Weekend Box Office (August 20 - 22, 1999)

THIS WEEKEND Buena Vista saw another monumental performance from its Bruce Willis blockbuster The Sixth Sense which easily held onto the number one spot at the North American box office with impressive third weekend sales of $24M, according to final studio figures. Smelling the sweet scent of victory, the supernatural thriller has now grossed an amazing $107.5M in only seventeen days becoming the eleventh film of the summer to cross the $100M mark and the sixth such blockbuster of Willis' career. The sound of cash registers ringing in 2,688 sites (up 293 from last weekend) is giving The Sixth Sense a taste of remarkable success as its per-theater average still registered at a strong $8,910 as the spooky film continued to touch moviegoers from coast to coast. In the last three years, the only films to score three $20M+ weekends have been Titanic, Star Wars Episode I, and now The Sixth Sense. Not bad company.

With another miniscule decline of just 7%, The Sixth Sense is being supported by repeat business as fans are opting to see the movie again after experiencing the film's clever plot-twisting ending. Also very strong word-of-mouth is helping the M. Night Shyamalan-directed picture crossover to those who rarely buy tickets to Bruce Willis movies or scary pictures. In fact, no film has displayed such incredible legs since that little boat hit an iceberg. The Sixth Sense is even outperforming the August 1993 thriller The Fugitive which also enjoyed low depreciations and captured $89M in its first 17 days on its way to a $183.9M final.

With low levels of competition in the weeks ahead, look for The Sixth Sense to steamroll its way past the $200M mark becoming Bruce Willis' highest-grossing film and Buena Vista's top live-action title ever beating out Armageddon's $201.6M which currently holds both records. The Sixth Sense, produced by Spyglass Entertainment for Hollywood Pictures, cost a reported $55M and will be handled by various distributors overseas including Buena Vista International which has secured rights for the United Kingdom, Australia, and Latin America.

The comedic duo of Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy held onto the runnerup spot for a second weekend with their current film Bowfinger which laughed up another $10.6M. Off 41% from its debut, the Universal comedy has grossed $35.8M in ten days and looks to finish in the vicinity of $65M - about even with Murphy's last film Life which took in $64M earlier this year. Though a solid performance, Bowfinger has performed a little bit below the expectations of some industry observers considering its starpower, favorable reviews, and advance buzz from early screenings.

The mafia-themed romantic comedy Mickey Blue Eyes debuted in third place with $10.2M in 2,573 theaters. Starring Hugh Grant, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and James Caan, the Warner Bros. release averaged a so-so $3,956 per location. Openings for other Hugh Grant films have included a four-day holiday gross of $27.7M for Notting Hill which starred Julia Roberts, $6.9M for Extreme Measures from September 1996, and $12.5M for Nine Months from July 1995.

Runaway Bride continues to charm ticket buyers as the Julia Roberts-Richard Gere romantic comedy grossed $9.3M in its fourth weekend of play. Down 33%, the Paramount title has amassed $113.5M to date and looks headed for $140M which would make it the second-biggest hit in the lucrative career of Roberts trailing her previous collaboration with Gere, 1990's Pretty Woman.

Interest in The Blair Witch Project is quickly evaporating as the sleeper sensation tumbled 50% collecting $7.3M. The Artisan release has managed to disappear with $120.6M in ticket sales. Moviegoers in the mood for a scary film are now opting for The Sixth Sense instead of the superbly-marketed Blair Witch.

Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo attracted $7M during the third weekend of the action pic The Thomas Crown Affair. Down a respectable 30%, the MGM/UA title has collected $42.2M in 17 days and is holding on well each week.

Jean-Claude Van Damme's latest action film, Universal Soldier: The Return, saw a disappointing seventh place premiere with only $4.6M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Sony released the futuristic thriller in 1,639 theaters and averaged $2,810 per site. By comparison, the original Universal Soldier opened in July 1992 with $10.1M in 2,100 theaters and eventually collected $36.2M in domestic sales becoming Van Damme's highest-grossing picture at the time. The sequel's poor debut mirrors the weak openings of the action star's recent flops like Knock Off ($5.5M in four days last September), Double Team ($5M in April 1997), and Maximum Risk ($5.6M in September 1996). Universal Soldier: The Return has already opened in various international markets like Australia, South Korea, and parts of Europe.

Disney's Inspector Gadget slipped only 29% to eighth with $4.3M bringing its better-than-expected total to $83.2M. The shark thriller Deep Blue Sea placed ninth with $4M upping its cume to a solid $63.8M.

Miramax's high school entry Teaching Mrs. Tingle was killed by teen audiences as the horror-comedy opened with a poor $3.3M in its debut weekend. Entering 1,710 classrooms, the Kevin Williamson-directed pic averaged a failing $1,946 per theater. Tingle stars Katie Holmes, Barry Watson, and Helen Mirren as the title character.

Three weak performers dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. With a production cost of more than $60M, Universal's Mystery Men fell another 43% to $2.7M. With $24.5M thus far, the comic book spoof is set to flop with a final domestic gross of roughly $30M.

Fox's Claire Danes-starrer Brokedown Palace eroded away and has grossed $7.8M in ten days. Carrying a pricetag of over $20M, Palace should complete its domestic run with around $12-15M and attract equally mild interest from international and home video outlets. Warner Bros. fumbled with the critically-acclaimed animated feature The Iron Giant which has gathered up $16.7M thus far and should conclude with $22-25M.

With the unbelievable success of The Sixth Sense, Buena Vista over the weekend has managed to power itself to the market share lead among studios with year-to-date ticket sales totaling $704M. That is quite a surprising feat considering Fox has reigned supreme for months with the $418M gross of George Lucas' Star Wars Episode I. Helping the Mouse House in its run to the top were Tarzan, Inspector Gadget and solid holdover grosses from last winter's holiday titles. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. (powered by The Matrix, Analyze This, and Wild Wild West) claims second place after this weekend with $683M in grosses in 1999. Fox slips to third with $674M thus far. Expect the Buena Vista lead to widen in the weeks ahead as The Sixth Sense continues its sizzling run while most new films are not expected to provide much heat.

Compared to projections, Mickey Blue Eyes opened a little weaker than my $13M forecast. Universal Soldier was close to my $6M prediction while Teaching Mrs. Tingle failed to reach my $9M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of this weekend's three new releases would have the strongest opening. Of 2,914 responses, 47% correctly picked Mickey Blue Eyes, 36% selected Teaching Mrs. Tingle, and 17% chose Universal Soldier: The Return.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which looks at the films of Van Damme. This Tuesday's new column will examine the performances of this summer's independent films. For reviews of The Sixth Sense and Teaching Mrs. Tingle visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $84.5M which was up 25% from last year when Blade opened at number one with $17.1M, and up 29% from 1997 when G.I. Jane debuted on top with $11.1M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when another wave of new films hits the box office including The Thirteenth Warrior, The Astronaut's Wife, and Dudley Do-Right.

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# Title Aug. 20 - 22 Aug. 13 - 15 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Sixth Sense $ 23,950,088 $ 25,764,991 -7.0 2,688 3 $ 8,910 $ 107,506,281 Buena Vista
2 Bowfinger 10,609,885 18,062,550 -41.3 2,717 2 3,905 35,802,745 Universal
3 Mickey Blue Eyes 10,178,289 2,573 1 3,956 10,178,289 Warner Bros.
4 Runaway Bride 9,264,333 13,756,269 -32.7 3,240 4 2,859 113,513,310 Paramount
5 The Blair Witch Project 7,265,546 14,501,038 -49.9 2,538 6 2,863 120,645,836 Artisan
6 The Thomas Crown Affair 7,007,321 10,071,935 -30.4 2,427 3 2,887 42,221,366 MGM/UA
7 Universal Soldier: The Return 4,605,167 1,639 1 2,810 4,605,167 Sony
8 Inspector Gadget 4,316,854 6,041,782 -28.5 2,144 5 2,013 83,161,640 Buena Vista
9 Deep Blue Sea 3,980,468 6,652,140 -40.2 2,246 4 1,772 63,843,209 Warner Bros.
10 Teaching Mrs. Tingle 3,326,870 1,710 1 1,946 3,326,870 Miramax
11 Mystery Men 2,716,045 4,712,405 -42.4 1,954 3 1,390 24,459,175 Universal
12 The Iron Giant 2,320,113 3,747,624 -38.1 1,943 3 1,194 16,659,344 Warner Bros.
13 American Pie 2,006,805 2,660,350 -24.6 1,118 7 1,795 94,131,695 Universal
14 Brokedown Palace 1,780,387 3,871,616 -54.0 1,738 2 1,024 7,816,783 Fox
15 The Haunting 1,673,358 3,305,136 -49.4 1,587 5 1,054 86,750,650 DreamWorks
16 Star Wars : Episode I 1,221,405 1,518,607 -19.6 631 14 1,936 417,800,897 Fox
17 Austin Powers 2 929,717 1,232,856 -24.6 905 11 1,027 203,100,498 New Line
18 Tarzan 740,036 1,137,708 -35.0 743 10 996 165,477,219 Buena Vista
19 Detroit Rock City 645,028 2,005,512 -67.8 1,802 2 358 3,656,297 New Line
20 Big Daddy 644,578 782,305 -17.6 628 9 1,026 158,717,720 Sony
Top 5 $ 61,268,141 $ 82,156,783 -25.4
Top 10 84,504,821 107,182,350 -21.2
Top 20 99,182,293 121,820,555 -18.6

Last Updated : August 23, 1999 at 10:30PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya