Weekend Box Office (July 31 - August 2, 1998)

THIS WEEKEND A broad range of new films marched into the multiplexes over the weekend but none were able to defeat General Spielberg's mighty troops. Saving Private Ryan easily defended its turf atop the box office charts by collecting $23.6M in its second campaign, according to final results. The Tom Hanks starrer dipped just 23% and raised its cumulative total to an explosive $73.4M in only ten days of warfare. Already a winner of critical success, Ryan is well on its way to capturing commercial success as well. Its ten-day launch is already bigger than some other recent $30M+ opening films. The Truman Show posted three-day and ten-day totals of $31.5M/$64.5M, Lethal Weapon 4 was at $34M/$71.7M, and last year's Liar, Liar laughed up $31.4M/$71M.

For the new studio DreamWorks, Saving Private Ryan has become its all-time highest domestic grosser in just nine days beating the $61.8M sum of Mouse Hunt. Also, Ryan has already outdistanced the $44.2M of Spielberg's last film Amistad. The World War II epic drama about the plight to save a soldier whose brothers have all died in combat is the first motion picture since The Truman Show to repeat at number one. With a reported budget of $65M, expect Private Ryan to continue to perform well as movie fans spread positive word-of-mouth allowing a durable and profitable box office run.

Opening in second place was the Disney family film The Parent Trap which took in a devious $11.1M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Add in a strong $5.1M in midweek grosses since its Wednesday opening, and the charming remake of the 1961 Disney classic has grossed an impressive $16.2M over its five-day debut. Landing in 2,247 locations, The Parent Trap averaged a solid $4,962 per theater. Compared to last summer's Disney remake George of the Jungle, which also opened on a Wednesday in July, The Parent Trap performed 20% less in its midweek gross and 33% less in its weekend gross. Jungle, however, did not have as nearly a competitive frame during its launch as Trap. Starring Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson, and newcomer Lindsay Lohan, The Parent Trap had a strong start and should benefit from great reviews to become a favorite with family audiences over the weeks ahead.

Inching up a notch in its third weekend, There's Something About Mary just kept on going as it earned another $10.9M. The Fox comedy slipped a scant 13% raising its gross-out gross to an incredible $60.1M in 19 days of release. A positive buzz, stellar reviews, and the lack of good adult comedies in the marketplace has allowed Mary to become the breakout performer of the summer. The $100 million club is preparing the red carpet for Cameron Diaz and company as the Farrelly Brothers hit should enter the blockbuster circle by the end of this month.

Debuting in fourth was the dynamite acting duo of Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey with their hostage thriller The Negotiator. The Warner Bros. pic grossed $10.2M in 2,436 sites for a decent $4,195 average. Since its Wednesday opening, The Negotiator has pulled in $13.1M. The debut performance was not soft, but it lacked the firepower of an action hit and will need to utilize its starpower to pull in more ticket buyers in the coming weeks. Its 29% uptick on Saturday from Friday is a good sign that The Negotiator will arbitrate more sales in the weeks ahead.

Rounding out the top five, freshman Ever After walked away with $8.5M. Starring Drew Barrymore in a retelling of the Cinderella story, Ever After was unleashed in 1,767 cinemas (the lowest theatercount in the top ten) and earned an average $4,826 per site. Aimed primarily at young females, Ever After started with a strong Friday but slipped a bit on Saturday signalling the clock will be striking midnight very soon for this princess. The Fox drama was hoping to score with the same audience that led the 1996 hit Romeo and Juliet to an $11.1M opening and a $46.4M total gross. Look for a quick theatrical run for Ever After as it collects a decent, but not charming domestic cume.

Elsewhere in the top ten, Lethal Weapon 4 crossed the $100M mark on Thursday, its 21st day of release, becoming the seventh title of the summer season to reach that milestone. For Mel Gibson, it became his sixth such blockbuster after Weapons 2 and 3, Maverick, Pocahontas, and Ransom. And for Warner Bros., Lethal Weapon 4 has become its highest-grossing domestic film since Twister from over two years ago.

The weekend's other new contender, BASEketball from Universal, fouled out with a wimpy $3.1M. Directed by David Zucker (Airplane!, The Naked Gun), the slapstick comedy stars Trey Parker and Matt Stone - the creators of the popular animated series South Park. Proving that a hit in one medium does not translate into success in others, BASEketball targeted young males looking for crude toilet humor, but instead was flushed out by poor reviews and intense competition. Its final gross may reach $7-9M. BASEketball joins two other male-oriented comedy flops from this summer - May's Almost Heroes ($2.8M debut) and June's Dirty Work ($3.6M opening). For Universal, it was just another addition to a long list of disappointing films.

Sophomores fell hard over the weekend. Buena Vista's comedy Mafia! dropped 44% to push its ten-day total to $13.8M. MGM's teen suspense thriller Disturbing Behavior plunged an alarming 58% and has scared up just $13.2M in its first ten days with movie fans.

Bowing in limited release, the Minnie Driver film The Governess collected about $57,799 in six locations. That gave the Sony Pictures Classics release a promising average of $9,633 per theater. Miramax launched Full Tilt Boogie in six sites as well but attracted just $9,895 in ticket sales giving it a poor debut average of $1,649. Darren Aronofsky's mathematical thriller Pi continued to expand in its fourth weekend as it calculated $250,310 in 25 sites for a $10,012 average and boosted its cume to an impressive $601,702. Pi could reach the seventh digit next weekend.

Box office sales were red hot during the month of July as ticket receipts totaled a scorching $812.8M, according to Variety, which was up 6% from last year. Admissions reached about 170.4 million stubs which was off 1% from last year's figure. The month's record is still held by July 1994 when The Lion King, Forrest Gump, and True Lies were packing in moviegoers. This year, both Armageddon and Lethal Weapon 4 grossed over $100M within the month of July. The period was filled with many successful new pics as well as strong holdovers from June. Below are the top five openings of the last three Julys:

Top Five July Openings (1996 - 1998)
# 1996 Releases Opening # 1997 Releases Opening # 1998 Releases Opening
1 Independence Day 50.2 1 Men in Black 51.1 1 Armageddon 36.1
2 Phenomenon 16.2 2 Air Force One 37.1 2 Lethal Weapon 4 34.0
3 A Time to Kill 14.8 3 Contact 20.6 3 Saving Private Ryan 30.6
4 Courage Under Fire 12.5 4 George of the Jungle 16.1 4 The Mask of Zorro 22.5
5 Harriet the Spy 6.6 5 Nothing to Lose 11.6 5 Small Soldiers 14.0

Compared to my projections, Saving Private Ryan came in very close to my $24M forecast. The Parent Trap was a notch shy of my $12M prediction. The Negotiator did not reach my $13M projection while Ever After did better than my forecast of $6M. Meanwhile, BASEketball got burned and was not close to my $7M prediction. There's Something About Mary took in a little more than my $10M projection.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which features a report on the top August openings of the decade. And don't forget to voice your opinion in this week's NEW Reader Survey on Saving Private Ryan. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of four summer films they would want to see a sequel to. Of 4,807 responses, 31.6% voted for The Mask of Zorro, 29.7% for Lethal Weapon 4, 28.7% for Godzilla, and 10% for Doctor Dolittle. For a review of The Negotiator visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films grossed $96.4M which was up 2% from last year when Air Force One claimed the number one spot with $25.7M, and up a healthy 54% from 1996 when A Time To Kill remained on top with $13.3M. Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for the coming weekend which will see Halloween: H20 battle Snake Eyes.

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

# Title Jul 31 - Aug 2 July 24 - 26 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Saving Private Ryan $ 23,601,801 $ 30,576,104 -22.8 2,540 2 $ 9,292 $ 73,362,161 DreamWorks
2 The Parent Trap 11,148,497 2,247 1 4,962 16,212,233 BV
3 There's Something About Mary 10,910,994 12,540,472 -13.0 2,145 3 5,087 60,050,268 Fox
4 The Negotiator 10,218,831 2,436 1 4,195 13,101,455 WB
5 Ever After 8,526,904 1,767 1 4,826 8,526,904 Fox
6 The Mask of Zorro 8,320,932 13,414,229 -38.0 2,515 3 3,309 61,953,317 Sony
7 Lethal Weapon 4 7,789,156 13,143,811 -40.7 2,602 4 2,994 107,901,821 WB
8 Armageddon 7,561,217 11,159,371 -32.2 2,491 5 3,035 163,139,999 BV
9 Doctor Dolittle 4,587,632 7,297,205 -37.1 2,184 6 2,101 126,125,563 Fox
10 Mafia! 3,695,777 6,577,961 -43.8 1,944 2 1,901 13,770,804 BV
11 BASEketball 3,086,105 1,905 1 1,620 3,086,105 Universal
12 Disturbing Behavior 2,966,617 7,070,714 -58.0 1,842 2 1,611 13,229,932 MGM/UA
13 Small Soldiers 2,838,688 5,317,546 -46.6 1,701 4 1,669 46,204,269 DreamWorks
14 Mulan 1,581,005 3,516,744 -55.0 1,158 7 1,365 111,506,109 BV
15 Titanic 1,168,551 1,476,279 -20.8 769 33 1,520 595,467,018 Paramount
16 Madeline 1,008,408 2,736,110 -63.1 1,175 4 858 24,510,096 Sony
17 Everest (IMAX) 954,563 1,010,823 -5.6 63 22 15,152 32,219,098 Freeman
18 Smoke Signals 423,951 377,842 12.2 143 6 2,965 2,399,276 Miramax
19 The X Files 414,534 999,967 -58.5 467 7 888 81,202,632 Fox
20 The Horse Whisperer 394,264 348,201 13.2 418 12 943 72,842,570 BV
Top 5 $ 64,407,027 $ 80,833,987 -20.3
Top 10 96,361,741 110,614,157 -12.9
Top 20 111,198,427 121,050,631 -8.1

    This column is updated three times each week : Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Source : EDI, Exhibitor Relations. Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.

Last Updated : August 4, 1998 at 2:00AM EDTHome

Written by Gitesh Pandya