,611 2 436 3,004,841 Sony
14 Pushing Tin 680,889 1,250,045 -45.5 1,160 3 587 7,023,561 Fox
15 She's All That 625,873 27,777 2153.2 613 15 1,021 61,582,862 Miramax
16 Forces of Nature 563,188 875,144 -35.6 1,117 7 504 50,324,065 DreamWorks
17 Go 552,220 1,152,271 -52.1 884 5 625 15,405,972 Sony
18 Lost and Found 421,781 1,254,596 -66.4 1,284 3 328 5,780,285 Warner Bros.
19 A Walk on the Moon 421,021 512,589 -17.9 243 6 1,733 3,130,812 Miramax
20 T-Rex (IMAX) 307,761 232,409 32.4 29 29 10,612 13,056,741 Universal
Top 5 $ 68,385,266 $ 41,590,510 64.4
Top 10 75,882,886 48,866,412 55.3
Top 20 81,702,072 55,769,047 46.5

    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 : May 10, 1999 at 10:00PM EDTHome

Written by Gitesh Pandya