Weekend Box Office (May 19 - 21, 2000)

*** Summer 2000 Box Office Preview ***

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers stepped further back in time making Disney's prehistoric tale Dinosaur their favorite motion picture pushing the second-century Roman saga Gladiator into the runnerup spot. The college comedy Road Trip enjoyed a solid third place debut while John Travolta's Battlefield Earth suffered a steep drop in its second weekend. Overall, the variety of product helped expand the marketplace as the top ten cume reached its highest level for a non-holiday frame in six months.

Nesting in the number one spot, Disney's Dinosaur debuted with a bang collecting $38.9M, according to final studio figures, making it the biggest opening of the year. Stomping into 3,257 theaters, the computer-animated adventure film averaged a mammoth $11,930 per site. Dinosaur delivered the third best opening ever for an animated film (trailing Toy Story 2's $57.4M and The Lion King's $40.9M) and the fourth best for Buena Vista (behind those same two films and The Waterboy's $39.4M).

Disney's latest cartoon is also its most ambitious as the film's budget has been reported to be between $125-200M. D.B. Sweeney, Julianna Margulies, and Alfre Woodard provide the voices to Dinosaur which follows the giant reptile Aladar and his pals on a courageous journey to find water and a new home to ensure their survival. Buena Vista reported that interest in the picture went beyond the core family audience with teens and couples making up 31% of the crowd. The distributor also noted that Dinosaur's PG-rating has not been an issue with parents at all.

Looking back in time, Disney's summer animated features like Tarzan, Mulan, Hercules, and Pocahontas have consistently reached final grosses that were roughly five times their openings. Should Dinosaur follow the herd, a total domestic cume in the neighborhood of $200M would result. With a spectacular launch and Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, look for Dinosaur to take a massive bite out of the box office in the weeks ahead.

Though no longer the emperor of the box office, Gladiator still flexed its muscles by becoming only the second film of the year to cross the $100M threshold, after Erin Brockovich. Holding up remarkably well in second place, Ridley Scott's historical adventure took in $19.9M easing just 20% and boosting its 17-day tally to a hefty $103.1M. By comparison, last year's The Mummy, which debuted on the same weekend but with a stronger opening, collected $100.2M in its first 17 days on its way to a $155M final. Gladiator has displayed much more endurance at the box office and could be headed for $170-190M in domestic receipts at its current trajectory.

With college students fleeing campuses to start their summer breaks, DreamWorks shrewdly picked this weekend as a launching pad for its teen sex comedy Road Trip which drove in a superb $15.5M. The gross-out romp about a college guy and his buddies racing from New York to Texas to intercept a sex video from reaching his girlfriend opened in 2,530 theaters and averaged a solid $6,120. Budgeted at $15M, Road Trip has earned good reviews and is well on its way to becoming a profitable movie.

Slipping a notch to fourth, the submarine action pic U-571 commanded $4.6M, off just 19%, giving the Universal release $64.4M to date. New Line's father-son drama Frequency has become a sleeper hit of its own easing just 12% in its fourth frame to $4.3M lifting its cume to $30.4M. Each weekend, the Dennis Quaid picture has delivered the lowest or second lowest depreciation in the top ten.

John Travolta's sci-fi epic Battlefield Earth came crashing down in its second weekend dropping an embarrassing 66% to just $3.9M. The $73M aliens-versus-humans saga has grossed a dismal $18.3M in ten days and should finish its run with a poor $24-26M. Despite a 3,307-theater launch, a massive ad campaign, tons of visual effects, and an A-list star, Warner Bros. could not find an audience for Battlefield Earth which will now join Hudson Hawk and Judge Dredd in the summer movie season's hall of shame.

Writer/director Woody Allen returned to theaters with his latest comedy Small Time Crooks and made off with $3.9M. DreamWorks' third release in the top ten bowed in 865 theaters and generated a good $4,486 average. While most of Allen's films open in the fall with a more limited release, the $10M-budgeted Crooks went wide immediately. Commenting on the wide release, distribution chief Jim Tharp noted "we thought it would play broader and that's exactly what has occured this weekend with good business in medium and smaller markets."

The ballet drama Center Stage declined by just 29% in its sophomore session to $3.3M putting its ten-day sum at a modest $9.1M. Fox's Where the Heart Is placed ninth with $2.8M, down 31%, giving it $25.6M to date. Rounding out the top ten was kidpic The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas which got clobbered by Dinosaur's presence and fell 45% to $2.5M for a $27.8M cume.

Buena Vista tried to get some momentum going for its Memorial Day weekend opener Shanghai Noon with Saturday sneak previews which the distributor reported were very successful. Jackie Chan's Western-comedy hybrid played to 76% capacity and was marked "excellent" or "very good" by 91% of those polled. Shanghai Noon opens Friday in over 2,600 theaters and has the unfortunate task of competing with the launch of Mission: Impossible 2 which detonates in over 3,300 locations.

Three pictures dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Universal's slapstick comedy Screwed fell 48% to $1.7M in its second weekend putting its ten-day total at $6M. The Norm MacDonald film should disappear quickly and see its domestic gross approach its budget of $10M. Trimark's hostage comedy Held Up also tumbled in its sophomore frame and has bagged just $3.4M in ten days. Look for a final take of around $6M for the Jamie Foxx title.

New Line enjoyed a commendable month-long run in the top ten for its sports-themed romance Love and Basketball which reached a cume of $24.1M over the weekend. The low-budget film should conclude its season with a commendable $27-30M.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $99.4M which was even with last year when Star Wars Episode I exploded on the scene with $64.8M, but up 5% from 1998 when Godzilla opened at number one with $44M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of Memorial Day weekend.

Compared to projections, Dinosaur came in a couple of notches above my $35M forecast while Road Trip and Small Time Crooks both were very close to my respective predictions of $14M and $3M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Tom Cruise's soon-to-be blockbuster Mission: Impossible 2. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Dinosaur would open better or worse than Tarzan's $34.2M debut from last summer. Of 2,780 responses, 70% correctly said better while 30% thought worse.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which reports on the box office performances of Disney's major animated films from the last ten years. For a review of Dinosaur visit The Chief Report.

Readers who love to predict the winners and losers at the box office will rejoice as two online games are back for another summer season. E! Online's Studio Boss and the Summer Box Office Challenge on Mr. Showbiz are now accepting players who think they know which films will become blockbusters. Of course, for year-round fun, there is always the popular Hollywood Stock Exchange. Check in with Box Office Guru all summer for the latest data, analysis, and projections for the exciting season ahead.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Mission: Impossible 2 blasts into theaters everywhere joined by Shanghai Noon.

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

# Title May 19 - 21 May 12 - 14 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Dinosaur $ 38,854,851 3,257 1 $ 11,930 $ 38,854,851 Buena Vista
2 Gladiator 19,749,273 24,645,129 -19.9 3,041 3 6,494 103,140,065 DreamWorks
3 Road Trip 15,484,004 2,530 1 6,120 15,484,004 DreamWorks
4 U-571 4,637,520 5,738,765 -19.2 2,736 5 1,695 64,397,750 Universal
5 Frequency 4,339,196 4,925,766 -11.9 2,202 4 1,971 30,370,865 New Line
6 Battlefield Earth 3,924,921 11,548,898 -66.0 3,307 2 1,187 18,255,322 Warner Bros.
7 Small-Time Crooks 3,880,723 865 1 4,486 3,880,723 DreamWorks
8 Center Stage 3,252,977 4,604,621 -29.4 1,506 2 2,160 9,114,261 Sony
9 Where the Heart Is 2,771,369 4,001,707 -30.7 2,147 4 1,291 25,644,486 Fox
10 The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas 2,543,950 4,640,630 -45.2 2,692 4 945 27,834,150 Universal
11 Screwed 1,725,830 3,342,085 -48.4 1,761 2 980 6,016,945 Universal
12 Love and Basketball 1,335,497 1,942,129 -31.2 833 5 1,603 24,129,298 New Line
13 Rules of Engagement 1,164,224 1,763,323 -34.0 1,062 7 1,096 58,449,752 Paramount
14 Keeping the Faith 1,116,165 1,893,018 -41.0 842 6 1,326 34,022,916 Buena Vista
15 Erin Brockovich 1,104,330 1,722,120 -35.9 952 10 1,160 120,150,735 Universal
16 Held Up 1,080,980 1,911,007 -43.4 679 2 1,592 3,445,223 Trimark
17 The Big Kahuna 791,026 126,139 527.1 309 4 2,560 1,156,296 Lions Gate
18 Final Destination 683,666 1,113,159 -38.6 651 10 1,050 50,841,379 New Line
19 Return to Me 635,007 1,137,587 -44.2 733 7 866 30,062,336 MGM/UA
20 28 Days 575,144 1,465,827 -60.8 778 6 739 35,425,261 Sony
Top 5 $ 83,064,844 $ 51,499,188 61.3
Top 10 99,438,784 67,300,737 47.8
Top 20 109,650,653 80,102,173 36.9

Last Updated : May 22 at 10:30PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya