Weekend Box Office (August 18 - 20, 2000)

THIS WEEKEND Newcomers The Cell and The Original Kings of Comedy enjoyed robust openings taking over the top two spots and were the only wide releases to generate per-theater averages of more than $3,500. The frame's other new release, Godzilla 2000, debuted outside of the top ten while holdovers saw mixed results. Unlike last year, when The Sixth Sense kept box office sales sizzling, this August is performing much like the month ordinarily does with a gradual slowdown as Labor Day nears and summer comes to an end.

Jennifer Lopez ruled the box office with the sci-fi thriller The Cell which grossed $17.5M, according to final studio figures. Playing in 2,411 theaters, the New Line Cinema release averaged a terrific $7,265 and became the sixth R-rated picture of the summer to premiere atop the charts. In The Cell, Lopez plays a psychotherapist who goes into the mind of a killer in order to save his next victim from a gruesome death. Stunning visual effects and the marquee value of Lopez drew large audiences and the former Fly Girl's numerous press appearances helped build awareness too. Interestingly, The Cell became the first film headlined by a woman to top the box office charts since Julia Roberts' Erin Brockovich in March.

Spike Lee enjoyed a career-best opening with The Original Kings of Comedy and exerted little effort in the director's chair to achieve it. Featuring the uncensored standup comedy of Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac, the Paramount release played in only 847 theaters but pulled in $11.1M at the gate giving it a scorching $13,051 average easily leading all wide releases. In fact, Kings generated a better opening average than other summer heavyweights like The Perfect Storm, Dinosaur, and Gladiator.

The Original Kings of Comedy attracted an 80% African-American audience and aims to widen its appeal in the coming weeks since it can now market itself as "the number one comedy in America." Spike Lee directed the inexpensive film which was shot on digital video during two concerts in Charlotte, North Carolina. The director's previous best debut came in November 1992 when Malcolm X opened with $9.9M in 1,124 theaters. With a $3M production cost (plus millions more in prints and advertising), Kings stands to become a moneymaker and could encourage other studios to look into standup comedy concert films for its profit potential. For its part, Paramount aggressively promoted the film and used corporate synergy to plug the picture on various Viacom-owned cable networks.

It was smooth sailing once again for Space Cowboys which enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten slipping just 27% to $9.5M in its third weekend. The Clint Eastwood pic has been one of very few films this summer to show legs collecting a solid $53.8M in 17 days. Warner Bros. stablemate The Replacements performed well in its second weekend retreating only 35% to $7.2M. Ranking fourth in the standings, the Keanu Reeves football comedy has taken in $23.4M in ten days and should end its season with $40-50M.

Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer grabbed the number five slot with the suspense thriller What Lies Beneath which grossed $6.8M in its fifth frame. The DreamWorks/Fox co-production has amassed $123.4M thus far. Dropping 38% to sixth place, Nutty Professor II ate up $6.3M and crossed the $100M mark on Saturday, its 23rd day of release. The Universal sequel is the twelfth movie of the year to reach nine digits and stands at $104.3M.

After two weeks at number one, the invisible man thriller Hollow Man plunged 54% to seventh place with $6M. Sony's sci-fi tale has grossed $61.6M to date but has suffered sharp declines, losing over half of its audience in each holdover frame. Richard Gere's romantic drama Autumn in New York was jilted on its second date with moviegoers dropping 50% to $5.5M. The $40M production (which MGM acquired the domestic rights to for $14M) should wind up with roughly $35M.

Coyote Ugly experienced a much slimmer decline than last weekend as the Buena Vista release slid 36% to $5M. After 17 days, producer Jerry Bruckheimer's rare non-action entry has collected $43.9M. Kim Basinger rounded out the top ten with the supernatural thriller Bless the Child which bagged $4.8M in its sophomore session. Falling a disturbing 49%, the $40M Paramount title has grossed $18M in ten days and should end its domestic run with about $30M.

Monster movie fans were not very supportive of the new film Godzilla 2000 which attacked 2,111 theaters but collected only $4.4M. Averaging a weak $2,088 per location, the Sony release is the English-dubbed version of the most recent installment in the long-running series of Japanese films. The studio spent about $1M to acquire and "Americanize" Godzilla 2000, and an additional $10-12M on prints and advertising.

Two of the summer's biggest hits departed the top ten scene over the weekend. Fox's X-Men took in $2.55M in its sixth outing raising its heroic cume to $148.6M. The $75M movie adaptation of the wildly popular comic book has become the year's fourth-biggest grosser and should finish with nearly $155M. With a successful domestic release concluding, and anticipated success in international territories on the horizon, it is no surprise that another installment of X-Men is being planned.

The Perfect Storm, starring George Clooney, lifted its hefty tally to $173.6M in its eighth voyage and seems headed for around $180M. The Warner Bros. smash hit has quietly become the year's third-largest film and even cracked the Top 50 All-Time Blockbusters list over the weekend.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $79.7M which was down 6% from last year when The Sixth Sense held onto the top spot with $24M; but up 18% from 1998 when Blade debuted at number one with $17.1M.

Compared to projections, The Cell opened a little stronger than my $15M forecast. The Original Kings of Comedy powered ahead of my $7M prediction while Godzilla 2000 opened very close to my $5M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on comedian Mike Myers. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of this weekend's three films they wanted to see the most. Of 2,194 responses, 48% said The Cell, 13% picked Godzilla 2000, 7% chose The Original Kings of Comedy, and 33% voted "none".

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which examines the box office strength of recent films headlined by actresses. For a review of Space Cowboys visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Art of War, The Crew, and Bring It On all hit theaters.

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

# Title Aug. 18 - 20 Aug. 11 - 13 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Cell $ 17,515,050 2,411 1 $ 7,265 $ 17,515,050 New Line
2 The Original Kings of Comedy 11,053,832 847 1 13,051 11,615,670 Paramount
3 Space Cowboys 9,476,221 13,016,448 -27.2 2,835 3 3,343 53,783,126 Warner Bros.
4 The Replacements 7,215,305 11,039,214 -34.6 2,754 2 2,620 23,406,417 Warner Bros.
5 What Lies Beneath 6,758,142 9,736,764 -30.6 2,760 5 2,449 123,410,908 DreamWorks
6 Nutty Professor II 6,309,125 10,223,430 -38.3 2,969 4 2,125 104,294,005 Universal
7 Hollow Man 6,010,644 13,048,132 -53.9 2,956 3 2,033 61,577,725 Sony
8 Autumn in New York 5,548,412 10,987,006 -49.5 2,282 2 2,431 21,049,419 MGM/UA
9 Coyote Ugly 5,023,192 7,847,094 -36.0 2,539 3 1,978 43,871,487 Buena Vista
10 Bless the Child 4,837,688 9,413,684 -48.6 2,521 2 1,919 18,014,363 Paramount
11 Godzilla 2000 4,407,720 2,111 1 2,088 4,407,720 Sony
12 X-Men 2,552,163 4,136,463 -38.3 1,624 6 1,572 148,619,640 Fox
13 The Perfect Storm 1,811,490 2,747,779 -34.1 1,417 8 1,278 173,607,196 Warner Bros.
14 Scary Movie 1,289,455 2,526,102 -49.0 1,501 7 859 147,224,243 Miramax
15 The Kid 1,130,553 1,859,629 -39.2 1,222 7 925 64,430,003 Buena Vista
16 Saving Grace 1,030,257 351,066 193.5 255 3 4,040 1,964,204 Fine Line
17 The Patriot 982,544 1,454,323 -32.4 842 8 1,167 110,004,329 Sony
18 Chicken Run 902,870 1,317,943 -31.5 1,002 9 901 101,799,441 DreamWorks
19 Thomas and the Magic Railroad 572,901 1,154,322 -50.4 1,008 4 568 14,578,821 Destination
20 Pokémon 2000 520,899 1,032,484 -49.5 638 5 816 41,923,615 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 52,018,550 $ 58,314,230 -10.8
Top 10 79,747,611 92,196,014 -13.5
Top 20 94,948,463 103,010,283 -7.8
Top 20 vs. 1999 94,948,463 99,182,293 -4.3

Last Updated : August 20 at 9:00PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya