Weekend Box Office (June 30 - July 2, 2000)

THIS WEEKEND Warner Bros. set off a massive display of fireworks over Independence Day weekend with the opening of its disaster-at-sea action film The Perfect Storm which debuted with a staggering $62.7M, according to final studio figures, over the Friday-to-Tuesday period. Sony's Revolutionary War epic The Patriot debuted powerfully in second with $35.2M over the same period. With their pair of big-budget event films, George Clooney and Mel Gibson attracted nearly $100M in ticket sales over the five-day holiday weekend allowing the overall box office to finally outperform the year-ago frame after many weeks of slower activity.

Crashing into 3,407 theaters, The Perfect Storm grossed $41.3M and averaged a thunderous $12,129 over the Friday-to-Sunday span marking the biggest opening for Clooney outside of 1997's franchise picture Batman and Robin. Adapted from the best selling book, The Perfect Storm follows a group of New England fishermen who get caught in the most ferocious storm ever recorded at sea.

With a reported budget of $120-140M, the Wolfgang Petersen-directed film also benefited from an enormous prints and advertising budget. Warner Bros. gave the effects-heavy picture the third widest bow in history trailing this year's Mission: Impossible 2 and Scream 3 which opened in 3,653 and 3,467 theaters respectively. For the studio, The Perfect Storm delivered the biggest opening ever for a non-Batman film and was in the same vicinity as their 1996 weather disaster pic Twister which debuted with $41.1M while playing in a thousand fewer theaters.

For the first time in over five years, Mel Gibson failed to reach number one with his new movie as The Patriot debuted in the runnerup spot with $22.4M over the three-day period. The Revolutionary War drama attacked 3,061 theaters and averaged a sturdy $7,322 for the three days. Its total since opening on Wednesday is $44.5M.

Directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla), The Patriot stars Gibson as a war veteran who reluctantly joins the fight against British colonialism. The Sony release earned an R rating for its intensely violent battle scenes and runs for nearly three hours. In 1995, Gibson's Braveheart opened to $12.9M over the four-day Memorial Day weekend holiday and eventually reached $75.6M.

According to Jeff Blake, distribution president of Sony Pictures, two-thirds of the audience was over 25 while the male-female split was roughly even. Blake did note that The Patriot's CinemaScore rating was a solid A+ which he expects will translate into good word-of-mouth in the weeks ahead. The adult-skewing drama will also face few direct competitors as most upcoming films like Scary Movie, The Kid, and X-Men will target younger patrons.

Going into the long holiday weekend, tracking research indicated that consumer interest was very close for both The Perfect Storm and The Patriot. Industry observers were then surprised at the fact that the Clooney picture opened 84% stronger than the Gibson vehicle which many predicted would rule the holiday because of its bigger star. The wide gap between the grosses puts into question the validity of pre-release tracking surveys and how accurately audience sentiment can really be measured before a movie opens.

Jim Carrey's latest comedy Me, Myself, and Irene fell sharply in its second weekend taking in $13.3M over the three-day frame. The Farrelly brothers comedy dropped 45% from its opening. After twelve days, the $52M Fox release has bagged $55.3M and may conclude with $75-85M domestically.

Enjoying the best hold in the top ten, the clay animation feature Chicken Run claimed the number four spot with a three-day take of $13.2M in its sophomore frame. DreamWorks added 360 additional playdates just in time for the busy holiday frame which helped keep the G-rated film's depreciation at a low 25%. With $49.8M in twelve days, Chicken Run should find its way to $100M.

Universal's new family film, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, debuted softly in fifth place with $6.8M over the Friday-to-Sunday span. Causing trouble in 2,460 sites, the $76M live-action/animation feature averaged a disappointing $2,770 per theater. Critics across the board panned the update on the popular 1960s cartoon series. Rene Russo, Jason Alexander, and producer Robert De Niro starred. Rocky and Bullwinkle is just the latest in a string of films aimed at kids to underperform joining The Flintstones prequel, Titan A.E., and the national run of Fantasia 2000.

Paramount's action update Shaft tumbled in its third weekend to $6.7M. The Friday-to-Sunday decline was a troubling 48%. After 19 days of fighting crime, the Samuel L. Jackson film has reached $56.5M. The Martin Lawrence comedy Big Momma's House took in $6.1M and raised its portly total to $98.1M. Eighth place went to the Nicolas Cage action entry Gone in 60 Seconds which grossed $5.3M giving the Buena Vista release $81.4M after its fourth lap.

Rounding out the top ten were the year's two biggest blockbusters. Mission: Impossible 2 grossed $4.9M raising its staggering total to $199.7M. With the $200M mark an inch away, the Tom Cruise smash hit now ranks number 30 on the all-time domestic blockbuster list between 1998's Armageddon ($201.6M) and 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade ($197.2M). Gladiator collected $2.4M over the long weekend pushing its cume to a brawny $171.2M. The DreamWorks/Universal co-production has enjoyed a nine-week reign in the top ten - the longest run of any film this year.

Three box office contestants were voted off the top ten island over the weekend. Disney's computer-animated feature Dinosaur took in $1.4M over the three-day period boosting its cume to $130.8M. With its reported production budget hovering between $125-200M, the prehistoric tale looks to conclude with a domestic tally of $135-140M. Dinosaur represented a departure from the studio's usual summer toon formula due to its PG rating, earlier May release date, and advanced style of animation. By comparison, last year's Tarzan grossed $171M stateside and $435M globally.

Leaving the top ten after only two weeks were youth-appeal pics Boys and Girls and Titan A.E. with grosses of $1.3M and $1.2M respectively. Miramax's teen comedy has totaled $18.5M to date and should graduate with a not-so-impressive $20-25M. Fox's expensive animated adventure film (the reported negative cost is between $75-90M) has limped to $20.8M and is likely to end with under $25M as well.

Compared to projections, The Perfect Storm surged ahead of my three-day forecast of $28M while The Patriot came in under my $30M prediction. The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle also opened weaker than my $13M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on whether this summer's movies are better than last summer's. In last week's survey, readers were asked if The Patriot or The Perfect Storm would have the bigger opening weekend. Of 7,590 responses, the voting was dead even with each getting 50% of the vote.

Be sure to read the NEW Weekly Rewind column which looks at the top July opening weekends. For a review of The Patriot visit The Chief Report.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $122.5M over the three-day period which was up 7% from last year when Wild Wild West debuted in the top spot with $27.7M, and up 25% from 1998 when Armageddon opened at number one with $36.1M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday evening for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Scary Movie and Disney's The Kid both open.

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

# Title Jun. 30 - Jul. 2 Jun. 23 - 25 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cume - Jul. 4 Dist.
1 The Perfect Storm $ 41,325,042 3,407 1 $ 12,129 $ 62,742,422 Warner Bros.
2 The Patriot 22,413,710 3,061 1 7,322 44,546,404 Sony
3 Me, Myself, and Irene 13,329,769 24,209,385 -44.9 3,087 2 4,318 55,292,489 Fox
4 Chicken Run 13,192,897 17,506,162 -24.6 2,851 2 4,627 49,767,108 DreamWorks
5 The Adv. of Rocky and Bullwinkle 6,814,270 2,460 1 2,770 10,344,410 Universal
6 Shaft 6,665,815 12,707,835 -47.5 2,433 3 2,740 56,457,295 Paramount
7 Big Momma's House 6,063,039 8,548,299 -29.1 2,392 5 2,535 98,062,166 Fox
8 Gone in 60 Seconds 5,320,271 9,452,195 -43.7 2,651 4 2,007 81,439,105 Buena Vista
9 Mission: Impossible 2 4,909,248 7,588,416 -35.3 2,667 6 1,841 199,706,573 Paramount
10 Gladiator 2,426,872 3,851,924 -37.0 1,411 9 1,720 171,247,508 DreamWorks
11 Dinosaur 1,404,282 3,258,118 -56.9 1,389 7 1,011 130,825,066 Buena Vista
12 Boys and Girls 1,342,473 3,230,493 -58.4 1,601 3 839 18,484,142 Miramax
13 Titan A.E. 1,227,227 3,735,300 -67.1 1,922 3 639 20,754,754 Fox
14 Shanghai Noon 715,032 2,012,696 -64.5 790 6 905 53,716,690 Buena Vista
15 Road Trip 713,905 1,528,133 -53.3 801 7 891 65,568,673 DreamWorks
16 Fantasia 2000 692,841 1,477,958 -53.1 1,313 3 528 57,696,297 Buena Vista
17 Michael Jordan to the MAX 412,876 408,392 1.1 50 9 8,258 6,518,824 Giant Screen
18 Sunshine 312,914 349,531 -10.5 76 4 4,117 1,235,982 Par. Classics
19 Croupier 297,354 312,888 -5.0 116 11 2,563 2,105,803 Shoot. Gallery
20 Small Time Crooks 227,090 556,705 -59.2 249 7 912 16,339,956 DreamWorks
Top 5 $ 97,075,688 $ 72,423,876 34.0
Top 10 122,460,933 94,088,127 30.2
Top 20 129,806,927 102,073,802 27.2
Top 20 vs. 1999 129,806,927 120,186,266 8.0

Last Updated : July 5 at 9:00PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya