Weekend Box Office (June 19 - 21, 1998)
THIS WEEKEND Fueled by the powerful debuts of two new releases, the box office surged to one of its biggest frames of the year as The X Files and Mulan accounted for an incredible 54% of ticket sales in the top ten.
The truth was out there in theaters over the weekend as The X Files : Fight the Future dominated the box office with an Xcellent opening of $30.1M, according to final studio figures. The Fox film, based on the hit sci-fi television series, landed the fourth best debut of the year behind Godzilla ($44M in 3 days), Deep Impact ($41.2M), and The Truman Show ($31.5M). It was also the fourth biggest opener ever for the studio trailing fellow sci-fi blockbusters Independence Day which arrived with $50.2M in 1996 and Star Wars - Special Edition which bowed to $35.9M in 1997, as well as 1992's Home Alone 2 which opened with $31.1M. FBI agents Mulder and Scully Xposed government conspiracies in 2,629 locations giving it an Xceptional $11,464 average. After seeing five of its films debut at number two, Fox finally returned to the top spot for the first time in over a year, when Speed 2 hit number one in June 1997.
With a huge fan following that is obsessed with the television show, it was Xpected that most would turn out for the premiere weekend. Friday's $12.6M gross represented an Xtraordinary 42% of the whole weekend pie. Normally a film will see about 29-33% of its weekend gross on Friday, but The X Files Xperienced a surge on opening day because of the Xcessive demand to see the movie right away. True X Files fanatics could not wait until day two to see the picture. However, most science fiction movies open big and drop fast since the fans tend to come out the first weekend leaving a smaller audience for subsequent weeks. The X Files should Xhibit the same traits over the coming weeks.
For Twentieth Century Fox, a lot was riding on the opening weekend performance of The X Files. What was essentially at stake was the possible creation of a motion picture franchise that would take the studio well into the next decade. If The X Files opened weak, then there would be no future movies. But with $30.1M, Fox had a wonderful Fathers Day weekend as a profitable new franchise was born. With relatively young stars David Duchovny, 37, and Gillian Anderson, 29, Fox can release a new film every couple of years for a long time to come. The X Files opened stronger than last November's heavily-hyped sci-fi entries Starship Troopers ($22.1M) and Alien: Resurrection ($16.5M). Also it debuted almost Xactly as 1996's Star Trek : First Contact which opened with a powerful $30.7M and finished its domestic run with $92M. Look for a similar trajectory for The X Files.
The X Files movie was an Xpensive project for Fox, costing roughly $60 million to produce and an Xtra $25M to market. With this weekend's mammoth opening, a solid domestic gross can be expected. And with the massive overseas popularity of the television show, a mighty sum will be collected from all territories by the time it finishes its international campaign. Currently, The X Files is scheduled to Xpand into Singapore this month; Australia, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Holland, Austria, and South Africa in July; and South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Israel, Norway, Finland, and most of Latin America in August.
What did Mulan do for her dad on Fathers Day? Not only did the original G.I. Jane save him from dying in the Chinese Imperial Army, but she also led the two, plus a whole cast of animated characters, to a spectacular opening weekend gross of $22.7M. Disney's latest cartoon adventure enjoyed the fifth biggest opening of the year and the fourth best debut for an animated film behind The Lion King ($40.9M), Pocahontas ($29.5M), and Toy Story ($29.1M). Marching into 2,888 theaters, Mulan collected the moolah as the animated pic showed the muscles of a warrior princess by averaging $7,876 per site. Mulan, a story about a girl in ancient China who dresses up as a man to join the army, features a strong female protagonist and the wise-cracking comedy of Eddie Murphy making it extremely marketable to girls and boys alike.
With Mulan, Disney exceeded the debut performances of their last two summer animated hits. Hercules opened wide with $21.5M last June and The Hunchback of Notre Dame launched with $21M one year prior. However, all three films opened at number two behind big-budget action movies. Still, for the studio, Mulan was its best opening since last November's Flubber which bounced into theaters with $26.7M. Reviews have been good and word-of-mouth over the weekend has been very strong. With only one other family movie hitting cinemas in the next two weeks (Doctor Dolittle) and a big holiday weekend on the horizon, long term prospects look bright for Mulan and crossing $100M seems likely.
"We've had the best exit polls of any Buena Vista movie with Mulan this weekend" said Phil Barlow, distribution head of Disney. He also stated that an incredibly high 85-90% of those polled would definitely recommend the picture to others. Barlow explained that the studio used a "classy approach" in promoting Mulan and that the marketing was fantastic. Disney expects a long successful engagement for the animated hit based on the overwhelming audience response. Up next for the House of Eisner, A Bug's Life in November, Tarzan next summer, Toy Story 2 next Thanksgiving, and Fantasia 2000 on the eve of the millenium.
After a two-week reign at the top, The Truman Show slipped to third with $12.4M. Down 38%, the Jim Carrey drama has minted a solid $85.3M in 17 days. Truman now looks set to reach the $120-130M range for its domestic run. Fourth place went to the Harrison Ford adventure Six Days, Seven Nights which collected $10.7M in its sophomore frame. With $34.4M in ten days, the action romance from Disney was off by a respectable 35%. Expect Six Days to gross $65-75M by the end of its run with strong overseas prospects looming. Rounding out the top five is A Perfect Murder still going strong in its third kill with $7.4M. Down 35% the Michael Douglas thriller has grabbed $46.5M in 17 days and is on course for a solid $70-80M. For reviews of all the new releases visit Chief's Movie Review Page.
Last weekend's freshman, the high school party film Can't Hardly Wait, suffered a massive hangover as it fell 52% to $3.8M. The Sony comedy has secured $16M in ten days, including strong midweek results, and should reach be able to gross about $25M domestically. Miramax's new indie picture Hav Plenty debuted with $1.1M in 413 theaters giving it a so-so average of $2,668.
Deep Impact, the surprise blockbuster of the summer, is still ahead of Godzilla in total gross by about $4M and remains the highest-grossing new release of 1998. No film in current release looks to be able to outgross the comet picture, unless Mulan shows very sturdy legs. Disney's competing meteor flick Armageddon is now the next challenger that seems to be able to outgun Deep Impact. It opens July 1st and is expected to dominate the lucrative Independence Day holiday weekend.
In sad news, after half a year in the top ten, Titanic finally sailed away and finished below the elite group. The sturdy love boat was off just 15% in its 27th weekend and grossed $1M boosting its domestic tally to $585.5M. This was probably its last frame of $1M or more until it hits discount theaters nationwide.
Compared to my projections, The X Files opened almost Xactly as predicted nearing my $31M projection. Mulan, however, was stronger and exceed my $18M forecast. Truman, Six Days, and Murder were all close to my projections of $13M, $10M, and $7M respectively.
Beginning Wednesday, June 24th, a new column will run on Box Office Guru called Weekly Rewind. Each Wednesday, go back in time to examine the box office performance of past years. This week will feature a complete list of stars and their $100M+ grossing films from this decade.
Don't forget to voice your opinion in this week's new Reader Survey on Titanic. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether The X Files would open with at least $30M. 58.8% answered Yes while 41.2% said No.
The top ten films grossed $98.7M which was up 3% from last year when Batman & Robin swung into to the number one spot with $42.9M, and up 9% from 1996 when Eraser opened at the top with $24.6M. Be sure to check in again on Thursday for an in-depth look at next weekend's activity which will see the debuts of George Clooney's Out of Sight and Eddie Murphy's Doctor Dolittle.
Below are final
studio figures for the weekend. Click
on the title to jump to its official home page:
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.
Written by Gitesh Pandya