Weekend Box Office (May 30 - June 1, 2003)

THIS WEEKEND The new Disney/Pixar animated film Finding Nemo made a thunderous splash in its opening driving the box office to its highest point of the year. Fellow freshman The Italian Job enjoyed a solid debut while the new horror film Wrong Turn got lost with a weak opening.

Generating the largest opening weekend ever for an animated film, Finding Nemo made waves at the box office grossing $70.3M from 3,374 theaters, according to final studio figures. The G-rated comedic adventure averaged a stellar $20,821 per location and extended the Disney/Pixar streak to five consecutive number one openings, with each larger than the previous one. Backed with near-unanimous praise from critics, Nemo stormed the box office and gave each company its largest opening ever surpassing the $62.6M bow of 2001's Monsters, Inc. which held both benchmarks. The underwater tale of a father fish trying to find his son featured the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen Degeneres, and Willem Dafoe.

Disney reported very encouraging exit poll data which could indicate a prolonged summer run ahead. A whopping 99% of those polled marked the film "excellent" or "very good." Females made up 53% of the crowd and families comprised of 78% of the audience. Finding Nemo claimed the ninth biggest opening in box office history. For Disney, the bow was far stronger than the debuts of its usual non-Pixar summer toons. Last year's Lilo & Stitch opened to $35.3M, 2001's Atlantis bowed to $20.3M, and 2000's computer-animated Dinosaur premiered with $38.9M.

Produced for a reported $90M, Finding Nemo bowed on Friday with $20.2M, climbed 39% to $28M on Saturday, and dropped a slender 21% to $22M on Sunday. Monsters went on to gross over four times its opening figure in total domestic coin. Should Nemo follow suit, it could end up being the biggest fish of the summer box office.

Last weekend's top film, the Jim Carrey comedy Bruce Almighty, enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten dropping 45% from the Friday-to-Sunday portion of its giant holiday opening to collect $37.3M in its second weekend. Universal's PG-13 release cracked the $100M mark in only seven days and pushed its ten-day cume to a mighty $137.4M. Playing in 3,492 locations, the $81M pic averaged a potent $10,690 and should find its way to $230-240M domestically making it Carrey's second largest grosser ever after How The Grinch Stole Christmas which bagged $260M in 2000.

Opening well in third place was the heist film The Italian Job starring Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, and Charlize Theron with $19.5M. Paramount's PG-13 actioner averaged a strong $7,390 from 2,633 playdates. Directed by F. Gary Gray (Friday, The Negotiater), the remake of the 1969 Michael Caine pic skewed adult female as two-thirds of the audience were over the age of 25 and 54% were women, according to studio exit polls. Produced for roughly $65M, The Italian Job attracted generally favorable reviews.

In its third weekend, the summer's most anticipated blockbuster, The Matrix Reloaded, continued to fade fast falling a steep 58% from the Friday-to-Sunday portion of last weekend's holiday frame to $15.7M. After 18 days of release, the Warner Bros. sequel has grossed a hefty $232.7M and still ranks as the year's top grosser. By comparison, last year's Star Wars Episode II grossed a nearly-identical $232.3M after the same exact days, but was suffering smaller declines. At its current pace, The Matrix Reloaded should find its way to $275-285M domestically, before grosses from the upcoming June 6 Imax release get added in. The studio will load the sci-fi pic into 39 Imax venues this Friday.

Overseas, the Matrix sequel is crushing records and has already watched its international cume soar to $250M after only two or three weekends, depending on the market. The growing global tally of $482M has already surpassed the $460M of the first Neo tale and is aiming for the $650-750M range.

Sony's family comedy Daddy Day Care fell 52% to $6.7M and boosted its gross to $81.9M. Fox's new horror entry Wrong Turn debuted quietly in sixth place with just $5.2M. The $15M production bowed in 1,615 theaters and averaged a mild $3,196 per site. The R-rated film tells of a group of young people who get hunted in the woods of West Virginia.

The super heroes of X2: X-Men United dropped 52% for a $5.1M frame allowing the Fox sequel's cume to climb to $199.4M. The comic book blockbuster looks to break the $200M mark on Tuesday, its 33rd day of release. In its second weekend, the Michael Douglas-Albert Brooks comedy The In-Laws dropped 49% to $3.7M pushing the ten-day cume to only $14.5M. The Warner Bros. release should find its way to a disappointing $22-25M.

Fox's romantic comedy Down With Love tumbled 61% to $1.6M and raised its cume to $17.2M. Disney's The Lizzie McGuire Movie crumbled 64% to $1.2M and lifted its total to $39.3M.

Three successful spring hits fell from the top ten over the weekend. Disney's detention center pic Holes fell 61% to $931,956 putting its sum at $61.8M. A final gross of around $63M seems likely. Sony's suspense thriller Identity and comedy Anger Management also dropped over 60% each and took in weekend grosses of $771,571 and $662,801, respectively. The $28M thriller has scared up $50.6M to date and should finish with $52M. The $75M Adam Sandler-Jack Nicholson pic has grossed $132.8M and looks to reach $135M.

The top ten films grossed $166.2M which was up a healthy 44% from last year when The Sum Of All Fears opened at number one with $31.2M; and up 38% from 2001 when Pearl Harbor remained in the top spot with $29.6M.

Compared to projections, Finding Nemo swam well ahead of my $55M forecast. The Italian Job opened a bit below my $22M prediction while Wrong Turn was close to my $6M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on which blockbuster will end up grossing more - Finding Nemo or The Matrix Reloaded. In last week's survey, readers were asked which action film in June would be the biggest hit. Of 3,691 responses, 81% picked The Hulk, 14% said Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, and 5% selected 2 Fast 2 Furious.

For reviews of Finding Nemo, The Italian Job, and Bhoot visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when 2 Fast 2 Furious opens and The Matrix Reloaded debuts in Imax theaters.

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

# Title May 30 - Jun 1 May 23 - 25 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Finding Nemo $ 70,251,710 3,374 1 $ 20,821 $ 70,251,710 Buena Vista
2 Bruce Almighty 37,329,480 67,953,330 -45.1 3,492 2 10,690 137,396,070 Universal
3 The Italian Job 19,457,944 2,633 1 7,390 19,457,944 Paramount
4 The Matrix Reloaded 15,687,241 36,904,034 -57.5 3,453 3 4,543 232,701,046 Warner Bros.
5 Daddy Day Care 6,744,438 14,009,574 -51.9 3,128 4 2,156 81,901,127 Sony
6 Wrong Turn 5,161,498 1,615 1 3,196 5,161,498 Fox
7 X2: X-Men United 5,096,942 10,498,682 -51.5 2,530 5 2,015 199,365,036 Fox
8 The In-Laws 3,741,063 7,319,848 -48.9 2,652 2 1,411 14,516,309 Warner Bros.
9 Down With Love 1,570,924 4,046,135 -61.2 1,300 4 1,208 17,151,739 Fox
10 The Lizzie McGuire Movie 1,171,379 3,286,677 -64.4 1,330 5 881 39,324,982 Buena Vista
11 Bend It Like Beckham 1,074,148 1,733,345 -38.0 491 12 2,188 19,203,413 Fox Searchlight
12 Holes 931,956 2,388,083 -61.0 1,078 7 865 61,781,857 Buena Vista
13 Identity 771,571 2,136,417 -63.9 807 6 956 50,586,858 Sony
14 A Mighty Wind 664,465 1,356,178 -51.0 420 7 1,582 15,405,570 Warner Bros.
15 Anger Management 662,801 1,887,433 -64.9 906 8 732 132,803,229 Sony
16 Bringing Down the House 381,844 483,320 -21.0 366 13 1,043 130,381,123 Buena Vista
17 Ghosts of the Abyss (Lg. Scr) 352,124 563,346 -37.5 62 8 5,679 10,295,582 Buena Vista
18 Phone Booth 315,820 198,002 59.5 222 9 1,423 45,423,011 Fox
19 Chicago 265,251 455,990 -41.8 290 23 915 168,649,886 Miramax
20 Spellbound 230,528 180,954 27.4 43 5 5,361 707,048 ThinkFilm
Top 5 $ 149,470,813 $ 136,685,468 9.4
Top 10 166,212,620 143,995,995 15.4
Top 20 171,863,127 150,063,776 14.5
Top 20 vs. 2002 171,863,127 119,790,348 43.5

Last Updated : June 2, 2003 at 5:00PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya