Weekend Box Office (August 3 - 5, 2001)

THIS WEEKEND New Line Cinema enjoyed a record-breaking opening for the action-comedy Rush Hour 2 which drove the box office to the biggest non-holiday weekend in history. Disney also scored a solid debut for its family comedy The Princess Diaries, however MGM's thriller Original Sin was mostly ignored by moviegoers in its opening frame.

The reteaming of Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan proved to be a lethal weapon for New Line which generated its largest opening ever with Rush Hour 2 which grossed a colossal $67.4M, according to final studio figures, over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Speeding into 3,118 theaters, the PG-13 film averaged a scorching $21,619 per site. Rush Hour 2's mammoth launch marks the largest August opening ever demolishing the old record of $26.7M set this weekend in 1999 by The Sixth Sense. The Brett Ratner-helmed picture also stands as the fourth biggest opening weekend in history behind The Lost World ($72.1M), Planet of the Apes ($68.5M), and The Mummy Returns ($68.1M).

Making a sequel to 1998's smash hit Rush Hour was a no-brainer for New Line which immediately saw franchise potential. That film still holds the September opening weekend record with a $33M debut and went on to gross $141.2M domestically and over $245M worldwide. The sequel brought back both stars and the director whose combined upfront salary requirements accounted for $40M of the film's estimated $90M negative cost. The distributor released Rush Hour 2 in about 4,500 total prints.

Remarking on the film's incredible appeal to moviegoers, New Line's president of distribution David Tuckerman said "The chemistry between Chan and Tucker is spectacular and Brett Ratner gave the people what they wanted to see." Exit polls were very strong as CinemaScore audiences gave the movie an A grade with those under 21 giving the action-comedy an A+. Tuckerman expects Rush Hour 2 to hold up better than other recent summer event films which have opened well but then faded fast.

With the gigantic debut of Rush Hour 2 following last weekend's Planet of the Apes and the previous frame's Jurassic Park III, the marketplace delivered three consecutive $50M+ openings for the first time ever. The trio helped push overall ticket sales to towering heights as the top ten films grossed a jaw-dropping $160M making it the second largest weekend in history after last Thanksgiving's holiday frame. In addition, three films grossed over $20M each this weekend for the first time since Thanksgiving 1999. This Friday will see the opening of Universal's comedy sequel American Pie 2 which hopes to keep the current late-summer box office boom going. It will be joined by fellow freshmen The Others, Osmosis Jones, and the reissue of Spy Kids.

Last weekend's box office ruler, Fox's Planet of the Apes, tumbled down 60% in its second frame but still took in a hefty $27.5M. After ten days of release, the Tim Burton-directed film has grossed $123.7M and crossed the $100M mark in only its eighth day of release. A large drop was expected by most industry watchers as the heavily-hyped sci-fi film came off of a record-breaking opening and faced stiff competition from Rush Hour 2. Generating the largest ten-day gross of the year, Planet of the Apes looks to find its way to $190-200M in North America.

Making a sparkling debut in third place was Disney's comedy The Princess Diaries which grossed $22.9M. Opening in 2,537 locations, the G-rated film averaged a terrific $9,012 per theater. The Garry Marshall-directed picture stars Anne Hathaway as an American teenager who is given a crash course in elegance by her grandmother, played by Julie Andrews, to become the princess of a distant kingdom. With so many macho action films in the summer marketplace, Disney aimed for young girls and hit gold. Roughly 65% of those in attendance were female. The Princess Diaries also scored an impressive A grade with moviegoers polled by CinemaScore and hopes to have staying power through the rest of the season.

The dinosaurs of Universal's Jurassic Park III fell back 46% to fourth place with $12.3M. With $147M gobbled up in 19 days, the adventure sequel looks to reach $170-180M.

Julia Roberts and friends slipped to fifth place with America's Sweethearts which took in $8M in its third weekend. Dropping 48%, the Sony release has grossed $74.7M thus far and is headed for a $95-100M final.

MGM's much-delayed thriller Original Sin debuted in sixth place with a disappointing $6.4M. Starring Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie, the R-rated period picture played in 2,194 theaters and averaged a mild $2,918 per venue. Although the stars scored career-best grosses earlier this year with Spy Kids and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, respectively, their presence did little to stir up excitement for Original Sin. The romantic drama scored a weak C+ with audiences polled by CinemaScore.

The studio's hit comedy Legally Blonde slipped 35% to $5.9M in its fourth weekend lifting its total to an impressive $71.4M. The heist thriller The Score dipped 31% to eighth place with $4.9M giving the Paramount action picture $57.2M to date.

In ninth place was Fox's Dr. Dolittle 2 with $2.3M and a $106.2M total. Warner Bros. collected $2.2M for its family film Cats and Dogs, off 52%, and saw its cume rise to $86.7M.

Debuting in two cinemas was Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now Redux which grossed a hefty $96,992 for a potent $48,496 average. Two films continued to perform well in limited release. Artisan added a dozen runs to its comedy Made which dipped just 9% to $600,098 from 117 theaters for a $5,129 average. MGM's Ghost World expanded into seven new markets this weekend and grossed $342,576 from 23 sites for a solid $14,895 average. Totals to date are $2.3M and $739,623 respectively.

Leaving the top ten over the weekend was the sleeper hit of the summer, The Fast and the Furious, which took in $2.1M in its seventh frame pushing its total to a superb $137M. Budgeted at just $38M, the Universal blockbuster surprised everyone and should end with $141-143M.

Miramax's comedy sequel Scary Movie 2 dropped 57% in its fifth weekend to $1.2M pushing its cume to $70M. Budgeted at $45M, the Wayans brothers film should conclude with about $72M, or less than half of the original's $157M gross. The blockbuster hit Shrek from DreamWorks reached $257.9M and looks to inch past $260M in its current release. The studio has left open the idea of reissuing the animated comedy later in the year just as Disney did with The Lion King in 1994. Shrek currently sits at number 15 on the all-time domestic blockbusters list.

Compared to projections, Rush Hour 2 surged ahead of my $45M forecast. The Princess Diaries opened much stronger than my $13M prediction while Original Sin came in a little below my $8M projection.

The top ten films grossed a staggering $159.7M which was up 40% from last year when Hollow Man opened in the top spot with $26.4M; and up 20% from 1999 when The Sixth Sense debuted at number one with $26.7M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Jackie Chan and Jet Li. In last week's survey, readers were asked who should host next year's Academy Awards. Of 1,528 responses, 32% picked Steve Martin, 26% selected David Letterman, 25% chose Robin Williams, 9% said Whoopi Goldberg, and 8% went with Jay Leno.

Read the Weekly Rewind column which looks at second weekend declines for this summer's releases. For a review of Rush Hour 2 visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend.

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

# Title Aug 3 - 5 July 27 - 29 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Rush Hour 2 $ 67,408,222 3,118 1 $ 21,619 $ 67,408,222 New Line
2 Planet of the Apes 27,535,697 68,532,960 -59.8 3,530 2 7,800 123,740,974 Fox
3 The Princess Diaries 22,862,269 2,537 1 9,012 22,862,269 Buena Vista
4 Jurassic Park III 12,272,810 22,542,645 -45.6 3,462 3 3,545 147,019,015 Universal
5 America's Sweethearts 8,038,495 15,402,622 -47.8 3,011 3 2,670 74,690,047 Sony
6 Original Sin 6,402,741 2,194 1 2,918 6,402,741 MGM
7 Legally Blonde 5,851,309 9,005,364 -35.0 2,536 4 2,307 71,358,267 MGM
8 The Score 4,863,222 7,053,201 -31.0 2,211 4 2,200 57,165,414 Paramount
9 Dr. Dolittle 2 2,272,622 4,633,601 -51.0 1,681 7 1,352 106,169,525 Fox
10 Cats and Dogs 2,211,445 4,617,236 -52.1 2,122 5 1,042 86,707,368 Warner Bros.
11 The Fast and the Furious 2,130,305 4,090,275 -47.9 1,620 7 1,315 136,973,655 Universal
12 Scary Movie 2 1,182,865 2,717,900 -56.5 1,312 5 902 69,950,310 Miramax
13 Shrek 1,072,915 1,792,718 -40.2 1,010 12 1,062 257,919,287 DreamWorks
14 Kiss of the Dragon 714,221 1,768,153 -59.6 597 5 1,196 34,705,149 Fox
15 Made 600,098 662,221 -9.4 117 4 5,129 2,299,322 Artisan
16 Lara Croft: Tomb Raider 522,794 1,009,525 -48.2 690 8 758 129,512,407 Paramount
17 Atlantis: The Lost Empire 441,726 863,892 -48.9 501 9 882 80,521,668 Buena Vista
18 Pearl Harbor 434,965 826,872 -47.4 462 11 941 194,582,166 Buena Vista
19 The Closet 411,060 391,385 5.0 128 6 3,211 3,352,581 Miramax
20 Ghost World 342,576 133,003 157.6 23 3 14,895 739,623 MGM
Top 5 $ 138,117,493 $ 122,536,792 12.7
Top 10 159,718,832 140,388,522 13.8
Top 20 167,572,357 149,483,669 12.1
Top 20 vs. 2000 167,572,357 123,625,244 35.5

Last Updated : August 7, 2001 at 3:00AM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya