Weekend Box Office (August 7 - 9, 1998)

THIS WEEKEND Earning its third box office medal of honor, Saving Private Ryan battled intense competition from new enemies to defend its position at number one with $17.4M over the Friday-to-Sunday period according to final studio figures. The Steven Spielberg war drama is proving to be a consistent performer at theaters everywhere as it slid just 26% in its third frame. Vaulting its cume to $103.8M, Saving Private Ryan became the tenth $100M+ domestic grosser for Spielberg and seventh for star Tom Hanks, passing the magical milestone on Sunday, its 17th day of release. After nearly four years since Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen announced plans to start a new studio, DreamWorks finally has its first $100M hit with its sixth release. Although Deep Impact has grossed $138M, DreamWorks only handles overseas distribution while Paramount is credited with its domestic performance.

Saving Private Ryan is proving to be a crowd favorite in the late summer marketplace with moviegoers looking for less special effects and more story in a film. Bolstered by universally positive reviews and strong word-of-mouth, the potential Oscar contender has become the first film since Titanic to spend three consecutive weekends at number one. Repeat business is also starting to help the film amass a large war chest. If Ryan depreciates at 27% per full week, it will reach $203M before hitting second run theaters.

With a lucky roll of the dice, Paramount's crime thriller Snake Eyes opened impressively in second place with $16.3M. The Brian De Palma-directed suspense pic opened in 2,713 casinos and averaged an energetic $6,012 per crap table. Debuting in so many locations, Snake Eyes became the second-widest August opener ever after last year's Conspiracy Theory which arrived in 2,803 venues. Starring Nicolas Cage and Gary Sinise, Snake Eyes is a murder mystery that takes place during a boxing match at an Atlantic City casino. The film took a bite out of the ear of the competition and bested the $15.4M debut of Cage's last film City of Angels.

During its opening weekend, Snake Eyes performed just like two other action film with big male stars from this summer. In June, Michael Douglas' A Perfect Murder opened with $16.6M followed a week later by Harrison Ford's Six Days, Seven Nights which launched with $16.5M. Nearing the ends of their runs, the two pictures have grossed $67M and $71M respectively. Snake Eyes should approach the same vicinity. Like Cage's last action film Face/Off, Buena Vista International will distribute the film overseas with European and Australian dates coming in the fall.

Michael Myers leapt back onto the big screen with knife in hand as Halloween: H20 debuted in a close third place with $16.2M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Opening in a horrific 2,607 morgues, the Miramax sequel scared up a spooky $6,209 per site. Since its midweek opening on Wednesday, the killer chiller has collected a sizable $24.8M over five days. Jamie Lee Curtis, who starred in the first two Halloween flicks, reprised her role and brought the franchise back to life. H20, which marks the twentieth anniversary of the release of the original slasher pic, gave Miramax its second biggest opening weekend gross ever behind another Dimension Films horror sequel, Scream 2, which exploded with $32.9M in its first weekend last December. The table below follows the box office killing spree of Michael Myers over the last two decades:

Title Gross ($M) Year
Halloween 47.0 1978
Halloween II 25.6 1981
Halloween III : Season of the Witch 13.0 1983
Halloween : The Return of Michael Myers 17.8 1988
Halloween : The Revenge of Michael Myers 11.6 1989
Halloween : The Curse of Michael Myers 15.1 1995

Miramax could have hit theaters in the traditional horror movie month of October, but decided instead it had a profit monster on its hands and moved up to the lucrative summer period when its target audience of teens and young adults are out of school seven days a week. The switch to an August 5th opening caused at least two other films, MGM's Disturbing Behavior and Fox's Ever After, to shift to an earlier date to avoid debuting head-to-head with H20. The $16.2M opening was in line with last fall's surprise slasher hit I Know What You Did Last Summer which collected $15.8M during its first lap. Halloween's three-day and five-day sums were very close to those of another recent highly-anticipated sequel, Alien: Resurrection, which chalked up $16.5M and $25.8M respectively. Last Summer went on to gross $72.2M while Alien only reached $47.8M. With its big buildup and large cult audience, H20 could see hefty depreciations over the coming weeks which is normal for the horror genre. Regardless, with a production budget of about $17M, Miramax has another highly-profitable title on its hands.

Off a slim 12%, There's Something About Mary is still charming ticket buyers nationwide. Earning $9.6M, the raunchy Fox comedy has accumulated a meaty $76.6M thus far and is showing incredible legs. The consistent strength of the Farrelly brothers film brings back memories of 1990 when Pretty Woman and Ghost shocked the industry with their incredible durability. Weekend-to-weekend changes for Pretty Woman were +11%, -10%, and -10% during its first few frames. Ghost conjured up +3%, -12%, and -2% during its first month. By comparison, Mary has seen -9%, -13%, and -12%. Stars Ben Stiller and Matt Dillon are on their way to their first $100M grossing film while Cameron Diaz is looking at her third.

Rounding out the top five was The Parent Trap, from Disney, which was off a respectable 27% and took in $8.1M. After 12 days of release, the family film has grossed a promising $32.4M. Fellow sophomores Ever After and The Negotiator followed. Adding 300 theaters, Ever After saw a petite decline of just 10% pushing its ten-day sum to a charming $22.5M. Once again a movie with strong female appeal is turning into a long-term winner as Ever After could reach $60M. The Negotiator was down 36% and has collected a good $25M in twelve days of release. The Samuel L. Jackson-Kevin Spacey hostage thriller looks to be on its way to $45-55M in domestic loot.

Elsewhere, Armageddon has boosted itself to $172.8M and stands as Buena Vista's second highest-grossing live-action film behind Pretty Woman ($178.4M) and fifth best overall picture for the distributor. Dropping out of the top ten after a six-week house call, Doctor Dolittle became Eddie Murphy's third highest-grossing film ever with $131.6M passing The Nutty Professor ($128.8M) and Coming to America ($128.2M). The Doctor is not likely to reach the levels of the first two Beverly Hills Cop films which grossed $234.8M and $153.7M domestically. And in its 34th weekend of release, Titanic finally sank below the $1 million level and stands at a mighty $597.3M. Look for the ocean romance to hit $600M by the end of the month.

Overall, the summer box office is still scorching with most films doing well. Flops have been few and far between so far this summer. For the eighth consecutive weekend, the top ten films grossed over $90M - a new record beating seven from last summer. And for only the second time this year, three films in the top ten averaged over $6,000 per theater each. A clear result of the multiplex building boom this decade, each picture in the top ten played in over 2,000 theaters.

Compared to my projections, Saving Private Ryan came in a hair below my $17.5M prediction. Snake Eyes was a little stronger than my $15M forecast. Halloween: H20 did not reach my $20M three-day opening projection, but was close to my $25M five-day prediction. Mary and The Parent Trap were both near my forecasts of $9M and $8M.

Think you know everything there is to know about Titanic's historic box office performance? Then take this week's new Survey which features a trivia question on the Oscar-winning epic. In last week's survey, readers were asked if Saving Private Ryan would gross $200M domestically. Of 3,702 responses, 61.9% answered yes while 38.1% said no.

Be sure to read the new Weekly Rewind column which features a report on the top films of director Steven Spielberg. For reviews of Halloween: H20 and Snake Eyes visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films grossed $97.4M which was up 25% from last year when Conspiracy Theory opened at number one with $19.3M, and up a healthy 59% from 1996 when Jack debuted at the top with $11.2M. Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary of next weekend's activity which includes the launch of new films like How Stella Got Her Groove Back and The Avengers.

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

# Title Aug 7 - 9 Jul 31 - Aug 2 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Saving Private Ryan $ 17,398,000 $ 23,601,801 -26.3 2,592 3 $ 6,712 $ 103,770,977 DreamWorks
2 Snake Eyes 16,310,373 2,713 1 6,012 16,310,373 Paramount
3 Halloween : H20 16,187,724 2,607 1 6,209 24,753,129 Miramax
4 There's Something About Mary 9,626,022 10,910,994 -11.8 2,109 4 4,564 76,635,083 Fox
5 The Parent Trap 8,127,121 11,148,497 -27.1 2,402 2 3,383 32,350,541 BV
6 Ever After 7,694,677 8,526,904 -9.8 2,067 2 3,723 22,522,179 Fox
7 The Negotiator 6,503,833 10,218,831 -36.4 2,436 2 2,670 24,968,778 WB
8 The Mask of Zorro 5,508,627 8,320,932 -33.8 2,436 4 2,261 71,641,665 Sony
9 Armageddon 5,318,807 7,561,217 -29.7 2,123 6 2,505 172,771,899 BV
10 Lethal Weapon 4 4,739,997 7,789,156 -39.1 2,329 5 2,035 116,240,150 WB
11 Doctor Dolittle 3,053,717 4,587,632 -33.4 1,821 7 1,677 131,586,778 Fox
12 Small Soldiers 1,551,000 2,838,688 -45.4 1,249 5 1,242 49,380,902 DreamWorks
13 Mafia! 1,391,056 3,695,777 -62.4 1,374 3 1,012 17,207,743 BV
14 Mulan 1,040,389 1,581,005 -34.2 915 8 1,137 113,606,414 BV
15 BASEketball 1,021,860 3,086,105 -66.9 1,910 2 535 5,746,365 Universal
16 Everest (IMAX) 965,467 954,563 1.1 63 23 15,325 34,132,807 Freeman
17 Titanic 965,212 1,168,551 -17.4 681 34 1,417 597,285,686 Paramount
18 Disturbing Behavior 872,469 2,966,617 -70.6 1,217 3 717 15,702,490 MGM/UA
19 Madeline 677,685 1,008,408 -32.8 800 5 847 26,085,742 Sony
20 Deep Impact 583,063 33,292 1651.4 634 14 920 138,949,740 Paramount
Top 5 $ 67,649,240 $ 64,407,027 5.0
Top 10 97,415,181 96,361,741 1.1
Top 20 109,563,243 111,198,427 -1.5

    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 10, 1998 at 8:45PM EDTHome

Written by Gitesh Pandya