Weekend Box Office (May 15 - 17, 1998)

** Take this week's NEW Box Office Guru Reader Survey **

THIS WEEKEND Leading the box office charge for the second weekend in a row was the comet disaster movie Deep Impact with $23.3M in ticket sales. It was down a hefty 44% from its powerful debut performance of $41.2M last weekend. Playing in a massive 3,192 theaters, the Paramount/DreamWorks film averaged a still-strong $7,289 per location and boosted its total gross to $74M in ten days making it the second highest-grossing film of the year behind The Wedding Singer's $76M.

Deep Impact's arrival last weekend was about as powerful as Twister's opening two years ago. However, although their debuts were almost equal, their sophomore weekend grosses were quite different. While Deep Impact fell 44%, Twister slipped just 11% and collected $37.1M which brought its ten-day gross to a staggering $95.1M. With Godzilla commanding all box office attention this week, the comet picture, budgeted at about $80M, now looks on course to finish with a domestic gross of $120-130M with boffo overseas sales still to come.

Galloping into the number two spot was Robert Redford's The Horse Whisperer which lassoed a purse of $13.7M giving Disney its biggest opening of the year. Playing in 2,039 ranchs, the romantic drama, which also stars Kristen Scott Thomas, averaged a solid $6,712 per theater. For director-star Redford, the opening was stronger than the $11.1M debut of his last picture Up Close and Personal from 1996, but trailed the opening for 1993's Indecent Proposal which grossed $18.4M during its first weekend and set a new April opening record that would last for five years. Clearly, the screen veteran is still a strong box office draw as The Horse Whisperer is his fourth consecutive film to open with over $10M. If positive word-of-mouth spreads for this film, expect it to endure the coming summer weeks.

The Horse Whisperer's $13.7M debut and $6,712 average outdistanced the $10.5M opening and $5,828 average of 1995's The Bridges of Madison County which was another adaptation of a best selling novel by an aging screen legend. Bridges went on to gross $71.5M domestically and over $180M worldwide. The Redford film came out of the gate a little weaker than the last successful romantic drama, City of Angels. The Meg Ryan-Nicolas Cage picture opened with $15.4M and averaged $6,948 per cloud.

Phil Barlow, Disney's distribution chief, stated that the studio was very excited and pleased with the turnout for The Horse Whisperer. It performed excellently with females and the over-25 crowd plus had "tremendous rural strength" as it played strongly in smaller towns. Barlow is very optimistic on the weeks ahead since exit polls have shown that a majority of moviegoers who saw the film will recommend it to others making it a leggy picture. Playing in just over 2,000 locations, he acknowledges that there is room to expand, but will keep the number of playdates relatively constant.

Third place went to the Warner Bros. animated feature Quest for Camelot which took in $6M. Launched in a massive 3,107 theaters, Camelot averaged only $1,945 per location. The opening was somewhat disappointing for the studio's first venture into fully-animated feature films. It did however beat the openings of this year's other kidpics like Paulie ($5.4M), Barney's Great Adventure ($2.2M), and The Borrowers ($4.5M), but could not match the excitement that greeted Fox's Anastasia which opened with $14.1M last November. Warners will be counting on kids being out of school for the Memorial Day weekend holiday to provide some momentum to the run of Camelot.

Friday-to-Saturday increases varied for the weekend's top films. Quest for Camelot jumped 73% on Saturday, Deep Impact was up 50%, while The Horse Whisperer saw an increase of just 28%.

Rounding out the top five, City of Angels earned $3.1M for fourth place while Spike Lee's He Got Game took fifth with $2.4M. Titanic, which was docked in sixth place, made $2.1M in its 22nd weekend of release and had the smallest decline once again with a 34% dropoff. Its total domestic haul is now at $572.7M. New Line's sophomore comedy Woo fell a respectable 34% from its debut weekend and collected $1.7M. For reviews of recent movies visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

Bulworth, a political satire directed by and starring Warren Beatty who plays a U.S. Senator, opened exclusively in New York and Los Angeles and embezzeled $141,816 in two theaters for a powerful $70,908 average. Fox hopes that the buzz surrounding this film will allow it to hold its own against Sony's Godzilla which it faces next weekend. Also opening in exclusive markets was Clockwatchers starring Lisa Kudrow which befriended $34,838 in only 6 locations for a not-too-impressive $5,806 average.

Falling out of the top ten, Jennifer Aniston's The Object of My Affection stands at $26.8M while Black Dog, starring Patrick Swayze, is up to $10.2M. Also, after 23 days in re-release, Miramax's Scream 2 finally inched over the $100M mark on Saturday, May 16th.

Compared to my projections, The Horse Whisperer was a little stronger than expected exceeding my $12M forecast. Quest for Camelot was weaker and could not reach the $9M I had predicted. Deep Impact's $23.3M tally was close to my projection of $25M.

The top ten films grossed $56.8M which was up 24% from last year when The Fifth Element remained at number one with $11.4M, and was up 1% from 1996 when Twister was at the top with $37.1M. Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary of Godzilla's opening weekend including projections and all the box office records that will be challenged.

GODZILLA is coming! The monster everyone has been eagerly awaiting arrives Tuesday night in theaters. Check in with Box Office Guru for special daily updates on Godzilla's opening weekend starting on Wednesday and continuing all throughout the holiday weekend. Get the latest daily grosses, interviews with crazed Godzilla fans on opening night, and interviews with Sony distribution chief Jeff Blake. If you plan to see Godzilla on opening weekend, send in your report via email describing any opening weekend hysteria. Reports from across the United States and Canada will be compiled as part of Box Office Guru's complete Godzilla coverage.

And don't forget to voice your opinion in this week's new Reader Survey on Godzilla. 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 15 - 17 May 8 - 10 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Deep Impact $ 23,266,622 $ 41,152,375 -43.5 3,192 2 $ 7,289 $ 73,970,004 Paramount
2 The Horse Whisperer 13,685,488 2,039 1 6,712 13,685,488 BV
3 Quest for Camelot 6,041,602 3,107 1 1,945 6,041,602 WB
4 City of Angels 3,102,431 4,718,040 -34.2 2,245 6 1,382 66,233,553 WB
5 He Got Game 2,445,521 3,710,911 -34.1 1,414 3 1,730 16,712,735 BV
6 Titanic 2,112,302 3,178,573 -33.5 1,990 22 1,061 572,713,894 Paramount
7 Woo 1,669,017 2,517,263 -33.7 625 2 2,670 4,842,617 New Line
8 Paulie 1,616,547 2,551,043 -36.6 1,812 5 892 20,411,011 DreamWorks
9 Les Miserables 1,480,030 2,753,148 -46.2 1,477 3 1,002 11,392,388 Sony
10 The Big Hit 1,420,609 2,332,176 -39.1 1,510 4 941 25,385,890 Sony
11 Black Dog 1,340,485 2,285,705 -41.4 1,888 3 710 10,201,595 Universal
12 The Object of My Affection 1,199,623 2,100,093 -42.9 1,468 5 817 26,764,814 Fox
13 Sliding Doors 1,121,297 1,425,067 -21.3 522 4 2,148 6,279,480 Paramount
14 Lost in Space 853,437 1,496,964 -43.0 1,144 7 746 65,525,565 New Line
15 Everest (IMAX) 707,785 773,098 -8.4 40 11 17,695 12,863,208 Freeman
16 Spanish Prisoner 705,376 977,935 -27.9 340 7 2,075 4,804,408 Sony Classics
17 The Players Club 508,384 792,659 -35.9 545 6 933 21,320,848 New Line
18 Scream 2 423,204 206,004 105.4 666 23 635 100,208,537 Miramax
19 Mercury Rising 394,505 551,205 -28.4 526 7 750 31,374,550 Universal
20 Good Will Hunting 389,822 600,934 -35.1 574 24 679 135,637,756 Miramax
Top 5 $ 48,541,664 $ 55,513,047 -12.6
Top 10 56,840,169 67,299,327 -15.5
Top 20 64,484,087 75,689,074 -14.8

    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 19, 1998 at 10:00AM ESTHome

Written by Gitesh Pandya