Weekend Box Office (July 19 - 21, 2002)

THIS WEEKEND In a close race for the top, a vengeful gangster beat out a talking mouse for the number one spot during a surprisingly weak summer session at the North American box office. DreamWorks' period drama Road to Perdition edged out Sony's new family film Stuart Little 2 by about $300,000 after preliminary weekend estimates showed a race that was too close to call. Harrison Ford's submarine actioner K-19: The Widowmaker debuted disappointingly in fourth place while the creature feature Eight Legged Freaks bombed in seventh.

After a strong second-place opening last weekend, Road to Perdition added 362 more theaters to its run and inched up into the number one position with $15.4M, according to final studio figures. Playing in 2,159 locations, the Tom Hanks pic averaged a solid $7,139 per theater and lifted its ten-day cume to an encouraging $47.3M. Road to Perdition slid just 30% from last weekend's bow while the per-theater average dropped a more normal 42%. Playing mostly to adult audiences, the R-rated drama stands an excellent chance of crossing the $100M mark. The Sam Mendes-directed film edged out Stuart Little 2 despite the fact that the Tom Hanks hit was a week older and played in over 1,000 fewer theaters.

Opening ultrawide in a massive 3,255 theaters, Stuart Little 2 grossed $15.1M and generated a $4,644 average during its opening weekend for a second-place bow. The high-profile summer family entry benefited from a built-in audience, more theaters, and higher ticket prices than its 1999 predecessor but managed to only beat Stuart Little's opening weekend by a measly $97,000. The original hit kidpic bowed to $15M in December of that year with a slightly stronger $5,218 average and displayed amazing legs as it wound up with $140M domestically and nearly $300M worldwide.

"The film connected with parents and kids and we're expecting strong seven-day-a-week business during the summer period," remarked Sony marketing and distribution head Jeff Blake. Indeed, with children out of school Stuart Little 2 may post healthy midweek numbers just as Lilo & Stitch has done this season. Audiences were pleased as moviegoers polled by CinemaScore.com gave the PG-rated film an A grade while studio exits showed that 90% of those polled found the movie to be "excellent" or "very good." The effects-heavy sequel's production budget is reportedly around $120M.

Overall, the box office was about as healthy as the stock market as potential moviegoers skipped the multiplexes and opted for other forms of summer entertainment. The top ten pictures collectively grossed $94M making it the smallest such showing since late April. The top film delivered the smallest gross for a number-one title since late February. The top ten cume was down compared to the corresponding July frame from each of the last four years. Plus, only one film in the top ten (Road to Perdition) averaged more than $5,000 per theater this weekend. The last time that happened in July was in 1996 when the Summer Olympics in Atlanta helped depress movie ticket sales nationwide.

Ordinarily, the box office should be much stronger at this time of year. One factor causing sales to be sluggish this weekend could be the lack of an event picture appealing to the largest segment of the summer moviegoing audience - teens and young adults. Stuart Little 2 played to young kids, K-19 and Road to Perdition appealed to older adults, and Eight Legged Freaks barely caused any excitement. However, teens and young adults should return in full force next weekend with the much-anticipated release of Austin Powers in Goldmember which, like the last installment, begins its run with Thursday night previews in select theaters. Mel Gibson's Signs and Vin Diesel's XXX open over the following two weekends and should help get the marketplace back to form.

After two weeks at number one, Men in Black II dropped down to third place with $14.6M suffering a moderate 40% decline. After 19 days, the Sony release has grossed $158.1M and looks to reach the $200M mark.

Action superstar Harrison Ford suffered his worst opening for a summer film in over a decade with the launch of the submarine thriller K-19: The Widowmaker which grossed $12.8M. Surfacing in 2,828 theaters, the Paramount release averaged a mediocre $4,519 per playdate. The Kathryn Bigelow-directed actioner about the near-meltdown of a Soviet nuclear sub in 1961 reportedly cost about $100M to produce and represented the first film project from National Geographic Films. Intermedia Films produced the thriller with Paramount distributing in several markets.

As expected, adult men made up the primary audience for K-19. Reviews were mixed and ticket buyers polled by CinemaScore.com gave the film a decent B grade. The PG-13 film's bow even fell short of the openings of other submarine films like 2000's U-571 ($19.6M), 1995's Crimson Tide ($18.6M), and 1990's blockbuster The Hunt for Red October ($17.2M). Overall, the moviegoing public showed little interest in watching Ford, seen by most as one of America's greatest cinematic heroes, act with a Russian accent. The actor's last summer film to open weaker was 1991's drama Regarding Henry which debuted with just $6.1M.

Buena Vista's dragon tale Reign of Fire got extinguished in its second weekend plummeting 53% to $7.3M. The futuristic actioner has grossed $29.2M in ten days and should finish with $40-45M. The Adam Sandler comedy Mr. Deeds dipped just 33% to $7.3M as well and upped its cume to $107.6M.

Opening poorly in seventh place was the mutant spider flick Eight Legged Freaks which grossed $6.5M from 2,530 theaters over the weekend. Averaging only $2,563 per venue, the Warner Bros. release has collected $9.1M since its Wednesday debut.

Halloween: Resurrection tumbled 55% in its second weekend to $5.5M and pushed its ten-day sum to $22M. Miramax's $13M slasher sequel looks to reach $30-35M. Disney's kidpic Lilo & Stitch did not seem to mind the arrival of Stuart Little 2 as the animated comedy dropped a moderate 38% to $5M putting its total at $128.4M after one month of release. The Crocodile Hunter fell 51% to $4.7M in its second weekend in theaters raising its ten-day cume to $18.7M. The $12M MGM comedy should retire with $30-35M.

Three hit films were pushed out of the top ten over the weekend. The Tom Cruise-Steven Spielberg collaboration Minority Report dropped 38% to $4.5M boosting its cume to $118.1M in 31 days. Fox's $102M sci-fi thriller should take about $130-135M into custody by the end of its domestic run. Studio stablemate Like Mike fell 44% to $4.4M in its third frame and put its cume at $41.3M. Budgeted at under $30M, the basketball fantasy is set to end its season with a solid $50-55M. Universal's assassin thriller The Bourne Identity dipped 34% to $3.8M in its sixth frame and raised its total to $105.7M. The $60M Matt Damon film looks to reach $115-120M.

The top ten films grossed $94.1M which was down 28% from last year when Jurassic Park III opened at number one with $50.8M; and down 24% from 2000 when What Lies Beneath debuted in the top spot with $29.7M.

Compared to projections, the new releases Stuart Little 2, K-19, and Eight Legged Freaks all opened well below my respective forecasts of $30M, $28M, and $15M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the opening weekend of Austin Powers in Goldmember. In last week's survey, readers were asked if K-19 would open with at least as much as The Sum of All Fears' $31.2M bow. Of 2,911 responses, voting was split evenly between Yes and No.

For a review of Road to Perdition visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Austin Powers in Goldmember and The Country Bears both launch.

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

# Title Jul 19 - 21 Jul 12 - 14 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Road to Perdition $ 15,412,515 22,079,481 -30.2 2,159 2 $ 7,139 $ 47,304,790 DreamWorks
2 Stuart Little 2 15,115,152 3,255 1 4,644 15,115,152 Sony
3 Men in Black II 14,552,335 24,410,311 -40.4 3,641 3 3,997 158,127,629 Sony
4 K-19: The Widowmaker 12,778,459 2,828 1 4,519 12,778,459 Paramount
5 Reign of Fire 7,317,994 15,632,281 -53.2 2,629 2 2,784 29,246,331 Buena Vista
6 Mr. Deeds 7,312,128 10,842,415 -32.6 2,823 4 2,590 107,630,816 Sony
7 Eight Legged Freaks 6,485,458 2,530 1 2,563 9,080,158 Warner Bros.
8 Halloween: Resurrection 5,520,536 12,292,121 -55.1 2,094 2 2,636 21,952,979 Miramax
9 Lilo & Stitch 4,973,660 8,024,738 -38.0 2,127 5 2,338 128,431,916 Buena Vista
10 The Crocodile Hunter 4,667,895 9,537,123 -51.1 2,525 2 1,849 18,726,625 MGM
11 Minority Report 4,457,544 7,216,069 -38.2 1,672 5 2,666 118,061,976 Fox
12 Like Mike 4,373,565 7,833,279 -44.2 1,786 3 2,449 41,336,957 Fox
13 The Bourne Identity 3,803,690 5,761,380 -34.0 1,629 6 2,335 105,661,370 Universal
14 My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,497,454 2,230,158 12.0 530 13 4,712 30,862,103 IFC Films
15 Scooby Doo 1,522,374 3,727,265 -59.2 1,302 6 1,169 148,467,651 Warner Bros.
16 Star Wars Episode II 1,020,638 1,281,757 -20.4 562 10 1,816 295,621,557 Fox
17 The Sum of All Fears 940,545 1,922,030 -51.1 913 8 1,030 116,951,040 Paramount
18 Windtalkers 833,136 1,187,328 -29.8 1,285 6 648 40,146,482 MGM
19 Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood 768,452 1,503,373 -48.9 572 7 1,343 66,600,470 Warner Bros.
20 Space Station 674,941 646,577 4.4 61 14 11,065 14,977,155 Imax
Top 5 $ 65,176,455 $ 85,256,609 -23.6
Top 10 94,136,132 123,629,198 -23.9
Top 20 115,028,471 139,215,536 -17.4
Top 20 vs. 2001 115,028,471 141,753,237 -18.9

Last Updated : July 22, 2002 at 8:45PM EDT