Weekend Box Office (June 18 - 20, 1999)
With a thunderous roar, Disney's Tarzan
led a scorching box office that delivered
one of the largest non-holiday grosses in history. With a wide range of
commercially potent product, the marketplace expanded greatly to accommodate
all the titles as for the first time ever, three films grossed over $20M
each during the same weekend. In fact, North American moviegoers spent
over $100M over the weekend on just the top four movies alone.
Maybe all of Disney's animated pictures should take place in the jungles of Africa! Not since The Lion King has the studio seen such a powerful launch for a toon as Tarzan swung into theaters and grabbed $34.2M, according to final figures, to lead an overall booming box office frame. Invading a mammoth 3,005 theaters, the animated adventure film averaged a ferocious $11,388 per vine and was able to push the mighty Austin Powers sequel into the runnerup spot. For Buena Vista, Tarzan represented their first number one movie since last winter's legal thriller A Civil Action which starred John Travolta who coincidentally also had a new film open this weekend.
Tarzan attracted a much larger audience on opening weekend than Disney's recent summer cartoons Mulan ($22.7M), Hercules ($21.5M), and The Hunchback of Notre Dame ($21M). The tale of the ape man has been showered with rave reviews for its storytelling and rich animation. Glenn Close, Minnie Driver, Tony Goldwyn, and Rosie O'Donnell provided voices to the film and Phil Collins contributed original music. Other impressive openings for recent animated films that Tarzan surpassed include $33.3M for A Bug's Life, $27.3M for The Rugrats Movie, $17.2M for Antz, and $14.5M for The Prince of Egypt. Those four titles (all released domestically in the fourth quarter of last year) grossed a combined $890M at the worldwide box office helping to make animation one of the most lucrative sectors of the film industry.
The $34.2M bow for Tarzan is quite a feat considering the amount of reduced-priced children's tickets that were sold and the fact that Fox continues to have an iron grip on many of the nation's best auditoriums with the largest seating capacities due to its terms with exhibitors for The Phantom Menace. Adding in $139,000 in sales from the Wednesday exclusive bow in the El Capitan theater in Los Angeles, Tarzan's cume sits at $34.4M. Disney's previous June toons have managed to absorb about 19-22% of their overall domestic gross on opening weekend so if Tarzan plays the same way, it could soar to a lofty $175M.
After a humongous launch last weekend, Austin Powers : The Spy Who Shagged Me lost a reasonable 43% of its box office mojo in its sophomore session attracting $31.4M. The New Line sequel has generated an enormous ten-day gross of $116.1M from beautiful strangers everywhere and crossed the $100M mark on Saturday, its ninth day of release. By Tuesday, Austin Powers will surpass the $121.7M gross of 1992's Wayne's World to become Mike Myers' top-performing hit. At its current pace, the groovy comedy could reach $200M by the end of its domestic run making the $33M production an incredibly profitable venture. Meanwhile, on the Billboard music sales charts, the soundtrack to Austin Powers has surged ahead of the disc for Star Wars Episode I to become the nation's best-selling movie soundtrack. The Spy Who Shagged Me also premiered in Australia over the weekend in its first overseas shag.
John Travolta was back in theaters this weekend with the new murder mystery The General's Daughter which opened in third place with a strong $22.3M. Debuting in 2,856 military posts, the Paramount release averaged a robust $7,819 per theater. Directed by Simon West, The General's Daughter gave Travolta the second best opening of his career after Face/Off's $23.4M from two years ago, and represented the studio's top debut of 1999. With Big Daddy, Wild Wild West, South Park, and American Pie on the horizon, The General's Daughter could grab onto the mature adult crowd and post healthy sales in the weeks to come.
Slipping two spots to fourth, Star Wars Episode I grossed a superb $18.9M in its fifth weekend of play and saw its domestic total soar to an amazing $328.1M. The Phantom Menace now ranks as the sixth highest-grossing picture on the all-time blockbuster list between a pair of megahits from the summer of 1994 - Forrest Gump ($329.7M) and The Lion King ($312.9M). The George Lucas prequel has also surpassed the $322.7M tally of the original Star Wars before grosses from its 1997 rerelease were added. Of course, ticket prices in that era were significantly lower than they are today and movies did not play in 3,000 theaters simultaneously.
With over $328M in the bank, The Phantom Menace is running 39% better than Titanic which collected $236.7M by the end of its fifth weekend. However, the James Cameron action-romance was a more durable title. While Episode I exploded in its initial weeks bringing in tremendous business in record time, its gross during week 4 was nearly identical to Titanic's fourth week haul. Future weeks should see lower weekly sales for Anakin and Jar Jar than for Jack and Rose. However, to its credit, Episode I had one of the top ten's smallest declines dipping just 26%. That strong of a hold is especially impressive considering all the new competition in the marketplace this weekend. If Star Wars Episode I were to continue its domestic run with a 25% weekly depreciation rate, it would top out in the area of $425M.
Julia Roberts stepped back two notches to fifth with Notting Hill which grossed $6.9M in its fourth frame. Off 39%, the Universal release saw increased competition for its core adult audience but raised its cume to a solid $79.7M. After 24 days of release, Notting Hill is running just 4.5% behind the pace of Roberts' 1997 blockbuster romantic comedy My Best Friend's Wedding which went on to gross a charming $126.8M.
Anthony Hopkins placed sixth with Instinct which ate up $3.2M (down an alarming 53%) putting its cume at $27.1M. In its seventh weekend, The Mummy lost hundreds of theaters which were busy making room for the freshmen crop and dropped 42% to $3.2M. With $142M in sales thus far, the Universal release has now passed the $140.5M performance of last summer's Deep Impact which launched on the same early May weekend as The Mummy.
Entrapment followed with $1.35M while The Matrix took ninth with about $1.32M. MGM/UA continued to have the top limited-release performer in Tea With Mussolini which rounded out the top ten with $614,000. The picture has grossed a fantastic $8.7M while playing in less than 300 theaters.
Falling out of the top ten over the weekend were The Thirteenth Floor, now at $10.7M, and Fox's Never Been Kissed which is nearing $53M. Sony's $18M sci-fi thriller got crushed in the Star Wars-dominated marketplace and should conclude with $11-12M. Drew Barrymore's romantic comedy, however, spent a remarkable ten weeks in the top ten and is set to finish with a solid $55M.
Opening in limited release, Miramax's An Ideal Husband grossed a very impressive $198,802 in only ten theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a sizzling $19,880 average per site. The romantic comedy stars Rupert Everett, Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver, and Julianne Moore and expands into more cities this Friday followed by a national rollout on July 2nd.
Compared to projections, Tarzan debuted higher than my $26M forecast while The General's Daughter opened close to my $19M prediction.
Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on your choice for the most bankable box office star today. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Tarzan or The General's Daughter would have the bigger opening. Of 2,589 responses, 77% chose the Disney toon while 23% voted for the Travolta title.
The top ten films over the weekend grossed $123.4M which was up 25% from last year when The X Files and Mulan opened with $30.1M and $22.7M respectively, and up 29% from 1997 when Batman and Robin debuted on top with $42.9M.
Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Adam Sandler attacks theaters with Big Daddy.
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 21, 1999 at 8:30PM EDT
Written by Gitesh Pandya