Weekend Box Office (May 8 - 10, 1998)

** Read the NEW Summer 98 Box Office Predictions **

THIS WEEKEND Crashing into theaters nationwide, Deep Impact annihilated the competition with a weekend gross of $41.2M. The Paramount/DreamWorks co-production, which stars Morgan Freeman and Téa Leoni, arrived in 3,156 theaters with 4,600 prints and scored a muscular $13,039 average per theater. The mammoth debut was an extinction level event and stands as the tenth largest opening in history, inching past Twister's $41.1M from two years ago this very weekend, and is the biggest opening outside of the traditional Memorial Day to Labor Day summer season. Deep Impact also posted the biggest debut of any film since last summer's Men in Black which landed with a $51.1M weekend haul. Plus, it was the second-best opening weekend for Paramount ever behind Mission: Impossible's $56.8M four-day holiday debut in 1996. After only three days of release, Deep Impact is already the sixth highest-grossing new release of 1998 and should surpass The Wedding Singer by the end of the week to become number one.

Many factors contributed to the enormous success of the comet picture. Paramount brilliantly promoted the movie and selected the best possible release date - two weekends before the Memorial Day holiday frame. Aside from Lost in Space, there has not been a big special effects film in some time so the timing was perfect to jumpstart the summer with what was widely considered the weaker of the two comet movies this summer. Ticket buyers were eager to rally behind this event film after weeks of mediocre new releases. And the story of society facing extinction resulting from the comets colliding with Earth appeals to the widest possible spectrum of moviegoers transcending age, gender, race, and geographic boundaries. An ultrawide launch certainly helped as Deep Impact joined only The Man in the Iron Mask and Lost in Space as movies opening in over 3,000 theaters this year. The lack of competition was also a major factor as Deep Impact accounted for an amazing 61% of all ticket sales for the top ten movies.

Many of these same factors propelled Twister to a record-breaking opening two years ago this weekend. Like Deep Impact, Twister was an early summer disaster film, executive produced by Steven Spielberg, that ignited a box office that was in a serious downturn due to weak product and needed a big picture to jumpstart the busy summer season. The tornado film opened in 2,414 theaters with a much stronger $17,009 average, ruled the charts for two weeks, and grossed $241.7M domestically. Deep Impact has clearance to dominate next weekend's box office but with only a 20% increase on Saturday from Friday, it will not end up as successful as Twister. Still, Deep Impact left a huge crater over the weekend and should become a very profitable venture even with its reported $80 million production cost.

DreamWorks will handle the international distribution through United International Pictures with openings across much of Europe in the weeks ahead. This coming weekend, Deep Impact will invade Germany, the U.K., Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Romania, Austria, Hungary, Denmark, Israel, Mexico, and South Africa. Australia and New Zealand have openings on June 4th with Japan following on July 4th.

There were actually some other movies playing at theaters over the weekend as well. Proving to be a solid, consistently strong picture, City of Angels grossed $4.7M pushing its cume to $61.9M. Down just 29%, the Meg Ryan-Nicolas Cage romance has spent five weeks being one the nation's two favorite films. Outside of Titanic, the last film to spend five straight weekends in the top two was Liar, Liar over a year ago. City of Angels could face stiff competition from the new Robert Redford tearjerker The Horse Whisperer which opens next weekend. Nevertheless, Angels is set to spread its wings and fly to at least an $80M gross.

Last weekend's number one pick He Got Game (Spike Lee's first chart-topping film) deflated by a hefty 51% and took third with $3.7M putting its ten-day total at $13.2M. This disappointing second period signals an early-round elimination from the box office tournament as its final gross may end up at around $20M. Rising two levels to fourth place was the mighty Titanic with $3.2M which was off just 21% for the lowest dropoff in the top ten. The Oscar-winning love boat continues to play solidly despite losing hundreds of screens each week. With $569.8M in the bank, the Fox/Paramount picture returned to the top five after a one week absence. Rounding out the top five was Les Misérables with $2.8M, down 45%, pushing its cume to a weak $9.1M. For reviews of recent movies visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

Jada Pinkett Smith got jiggy with it at number seven with Woo which opened with $2.5M. Playing in only 625 locations, the New Line comedy averaged a solid $4,028 per theater which was the second-best average in the top ten. Opening head-to-head with the comet picture put a deep impact into the opening gross of Woo which would probably have done better had it opened on another weekend later in the summer.

Falling out of the top ten was Lost in Space which spent five weeks there and has grossed $64.3M thus far. The New Line space adventure movie, which dethroned Titanic a month ago, has plotted a course to reach $70-75M before closing. Also slipping from the top ten was the Gwenyth Paltrow's romantic comedy Sliding Doors which has collected $4.7M and is holding its own on a per-theater basis. Meanwhile, Screamwatch must continue for another week as the slasher sequel Scream 2 came short again of hitting the $100M mark as it ended the weekend with a $206,004 gross leaving it with a $99.7M total.

For box office sensation Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting with $135.1M to date, will end up being the third highest-grossing movie of his career. The Miramax film, which earned Williams his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, has passed his other $100M+ films The Bird Cage ($124M domestic gross), Good Morning, Vietnam ($123.9M), Hook ($119M), and Jumanji ($100.5M) but trails his two $200M+ films Mrs. Doubtfire ($219.1M) and Aladdin ($217M).

Compared to my projections, Deep Impact rocketed beyond my $22M forecast which was based on an opening in 2,000 theaters as a Paramount spokesman told me last week. Woo's $2.5M was lower than my $4M prediction. In last week's Box Office Guru reader survey, voters were split as 49% thought Deep Impact would open with $25M or more while 51% thought it would be less.

The top ten films grossed $67.3M which was up 18% from last year when The Fifth Element opened at number one with $17M, and was up 13% from 1996 when Twister opened at the top with $41.1M. Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend's activity which will see The Horse Whisperer and Quest for Camelot take on the raging comet.

And don't forget to voice your opinion in this week's new Seinfeld-related Box Office Guru Reader Survey. A new weekly survey appears each Friday.

Below are final studio figures for the weekend. Click on the title to jump to its official home page:

# Title May 8 - 10 May 1 - 3 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Deep Impact $ 41,152,375 3,156 1 $ 13,039 $ 41,152,375 Paramount
2 City of Angels 4,718,040 6,608,070 -28.6 2,433 5 1,939 61,851,568 WB
3 He Got Game 3,710,911 7,610,663 -51.2 1,322 2 2,807 13,234,225 BV
4 Titanic 3,178,573 4,011,888 -20.8 2,256 21 1,409 569,820,413 Paramount
5 Les Miserables 2,753,148 5,011,840 -45.1 1,477 2 1,864 9,083,490 Sony
6 Paulie 2,551,043 3,749,568 -32.0 1,812 4 1,408 18,334,438 DreamWorks
7 Woo 2,517,263 625 1 4,028 2,517,263 New Line
8 The Big Hit 2,332,176 5,751,053 -59.4 2,149 3 1,085 23,210,659 Sony
9 Black Dog 2,285,705 4,809,375 -52.5 2,050 2 1,115 8,268,605 Universal
10 The Object of My Affection 2,100,093 3,393,712 -38.1 1,818 4 1,155 24,906,627 Fox
11 Lost in Space 1,496,964 2,982,199 -49.8 1,769 6 846 64,319,841 New Line
12 Sliding Doors 1,425,067 1,640,438 -13.1 519 3 2,746 4,699,521 Paramount
13 Spanish Prisoner 977,935 816,111 19.8 296 6 3,304 4,182,825 Sony Classics
14 Odd Couple 2 810,752 1,523,150 -46.8 1,603 5 506 17,411,312 Paramount
15 The Players Club 792,659 1,384,221 -42.7 693 5 1,144 20,532,692 New Line
16 Everest (IMAX) 773,098 731,425 5.7 37 10 20,895 11,688,452 Freeman
17 Good Will Hunting 600,934 825,216 -27.2 697 23 862 135,061,674 Miramax
18 As Good As It Gets 560,315 872,650 -35.8 1,006 20 557 145,568,128 Sony
19 Mercury Rising 551,205 1,304,825 -57.8 848 6 650 30,797,610 Universal
20 U.S. Marshals 400,818 188,946 112.1 706 10 568 56,289,476 WB
Top 5 $ 55,513,047 $ 29,791,001 86.3
Top 10 67,299,327 45,568,806 47.7
Top 20 75,689,074 55,099,859 37.4

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

Last Updated : May 11, 1998 at 11:45PM ESTHome

Written by Gitesh Pandya