Weekend Box Office (August 23 - 25, 2002)

THIS WEEKEND North American moviegoers gave the cold shoulder to the crop of new releases and instead powered the suspense thriller Signs back into the top spot at the box office during a generally lackluster weekend. Meanwhile, the invitation list for My Big Fat Greek Wedding continued to swell as the surprise hit comedy put itself on the fast track to blockbuster status with its first ever appearance in the top five.

M. Night Shyamalan's Signs reclaimed the number one spot with $14.3M, according to final studio figures, easing just 26% from last weekend. The Mel Gibson starrer enjoyed the lowest decline in the top ten and has proven to be a durable crowdpleaser grossing a stellar $173.1M after 24 days. The draw of the director-actor combo has continued to make the Buena Vista film a top choice for moviegoers in a late-summer period filled with unwanted studio leftovers. By the end of this week, Signs will top What Women Want to become Gibson's highest-grosing film.

After a two-week assignment at the top, Vin Diesel's spy flick XXX exchanged places with Signs and finished second with $13.3M. Off just 40%, the Sony title has banked $106.3M to date and became the fourteenth movie of the year to join the century club. Dropping only 34%, Miramax's Spy Kids 2 climbed a notch to third with $7.6M in its third mission giving the Robert Rodriguez adventure a cume of $58.6M.

The surprise hit of the season, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, kept the party going by jumping up four spots to fourth place with $7.3M in its 19th weekend. Reaching its highest chart position yet, the IFC Films release boosted its theater total once again by 269 to 1,329 and boasted the best per-theater average in the top ten with a solid $5,464. The PG-rated ethnic comedy has become a standout performer against a weak slate of late-summer titles and continues to pack in audiences in its new markets while showing respectable holds in older ones. With a festive $63.7M in grosses thus far, Greek Wedding now looks to have a virtual lock on joining the $100M club - a feat nobody would have guessed just a few weeks ago.

Universal's surf flick Blue Crush wiped out in its second weekend falling 54% to $6.5M. The $25M production has washed ashore with $26.5M in ten days and should finish with $37-40M making it a profitable film once ancillaries are collected.

Matthew Perry and Elizabeth Hurley didn't make for a winning combination as the duo's new comedy Serving Sara bowed in sixth place with just $5.8M. Playing in 2,154 theaters, the $29M Paramount release about a process server and a young woman turning the tables on her divorce-wanting hubby averaged a not-so-friendly $2,673 per site.

New Line's Austin Powers in Goldmember dropped 37% in its fifth frame to $5.5M putting the spy sequel's sum at $193.9M. The franchise vehicle should break the $200M barrier by Labor Day.

The prison boxing drama Undisputed punched up respectable numbers in a moderate-level release grossing $4.5M from 1,102 theaters for a solid $4,128 average. The Wesley Snipes-Ving Rhames contest posted the third best average in the top ten.

Al Pacino's comedic efforts were mostly ignored by ticket buyers this weekend as his film industry satire Simone opened poorly in ninth with $3.8M. The New Line title played in 1,920 venues but averaged an embarrassing $1,986.

Two star-driven films aimed at adults followed. Warner Bros. grossed $2.8M for the Clint Eastwood picture Blood Work, down 41%, while DreamWorks took in $2.7M for the Tom Hanks-Paul Newman drama Road to Perdition representing a slim 28% decline. Totals stand at $20.2M and $94.6M, respectively.

While Pacino failed to pull in audiences, his Insomnia co-star Robin Williams scored big with the limited-release debut of the creepy drama One Hour Photo which grossed $321,515 from only seven theaters in five cities for a sparkling $45,930 average per site. Fox Searchlight will expand into 21 additional cities on Friday putting the R-rated film in about 140 theaters over the holiday weekend. Cume since its Wednesday bow is $360,606.

The distributor was also busy widening the release of the Jennifer Aniston hit The Good Girl which collected $1.5M from 188 theaters for a solid $7,781 average. With a cume of $3.1M thus far, the acclaimed picture expands into roughly 600 theaters next weekend and should pop into top-ten territory.

The Gwenyth Paltrow romance Possession fell 27% in its sophomore frame, despite adding 73 new sites, and took in $1.1M. Averaging $3,349, the Focus release has grossed $3.4M to date.

The top ten films grossed $71.4M which was down 7% from last year when American Pie 2 remained at number one with $12.5M; but up 3% from 2000 when Bring It On debuted in the top spot with $17.4M.

Compared to projections, Serving Sara and Simone both opened a couple of notches below my respective forecasts of $9M and $7M. Undisputed bowed on target with my $5M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the box office potential of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. In last week's survey, readers were asked who was their favorite Austin Powers babe. Of 1,968 responses, 55% picked Elizabeth Hurley, 30% selected Heather Graham, and 15% chose Beyonce Knowles.

For a review of Signs visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when fear dot com debuts over the Labor Day holiday frame.

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

# Title Aug 23 - 25 Aug 16 - 18 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Signs $ 14,285,028 $ 19,362,674 -26.2 3,453 4 $ 4,137 $ 173,107,735 Buena Vista
2 XXX 13,258,453 22,111,421 -40.0 3,517 3 3,770 106,264,055 Sony
3 Spy Kids 2 7,588,890 11,520,234 -34.1 3,307 3 2,295 58,579,227 Miramax
4 My Big Fat Greek Wedding 7,261,842 5,700,072 27.4 1,329 19 5,464 63,690,730 IFC Films
5 Blue Crush 6,542,510 14,169,455 -53.8 3,015 2 2,170 26,491,250 Universal
6 Serving Sara 5,758,236 2,154 1 2,673 5,758,236 Paramount
7 Austin Powers in Goldmember 5,543,029 8,729,738 -36.5 2,805 5 1,976 193,875,866 New Line
8 Undisputed 4,548,750 1,102 1 4,128 4,548,750 Miramax
9 Simone 3,813,463 1,920 1 1,986 3,813,463 New Line
10 Blood Work 2,840,880 4,807,836 -40.9 2,203 3 1,290 20,209,097 Warner Bros.
11 Road to Perdition 2,723,997 3,800,097 -28.3 1,863 7 1,462 94,633,258 DreamWorks
12 The Master of Disguise 2,121,014 3,163,909 -33.0 1,737 4 1,221 34,194,816 Sony
13 The Good Girl 1,462,962 840,660 74.0 188 3 7,782 3,082,581 Fox Searchlight
14 Stuart Little 2 1,337,805 1,946,767 -31.3 1,314 6 1,018 59,664,442 Sony
15 Possession 1,148,836 1,575,214 -27.1 343 2 3,349 3,436,292 Focus
16 Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat 837,969 1,662,934 -49.6 722 4 1,161 17,429,543 Paramount
17 The Adventures of Pluto Nash 636,904 2,182,900 -70.8 2,320 2 275 3,816,572 Warner Bros.
18 The Bourne Identity 603,385 684,185 -11.8 431 11 1,400 116,855,670 Universal
19 Men in Black II 553,750 1,003,934 -44.8 737 8 751 189,506,435 Sony
20 Space Station 503,503 552,001 -8.8 61 19 8,254 21,334,608 Imax
Top 5 $ 48,936,723 $ 75,893,522 -35.5
Top 10 71,441,081 95,548,336 -25.2
Top 20 83,371,206 105,289,185 -20.8
Top 20 vs. 2001 83,371,206 91,720,392 -9.1

Last Updated : August 26, 2002 at 11:30PM EDT