Weekend Box Office (June 11 - 13, 1999)
That groovy swinger from the 1960's proved his box office virility with
a gargantuan debut for Austin Powers :
The Spy Who Shagged Me that exceeded industry
expectations. New Line Cinema's sequel to the 1997 hit comedy Austin
Powers : International Man of Mystery
pointed its "la-zer" at the marketplace and grossed $54.9M, according
figures, over the Friday-to-Sunday period easily pushing former champ Star
Wars Episode I into second place while
delivering the third largest opening weekend in box office history. Only
The Lost World
and Star Wars Episode I
have premiered bigger with Friday-to-Sunday tallies of $72.1M and $64.8M
respectively. Crashing into 3,312 theaters, Austin
powered its way to a scorching $16,581
average per pad.
Add in $2.53M from Thursday night previews in selected cities and the North American moviegoing public spent an unbelievable $57.4M on the shagadelic sleuth with bad teeth. That's more than the $53.9M that the original film made in its entire theatrical run. Debuting in May of 1997, the first Austin Powers grossed $9.5M on its opening weekend but spent two months in the top ten before moving on to home video where it became a smash success and a cult favorite.
In The Spy Who Shagged Me, the cool cat Austin Powers goes back in time to battle Dr. Evil who has stolen the spy's mojo. Robert Wagner and Seth Green return from the first film and are joined by Heather Graham, Rob Lowe, and Verne Troyer as Dr. Evil's miniscule clone Mini-Me. Directed once again by Jay Roach, the film is a celebration of silliness and connected with almost every segment of the moviegoing public. The enormous opening of the picture can be attributed to the right product at the right time. Movie fans loved the original Austin Powers and the desire to see the new installment was very high, especially with teens and young adults. With The Phantom Menace scaring away much of the competition in recent weeks, ticket buyers were craving a new picture that was packed with fun. Aside from the romance Notting Hill, big comedies have been lacking lately with most event pictures being of the action genre. That helped clear the field for Austin Powers which swooped in, saturated the marketplace with over 5,000 prints, and gobbled up all ticket dollars in its path.
The Austin Powers sequel smashed a number of box office records on its way to its top spot debut. It generated the biggest June opening ever (beating 1995's Batman Forever which launched with $52.8M), the best comedy opening (surpassing The Waterboy's $39.4M), and New Line Cinema's top premiere in company history (beating Rush Hour's $33M). Helping the groovy swinger attain these lofty heights was an ultrawide release in a record 3,312 theaters which edged out the previous benchmark for most playdates on opening weekend which was 3,310 by last summer's Godzilla.
Other notable box office achievements for Austin Powers included the third best opening day gross with $20.2M on Friday. That puts it behind Star Wars Episode I's $28.5M and The Lost World's $21.6M and a bit ahead of Batman Forever's $20M from 1995. The shagadelic flick also gave comedian Mike Myers his best debut ever by tripling the $18.1M launch of 1992's Wayne's World. Myers now joins fellow funnymen Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, and Adam Sandler as today's top comic talents who can open a comedy with gigantic sales with their quirky characters. Led by Austin Powers (which accounted for half of all sales in the top ten) the North American box office posted one of the mightiest grosses for a non-holiday weekend ever.
The New Line sequel was produced for under $35M and will become an enormously profitable venture from just its domestic gross alone. But the bucks don't stop there. Austin Powers also boasts a lucrative line of merchandise and a new soundtrack featuring music by Madonna. The album debuted with first-week sales of nearly 70,000 units and is expected to see a vibrant jump now that the film is in release, likely leapfrogging over the Star Wars Episode I disc next week to become the nation's number one selling movie soundtrack. Plus, much like the James Bond franchise it spoofs, Austin Powers has attracted a number of corporate sponsors trying to appeal to the film's immense audience including Virgin Atlantic airlines, Heineken beer, Jaguar automobiles, and Starbucks coffee houses.
The success of The Spy Who Shagged Me could not have come at a better time for New Line. The groovy pic has sold more tickets this weekend than all of the distributor's other films this year combined. With the success of Blade and Rush Hour last year, New Line now has some of the best franchise potential of any player in Hollywood. New Line has every intention of continuing the Austin Powers series as long as audiences behave and keep showing up.
After a three-week reign, Star Wars Episode I handed over the weekly crown but still enjoyed a solid hold dipping just 22%. With $25.6M in its fourth frame, The Phantom Menace saw its total rocket to an incredible $297M. George Lucas' space epic should vault over the $300M barrier on Monday or Tuesday, its 27th or 28th day of release. That would break the current record held by Titanic which broke the $300M mark in 44 days. With $297M in the Jedi bank, Episode I is now standing tall at number nine on the all-time blockbuster list between 1996's Independence Day ($306.2M) and George Lucas' own The Empire Strikes Back which has grossed a lifetime total of $290.2M including all rereleases.
While the new Star Wars prequel is well ahead of the corresponding gross of Titanic at this point in its run, it still is not showing the same kind of stability as the Oscar winner. In its fourth weekend of release, Titanic scored a stronger Friday-to-Sunday gross of $28.7M (12% better than Episode I), a healthier per-theater average of $10,458 (23% better), and a smaller depreciation of just 14%. Its cume at the end of that frame was $197.9M, or 33% below the level of The Phantom Menace.
Daily grosses for The Phantom Menace were $6.7M for Friday (down only 20% from the previous Friday), $10.6M for Saturday (off 24%), and $8.4M for Sunday (down 21%). Midweek grosses have been declining at a smaller rate and the weekend days have followed suit, despite incoming competition from Austin Powers. A final domestic gross north of $400M now looks certain.
The year's top romance, Notting Hill, collected $11.3M and pushed its cume to a lovely $67.5M. Off a mild 25%, the Universal hit comedy, which stars Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, has posted vibrant results every session and has become a very popular alternative to all the action fare that has hit screens in the last several weeks. After 17 days of release, Notting Hill is running just 2.6% behind the pace of Roberts' 1997 blockbuster romantic comedy My Best Friend's Wedding which went on to gross a charming $126.8M. If Notting Hill keeps up its respectable pace, it could gross $110-120M domestically giving the superstar actress her sixth $100M+ blockbuster - more than any other woman in Hollywood.
In its sophomore frame, Buena Vista's Instinct declined a moderate 34% biting down on $6.8M. The ten-day total for the Anthony Hopkins-Cuba Gooding Jr. thriller stands at $21.3M. The box office bite of the critically-panned Instinct has been far from savage and a final domestic take for the $57M-budgeted picture should be roughly $40M. The older-skewing entry has not been able to attract strong sales in a marketplace where teens and young adults have helped drive the Star Wars and Austin Powers films to stratospheric heights.
The Mummy lost only 26% of its business from last weekend and captured $5.5M. The Universal horror-adventure film has unearthed a superb $136.2M and has enjoyed a solid hold week after week. A final destination close to $155M could result for the $80M special effects extravaganza. With The Mummy and Notting Hill running off with over $200M thus far, Universal Pictures has vaulted into the runnerup spot in the annual market share contest trailing only the Jedi-powered Fox. The turnaround is quite amazing for the Seagrams-owned studio which has suffered a prolonged box office drought that lasted for over a year and a half.
Fox's action pic Entrapment continued to attract steady early summer business dipping only 28% to $2.7M. With a rock solid $79.4M stolen already, the Sean Connery-Catherine Zeta-Jones film looks on course to end its domestic run with an impressive $90M or so. In its 11th weekend, The Matrix slid a mere 24% giving it a take of $1.9M. The hugely successful Warner Bros. thriller has now upped its total to $161.4M and looks likely to shoot up $170M in domestic receipts.
Sony's sci-fi thriller The 13th Floor followed in eighth with $1.2M, down 39%, bringing its 17-day total to $9.7M. Enjoying a 3% boost over last weekend was Tea With Mussolini which sipped $790,000 for a total of $7.7M thus far. Rounding out the top ten was Never Been Kissed which declined 40% to $700,000 for the weekend and a rosy $51.9M overall.
Falling out of the top ten over the weekend were Paramount's Election with a $13.2M cume and A Midsummer Night's Dream with $14.3M. The Fox Searchlight period piece which stars Michelle Pfeiffer and Kevin Kline ranks as the third highest-grossing film in the distributor's short history behind The Full Monty ($46M) and Waking Ned Devine ($25M).
In limited release, the Lions Gate release The Red Violin played a promising tune taking in $84,265 in only 7 locations giving the drama a hefty $12,038 average per theater. The film doubled its sales on Saturday over Friday indicating that good word-of-mouth could fuel a solid theatrical run. The distributor will expand The Red Violin into 30 venues on Friday and again into 250 sites the following weekend.
Compared to projections, Austin Powers shagged his way past my $39M forecast. The Phantom Menace did better than my $21M prediction while Notting Hill and Instinct were both close to my respective projections of $10.5M and $6.5M.
Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Tarzan and The General's Daughter. In last week's survey, readers were asked if they thought the Austin Powers sequel would open with at least $35M this weekend. Of 2,210 responses, 57% correctly said yes, while 43% voted no.
The top ten films over the weekend grossed an enormous $111.4M which was up 38% from last year when The Truman Show remained at number one with $20M, and up a dramatic 97% from 1997 when a not-so-successful sequel, Speed 2, debuted at the top with $16.2M.
Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Disney's Tarzan battles John Travolta's new thriller The General's Daughter.
This column is updated three times each week : Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Source : EDI, Exhibitor Relations. Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.
Last Updated : June 14, 1999 at 8:30PM EDT
Written by Gitesh Pandya