Weekend Box Office (June 16 - 18, 2000)

THIS WEEKEND Samuel L. Jackson made a cool debut in the number one spot with Shaft which grossed more than the weekend's three other new releases combined. After weeks of little change, the top ten saw a wild shakeup but the overall box office was still well below last year's frame when Tarzan and Austin Powers both enjoyed $30M+ weekends.

Shaft was the man this weekend as John Singleton's update on the 1971 "blaxploitation" hit seized the number one spot with $21.7M, according to final studio figures. Samuel L. Jackson anchored the new version and proved he can open a picture on his own scoring an explosive $9,292 average in 2,337 theaters. In the new Shaft, Jackson plays a New York crime fighter seeking justice for a racially-motivated murder. Vanessa Williams, Christian Bale, and the original "bad mutha" Richard Roundtree also star.

Shaft's opening was very similar to the debuts of two other R-rated, star-driven, crime thrillers released by Paramount - John Travolta's The General's Daughter and Mel Gibson's Payback. Daughter opened this very weekend a year ago with $22.3M on its way to $102.7M while Payback bowed in February 1999 with $21.2M leading to a $81.5M final. Reportedly budgeted at $45M, Shaft hopes to perform well in the summer weeks ahead and could certainly become a new franchise for the studio too.

Last weekend's top film Gone in 60 Seconds fell 41% giving it the largest decline in the top ten with $14.9M in its second weekend. After ten days, the Nicolas Cage car heist picture has grossed $52.1M. By comparison, Cage's previous summer action films with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, 1996's The Rock and 1997's Con Air, had stronger holds in their sophomore frames dropping 26% and 35% respectively. The critically panned Gone in 60 Seconds could finish its domestic run with $85-90M.

Martin Lawrence remained in third place with his hit comedy Big Momma's House which took in $11.7M, dipping just 32% in its third weekend. With a terrific $71.2M in 17 days, the Fox release has become the highest-grossing film of Lawrence's career and looks certain to cross the $100M mark too.

Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible 2 dropped a reasonable 34% in its fourth frame to $11.4M. The Paramount sequel watched its cume rocket to $176.6M surpassing Rain Man's $172.8M to become Cruise's third biggest blockbuster ever. By the end of the week, MI2 will shoot past Top Gun's $176.8M and the original Mission: Impossible's $181M to become the top Cruise title. Of course, ticket prices were much lower in the 1980s when Top Gun and Rain Man became smash hits. At its current pace, MI2 should break the $200M domestic barrier next month.

Titan A.E., Fox's pricey entry into the lucrative animated feature film field, launched with a not-so-stellar $9.4M opening. Directed by veteran toonsmiths Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, the futuristic space flick follows the adventures of a group of young human survivors after the demise of Earth. With 2,734 theaters, Titan A.E. had the widest bow among newcomers this weekend but only managed to average $3,430 per theater. Fox distribution head Tom Sherak was optimistic about the future stating "with kids still getting out of school, we're hoping for some solid midweek numbers coming up."

The studio's last major animated feature, Anastasia, debuted in November 1997 with a stronger $14.1M and went on to gross $58.4M over the holidays and $139M worldwide. Titan A.E. saw sales increase 15% on Friday over Saturday. But the field of animated summer films will only get more crowded as Chicken Run, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, and Pokemon 2 all arrive in the weeks ahead joining Disney's Dinosaur and Fantasia 2000.

With high schoolers beginning summer vacation, Miramax offered teens the new college comedy Boys and Girls which was met with little excitement in its debut. Starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jason Biggs, the film took in $7M over the weekend in 1,983 sites for a barely passing $3,535 grade point average. On Saturday, Boys and Girls actually witnessed sales fall from Friday indicating that sharp declines could be in the future. After becoming one of the top teen screen idols with the success of I Know What You Did Last Summer and She's All That, Prinze Jr. has watched his star power dim this year with Boys and Girls and January's Down to You, which opened with a similar $7.6M.

Fox and DreamWorks offered sneak previews on Saturday for their upcoming summer box office contestants and witnessed encouraging results. Fox's R-rated Jim Carrey comedy Me, Myself, and Irene did best with young men as 52% of the audience was in the 25-34 age group according to distribution chief Tom Sherak. Males made up 60% of the crowd and nearly 80% of patrons rated the film either "excellent" or "very good." DreamWorks sneaked its critically acclaimed clay-animation film Chicken Run with 60% of those in attendance from family audiences. A very encouraging 88% checked off the top two boxes. Both films open on Friday with Irene launching in roughly 2,800 theaters while Chicken heads into about 2,600 sites.

Disney's Dinosaur was off 34% to $5.9M in its fifth weekend taking seventh place. The expensive animated adventure has grossed $120.5M to date. Still experiencing the lowest decline in the top ten, the Russell Crowe starrer Gladiator slid only 24% to $5.4M in its seventh attack. The DreamWorks/Universal co-production has amassed $159M surpassing the domestic haul of last year's early May summer blockbuster The Mummy.

Jackie Chan's comedic Western Shanghai Noon fell 36% to ninth with $3.8M. The Buena Vista release has raised its cume to $48M after 24 days. Rounding out the top ten was the teen sex comedy Road Trip with $3.1M, down 37%, bringing its gross-out total to a solid $60.2M.

After a hugely successful four-month run in IMAX theaters, Disney's Fantasia 2000 premiered in standard format but caused little commotion with a $2.9M bow. Playing in 1,313 locations, the lavish compilation of animated stories averaged only $2,217 per theater. After grossing a stunning $49.6M from 54 large-format venues, Fantasia 2000 will now screen in 35mm format for a four-week engagement.

A trio of solid spring performers fell out of the top ten over the weekend. New Line's sleeper hit Frequency lifted its cume to $41.7M. The $30M time-shifting drama enjoyed slim declines throughout its run and should eventually reach $45-48M.

Small Time Crooks from director Woody Allen took in $941,650 in its fifth caper to boost its total to $14.8M. The $10M DreamWorks release should conclude with $17-20M. Universal's submarine thriller U-571 collected $688,025 for a $74.2M cume to date after its ninth term. Co-financed with France's Studio Canal, the $62M action picture should dock with $75-77M by the end of its voyage.

Compared to projections, Shaft opened very close to my $20M forecast. However, Titan A.E., Boys and Girls, and Fantasia 2000 all opened well below my projections of $18M, $10M, and $8M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on which of three upcoming sequels you want to see the most. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of this weekend's four new releases would have the best opening. Of 2,498 responses, 58% correctly answered Shaft, while 34% selected Titan A.E., 5% picked Fantasia 2000, and 3% said Boys and Girls.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which reports on the number of monthly wide releases over the last three years. For a review of Shaft visit The Chief Report.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $94.2M which was down 24% from last year when Tarzan swung into the top spot with $34.2M, and down 5% from 1998 when The X Files opened at number one with $30.1M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Me, Myself, and Irene debuts along with Chicken Run.

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

# Title June 16 - 18 June 9 - 11 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Shaft $ 21,714,757 2,337 1 $ 9,292 $ 21,714,757 Paramount
2 Gone in 60 Seconds 14,896,031 25,336,048 -41.2 3,049 2 4,886 52,074,087 Buena Vista
3 Big Momma's House 11,686,558 17,223,178 -32.1 2,843 3 4,111 71,231,014 Fox
4 Mission: Impossible 2 11,362,008 17,231,372 -34.1 3,633 4 3,127 176,581,244 Paramount
5 Titan A.E. 9,376,845 2,734 1 3,430 9,376,845 Fox
6 Boys and Girls 7,008,950 1,983 1 3,535 7,008,950 Miramax
7 Dinosaur 5,863,092 8,829,956 -33.6 2,938 5 1,996 120,508,781 Buena Vista
8 Gladiator 5,362,293 7,074,047 -24.2 2,266 7 2,366 158,993,824 DreamWorks
9 Shanghai Noon 3,792,622 5,942,362 -36.2 2,126 4 1,784 48,007,713 Buena Vista
10 Road Trip 3,091,860 4,908,396 -37.0 2,151 5 1,437 60,177,784 DreamWorks
11 Fantasia 2000 2,911,485 1,313 1 2,217 52,461,576 Buena Vista
12 Small Time Crooks 941,650 1,375,885 -31.6 612 5 1,539 14,784,478 DreamWorks
13 Frequency 879,702 1,451,598 -39.4 777 8 1,132 41,705,965 New Line
14 U-571 688,025 1,060,660 -35.1 688 9 1,000 74,150,165 Universal
15 Michael Jordan to the MAX 443,181 414,579 6.9 48 7 9,233 5,045,494 Giant Screen
16 The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas 393,370 519,435 -24.3 566 8 695 32,763,265 Universal
17 Erin Brockovich 332,235 527,260 -37.0 485 14 685 123,839,700 Universal
18 Where the Heart Is 329,996 671,679 -50.9 483 8 683 31,983,852 Fox
19 Mission to Mars 239,808 80,047 199.6 370 15 648 60,280,296 Buena Vista
20 Center Stage 218,803 680,098 -67.8 303 6 722 16,401,324 Sony
Top 5 $ 69,036,199 $ 75,694,601 -8.8
Top 10 94,155,016 90,433,502 4.1
Top 20 101,533,271 94,425,935 7.5

Last Updated : June 19 at 8:30PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya