Weekend Box Office (August 13 - 15, 1999)

THIS WEEKEND Bruce Willis' latest movie The Sixth Sense became the first film since Star Wars Episode I to hold onto the number one spot at the box office over back-to-back weekends as it displayed incredible staying power in its second weekend with ticket buyers. Meanwhile, Bowfinger debuted strongly in the runnerup spot while two other new films were dead on arrival. The Blair Witch Project crossed the $100M mark as the August box office sustained its torrid pace and is set to establish a new record.

Topping the box office for the second straight weekend and losing almost no momentum, The Sixth Sense starring Bruce Willis collected a terrific $25.8M, according to final studio figures. With an additional 234 playdates, the paranormal thriller eased a microscopic 3.4% from its hefty $26.7M debut last weekend and has collected a ghostly $69.7M in only ten days. The sophomore weekend hold was outstanding for The Sixth Sense as Buena Vista reports that the film is enjoying fantastic word-of-mouth and repeat business. Bruce Willis films never display this kind of stamina at the box office. Much of the credit for its enormous success goes to writer/director M. Night Shyamalan who crafted an eerie tale with clever plot twists that has been giving moviegoers the creeps.

With such an explosive start, The Sixth Sense now looks to cross the $100M mark next weekend and should eventually zoom past the $150M level, surpassing all the Die Hard films to become one of the action star's biggest hits ever. Depending on its continued staying power in the weeks ahead, the thriller might challenge Armageddon's $201.6M to become Willis' largest-grossing picture. Late August usually features the studios dumping their questionable product into the marketplace hoping to soak up whatever summer dollars are left so competition may not be too stiff in the upcoming weeks. On the international front, Bruce Willis is a humongous box office draw so The Sixth Sense is sure to become a megablockbuster in global ticket sales.

So far, the remarkable performance of The Sixth Sense brings back memories of 1993 when Harrison Ford hit it big with The Fugitive. That blockbuster was also a star-driven thriller launched on August 6th that broke the month's opening weekend record and suffered a miniscule sophomore weekend decline. The Fugitive opened with $23.8M in 2,340 theaters and slid just 5.6% to $22.4M in its second weekend commanding $60.1M in ten days. The Warner Bros. hit went on to have incredible legs topping the charts for six consecutive weeks and collected $183.9M overall in domestic ticket sales. Ironically, The Fugitive's reign at number one was ended in September by the action film Striking Distance, starring Bruce Willis.

Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy enjoyed the biggest comedy opening ever in the month of August with Bowfinger which grabbed $18.1M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Stalking movie stars in 2,706 theaters, the Universal release averaged a solid $6,675 per site. Written by Martin, Bowfinger was directed by Frank Oz (In & Out, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) and also starred Austin Powers vixen Heather Graham. The $55M movie about a down-and-out filmmaker (Martin) who secretly films a reluctant action star (Murphy) for his upcoming picture has won rave reviews from critics, including an A from Entertainment Weekly.

Bowfinger's opening fell short of matching the $20.4M debut of Murphy's last comedy, Life, but was much stronger than Martin's last entry, The Out-of-Towners, which also premiered last April, with $8.2M. With the help of a hilarious screenplay, and the starpower of Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin scored the biggest opening of his career with Bowfinger. The comedy's 24% increase in Friday-to-Saturday sales is encouraging for its long-term prospects.

The documentary-style suspense pic The Blair Witch Project became the ninth film this summer, and the eleventh of 1999, to cross the $100M mark as the sleeper smash grossed $14.5M in its third weekend of wide release. The ultralow-budget Artisan release has astounded industry observers since opening in limited release and has now seen its lofty total zoom to $107.3M. Blair Witch, which added another 270 theaters, dropped 40% over the weekend and now stands a chance to reach the $150M level by the end of its domestic run. Bringing a new idea to the big screen has paid off handsomely for the filmmakers and actors who are now being flooded with offers.

Collecting $13.8M in its third weekend of release, Runaway Bride has pushed its 17-day tally to a fantastic $97.9M and should cross the century mark on Tuesday. Julia Roberts and Richard Gere have been charming consumers with their romantic comedy which is set to surpass the gross of Roberts' other summer smash Notting Hill by next week. Budgeted at $70M, Runaway Bride has performed well each week and will become the seventh $100M blockbuster of the pretty woman's career tying Tom Hanks and Robin Williams for the most this decade.

Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo were found in fifth place with The Thomas Crown Affair which slid only 31% to a solid $10.1M in its second weekend. With $31M stolen from ticket buyers thus far, the MGM/UA remake displayed good legs this weekend and could go on to loot $65-75M overall domestically. Despite a collection of other hit films in theaters bringing in strong sales among adult moviegoers, Affair is holding its own very well and should see equally solid business overseas.

Slipping to sixth was Deep Blue Sea with $6.7M (off 41%) putting its overall tally at $57.1M. Inspector Gadget saw a 34% decline and placed seventh with $6M raising its total to an impressive $75.9M.

