Weekend Box Office (May 29 - 31, 1998)

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THIS WEEKEND A mighty thud was heard at the box office as Godzilla, the most hyped movie of the summer, crashed and burned. With $18M in ticket sales, the Sony would-be blockbuster fell a hefty 59% from its three-day gross last weekend and an enormous 68% from its four-day holiday opening gross of $55.7M. Just as in the original movies from the 1950s, people were trying their hardest to get as far away from Godzilla as possible. Poor word-of-mouth and harsh reviews have clobbered the giant beast leaving it in critical condition.

Godzilla's fall this weekend was heavier than for other recent Memorial Day weekend openers. Last year, The Lost World opened on a Friday and grossed $90.2M over the Friday-to-Monday holiday frame. In its sophomore weekend, the Steven Speilberg film dropped 53% when compared to the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the long weekend gross and 62% when compared to the 4-day holiday tally. In 1996, Mission: Impossible lost 52% and 62% respectively in its second frame versus the 3-day and 4-day opening weekend totals.

In 12 days of wide release (plus the Tuesday night previews) Godzilla has chomped on $99.3M worth of movie ticket stubs. It will cross the $100M mark on Monday June 1st - its 13th day of wide release. Godzilla started out performing just like Mission: Impossible during its opening week. After twelve and a half days of release, the Manhattan-stomping lizard finds itself 7.3% behind the pace of the Tom Cruise thriller which went on to gross $180.9M domestically. By the end of its second weekend in theaters, Mission: Impossible had grossed $107.2M in 1996. This ship is sinking fast and a final domestic gross of about $140-150M looks likely for Godzilla. That would be a major disappointment for a film that reportedly cost $120M to produce and another $50M to market and release. If Godzilla does gross $150M domestically, only about $80-90M of that amount would go back to Sony, with theaters keeping the rest.

Sandra Bullock made a triumphant return to cinemas with Hope Floats which grossed $14.2M during its debut weekend. The Fox romantic tale opened in 2,367 locations and led all films in the top ten in per-theater average with $6,004 which was enough to beat Godzilla's $5,444 average. For Bullock, the opening performance of the $30M-budgeted Hope Floats was on par with her two $100M+ grossing films Speed and A Time to Kill which opened with $14.5M and $14.8M respectively. However, Hope Floats is not expected to last the way those films did. For Fox, it was the studio's biggest opening of the year and the largest debut since November's Alien: Resurrection which opened with a three-day gross of $16.5M. Hope's $14.2M followed in the footsteps of two other recent romances as City of Angels opened with $15.4M in April and The Horse Whisperer debuted with $13.7M in May. However, Hope's Friday-to-Saturday increase of only 22% could mean it will not have the legs that those two films have shown. Overall, it was yet another strong performance for a female-skewing romance movie. Next weekend it could conceivably sell more tickets than Godzilla.

At the beginning of May, few expected Deep Impact to outperform the ferocious Godzilla, but with the month at an end, the comet picture is still ahead in total sales as it earned $10.1M over the weekend, putting it in third place, and pushing its cume to $112M. The Mimi Leder-directed hit crossed the $100M barrier last Tuesday, its 19th day of release, and was the first new release of 1998 to do so. Deep Impact was off just 36% from last weekend's Friday-to-Sunday gross and down a respectable 48% from the four-day holiday tally. For Paramount Pictures, Deep Impact becomes its third consecutive $100M+ grossing film for which it handled domestic distribution while another studio handled the overseas distribution. Titanic was released by Fox internationally while Face/Off saw Disney handling offshore rights.

Robert Redford slipped one notch as his romantic drama The Horse Whisperer took fourth place with $7.3M. Down 34% from last weekend's Friday-to-Sunday figure and 49% from the four-day gross, the Disney title has collected an impressive $43.4M thus far. Rounding out the top five was Bulworth, starring Warren Beatty, with $4.8M. The political satire was off 42% from last weekend's three-day total and 54% from the four-day holiday gross. So far, the film has taken in $17.5M and is on its way to a final gross of about $30-40M.

Two new films opened in sixth and seventh place. I Got the Hook Up, starring chart-topping rap entrepreneur Master P, grabbed $3.3M in only 655 theaters. That gave it a powerful per-theater average of $5,054 which was the third best average in the top ten. Warner Bros. had another turkey on their hands with the buddy comedy Almost Heroes starring the late Chris Farley and Matthew Perry. It collected $2.8M in ticket sales and posted an incredibly weak $1,386 average. Almost Heroes was nowhere nearly as popular as Farley's previous comedies. Last year's Beverly Hills Ninja opened with $12.2M, 1996's Black Sheep had a $10.6M opening, and Tommy Boy debuted with $8M in 1995.

In its second try with moviegoers, the Johnny Depp picture Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas grossed $1.8M and fell a heavy 59% from last weekend. The lowest droppoff rate in the top ten was for Deep Impact while the highest was by Godzilla. Three pictures fell out of the top ten including City of Angels after 7 weeks, Paulie after a surprising 6 week stay, and He Got Game after 4 weeks. Cumulative grosses for the three films now stand at $72.8M for Angels, $22.9M for Paulie, and $20M for Game.

The Last Days of Disco grooved into limited release and scored an impressive $277,601 in just 22 sites for a funky average of $12,618 per club. Gramercy will expand the release of the Whit Stillman film over the coming weeks into more cities. The director's previous efforts also had strong limited debuts. Barcelona averaged $25,705 in 4 theaters when it opened in 1994, and 1990's Metropolitan launched with $46,663 in one location.

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The top ten films grossed $66.5M which was up 1% from last year when The Lost World retained the number one spot with $34.1M, and was down 12% from 1996 when Mission Impossible led the pack with $21.6M. Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend's highly-anticipated opening of The Truman Show and A Perfect Murder.

Below are final studio figures for the weekend. Click on the title to jump to its official home page:

# Title May 29 - 31 May 22 - 25 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Godzilla $ 18,020,444 $ 55,726,951 -67.7 3,310 2 $ 5,444 $ 99,326,687 Sony
2 Hope Floats 14,210,464 2,367 1 6,004 14,210,464 Fox
3 Deep Impact 10,078,344 19,381,788 -48.0 3,280 4 3,073 112,003,863 Paramount
4 The Horse Whisperer 7,338,090 14,516,024 -49.4 2,189 3 3,352 43,414,451 BV
5 Bulworth 4,827,745 10,515,839 -54.1 2,051 3 2,354 17,478,406 Fox
6 I Got The Hook Up 3,310,349 655 1 5,054 4,449,481 Miramax
7 Almost Heroes 2,837,928 2,048 1 1,386 2,837,928 WB
8 Quest for Camelot 2,356,083 6,309,793 -62.7 2,449 3 962 17,023,897 WB
9 Titanic 1,783,579 3,672,703 -51.4 1,562 24 1,142 579,419,474 Paramount
10 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas 1,762,805 4,335,095 -59.3 1,130 2 1,560 7,263,295 Universal
11 City of Angels 1,616,268 3,246,295 -50.2 1,548 8 1,044 72,610,383 WB
12 Everest (IMAX) 863,496 1,205,115 -28.3 47 13 18,372 15,948,856 Freeman
13 Sliding Doors 802,191 1,310,127 -38.8 515 6 1,558 9,143,886 Paramount
14 He Got Game 588,976 1,767,185 -66.7 731 5 806 20,048,227 BV
15 Spanish Prisoner 519,879 873,101 -40.5 283 9 1,837 7,147,125 Sony Classics
16 Paulie 515,505 1,421,894 -63.7 904 7 570 22,931,896 DreamWorks
17 The Wedding Singer 436,343 813,013 -46.3 599 16 728 77,515,681 New Line
18 Woo 416,353 1,212,281 -65.7 451 4 923 7,035,103 New Line
19 Black Dog 395,245 688,510 -42.6 577 5 685 11,740,840 Universal
20 As Good As It Gets 302,475 455,516 -33.6 367 23 824 147,047,669 Sony
Top 5 $ 54,475,087 $ 106,450,395 -48.8
Top 10 66,525,831 120,893,567 -45.0
Top 20 72,982,562 129,345,892 -43.6

    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 : June 2, 1998 at 12:00PM ESTHome

Written by Gitesh Pandya