Weekend Box Office (July 21 - 23, 2000)

THIS WEEKEND A new kind of scary movie topped the box office charts as the suspense thriller What Lies Beneath led all North American movies while the animated film Pokémon the Movie 2000 enjoyed a strong debut showing in third place. Other new releases were not so fortunate as the teen comedy Loser lived up to its name while The In Crowd was not accepted by the top ten elite. X-Men fell sharply in its second weekend but the overall marketplace remained vibrant.

Harrison Ford was back at number one with What Lies Beneath which grossed $29.7M, according to final studio figures. Directed by Oscar winner Robert Zemeckis, the $80M DreamWorks/Fox co-production played in 2,813 theaters and averaged a spooky $10,559 per venue. Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer play a couple whose home is haunted by the ghost of the husband's ex-lover. Both stars had box office clunkers last fall (Ford's Random Hearts and Pfeiffer's The Story of Us) but have proven that they can still open a picture when attached to the right project.

For the former Han Solo, What Lies Beneath delivered the second-best three-day opening of his career after Air Force One which debuted three years ago with $37.1M on its way to $172.7M. Among holiday openers, Ford's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade bowed with $37M over four days in 1989 and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom debuted with $33.9M over the same long Memorial Day weekend in 1984. Zemeckis enjoyed his biggest opening ever surpassing the $27.8M launch of Back to the Future II in 1989.

What Lies Beneath skewed heavily towards adult women as 61% of the audience was female and 64% were 25 or older, according to DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp. "The film was up 22% on Saturday which is a really good jump," he added. With comedy and action ruling the box office for the past few weeks, a good suspense thriller with popular stars and an acclaimed director was the perfect alternative for mainstream moviegoers. The marketing campaign was critical in scaring up impressive numbers and the PG-13 film could easily make Harrison Ford the first actor to star in $100 million blockbusters in each of the last four decades. Long term prospects for What Lies Beneath look promising giving DreamWorks yet another summer hit after Gladiator, Road Trip, and Chicken Run.

After a record-shattering opening last weekend, X-Men dropped sharply in its second outing grossing $23.5M for a 57% depreciation. After ten days, the $75M Fox production has brought in $99.3M and could find its way to $150M at its current pace. The huge drop is not too surprising for a franchise film with a built-in audience that feels it must come out on opening weekend or else be shunned by other fans. Sophomore declines for similar movies include 56% for The X-Files, 62% for Star Trek: Insurrection, and 63% for Batman & Robin.

Debuting in third place was Pokémon the Movie 2000, a new adventure about the wildly popular children's characters, with $19.6M. Playing in 2,752 theaters, the Warner Bros. release averaged a strong $7,113 per site. While the performance was better than the openings of the summer's other recent kidpics, Pokémon the Movie 2000 did not reach the level of its predecessor which bowed last November with a $31M weekend gross and a staggering $50.8M over five days. That film, while opening huge, eroded quickly and ended up with $85.7M domestically.

Pokémon the Movie 2000 did however claim the third-best opening for a non-Disney animated film after Pokémon and The Rugrats Movie which premiered with $27.3M and has a sequel of its own slated for a November release. One alarming fact about Pokémon 2000's weekend was that Saturday sales dropped 30% from Friday indicating another fast run.

In its third weekend, the horror spoof comedy Scary Movie declined 42% to $15.1M. Miramax's blockbuster film crossed the $100M mark in 14 days and has now collected an amazing $116.4M which is more than any of the Scream flicks which it lampoons. Also, the Keenen Ivory Wayans-helmed picture already ranks as the number two grosser in Miramax history behind 1997's Good Will Hunting which brought in $138.4M. Scary Movie may eventually find its way to around $150M making it one the year's biggest surprises.

Dropping 44% to fifth place was the disaster film The Perfect Storm with $9.7M in its fourth voyage. After 24 days, the Wolfgang Petersen-directed hit has grossed $145.4M making it the year's third-largest box office smash behind Mission: Impossible 2 and Gladiator. The Perfect Storm should find its way to a final domestic tally of $165-175M.

Disney's The Kid enjoyed the lowest decline among all top ten releases sliding 36% to a $6.7M take. The family film has upped its sum to $42.3M in 17 days. Bruce Willis has proven that returning to his original comedy roots can pay off as The Kid follows the star's spring hit The Whole Nine Yards which spent three weeks at number one and grossed a solid $57.3M overall.

Sony's teen comedy Loser was mostly neglected by moviegoers taking in $6M in its opening weekend for an eighth place showing. Stumbling into 2,016 theaters, the Jason Biggs-Mena Suvari flick averaged a disappointing $2,980 per venue. With the $20M film's core audience of teens and young adults busy seeing X-Men and Scary Movie, there were few dollars left to spend on the critically-panned Loser this weekend. A 10% Friday-to-Saturday drop bodes poorly for the future.

Mel Gibson's Revolutionary War saga The Patriot dropped 41% to $6.2M putting its domestic total at $93.4M. The clay animation hit Chicken Run nabbed ninth place with $4.6M, off 42%. With $86M in the coop, the DreamWorks release is still on course to hit the $100M mark by the end of its run. Jim Carrey rounded out the top ten with his R-rated comedy Me, Myself, and Irene which grossed $3M pushing its cume to $83M.

Debuting outside of the top ten was the young adult drama The In Crowd which collected $1.5M from 1,357 theaters. Averaging a poor $1,109 per site, the Warner Bros. release about a young woman who joins a wealthy clique of friends should disappear quickly.

Three of June's top titles fell out of the top over the weekend. In its eighth frame, Martin Lawrence's blockbuster hit Big Momma's House grossed $1.7M lifting its cume to $111.3M. Fox's $23M comedy should reach about $115M making it the biggest film of Lawrence's career. Paramount's $45M action movie Shaft has reached $67.9M to date and is likely to finish off with about $70M. Jerry Bruckheimer's expensive car heist flick Gone in 60 Seconds has totaled $93.6M thus far and will probably run out of gas with roughly $95-97M.

Compared to projections, What Lies Beneath opened very close to my $28M forecast. Pokémon the Movie 2000 came in weaker than my $30M prediction. Loser also failed to reach my $10M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on whether The Nutty Professor can open with at least $40M. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether they would see The Sum Of All Fears if Ben Affleck replaced Harrison Ford. Of 2,711 responses, 48% said yes while 52% voted no.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which looks back at July of 1996. For a review of X-Men visit The Chief Report.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $124.1M which was up 17% from last year when The Haunting debuted in the top spot with $33.4M, and up 12% from 1998 when the Oscar-winning Saving Private Ryan opened at number one with $30.6M. Coincidentally, both films were released by DreamWorks which is handling this weekend's top film What Lies Beneath.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Nutty Professor II crashes into theaters everywhere.

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

# Title Jul. 21 - 23 Jul. 14 - 16 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 What Lies Beneath $ 29,702,959 2,813 1 $ 10,559 $ 29,702,959 DreamWorks
2 X-Men 23,468,649 54,471,475 -56.9 3,112 2 7,541 99,318,708 Fox
3 Pokémon 2000 19,575,608 2,752 1 7,113 19,575,608 Warner Bros.
4 Scary Movie 15,124,155 26,195,912 -42.3 3,301 3 4,582 116,434,693 Miramax
5 The Perfect Storm 9,680,952 17,130,295 -43.5 3,203 4 3,022 145,354,506 Warner Bros.
6 The Kid 6,688,762 10,471,323 -36.1 2,343 3 2,855 42,332,951 Buena Vista
7 The Patriot 6,240,288 10,612,898 -41.2 2,751 4 2,268 93,401,602 Sony
8 Loser 6,008,611 2,016 1 2,980 6,008,611 Sony
9 Chicken Run 4,602,125 7,914,302 -41.9 2,577 5 1,786 85,989,121 DreamWorks
10 Me, Myself, and Irene 3,022,477 5,702,657 -47.0 2,450 5 1,234 82,999,855 Fox
11 Big Momma's House 1,703,228 2,831,239 -39.8 1,193 8 1,428 111,318,345 Fox
12 The In Crowd 1,505,551 1,357 1 1,109 2,702,660 Warner Bros.
13 Mission: Impossible 2 1,273,633 2,311,647 -44.9 1,025 9 1,243 209,901,228 Paramount
14 Gone in 60 Seconds 1,171,720 2,543,766 -53.9 1,042 7 1,124 93,577,259 Buena Vista
15 Shaft 1,058,252 2,386,057 -55.6 1,225 6 864 67,949,999 Paramount
16 Gladiator 1,052,014 1,571,917 -33.1 747 12 1,408 178,496,604 DreamWorks
17 The Adv. of Rocky and Bullwinkle 673,130 2,281,455 -70.5 1,202 4 560 22,427,505 Universal
18 Michael Jordan to the MAX 374,822 403,334 -7.1 56 12 6,693 8,199,216 Giant Screen
19 Sunshine 362,784 467,045 -22.3 147 7 2,468 2,802,886 Par. Classics
20 Croupier 248,891 314,811 -20.9 114 14 2,183 3,280,681 Shoot. Gallery
Top 5 $ 97,552,323 $ 118,881,903 -17.9
Top 10 124,114,586 140,259,924 -11.5
Top 20 133,538,611 148,795,686 -10.3
Top 20 vs. 1999 133,538,611 129,731,973 2.9

Last Updated : July 24 at 9:45PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya