Weekend Box Office (May 25 - 28, 2001)

*** Summer Box Office Preview ***

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers answered the call of duty and lined up to see the World War II epic film Pearl Harbor over Memorial Day weekend while the animated comedy Shrek also attracted a giant-size audience leading the box office to a new record for the holiday.

Buena Vista claimed the number one spot with the megahyped Pearl Harbor which conquered the North American box office with a stellar $75.2M over the four-day session, according to final figures. The Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film launched in 3,214 theaters and averaged a muscular $23,391 over the long weekend making it the second-biggest Memorial Day weekend opening ever after Steven Spielberg's The Lost World which devoured $90.2M over the same four-day period in 1997.

Over the three-day portion of the long weekend, the $140M-budgeted Pearl Harbor grossed $59.1M and averaged $18,382 per location. That makes it the fourth-biggest Friday-to-Sunday opening ever, trailing The Lost World's $72.1M, The Mummy Returns' $68.1M, and Star Wars Episode I's $64.8M. Pearl Harbor also ranks as the best premiere ever for a non-sequel and Buena Vista's first number one film since September's football drama Remember the Titans which was also produced by Bruckheimer.

Many industry observers and media analysts projected that Pearl Harbor could beat The Lost World's four-year-old record given today's higher ticket prices. However, the three-hour length of the FDR-era saga reduced the number of showtimes that theaters could offer in each auditorium. To compensate, Buena Vista booked multiple screens in most multiplexes allowing many to schedule screenings every hour. Pearl Harbor's estimated print count was believed to be over 6,000, although the distributor would not comment on the figure.

Pearl Harbor did, however, set new records in other categories including biggest opening for Disney (beating Toy Story 2's $57.4M) and best debut for Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay whose 1998 collaboration Armageddon previously held that distinction with its $36.1M opening. The massive launch generated by Pearl Harbor is even more impressive given the fact that no film running nearly three hours in length has ever opened with more than $31M. Spielberg's R-rated war epic Saving Private Ryan debuted with $30.6M from 2,463 theaters in July 1998 and ran just under three hours.

"The film played fantastically well with all age groups and we're selling out in every region," remarked Manuel "Rod" Rodriguez, vice-president of distribution for Buena Vista. Pearl Harbor skewed more male with men making up 53% of the audience, and older with those over age 25 accounting for 63% of those polled. According to Rodriguez, 87% called the film "excellent" or "very good."

Exit polls seem to indicate that the historical subject matter of the PG-13 movie was a bigger draw than the young cast as mature adults made up a very large portion of the audience. Buena Vista reported that teens made up only 19% of the crowd. Stars like Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, and Kate Beckinsale were expected to pull in a strong number of young adults on opening weekend. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the movie an overall A- grade with those under 21 giving it an A+ so a prolonged run with the MTV generation could still manifest itself.

Pearl Harbor grossed $18.7M on Friday, its opening day, climbed 10% to $20.6M on Saturday, slipped 4% to $19.7M on Sunday, and dropped 19% to $16.1M on Monday. Most critics were impressed with the primary bombing scene but slammed the picture for its sappy love story. Pearl Harbor invades the United Kingdom on Friday and Japan on July 14.

The animated hit Shrek from DreamWorks continued its blockbuster run gobbling up a mammoth $55.2M over the Friday-to-Monday span. Helped by the holiday and good word-of-mouth, the PG-rated comedy saw its three-day gross of $42.5M match its opening weekend figure and boosted its total after 11 days to a staggering $111.8M. Shrek joined Toy Story 2 and The Lion King as the fastest animated films to reach $100M with each crossing the mark after 11 days of national play.

Shrek now stands an amazing 39% ahead of Disney's Dinosaur which also opened on the weekend before Memorial Day weekend last year but grossed $80.4M in its first 11 days. The actors who voiced the popular characters in Shrek also reached career milestones. The animated hit became the third $100M+ blockbuster for Mike Myers, the fifth for Cameron Diaz, and the eighth for Eddie Murphy. For DreamWorks, Shrek has already become the company's top-grossing toon eclipsing the $106.8M take of last summer's Chicken Run.

The studio's distribution president Jim Tharp noted that exhibitors have been reporting repeat business as early as the first weekend's Sunday indicating that Shrek's long-term prospects seem bright. "We're seeing everyone come out to this picture, not just kids and families," he added. The twisted fairy tale should more than quadruple its $48M production budget in North America alone.

In third place was Universal's hit sequel The Mummy Returns with $19M over the four-day holiday period and $14.7M (down 28%) over the three-day span. With a towering $170.7M collected in 25 days, the horror-adventure hybrid has outperformed its predecessor by surpassing the $155.3M of 1999's The Mummy. The Mummy Returns is now the highest-grossing movie released this year helping Universal get back into the market share race after a couple of spring flops.

With Pearl Harbor, Shrek, and The Mummy Returns all generating massive grosses, May 2001 could become the first month in box office history to produce three $200M blockbusters. By comparison, only three such hits were produced all of last year. With exhibitors filing for bankruptcy protection and studios dealing with the threat of an actors strike, the motion picture industry could not have asked for a better way to start the summer season.