Universal's Mystery Men is quickly becoming this summer's version of The Avengers falling hard after a $10M August debut. Down 53% in its sophomore frame, the comic book spoof took in $4.7M upping its ten-day total to $19.3M. Starring Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, and William H. Macy, the Mystery Men are as inept at selling tickets as they are at fighting crime. The $60M pic should become the one blemish on an otherwise terrific record this summer for Universal which has hit gold with The Mummy, Notting Hill, American Pie, and Bowfinger. Mystery Men looks to top out at around $35M domestically.

Fox's Claire Danes-starrer Brokedown Palace opened with a disappointing $3.9M landing in ninth place. Carrying a pricetag in the low $20M range, Palace debuted in 1,740 prisons and averaged only $2,225 per theater.

Despite rave reviews, movie fans just aren't going crazy for The Iron Giant. The animated feature from Warner Bros. grossed $3.7M in its sophomore weekend raising its ten-day sum to $12.5M. A larger audience should turn out for its video release, but theatrically the non-Disney toon with no tie-in to a famous story or current kids show is not exciting the marketplace. Off a respectable 35% this weekend, The Iron Giant looks to finish its run with about $25-28M.

Two very different summer films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Jan De Bont's suspense thriller The Haunting collected $3.3M in its fourth scare raising its total thus far to $83.6M. The $80M DreamWorks picture debuted impressively but has suffered rapid erosion ever since and looks to finish its domestic run with about $90M. Costing much less and grossing more, Universal's raunchy sex comedy American Pie took in $2.7M this weekend upping its fantastic cume to $90.6M. With a production cost of just $11M, Pie continues to see low weekly declines and solid midweek sales and looks to conclude its lucrative domestic run in the vicinity of $100M.

New Line's comedy Detroit Rock City attracted little interest from moviegoers as its opening weekend gross was a poor $2M. The poorly-reviewed tale of a group of teens who would do anything to score tickets to see KISS landed in 1,802 venues and averaged a dismal $1,113 per theater making it one of the worst debuts for a wide release this year.

Compared to projections, The Sixth Sense performed better than my $19M forecast while Bowfinger did not reach my $27M prediction. Brokedown Palace debuted close to my $5M projection while Detroit Rock City was weaker than my $6M forecast.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey and predict the biggest opener for next weekend. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether The Blair Witch Project would gross at least $150M domestically. Of 3,544 responses, the voting was almost even with 51% answering yes and 49% saying no.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which lists the highest-grossing films from Twentieth Century Fox this decade. For a review of Bowfinger visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $107.2M which was up 33% from last year when Saving Private Ryan remained at number one with $13.2M, and up 52% from 1997 when Cop Land debuted on top with $13.5M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Mickey Blue Eyes, and Universal Soldier : The Return all debut.

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

# Title Aug. 13 - 15 Aug. 6 - 8 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Sixth Sense $ 25,764,991 $ 26,681,262 -3.4 2,395 2 $ 10,758 $ 69,661,550 Buena Vista
2 Bowfinger 18,062,550 2,706 1 6,675 18,062,550 Universal
3 The Blair Witch Project 14,501,038 24,347,345 -40.4 2,412 5 6,012 107,279,782 Artisan
4 Runaway Bride 13,756,269 20,772,654 -33.8 3,212 3 4,283 97,940,624 Paramount
5 The Thomas Crown Affair 10,071,935 14,600,719 -31.0 2,427 2 4,150 30,968,396 MGM/UA
6 Deep Blue Sea 6,652,140 11,204,559 -40.6 2,710 3 2,455 57,093,827 Warner Bros.
7 Inspector Gadget 6,041,782 9,173,995 -34.1 2,591 4 2,332 75,936,787 Buena Vista
8 Mystery Men 4,712,405 10,017,865 -53.0 2,142 2 2,200 19,322,670 Universal
9 Brokedown Palace 3,871,616 1,740 1 2,225 3,871,616 Fox
10 The Iron Giant 3,747,624 5,732,614 -34.6 2,179 2 1,720 12,548,508 Warner Bros.
11 The Haunting 3,305,136 6,439,877 -48.7 2,239 4 1,476 83,636,589 DreamWorks
12 American Pie 2,660,350 4,146,445 -35.8 1,382 6 1,925 90,618,515 Universal
13 Detroit Rock City 2,005,512 1,802 1 1,113 2,005,512 New Line
14 Star Wars : Episode I 1,518,607 2,223,198 -31.7 771 13 1,970 415,645,312 Fox
15 Austin Powers 2 1,232,856 751,918 64.0 953 10 1,294 201,338,123 New Line
16 Tarzan 1,137,708 1,709,142 -33.4 944 9 1,205 164,071,910 Buena Vista
17 Dick 803,193 2,210,267 -63.7 1,522 2 528 5,538,517 Sony
18 Big Daddy 782,305 1,502,405 -47.9 1,011 8 774 157,701,079 Sony
19 Eyes Wide Shut 601,249 1,601,496 -62.5 732 5 821 53,500,657 Warner Bros.
20 Taal 591,289 44 1 13,438 591,289 Eros
Top 5 $ 82,156,783 $ 97,606,539 -15.8
Top 10 107,182,350 133,117,335 -19.5
Top 20 121,820,555 147,018,351 -17.1

Last Updated : August 16, 1999 at 9:00PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya