Weekend Box Office (June 5 - 7, 1998)

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THIS WEEKEND Step aside Seinfeld and E.R., America's new favorite television program is The Truman Show. Jim Carrey's latest film hit ratings gold as it vaulted into the number one spot at theaters with a muscular $31.5M opening according to final studio figures. The drama about a man whose whole life has been staged and broadcast as a television show opened in 2315 cinemas and averaged an enormous $13,625 per theater. That stands as the strongest per-theater average for a new film in wide release this year beating the $13,307 that Godzilla averaged over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of its opening weekend.

Moviegoers were tuned in across the country to see their favorite funnyman Jim Carrey take on a more serious role. The Truman Show was helmed by the talented Australian director Peter Weir who also coached comedian Robin Williams to an Oscar nomination in 1989's Dead Poets Society. Carrey, known to millions around the world for his slapstick physical humor, took a chance by playing it straight in this high-concept story by screenwriter Andrew Niccol. With this incredible opening performance, it looks like the risk was worth it as audiences begin to accept Carrey in roles other than his standard silly ones. The Truman Show was budgeted at roughly $60M with Carrey earning $12M for his performance - a pay cut for the $20M man. If the Carrey flame catches on, the film could conceivably break even before venturing into overseas, video, and television markets.

The Truman Show, which also stars Ed Harris, landed the third biggest opening for a film starring Jim Carrey trailing 1995's ensemble franchise picture Batman Forever which debuted with $52.8M, and the same year's Ace Ventura : When Nature Calls which launched with $37.8M. Each of those films still holds the record for the biggest opening weekend for the months of June and November respectively. The opening weekend for Truman was nearly identical to the debut of his last picture Liar, Liar which bowed with $31.4M. Truman's opening average of $13,625 is the actor's third best behind Batman Forever's $18,573 and the Ace Ventura sequel's $17,031.

For Paramount Pictures, The Truman Show gave the studio its fifth largest opening ever, and second biggest three-day opening behind Deep Impact's $41.1M. Truman also posted the third strongest opening weekend of 1998 behind Godzilla and Deep Impact. For June, the Jim Carrey drama becomes the seventh biggest opening for the month (not counting The Firm which opened on a four-day weekend beginning June 30, 1993). Overall, The Truman Show stands at number 25 on the list of all-time opening weekends and is all but certain to become the comedian's sixth $100M blockbuster in just four years cementing his status as one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood today. No other movie star has had more than three $100M hits in the last four years.

Blaise Noto, Senior VP of National Publicity for Paramount Pictures, commented on the opening saying that "it was an incredible opening for Truman and it played strongly across the board in larger and smaller markets, and with younger as well as older moviegoers." He also stated that audiences were very satisfied with the film and a very high percentage would recommend the picture to others. Noto said that The Truman Show was up 24% on Saturday compared to Friday and that the studio expects a very strong second weekend from the film.

With Titanic, Deep Impact and now The Truman Show, Paramount may have already locked up the market share crown for 1998. After this weekend, the studio should have over $730M in the coffers from ticket sales this year. That would give it an enormous lead of about $320M over its nearest competitor Sony. Paramount still has the Brian De Palma thriller Snake Eyes starring Nicolas Cage and Gary Sinise up its sleeve, as well as end-of-year firepower with November's Rugrats Movie for kids, and a new Star Trek film slated for December. Best of luck to any studio looking to unseat Paramount.

Another strong opening this weekend was for A Perfect Murder, starring Michael Douglas and Gwenyth Paltrow, which took second place with a $16.6M gross proving that the marketplace will expand to accommodate two big pictures. The Warner Bros. film, a remake of the Hitchcock thriller Dial M for Murder, debuted in very wide release with 2,845 locations giving it a strong $5,840 per-theater average. For Douglas, it was his best opening of the decade edging out 1992's Basic Instinct which debuted with $15.1M and went on to gross $117.2M domestically. Clearly, Michael Douglas proved that he still packs a considerable amount of starpower at the box office.

The Andrew Davis-directed thriller came as good news for its studio Warner Bros. Desperately in need of hits, Warners claimed its second-largest opener of the year with A Perfect Murder. It trailed only the $16.9M launch of U.S. Marshals which was the sequel to The Fugitive which was directed by Davis. A Perfect Murder was up 55% on Saturday when compared to Friday so it should have some staying power during the coming weeks. Its final gross could be in the area of $70M. For reviews of A Perfect Murder and The Truman Show visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

Falling two places to third was the ruler of the box office for the last two weeks, Godzilla, with a take of $9.7M. The good news was that by dropping 46% from last weekend, its depreciation has slowed down a little. The bad news was that it still dropped 46% - high by industry standards. Godzilla has enjoyed only two weekends with grosses over $10M while the season's other sci-fi event film Deep Impact has had four. But after 19 and a half days of release, the Sony event movie has gobbled up $114M which is 12.9% behind the pace of 1996's Mission: Imposible which also opened on the Tuesday night before Memorial Day weekend. The Tom Cruise spy flick ended up grossing $180.9M while Godzilla still looks on course to finish its domestic run with $140-150M. In its third weekend, Mission: Impossible slipped 32%, while last year's holiday behemoth The Lost World fell 46% in its third bite with ticket buyers. Over on the U.S. album charts, the soundtrack to Godzilla is selling pretty well and has moved up to number two behind the soundtrack to City of Angels.

Sandra Bullock took fourth place with her current film Hope Floats which earned $8.6M over the Friday-to-Sunday period pushing its ten day total to $28.6M. Down 40% from its debut weekend, the romance took a decent size hit but is still holding its own and could be headed for the $50M mark. By comparison, last September's Michael Douglas thriller The Game opened with a nearly identical first weekend and grossed a similar $28.2M in its first ten days on its way to a $48.3M final.

Rounding out the top five was the comet picture Deep Impact which collected $6.7M boosting its cume to $122M. Off just 34%, the year's highest-grossing new film is proving to be a solid performer a month after its release. Still popular in its fifth frame, the Paramount blockbuster could have a deeper impact on Disney's rival asteroid flick Armageddon than originally expected. A window of nearly two months was supposed to allow Armageddon to have clear sailing with audiences in July, but now with only three and a half weeks until the launch of the Bruce Willis actioner, and Deep Impact still in the top five earning good coin, how many moviegoers will want to see another comet disaster movie so soon? That question will be answered come Independence Day weekend.

Meanwhile, Titanic spent its 25th consecutive weekend in the top ten with a gross of $1.6M, good enough for eighth place, pushing its total domestic treasure chest to $581.9M. It has tied Home Alone which in 1990 and 1991 spent 25 total weekends in the top ten (23 of them consecutive). If the James Cameron epic can remain afloat next weekend, it will match the 26 weekends that Paramount stablemate Forrest Gump spent in the top ten. Gump stayed in the top ten for 19 straight weekends in 1994 and returned in early 1995 for 7 more frames during its Oscar run. Titanic has a good chance at making it 26 next weekend since its dropoff rate was a scant 8% - the smallest in the top ten. And its hopes of reaching $600M are still alive.

With the all-time box office champ still in the top ten, Paramount Home Video has announced it will release Titanic on video domestically on September 1st. Although there is no suggested retail price, the video should sell for about $19.95. Paramount has announced that the Titanic video will be backed by their largest marketing campaign ever for a video release as over $50 million will be spent. Promotional partners Sprint and Max Factor will contribute to that campaign and give the consumers the opportunity to get the Titanic video for free (by switching to Sprint long distance) and receive a free Titanic book (with specific Max Factor purchases). There will also be a 90 day pay-per-view window. With its five-month marketing blitz, Titanic is expected to surpass the 18 million unit sales of Independence Day to become the biggest selling live-action video. Twentieth Century Fox will handle overseas video distribution for the James Cameron film just as it handled overseas theatrical.

Last week's newjack entry I Got the Hook Up, from New Orleans rap mogul Master P, fell sharply in its second try as it grossed $1.6M, down 51%. However, with a reported production cost of only $3.5M, Hook Up will be a profitable title for the Miramax/Dimension family as its 12-day gross is now up to $7.2M.

Compared to my projections, The Truman Show arrived as powerfully as expected as it was very close to my $30M forecast. A Perfect Murder did better than expected as it exceeded my $12M prediction.

And don't forget to voice your opinion in this week's new Reader Survey on who will be the summer box office champion. In last week's survey, readers chose Indiana Jones 4 as the sequel they would most like to see from the given choices. With 43.3% of the vote, it easily beat out the other choices which were Terminator 3 (29.2%), Alien 5 (12.2%), Die Hard 4 (11%), and Batman 5 (4.2%). Survey results will be sent to studio heads in Hollywood so cross your fingers and maybe some of them will be made.

The top ten films grossed an impressive $85.1M which was up 35% from last year when Con Air flew into the number one spot with $24.1M, and up 11% from 1996 when The Rock opened at the top with $25.1M. Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary of next weekend's box office which will see the opening of Harrison Ford's latest film Six Days, Seven Nights.

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

# Title June 5 - 7 May 29 - 31 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Truman Show $ 31,542,121 2,315 1 $ 13,625 $ 31,542,121 Paramount
2 A Perfect Murder 16,615,704 2,845 1 5,840 16,615,704 WB
3 Godzilla 9,712,119 18,020,444 -46.1 3,310 3 2,934 114,014,285 Sony
4 Hope Floats 8,551,526 14,210,464 -39.8 2,404 2 3,557 28,621,976 Fox
5 Deep Impact 6,656,479 10,078,344 -34.0 3,280 5 2,029 121,963,282 Paramount
6 The Horse Whisperer 5,248,338 7,338,090 -28.5 2,362 4 2,222 51,823,567 BV
7 Bulworth 2,185,744 4,827,745 -54.7 1,794 4 1,218 21,581,115 Fox
8 Titanic 1,648,860 1,783,579 -7.6 1,219 25 1,353 581,889,889 Paramount
9 I Got The Hook Up 1,637,939 3,310,349 -50.5 655 2 2,501 7,161,196 Miramax
10 Quest for Camelot 1,303,646 2,356,083 -44.7 1,562 4 835 19,226,325 WB
11 Almost Heroes 956,810 2,837,928 -66.3 2,041 2 469 4,964,517 WB
12 Everest (IMAX) 863,598 863,496 0.0 50 14 17,272 17,486,494 Freeman
13 City of Angels 742,294 1,616,268 -54.1 1,146 9 648 74,228,699 WB
14 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas 738,045 1,762,805 -58.1 1,018 3 725 9,017,065 Universal
15 Sliding Doors 476,114 802,191 -40.6 513 7 928 10,012,579 Paramount
16 The Wedding Singer 394,235 436,343 -9.7 573 17 688 78,159,383 New Line
17 Paulie 391,603 515,505 -24.0 709 8 552 23,586,597 DreamWorks
18 Spanish Prisoner 316,490 519,879 -39.1 240 10 1,237 7,680,642 Sony Classics
19 Black Dog 309,270 395,245 -21.8 507 6 610 12,176,610 Universal
20 The Last Days of Disco 241,491 277,601 -13.0 46 2 5,250 642,577 Gramercy
Top 5 $ 73,077,949 $ 54,475,087 34.1
Top 10 85,102,476 66,525,831 27.9
Top 20 90,532,426 72,982,562 24.0

    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 8, 1998 at 8:15PM ESTHome

Written by Gitesh Pandya