The medieval action-romance A Knight's Tale galloped into fourth place with $9.1M over the long weekend pushing its total to $44.3M. Sony reported a three-day gross of $7.3M which represented a 30% drop from last weekend.

Rounding out the top five was the Jennifer Lopez thriller Angel Eyes with a four-day take of $6.2M. The Warner Bros. release has taken in $18.5M in 11 days and suffered a steep 45% fall when comparing Friday-to-Sunday periods.

Spring leftovers rounded out the top ten. In sixth place was Miramax's British comedy Bridget Jones's Diary with $4.2M pushing its total to $62.4M. Paramount followed with $2.1M for its Morgan Freeman thriller Along Came A Spider which has grossed $70.6M to date.

Newmarket Films' Memento placed eighth with $2M to lift its total to $14.5M. Miramax's Spy Kids and New Line's Blow followed with $1.3M and $1.2M, respectively, bringing their individual cumes to $105.2M and $51.6M.

In its second weekend of exclusive runs in New York and Los Angeles, the lavish Fox musical Moulin Rouge grossed a stellar $264,570 over four days. Playing in only two venues, the Nicole Kidman film averaged a red hot $132,285 per theater and took in $193,098 during the three-day portion - up 15% from last weekend. With $582,122 in 11 days, Moulin Rouge opens nationwide this Friday opposite the new comedies What's the Worst That Could Happen? starring Martin Lawrence and Danny Devito and The Animal starring Rob Schneider.

Sylvester Stallone's auto racing saga Driven left the top ten after four weeks and collected $1.2M pushing its cume to $31M. With a reported budget of $72M, the Warner Bros. release should finish with $32-34M domestically and will need some more impressive numbers overseas in order to turn a profit.

Compared to projections, Pearl Harbor did not reach my $95M four-day forecast.

The top ten films grossed $175.6M over four days which was up 4% from last year when Mission: Impossible 2 debuted in the top spot with $70.8M; and up 35% from 1999 when Star Wars Episode I remained at number one over the holiday with $66.9M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on which of next weekend's three new releases will have the biggest debut. In last week's survey, readers were asked how large Pearl Harbor's four-day opening would be. Of 1,681 responses, 25% thought Over $90M, 38% correctly said $75-90M, 28% picked $60-75M, and 9% went with Under $60M.

Read the Weekly Rewind column which reports on the smallest opening weekends of the year thus far. For a review of Pearl Harbor visit The Chief Report.

Read the Summer 2001 Box Office Preview which looks at the exciting season of blockbuster films ahead.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Moulin Rouge, The Animal, and What's The Worst That Could Happen? all open.

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

# Title May 25 - 28 May 18 - 20 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Pearl Harbor $ 75,177,654 3,214 1 $ 23,391 $ 75,177,654 Buena Vista
2 Shrek 55,215,620 42,347,760 30.4 3,623 2 15,240 111,753,400 DreamWorks
3 The Mummy Returns 19,044,005 20,435,840 -6.8 3,553 4 5,360 170,691,055 Universal
4 A Knight's Tale 9,110,124 10,406,836 -12.5 2,964 3 3,074 44,316,010 Sony
5 Angel Eyes 6,205,705 9,225,575 -32.7 2,407 2 2,578 18,529,732 Warner Bros.
6 Bridget Jones's Diary 4,187,218 3,730,451 12.2 1,741 7 2,405 62,381,548 Miramax
7 Along Came a Spider 2,111,674 2,352,157 -10.2 1,408 8 1,500 70,646,843 Paramount
8 Memento 1,972,953 1,280,291 54.1 531 11 3,716 14,540,658 Newmarket
9 Spy Kids 1,296,841 1,286,388 0.8 1,301 9 997 105,226,988 Miramax
10 Blow 1,242,824 1,401,608 -11.3 733 8 1,696 51,570,006 New Line
11 Driven 1,227,553 1,827,516 -32.8 1,523 5 806 30,965,788 Warner Bros.
12 Crocodile Dundee in LA 956,082 1,207,435 -20.8 1,214 6 788 23,828,786 Paramount
13 The Tailor of Panama 730,383 667,039 9.5 434 9 1,683 12,470,576 Sony
14 The Golden Bowl 467,046 285,506 63.6 117 5 3,992 1,225,465 Lions Gate
15 Save the Last Dance 463,998 31,533 1371.5 320 20 1,450 89,854,151 Paramount
16 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 460,376 395,399 16.4 312 25 1,476 126,732,089 Sony Classics
17 Traffic 369,086 323,878 14.0 296 22 1,247 123,616,998 USA Films
18 With a Friend Like Harry 355,905 217,925 63.3 67 6 5,312 1,549,771 Miramax
19 Kingdom Come 354,942 425,281 -16.5 291 7 1,220 22,574,258 Fox Searchlight
20 Joe Dirt 334,156 456,815 -26.9 331 7 1,010 26,964,552 Sony
Top 5 $ 164,753,108 $ 86,146,462 91.2
Top 10 175,564,618 94,294,422 86.2
Top 20 181,284,145 98,858,560 83.4
Top 20 vs. 2000 181,284,145 176,752,794 2.6

Last Updated : May 29, 2001 at 8:45PM EDT