Weekend Box Office (June 4 - 6, 1999)

THIS WEEKEND Jedi power ruled the multiplexes once again as The Phantom Menace continued its dominance over the marketplace. With rival studios fearing the power of the Force, only one new wide release, the suspense thriller Instinct, entered the arena and settled for a third place finish. With few new distractions, most films experienced mild declines from last weekend which was a holiday period. Meanwhile, Twentieth Century Fox, which won distribution rights to the Lucasfilm-owned prequel, has quickly become the market share leader of 1999 on the momentum of Jar Jar and pals with over $455M in ticket sales since January 1st.

Star Wars Episode I easily topped the box office for a third consecutive weekend, hauling in $32.9M according to final figures, and torpedoed Titanic's record to become the fastest film to reach the $250M domestic mark. Declining a reasonable 36% from the Friday-to-Sunday portion of last weekend's Memorial Day holiday frame, The Phantom Menace has surged to a lofty $255.8M in only 19 days of release. The box office champ Titanic took 36 days to achieve the same feat. However, one record that Episode I could not steal from the iceberg romance was for the largest gross on a third weekend. Titanic scored $33.3M in its third time around.

Star Wars did experience a sturdy 69% surge in ticket sales on Saturday over Friday and continues to deliver hefty matinee business on Saturday and Sunday especially from families. Also, with students beginning their summer vacations, midweek sales are accounting for a larger share of the full week grosses. With over $255M conquered thus far, The Phantom Menace now ranks as the 12th highest-grossing movie in domestic history sitting in between 1975's Jaws ($260M) and 1989's Batman ($251M). Of course, in those years ticket prices were lower and fewer movie screens existed. Daily grosses for the new George Lucas saga were $8.3M for Friday (down 38% from the previous Friday), $14.1M for Saturday (off 27%), and $10.6M for Sunday (down 43% from the previous Sunday which was followed by a holiday).

Many have debated whether or not Episode I could reach the $600M+ domestic tally of Titanic. With the opening and holiday weekends now history, the long-awaited prequel showed what it could do over a regular summer weekend. While the hold was good, it was not the type of strong session that would indicate a leggy future. The Phantom Menace should still be able to break the $300M barrier in record time - possibly in 30 days of release. But if it were to continue at a respectable pace, depreciating 30% per week, Star Wars Episode I would eventually top out at roughly $390M.

Qui-Gon Jinn's days at the top of the box office charts should be over after a three-week reign. This Friday, Austin Powers : The Spy Who Shagged Me is set to launch with tremendous results according to early consumer tracking. Meanwhile, George Lucas' battle droids premiered internationally attacking theaters in Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore with record-shattering results. The Phantom Menace had its revenge at last Down Under with a record opening over the Thursday-to-Sunday debut weekend. The mighty prequel grossed an estimated $9.1M in local coin ($5.9M in U.S. currency) to ignite the winter box office.

In its second weekend of release, the romantic comedy Notting Hill was once again the padawan to Episode I with $15M. Off a respectable 31% from the Friday-to-Sunday portion of last weekend's holiday frame, the Julia Roberts-Hugh Grant picture has amassed a solid $49.4M in only ten days. That puts it about even with the popular actress' 1997 blockbuster My Best Friend's Wedding which grossed $49.2M in its first ten days on its way to a $126.8M bounty. Notting Hill also is running ahead of the pace of last winter's star-driven romantic comedy You've Got Mail which collected $47.4M in its first ten days on its way to a $115.8M final. With a strong sophomore performance and little competition for the adult female crowd in the weeks ahead, Notting Hill could end up with $110-120M from the wallets and purses of North American moviegoers.

Opening in third place was the psychological thriller Instinct, starring Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Cuba Gooding Jr., with $10.4M. Attacking 2,059 theaters, the Buena Vista release averaged a good, but not stellar, $5,046 per jungle. Directed by Jon Turteltaub (Phenomenon, While You Were Sleeping), the film about a lost scientist who is found after years of living with savage gorillas was reportedly produced for about $57M.

The opening weekend audience was 54% under age 30 and 52% male, according to Buena Vista distribution head Chuck Viane. He also noted that about 76% of the Friday audience consisted of couples and that sales in urban markets were healthier than in the suburbs. Instinct's Friday-to-Saturday increase was a good 33%. The film's only major competitor for the adult audience in the coming weeks is John Travolta's The General's Daughter so Instinct should have some room to breathe in June as more ticket buyers decide whether or not to see Anthony Hopkins in therapy.

Slipping one notch to fourth was The Mummy which took in $7.4M in its fifth outing. Down only 25%, the Universal monster movie is holding up very well at the box office and has brought in $127.5M to date. In another week's time, The Mummy should become the studio's highest-grossing release since The Lost World from two years ago.

Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones heated things up in fifth place with Entrapment which grossed $3.8M in its sixth frame. Fox's heist film slid 33% from the Friday-to-Sunday portion of last weekend's holiday session and raised its overall total to a solid $75M.

Moviegoers were still enchanted by the chosen one as The Matrix grabbed $2.5M shooting its cume to $158.3M. Easing just 15% from last weekend, the Warner Bros. sci-fi/action entry is the studio's top grossing pic since 1996's Twister.

Suffering the biggest decline in the top ten, Sony's The Thirteenth Floor fell to seventh with an unlucky $2M. With a 40% fall, the thriller upped its ten-day sum to a disappointing $7.4M. With a reported pricetag of $18M, The Thirteenth Floor should disappear quickly and finish its domestic run with $12-14M.

Drew Barrymore's Never Been Kissed enjoyed a nice hold sliding just 28% to $1.2M. The Fox comedy has been one of the most durable hits this spring and has reached an impressive $50.6M. A Midsummer Night's Dream placed ninth with $1.1M, off 32%, taking its total up to $13M. Rounding out the top ten was the dark comedy Election with $855,000 which pushed its cume to $12.3M.

Falling out of the top ten over the weekend were Artisan's Black Mask and DreamWorks' The Love Letter. The Jet Li action pic has grossed $10.6M and should conclude with around $12M. The romantic tale starring Kate Capshaw has reached $6.2M and looks set to finish with a poor $8M.

Opening in limited release, writer/director John Sayles saw his latest creation, the Alaskan-set tale Limbo, gross an impressive $139,634 on 15 screens for a promising $9,309 average per site. Artisan's documentary about a group of Grammy-winning Cuban musicians, Buena Vista Social Club, debuted in 15 locations as well and jazzed up $127,370 or $8,491 per club. Free Enterprise, a comedy about Star Trek fans who meet William Shatner, was mostly ignored collecting just $13,086 in nine theaters for a weak average of $1,454 per starship.

Compared to projections, Star Wars and Notting Hill were both on target with my forecasts of $32M and $15M respectively. Instinct opened a hair below my prediction of $11M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the Austin Powers sequel. In last week's survey, readers were asked how many times they have seen Star Wars Episode I. Of 2,450 responses, 12% said never, 28% saw it once, 21% said twice, 27% saw it three or more times, and 12% do not have the film playing in their country yet.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which looks at the top June openings of this decade. For a review of Star Wars Episode I : The Phantom Menace visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $77.1M which was down 10% from last year when The Truman Show opened at number one with $31.5M, but up 23% from 1997 when Con Air flew to the top with $24.1M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Austin Powers : The Spy Who Shagged Me explodes on the scene.

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

# Title June 4 - 6 May 28 - 30 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Star Wars : Episode I $ 32,891,653 $ 51,399,863 -36.0 3,023 3 $ 10,880 $ 255,758,124 Fox
2 Notting Hill 15,013,295 21,811,180 -31.2 2,752 2 5,455 49,419,470 Universal
3 Instinct 10,390,387 2,059 1 5,046 10,390,387 Buena Vista
4 The Mummy 7,418,925 9,947,350 -25.4 3,411 5 2,175 127,523,525 Universal
5 Entrapment 3,781,791 5,667,012 -33.3 2,590 6 1,460 74,993,081 Fox
6 The Matrix 2,453,642 2,899,495 -15.4 2,045 10 1,200 158,260,745 Warner Bros.
7 The 13th Floor 2,004,461 3,322,416 -39.7 1,815 2 1,104 7,445,364 Sony
8 Never Been Kissed 1,162,182 1,623,519 -28.4 2,085 9 557 50,625,699 Fox
9 A Midsummer Night's Dream 1,087,948 1,590,553 -31.6 1,005 4 1,083 13,013,938 Fox Search.
10 Election 854,684 1,076,488 -20.6 827 7 1,033 12,260,203 Paramount
11 Life 845,645 1,068,320 -20.8 1,120 8 755 60,598,139 Universal
12 Black Mask 793,481 1,217,100 -34.8 911 4 871 10,646,036 Artisan
13 The Love Letter 768,296 1,093,745 -29.8 817 3 940 6,234,097 DreamWorks
14 Tea With Mussolini 766,966 937,556 -18.2 271 4 2,830 6,498,184 MGM/UA
15 Trippin' 600,090 921,679 -34.9 610 4 984 7,662,607 October
16 Analyze This 340,411 405,717 -16.1 531 14 641 104,269,485 Warner Bros.
17 Ten Things I Hate ... 316,272 363,404 -13.0 522 10 606 35,691,916 BV
18 The Winslow Boy 305,293 290,118 5.2 140 6 2,181 1,368,445 Sony Classics
19 Shakespeare in Love 263,017 419,159 -37.3 586 25 449 97,167,485 Miramax
20 T-Rex (IMAX) 253,382 264,437 -4.2 29 33 8,737 14,926,844 Imax
Top 5 $ 69,496,051 $ 92,147,821 -24.6
Top 10 77,058,968 100,572,205 -23.4
Top 20 82,311,821 105,406,393 -21.9

Last Updated : June 8, 1999 at 12:45AM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya