Weekend Box Office (June 26 - 28, 1998)

** Read the NEW Weekly Rewind column **

THIS WEEKEND An epidemic spread across North America causing millions to rush to the doctor. Doctor Dolittle, that is. The Eddie Murphy comedy opened with an incredibly healthy $29M, according to final studio results. Playing in 2,777 theaters, the Fox laugher averaged a vibrant $10,448 per site. For Murphy, it was his best opening ever and beat the debut of his last summer hit The Nutty Professor which arrived with $25.4M this very weekend in 1996. Despite last year's disappointment Metro, which grossed just $32M, Murphy proved that he is still one of the biggest comedy stars in the business with the powerful opening of Dolittle.

Twentieth Century Fox is on a hot streak. After twelve months without a number one picture, the studio delivered a crushing one-two punch at the box office with last weekend's The X Files followed by Doctor Dolittle this weekend giving it two consecutive top-spot debuts. Dolittle, a remake of the 1967 comedy about a man's ability to talk to the animals around him, is the fifth strongest opening in Fox history after Independence Day ($50.2M), Star Wars - Special Edition ($35.9M), Home Alone 2 ($31.1M), and The X Files ($30.1M). It is also the fifth best debut of 1998 trailing Godzilla ($44M in 3 days), Deep Impact ($41.2M), The Truman Show ($31.5M), and The X Files.

Although Doctor Dolittle was more potent than The Nutty Professor in its opening gross, the latter arrived in 662 fewer theaters giving it a sturdier average of $12,015. Professor went on to cume $128.8M at the domestic box office. It is too early to tell whether Dolittle can reach that same level during the course of its run but it will need great word-of-mouth if it wants a chance. Doctor Dolittle combined the comic talents of the popular Eddie Murphy with wise-cracking animals that talk making it a comedy with broad appeal pulling in moviegoers of all ages. With a production budget reportedly in the $50-60M range, the Fox comedy vehicle should have no problem becoming a profitable venture, even if it only finds moderate success overseas. A week before its theatrical release, Doctor Dolittle's network broadcast rights were picked up by ABC in a package valued in the $30 - 40 million range which also includes Hope Floats.

With the smallest decline in the top ten, Disney's Mulan remained at number two with $17M raising its ten-day total to a hefty $54.2M. That puts the studio's latest animated feature 13.4% ahead of last summer's Hercules and 15.1% ahead of 1996's The Hunchback of Notre Dame after the same period of time. Both of those pics grossed about $100M domestically. If Mulan can keep up this scorching pace, it should be able to reach about $130-140M stateside making it Disney's highest-grossing film since the live-action 101 Dalmatians from 1996. Not only was Mulan's hold the best in the top ten, but it was also the smallest non-holiday sophomore decline for any wide release since April's kidpic Paulie slid 18% in its second frame.

Off just 25% from its $22.7M debut last weekend, Mulan is showing incredible strength as solid reviews and positive word-of-mouth are keeping the momentum going. And with Doctor Dolittle targeting kids and winning big this weekend, Mulan's strong second frame becomes even more impressive. Eddie Murphy also starred in this family movie playing the dragon Mushu putting him in the top two films of the weekend. But it was not the only time recently that one actor starred in the two most popular movies in one weekend. In March, while Titanic was number one, Leonardo DiCaprio's The Man in the Iron Mask debuted in a close second place.

Tumbling 56%, last weekend's top film The X Files dropped to third place with $13.3M bringing its ten-day tally to a still-impressive $54.9M. A depreciation of this magnitude is normal for science fiction movies with a loyal following since most fans see the film during its debut weekend. Last year, Starship Troopers lost 55% and Spawn fell 58% in their sophomore sessions. Although The X Files opened as powerfully as Star Trek : First Contact, which launched with $30.7M, it will probably not reach the $92M domestic take of the Trek film since that movie's second weekend was the busy Thanksgiving holiday frame which allowed it to post stronger numbers in week two. Still, The X Files now looks like it will finish its domestic run with $80-90M and will strike alien gold overseas.

Out of Sight, starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, grossed a commendable $12M in its first weekend of release landing it in fourth. The Universal action-comedy opened in 2,106 bank vaults and stole $5,708 per site giving it the third-best per-theater average in the top ten. Adapted from the novel by Elmore Leonard, Out of Sight performed below Clooney's last film The Peacemaker which opened with $12.3M. While that spy thriller grossed $41.3M, Out of Sight could fare a little better during the busy summer and reach $50M by the end of its run.

Jim Carrey rounded out the top five as The Truman Show collected $8.5M. Down 32%, the critically acclaimed picture about a man whose entire life is staged for the sake of a television show, boosted its overall sum to $99.5M. The Peter Weir drama will cross the $100M milestone on Monday, its 25th day of release, to become the rubberfaced comic's sixth blockbuster in just four years. The Truman Show (Paramount's third such blockbuster in six months after Titanic and Deep Impact) will probably reach $130-140M.

Continuing a pace identical to A Perfect Murder, Disney's Six, Days, Seven Nights slipped below the top five in its third frame. Both the Harrison Ford adventure and the Michael Douglas thriller are set to hit around $75M in domestic ticket sales. Hope Floats is on its way to a respectable $55M gross, Can't Hardly Wait will reach $25M, and The Horse Whisperer could end up between $70-75M. Dropping out of the top ten were the year's highest-grossing titles thus far. Deep Impact, after a lucrative seven-week stay in the top ten, now stands at $135.8M while Sony's Godzilla, considered by many just weeks ago as the film to beat this summer, now sits with $132.4M. With six of the top ten films, Fox and Disney accounted for 72% of all box office sales among the top ten.

New Line Cinema released a souped up version of the 1939 classic Gone With The Wind in 214 theaters and took in $1.2 million, or $5,573 per site. The solid performance ups the lifetime domestic gross of the beloved drama to $193.1M in nominal dollars. In platform release, Vincent Gallo's Buffalo 66 charged into two theaters and grossed a meaty $39,555 for a $19,778 average. Smoke Signals, honored with two awards at this year's Sundance, debuted with $43,574 in five locations for a promising average of $8,715.

Doctor Dolittle performed much better than I projected as it surged past the $13M that I forecasted. Out of Sight came in weaker than my $15M prediction. Mulan's decline was a little less than the 30% I projected while The X Files slid 55% - exactly as predicted.

Be sure to read the new Weekly Rewind column which appears each Wednesday. This week features a complete list of stars and their $100M+ grossing films from this decade. And don't forget to voice your opinion in this week's new Reader Survey on Armageddon. In last week's survey, 60.4% of readers stated that if Titanic were released on DVD, they would consider purchasing it. For reviews of Out of Sight and other new releases visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films grossed a boffo $99.2M which was up 7% from last year when Face/Off opened at number one with $23.4M, and up 2% from 1996 when The Nutty Professor debuted at the top with $25.4M. Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for one of the biggest weekends of the year as Armageddon blasts off over the Fourth of July holiday frame.

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

# Title June 26 - 28 June 19 - 21 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Doctor Dolittle $ 29,014,324 2,777 1 $ 10,448 $ 29,014,324 Fox
2 Mulan 17,017,845 22,745,143 -25.2 2,921 2 5,826 54,234,591 BV
3 The X Files 13,282,430 30,138,758 -55.9 2,650 2 5,012 54,886,848 Fox
4 Out of Sight 12,020,435 2,106 1 5,708 12,020,435 Universal
5 The Truman Show 8,505,589 12,418,709 -31.5 2,911 4 2,922 99,495,475 Paramount
6 Six Days, Seven Nights 7,579,671 10,702,570 -29.2 2,606 3 2,909 47,136,940 BV
7 A Perfect Murder 5,273,527 7,362,061 -28.4 2,438 4 2,163 55,237,974 WB
8 Hope Floats 2,435,158 3,266,965 -25.5 1,459 5 1,669 48,929,193 Fox
9 Can't Hardly Wait 2,138,505 3,823,967 -44.1 1,901 3 1,125 21,169,878 Sony
10 The Horse Whisperer 1,885,386 2,576,416 -26.8 1,419 7 1,329 66,532,043 BV
11 Deep Impact 1,606,139 2,685,670 -40.2 1,617 8 993 135,792,903 Paramount
12 Godzilla 1,458,014 2,980,534 -51.1 1,855 6 786 132,388,522 Sony
13 Gone with the Wind 1,192,593 214 1 5,573 1,192,593 New Line
14 Everest (IMAX) 1,006,529 986,032 2.1 57 17 17,658 22,451,159 Freeman
15 Titanic 922,618 1,029,362 -10.4 688 28 1,341 587,071,239 Paramount
16 Dirty Work 496,666 1,712,666 -71.0 962 3 516 8,987,403 MGM/UA
17 Lost in Space 439,208 79,117 455.1 598 13 734 67,490,100 New Line
18 Hav Plenty 394,464 1,102,036 -64.2 417 2 946 1,854,768 Miramax
19 Paulie 338,996 146,799 130.9 747 11 454 25,070,144 DreamWorks
20 The Opposite of Sex 307,802 288,122 6.8 85 6 3,621 1,554,599 Sony Classics
Top 5 $ 79,840,623 $ 83,387,241 -4.3
Top 10 99,152,870 98,720,791 0.4
Top 20 107,315,899 105,601,255 1.6

    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 29, 1998 at 10:15PM ESTHome

Written by Gitesh Pandya