Weekend Box Office (May 12 - 14, 2000)

*** Summer 2000 Box Office Preview ***

THIS WEEKEND Macho action movies ruled the box office over Mother's Day weekend with audience favorite Gladiator collecting more than double the receipts of John Travolta's new futuristic thriller Battlefield Earth which opened in second. Three other new releases were met with indifference while most holdovers enjoyed respectable declines.

Ridley Scott's Roman battle epic Gladiator had no problem defeating its enemies in its second weekend of release taking in $24.6M, according to final figures, to remain the most popular film in North America. Down only 29%, the DreamWorks/Universal co-production has boosted its muscular cume to $73.7M in just ten days and boasted a mighty average of $8,374 per location. Gladiator has displayed much stronger legs than recent early May blockbusters like The Mummy and Deep Impact which both fell over 43% in their sophomore sessions (see table below - all grosses in millions of dollars).

Year Movie Theaters 1st Wknd 2nd Wknd Decline 10 Day Final
98 Deep Impact 3156 41.2 23.3 -44% 74.0 140.5
99 The Mummy 3209 43.4 24.9 -43% 80.6 155.3
00 Gladiator 2938 34.8 24.6 -29% 73.7

DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp remarked that "women continue to expand as a percentage of the total audience which is helping the picture's legs." If Gladiator keeps up its stellar pace, and continues to post solid midweek grosses as it did last week, the $103M Russell Crowe starrer could soar to $150M or more domestically.

Moviegoers passed on the chance to see John Travolta as an evil dreadlocked alien as the A-list star's new film Battlefield Earth opened in second place with a disappointing $11.5M, or $750,000 less than originally estimated. Warner Bros. saturated the marketplace by releasing the science fiction tale in a massive 3,307 theaters but managed to average a not-so-menacing $3,492. Crucified by critics, Battlefield Earth takes place in the year 3000 and finds Travolta as a leader of an alien race that has taken over the planet and has enslaved humans. The story was based on a novel by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Studio distribution president Dan Fellman noted that ticket sales were up 2% on Saturday over Friday. Exit poll and demographic data were not available. Battlefield Earth did however win the distinction of being the third worst opening in history for a film launching in over 3,000 theaters. Weaker debuts include 1998's Quest for Camelot ($6M in 3,107) and last month's Flintstones prequel ($10.5M in 3,040). Warners backed the $73M space flick with an aggressive marketing campaign but moviegoers were just not excited. In fact, Battlefield Earth failed to reach the heights of other recent space adventures like Mission to Mars, which launched in March with $22.9M, or even February's Pitch Black which bowed to $11.6M in less than 2,000 theaters. Warner Bros. will now have to sit out the early part of summer as its next entry in the season's box office sweepstakes will be the George Clooney-Mark Wahlberg disaster pic The Perfect Storm which does not set sail until June 30th.

Slipping a notch to third place was the submarine actioner U-571 with $5.7M giving the Universal release a solid $57.8M in 24 days. Produced with France's Studio Canal, the $62M film looks to conclude its domestic voyage with $70-75M.

In fourth, the time-shifting thriller Frequency continued to show durability slipping just 24% to $4.9M giving the New Line hit $24.5M to date. Universal's prehistoric prequel The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas dropped 30% to $4.6M lifting its cume to $24.4M in 17 days.

The new dance school drama Center Stage premiered in sixth with $4.6M from 1,506 theaters for a mediocre $3,058 average. Sony's $18M picture performed best with young females but had a low 3% increase from Friday to Saturday. Mother's Day was especially kind to Fox's Where the Heart Is which dipped a mere 22% to $4M for a $21.5M total giving the Natalie Portman pic the lowest decline in the top ten.

Norm MacDonald's kidnapping comedy Screwed opened poorly in eighth place with only $3.3M. The Universal release broke into 1,759 theaters and stumbled to a $1,900 average. Also starring Dave Chappelle and Danny DeVito, the $10M entry saw a debut much like MacDonald's last starring effort, Dirty Work, which opened in June 1998 with a slightly better $3.6M.

Rounding out the top ten were the hoops-themed romance Love and Basketball with $1.94M and Trimark's new hostage comedy Held Up, starring Jamie Foxx and Nia Long, which launched in 688 sites and collected $1.91M for a mild $2,778 average.

A stack of films were pushed out of the top ten over the weekend. Keeping the Faith slipped to $1.9M and a $32.3M cume in its fifth sermon. The Buena Vista title seems headed for a $35-40M final. The military thriller Rules of Engagement starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson dropped 28% to $1.8M after spending five weeks in the top ten. The $60M Paramount title enjoyed two stints at number one and its domestic gross should eventually hit $60-65M.

Sony's wildlife tale I Dreamed of Africa, starring Kim Basinger, fell 38% in its sophomore hunt to $1.5M putting its ten-day cume at a horrible $4.9M. The $34M film should disappear quickly and bag just $8-10M from its brief theatrical run. Sandra Bullock's rehab pic 28 Days also took in $1.5M pushing its total to $34.4M. With a reported negative cost in the vicinity of $35M, the Sony release should sober up with nearly $38M.

Miramax platformed its modern telling of Hamlet in New York and Los Angeles and grossed a solid $62,253 from just four theaters. Ethan Hawke's Manhattan-set tale averaged a strong $15,563 per venue and widens on Friday.

Surging from its success with Gladiator, DreamWorks set its sights on the teen comedy genre with impressive sneak previews for Road Trip. The studio scheduled 800 runs on Saturday evening with an encouraging 90% of those polled marking it "Excellent" or "Very Good". As expected, males made up 60% of the crowd for the R-rated college pic. Road Trip opens nationally on Friday in over 2,400 theaters.

Compared to projections, Gladiator was on target with my $24M forecast. Battlefield Earth opened worse than my $18M prediction while Center Stage and Screwed were both near my $4M projections for each.

Now online is the Summer 2000 Box Office Preview which examines all the major releases and their chances with ticket buyers this summer.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Disney's computer-animated film Dinosaur. In last week's survey, readers were asked which John Travolta film from the last decade was their favorite. Of 2,549 responses, 42% said Face/Off, 33% voted for Pulp Fiction, 9% chose The General's Daughter, 7% picked Get Shorty, 4% selected A Civil Action, 3% went with Broken Arrow, while 3% said Other.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind report which looks at John Travolta's box office track record over the last ten years. For a review of Gladiator visit The Chief Report.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $67.3M which was up 14% from last year when The Mummy retained pole position with $24.9M, and up 18% from 1998 when Deep Impact topped the charts with $23.3M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Dinosaur stampedes into 3,000 theaters joined by the teen sex comedy Road Trip.

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

# Title May 12 - 14 May 5 - 7 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Gladiator $ 24,645,129 $ 34,819,017 -29.2 2,943 2 $ 8,374 $ 73,661,465 DreamWorks
2 Battlefield Earth 11,548,898 3,307 1 3,492 11,548,898 Warner Bros.
3 U-571 5,738,765 7,765,375 -26.1 2,820 4 2,035 57,828,485 Universal
4 Frequency 4,925,766 6,513,499 -24.4 2,470 3 1,994 24,521,097 New Line
5 The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas 4,640,630 6,635,925 -30.1 3,125 3 1,485 24,413,675 Universal
6 Center Stage 4,604,621 1,506 1 3,058 4,604,621 Sony
7 Where the Heart Is 4,001,707 5,113,106 -21.7 2,410 3 1,660 21,506,958 Fox
8 Screwed 3,342,085 1,759 1 1,900 3,342,085 Universal
9 Love and Basketball 1,942,129 3,135,694 -38.1 1,047 4 1,855 22,248,135 New Line
10 Held Up 1,911,007 688 1 2,778 1,911,007 Trimark
11 Keeping the Faith 1,893,018 2,780,907 -31.9 1,596 5 1,186 32,266,276 Buena Vista
12 Rules of Engagement 1,763,323 2,445,265 -27.9 1,618 6 1,090 56,682,161 Paramount
13 Erin Brockovich 1,722,120 2,184,770 -21.2 1,491 9 1,155 118,502,260 Universal
14 I Dreamed of Africa 1,487,476 2,411,445 -38.3 2,112 2 704 4,902,639 Sony
15 28 Days 1,465,827 2,354,619 -37.7 1,755 5 835 34,352,917 Sony
16 Return to Me 1,137,587 1,510,815 -24.7 1,203 6 946 29,018,279 MGM/UA
17 Final Destination 1,113,159 1,630,639 -31.7 944 9 1,179 49,758,468 New Line
18 The Road to El Dorado 1,044,522 907,993 10.6 1,027 7 978 49,105,052 DreamWorks
19 The Virgin Suicides 603,740 349,998 72.5 270 4 2,236 1,695,555 Par. Classics
20 High Fidelity 570,664 749,686 -23.9 366 7 1,559 24,157,313 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 51,499,188 $ 60,846,922 -15.4
Top 10 67,300,737 73,974,852 -9.0
Top 20 80,102,173 83,542,568 -4.1

Last Updated : May 15 at 10:00PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya