Weekend Box Office (August 2 - 4, 2002)

*** Check the NEW U.K. Box Office Chart ***

THIS WEEKEND Mel Gibson enjoyed the biggest opening of his career with M. Night Shyamalan's suspense thriller Signs which pushed aside Austin Powers in Goldmember to claim the number one spot at the North American box office. Dana Carvey and Martin Lawrence scored respectable debuts for their new comedies The Master of Disguise and Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat which played to two very different audiences. On the independent scene, Steven Soderbergh's latest film Full Frontal sagged in its limited-release bow while the hit comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding was robust and continued to glow in its sixteenth week.

Summer moviegoers were in for a scare this weekend and powered Signs to the top of the box office with a towering $60.1M over the Friday-to-Sunday period, according to final studio figures, setting a number of milestones in the process. Playing in 3,264 theaters, the $70M Buena Vista release averaged a scorching $18,418 per location. The PG-13 thriller about the mysteries behind alien crop circles gave Gibson the largest debut of his career surging past the $34.2M bow of 1996's Ransom. Signs also gave Disney its biggest opening ever for a live-action film inching past last year's Pearl Harbor which debuted with $59.1M over the three-day portion of its Memorial Day weekend holiday opening.

"Signs played to a very broad audience and did especially well with couples," remarked Buena Vista distribution executive Manuel "Rod" Rodriguez. Studio exit polls found that 53% of the audience was male while a very high 93% described the film as "excellent" or "very good." Ticket buyers polled by CinemaScore.com gave the picture a decent B grade. The bankable starpower of Gibson, the growing fan base of writer/director Shyamalan, an extensive marketing campaign, and the lack of any similar films this summer all contributed to the stellar opening turnout for the suspense pic. Signs opened with a potent $20.9M on Friday, rose a slight 4% to $21.7M on Saturday, and dropped 19% on Sunday to $17.5M.

Shyamalan, hailed by Newsweek as "the next Spielberg," easily witnessed the best opening of his five-film career. His last picture, 2000's Unbreakable, opened with $30.3M on its way to $95M while 1999's sleeper smash The Sixth Sense debuted to $26.7M and scared its way to an incredible $293.5M. Born in India, but raised in Pennsylvania, the filmmaker also delivered the best opening weekend ever for a minority director edging out the $57.8M bow of John Woo's hit sequel Mission: Impossible 2. Overall, Signs posted the eleventh largest opening weekend ever, the fifth best among non-sequels, and the second largest in the month of August after Rush Hour 2 which premiered this weekend a year ago with $67.4M.

For Disney, the arrival of Signs could not have come at a better time as until this weekend, the company was the only major studio without a number-one hit this year. The Mouse House has even seen its stock price drop to a near-eight-year low on Friday closing at $15.31. However on the strength of Signs, the studio rose two spots to third place in year-to-date marketshare this weekend passing both Warner Bros. and Universal and has collected an estimated $641M so far this year.

Long-term prospects could be promising for Signs as next weekend's actioner XXX is the only summer movie left this season expected to generate a powerful opening. The Sixth Sense displayed tremendous legs at the box office when it opened during the first weekend of August in 1999 topping the charts for five consecutive weeks while Unbreakable suffered large declines after its strong Thanksgiving weekend launch.

Austin Powers in Goldmember tumbled 57% from its record opening but still managed to collect an impressive $31.1M in tickets. The New Line blockbuster smashed through the $100M mark in a mere six days and has taken in $141.7M in only ten days. Mini-Me and friends averaged a strong $8,613 per theater in 3,613 locations and looks headed for a final domestic tally of $210-230M.

Comedian Dana Carvey returned to theaters with his first starring role in over seven years with the kid-friendly laugher The Master of Disguise which debuted with $12.6M this weekend. Playing in 2,565 locations, the PG-rated film about a man who uses his impersonating skills to save his family averaged a solid $4,895 per site. The $16M film was produced by Revolution Studios and released by distribution partner Sony. Disguise did not impress critics and earned a not-so-encouraging B- grade with moviegoers polled by CinemaScore.com.

Consumers looking for more raunchy humor got it from Paramount's Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat which opened in only 752 theaters but grossed $7.4M for a fantastic $9,806 average. The R-rated standup comedy concert film generated the second-best average in the top ten, after Signs. Martin Lawrence's low-budget return to standup comedy provided good news for the comedian who last year starred in the back-to-back flops What's the Worst That Could Happen? and Black Knight.

Tom Hanks witnessed a 41% drop for his gangster drama Road to Perdition which fell to fifth place with $6.6M lifting its total to a solid $77.2M. Stuart Little 2 placed sixth with $6.1M in its third weekend pushing the cume for the Sony sequel to $46.9M. The studio's other summer franchise film, Men in Black II, dropped 43% to $4.8M for a sum of $182.1M.

The independent sensation My Big Fat Greek Wedding found itself in ninth place with $3M helped by 88 additional theaters. Released by IFC Films, the comedy's three-day take was unchanged versus last weekend and the cume soared to an amazing $40.2M with more expansion plans still to come.

Earning grosses of $3.1M and $2.9M, respectively, were Disney's The Country Bears and Paramount's K-19: The Widowmaker. The submarine thriller plunged 61% and has collected a disappointing $30.7M while the family comedy dropped 41% and put its ten-day total at $11.8M.

Steven Soderbergh's experimental film Full Frontal opened in 208 theaters in top markets this weekend but grossed only $739,834 for a discouraging $3,557 average. The low-budget Miramax release stars Julia Roberts, Blair Underwood, and David Hyde Pierce and attracted mixed reviews.

Three films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Sony's Adam Sandler comedy Mr. Deeds took in $2.1M, off 50%. The PG-13 pic has grossed a very good $120.9M to date and should finish with about $125M. Fox's $102M sci-fi feature Minority Report fell 45% to $1.7M for a $126.6M cume. Look for the Tom Cruise-Steven Spielberg project to conclude with around $130M. Reign of Fire tumbled another 55% to $1.6M for a cume of $39.8M. The Buena Vista releases looks to end with roughly $42M.

The top ten films grossed $137.7M which was down 14% from last year when Rush Hour 2 opened at number one with $67.4M; but up 21% from 2000 when Hollow Man debuted in the top spot with $26.4M.

Compared to projections, Signs powered past my $42M forecast. The Master of Disguise and Martin Lawrence Live also debuted higher than my respective predictions of $8M and $6M.

Check BoxOfficeGuru.com's NEW feature - the U.K. Box Office Chart.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on how good this summer's films have been. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Signs or XXX will have the bigger opening weekend. Of 4,662 responses, 74% picked Signs while 26% selected XXX.

For a review of Austin Powers in Goldmember visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when XXX, Spy Kids 2, and Blood Work all open.

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

# Title Aug 2 - 4 Jul 26 - 28 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Signs $ 60,117,080 3,264 1 $ 18,418 $ 60,117,080 Buena Vista
2 Austin Powers in Goldmember 31,119,108 73,071,188 -57.4 3,613 2 8,613 141,678,328 New Line
3 The Master of Disguise 12,554,650 2,565 1 4,895 12,554,650 Sony
4 Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat 7,374,049 752 1 9,806 7,374,049 Paramount
5 Road to Perdition 6,600,143 11,106,213 -40.6 2,332 4 2,830 77,153,318 DreamWorks
6 Stuart Little 2 6,111,359 10,612,127 -42.4 3,095 3 1,975 46,867,219 Sony
7 Men in Black II 4,807,311 8,477,202 -43.3 2,902 5 1,657 182,077,620 Sony
8 The Country Bears 3,141,436 5,309,675 -40.8 2,553 2 1,230 11,797,008 Buena Vista
9 My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3,002,241 3,004,597 -0.1 657 16 4,570 40,172,975 IFC Films
10 K-19: The Widowmaker 2,854,111 7,266,631 -60.7 2,634 3 1,084 30,741,870 Paramount
11 Mr. Deeds 2,106,425 4,247,371 -50.4 1,966 6 1,071 120,890,159 Sony
12 Minority Report 1,727,031 3,124,360 -44.7 1,139 7 1,516 126,618,621 Fox
13 The Bourne Identity 1,602,155 2,604,445 -38.5 989 8 1,620 113,138,710 Universal
14 Reign of Fire 1,566,807 3,469,035 -54.8 1,485 4 1,055 39,830,595 Buena Vista
15 Lilo & Stitch 1,358,317 2,733,495 -50.3 1,265 7 1,074 137,263,211 Buena Vista
16 The Crocodile Hunter 1,203,464 1,840,339 -34.6 1,492 4 807 25,588,444 MGM
17 Like Mike 1,138,059 2,390,646 -52.4 960 5 1,185 48,631,620 Fox
18 Halloween: Resurrection 993,169 2,658,167 -62.6 1,260 4 788 29,052,166 Miramax
19 Full Frontal 739,834 208 1 3,557 739,834 Miramax
20 Space Station 705,863 678,094 4.1 61 16 11,572 17,852,522 Imax
Top 5 $ 117,765,030 $ 110,533,361 6.5
Top 10 137,681,488 129,688,399 6.2
Top 20 150,822,612 146,976,646 2.6
Top 20 vs. 2001 150,822,612 167,572,357 -10.0

Last Updated : August 5, 2002 at 6:45PM EDT