Weekend Box Office (May 14 - 16, 1999)
Time stood still at the box office as moviegoers and theater operators
braced themselves during the calm before the Phantom
storm. The top three films remained the same as last weekend while a handful
of new pictures reached their niche audiences with varying results. Freshmen
offerings attracted a few million dollars a piece while Universal enjoyed
an encouraging turnout to sneak previews for Notting
Leading the North American box office with ease for the second consecutive weekend was The Mummy, starring Brendan Fraser and lots of sand, which grossed $24.9M in ticket sales, according to final figures, in its sophomore session. Cursing the competition in 3,226 theaters, the Universal smash hit averaged a very strong $7,705 per pyramid while declining 43% from last weekend's monsterous $43.4M debut. After only ten days, The Mummy has uncovered a mammoth $80.6M treasure.
The spooky adventure film's decline this weekend almost mirrored the depreciation a year ago of the early summer blockbuster Deep Impact which fell 43.5% in its second outing. The Egyptian-themed pic now awaits the repercussions of being in the marketplace alongside Star Wars : The Phantom Menace. The Mummy could get trampled as all attention shifts to the prequel, or it could act as a sponge and soak up the spillover business from moviegoers sold out of Episode I. Either way, The Mummy has a chance of reaching the $100M mark as early as next weekend.
The table below compares the opening three-day, ten-day, and final grosses of recent movies that have debuted with enormous grosses. The Mummy has thus far generated sales that are equal to Godzilla's initial days of release. The lizard pic opened with a similar $44M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of its holiday launch and grossed $80.8M during the comparable ten-day period (first Friday through second Sunday). Godzilla launched midweek last May with Tuesday night previews and a Wednesday opening day.
Holding onto second place, the action pic Entrapment snared $9.1M bringing its 17-day total to a rosy $51.1M. Down just 26% from last weekend, the Sean Connery-Catherine Zeta-Jones vehicle held up admirably and is well-positioned to pick up a piece of the Star Wars spillover business over the next couple of weeks. Entrapment seems on track for a final domestic tally of roughly $75-80M.
The Matrix calculated another $4.5M remaining in third place and watched as its total climbed to $145.1M. A final cume of around $160M still looks possible. The Warner Bros. blockbuster has only a week or two left to hold on to the title of highest-grossing movie of 1999 before The Phantom Menace begins accumulating dollars at light speed next weekend.
After making a splash in this country in last summer's Lethal Weapon 4, martial arts wizard Jet Li hit theaters again, this time on his own, in the sci-fi action film Black Mask which grossed $4.4M. Opening in 979 theaters, the Artisan release averaged a very good $4,545 per site which was the third best among all films residing in the top ten. Though debuting in fewer theaters than Jackie Chan's recent Hong Kong imports, Black Mask's opening average was stronger than those of most recent Chan pictures like Twin Dragons, Mr. Nice Guy, Operation Condor, First Strike, and Supercop.
An all-star cast playing Shakespeare's work was enough to make Fox Searchlight's A Midsummer Night's Dream the fifth most popular film at the box office this weekend. The latest telling of the literary classic premiered with $4.3M in 1,080 theaters delivering a so-so average of $3,968 per location. Midsummer, which stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Kevin Kline, and Calista Flockhart, is Fox Searchlight's most ambitious release to date securing the most theaters of any film in company history as well as the largest opening weekend gross for the four-year-old specialty film distributor. The $14M production will now try to counterprogram Star Wars with a story that hopes to appeal to those not interested in action and special effects.
Universal reported a very strong turnout for its summer romantic comedy Notting Hill which stars Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. The studio sneaked the picture in 856 locations on Saturday evening and stated that shows were at about 90% capacity. The male-female ratio was mostly even with a little more strength on the female side. Notting Hill opens nationwide on May 28th during the busy Memorial Day weekend frame.
Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence grossed $2.9M for their film Life which has amassed $55.3M to date. The weekend figure includes the sneak preview grosses from Universal stablemate Notting Hill. Adding sneak preview grosses to the weekend tally of the distributor's older title which it replaced is standard industry practice.
Yet another high school comedy made its way into theaters as Trippin', distributed by October Films, opened in seventh place with $2.5M. Playing in 777 theaters, the flick averaged a mild $3,253 per classroom. Trippin' debuted on Wednesday bringing its five-day total to a modest $3.2M.
Never Been Kissed, featuring actress/producer Drew Barrymore, enjoyed the smallest dropoff in the top ten by easing just 17% to $2.5M. That gives the successful Fox comedy a solid $43.8M thus far. Paramount's Election, starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon, earned $2.3M raising its total to $7M. With a relatively cheap pricetag of $9M, Election should go on to achieve a respectable domestic gross of $13-15M before finding a wider audience on home video.
Opening in limited markets, the historical drama Tea With Mussolini powered its way to a tenth place finish by grossing $1.6M in only 270 theaters. Its robust average of $6,049 per engagement was second only to The Mummy's among films in the top ten. Distributed by MGM, Tea With Mussolini stars Cher, Judi Dench, and Lily Tomlin.
A quartet of titles slipped out of the top ten over the weekend. In its 11th frame, Analyze This took in $921,000 pushing its impressive cume to $102.2M. Look for the Robert De Niro-Billy Crystal mob comedy to eventually shoot up $105-110M. Buena Vista's successful teen comedy Ten Things I Hate About You pushed its gross to nearly $34M. The $16M high school flick should reach about $36M by graduation day giving the Disney family a profitable entry in the risky, but lucrative, teen genre.
Robert Altman's Cookie's Fortune has gathered $8.6M while playing in less than 600 theaters. The October Films release has suffered slim declines each week and could be on its way to a domestic gross of $12-14M. Finally, Oscar champion Shakespeare in Love fell out of the top ten again with a stateside cume to date of $95M and a mighty global gross of $245M.
Compared to projections, A Midsummer Night's Dream opened below my $7M forecast while both Black Mask and Trippin' were close to my prediction of $3M for each. The Mummy's sophomore frame came in a hair below my $26M projection.
Read what fans from around the world are saying about the box office potential of Star Wars : Episode I in Box Office Guru's Phantom Menace Reader Forum. New comments are published each day until opening day, May 19th. Beginning on May 20th, check back to get daily updates and analysis on Episode I's opening gross all weekend long as George Lucas once again reaches for the record books.
Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the most surprising film at the box office this year. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Austin Powers 2 or Big Daddy would gross more at the domestic box office this summer. Of 1,445 responses, 68% chose Austin Powers 2 while 32% picked Big Daddy.
The top ten films grossed $59M which was up 4% from last year when Deep Impact remained at number one with $23.3M, and up 28% from 1997 when The Fifth Element stayed on top with $11.4M.
Due to the Wednesday opening of The Phantom Menace, the next Weekend Box Office column, with full analysis and projections for the Star Wars prequel, will be published two days early on Tuesday.
Below are final studio figures for the weekend. Click on the title to jump to its official home page:
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.
Written by Gitesh Pandya