Weekend Box Office (August 16 - 18, 2002)

THIS WEEKEND Surfer girls and Eddie Murphy couldn't keep audiences away from Vin Diesel's action flick XXX which remained at the top of the box office for the second straight weekend. Among new releases, Blue Crush opened well sailing into third place while The Adventures of Pluto Nash crashlanded in tenth giving Murphy the biggest bomb of his career. With no huge openings to compete with, the rest of the holdovers in the marketplace remained strong.

Sony's franchise-launching spy pic XXX grossed $22.1M from 3,388 theaters for a solid $6,526 average in its second weekend in pole position, according to final studio figures. Off an understandable 50%, the PG-13 film has taken in $84M in ten days and seems headed for $140-150M making it bigger than any of the James Bond adventures. Producer Revolution Studios and Sony have already given the greenlight to a sequel to the $85M-budgeted action pic with a Summer 2004 release date slated.

In addition to basking in the glow of its sixth number-one film of the year, Sony Pictures Entertainment also broke the all-time box office record for annual domestic grosses by climbing to $1.29 billion in ticket sales for the year. The previous record of $1.27 billion was achieved, interestingly enough, by Sony in 1997 with the help of such blockbusters as Men in Black ($250.1M), Air Force One ($172.7M), and My Best Friend's Wedding ($126.8M). This year, the studio's success has been anchored by the megablockbuster Spider-Man which has spun a towering $403.7M domestically. Other hits for Sony have included Men in Black II ($188.5M), Mr. Deeds ($123.7M), Black Hawk Down ($108.6M), and of course XXX. The humongous grosses have not come without a price, though, as some of its offerings carry budgets north of $100M each.

M. Night Shyamalan's alien crop circle thriller Signs dipped only 34% in its third weekend holding onto the runnerup spot with $19.4M. Mel Gibson's suspense hit has collected a massive $150.5M in only 17 days and should be able to break the $200M mark. Signs has already become the second highest-grossing film for Gibson after 2000's comedy What Women Want which grossed $182.8M.

Universal courted teenage girls with the new surf pic Blue Crush and rode the waves into third place with $14.2M. The PG-13 film about a young woman in Hawaii who competes in the male-dominated world of surfing competitions averaged a decent $4,720 from an ultrawide launch in 3,002 theaters. The opening was on the lower end of expectations going into the weekend as the studio itself was hoping for a bow similar to the $17.4M debut of its teen girl-skewing August film Bring It On from 2000. That cheerleader picture opened stronger despite playing in 600 fewer theaters. Still, Blue Crush, with its $25M budget, should become a profitable hit when all ancillary revenues are tallied up. Audiences polled by CinemaScore.com gave the PG-13 entry an okay B grade.

Miramax's family adventure Spy Kids 2 dropped only 31% in its second weekend grossing $11.5M for fourth place. The $38M kidpic has collected a solid $45.6M in 12 days and should find its way to about $80M. The first Spy Kids grossed $112.7M last year. Austin Powers in Goldmember followed in fifth with $8.7M falling 33%. New Line's comedy blockbuster has upped its cume to $183.9M with the double-century mark on the horizon.

IFC Films mounted a major expansion for its hit comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding adding 337 theaters and grossed $5.7M in its 18th amazing weekend of release. The indie sensation climbed to its highest chart position yet and averaged a solid $5,377 per venue. Wedding now looks headed for at least $75M in domestic sales - an unbelievable amount for a $5M production - and continues to show no signs of fatigue.

Clint Eastwood's Blood Work eased 34% in its second weekend and collected $4.8M. The Warner Bros. release has banked just $15.3M in ten days and seems headed for a $30M final. DreamWorks' Tom Hanks starrer Road to Perdition enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten dipping only 10% to $3.8M pushing its total to $90.3M. The Dana Carvey comedy The Master of Disguise took in $3.2M, off 38%, and lifted its sum to $30.3M.

Eddie Murphy stumbled into tenth place with the much-delayed sci-fi comedy The Adventures of Pluto Nash which opened to a puny $2.2M. Warner Bros. launched the PG-13 film in 2,320 theaters and averaged a pitiful $941 per location. With a reported $90M production cost, the effects-heavy pic seemed destined for failure as the studio did not offer advance screenings for critics and Murphy refused to promote it. Audiences were not impressed with Pluto Nash as those polled by CinemaScore.com gave the comedy a disappointing C- grade.

With the summer season rapidly coming to an end, there was plenty of activity in the limited-release world this weekend. Gwenyth Paltrow's romantic drama Possession opened in 270 theaters collecting $1.6M. Directed by Neil LaBute, the Focus Features title averaged $5,834 per location and expands over Labor Day weekend.

After last weekend's sparkling debut, Fox Searchlight's The Good Girl entered the rest of the top twenty markets and grossed $840,660 from 60 locations. Averaging a splendid $14,011 per theater, the Jennifer Aniston drama has taken in $1.2M in 12 days. Girl will expand to about 175 theaters on Friday and widen to roughly 500 sites nationwide over the Labor Day frame.

Paramount Classics served up a feast for its German chef pic Mostly Martha which took in $40,446 from only two Manhattan arthouses. The PG-rated film expands into the top ten markets this Friday.

A pair of films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Sony's family sequel Stuart Little 2 grossed $1.9M in its fifth frame, down 27%, putting its cume at $57.1M. The $120M kidpic should end its run with about $60-65M, or less than half of the $140M that its predecessor took in. Paramount's concert comedy Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat tumbled 47% to $1.7M in its third lap. The low-budget film has laughed up $16M and seems headed for a $20M final.

The top ten films grossed $95.5M which was down 3% from last year when American Pie 2 remained at number one with $21.1M; but up 20% from 2000 when The Cell debuted in the top spot with $17.5M.

Compared to projections, Blue Crush opened below my $21M forecast while Pluto Nash debuted well below my $10M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on your favorite Austin Powers babe. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of this weekend's new releases would have the bigger opening. Of 2,978 responses, 61% correctly picked Blue Crush while 39% chose The Adventures of Pluto Nash.

For a review of XXX visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Serving Sara, S1mone, and Undisputed all open.

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Last Updated : August 19, 2002 at 8:15PM EDT