Weekend Box Office (August 25 - 27, 2000)

THIS WEEKEND Just when experts began calling teen comedies a dying breed, Universal delivered a superb number one opening for its cheerleader pic Bring It On which outgunned Wesley Snipes whose latest action thriller, The Art of War, settled for a second place debut. The weekend's other new wide release, the mobster comedy The Crew, was dead on arrival while sophomore films suffered sharp declines. Overall the box office was even with last year during what is typically one of the weakest frames of the summer.

Univeral Pictures and Beacon Pictures had much to cheer about as Bring It On, starring Kirsten Dunst, opened triumphantly in the top spot with $17.4M, according to final studio figures. Jumping into 2,380 theaters, the PG-13 comedy averaged a rowdy $7,295 per location. Bring It On finds Dunst as the captain of a white cheerleading team which competes against a black squad for the national championship. The high school comedy performed better than most (including its distributor) had expected and even opened stronger than most recent teen flicks like She's All That ($16.1M), Road Trip ($15.5M), and Varsity Blues ($15.2M). Bring It On took advantage of the serious lack of good movies aimed at young females this summer.

Originally called Cheer Fever, the film was retitled Bring It On by Universal to make it seem less like a generic high school comedy and more like a hip picture with attitude. The strategy apparently helped as, according to the studio, African-Americans made up about 30% of the audience which is much higher than for run-of-the-mill teen films with all-white casts. Plus with a modest $10M negative cost, Bring It On is well on its way to becoming a highly profitable player which Universal can really use after big-budget bombs like The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas.

After a two-year absence, Wesley Snipes returned to the big screen in the political action pic The Art of War which grossed $10.4M in its opening weekend. Warner Bros. released the R-rated film very wide in 2,630 theaters but averaged a mild $3,959 per venue. Snipes plays a security expert who takes on international terrorists determined to start a global war. The actor traditionally witnesses smaller grosses for films with no major co-stars and that certainly was the case with The Art of War. Only 1998's Blade, which held the number one spot two years ago this weekend, has given Snipes a powerful launch on his own.

Snipes' Money Train co-star Jennifer Lopez slipped from first to third place with her suspense thriller The Cell which grossed $9.7M in its sophomore frame. The New Line release tumbled an alarming 45% from its debut and has generated $33.7M in ten days. Directed by music video and commercials veteran Tarsem Singh, The Cell could end its run with a solid $55-60M.

The hit astronaut adventure Space Cowboys retreated one notch to fourth with $6.5M. Actor/director Clint Eastwood's latest feature continued to hold strong, easing only 31%, putting its cume at $63.7M. The Warner Bros. entry should have no problem becoming Eastwood's best-performing film since 1993's In the Line of Fire which grossed $102.3M.

After a powerful debut last weekend, Spike Lee's The Original Kings of Comedy experienced a sharp 47% decline and brought in $5.9M. With $21.2M in ten days, the $3M standup comedy feature already stands as one of the summer's most profitable pictures and could become the second-highest-grossing movie ever for Lee after 1992's Malcolm X which took in $48.2M. The acclaimed director returns to fiction with the comedy Bamboozled, starring Damon Wayans, opening in October.

What Lies Beneath, the eldest statesman in the top ten, slipped 32% to sixth place with $4.6M. The leggy DreamWorks/Fox thriller has amassed $130.9M thus far. The football comedy The Replacements fell 44% to $4.1M in its third charge giving the Warner Bros. title $30.8M to date.

Burt Reynolds and Richard Dreyfuss starred in the new comedy The Crew which opened poorly with just $4.1M. Playing in 1,510 theaters, the Buena Vista film about aged mobsters conspiring to save their retirement home averaged a disappointing $2,683 per site.

Eddie Murphy's Nutty Professor II dropped 44% to $3.6M bringing its cume to $110M. Autumn in New York, starring Richard Gere and Winona Rider, placed tenth with $3.3M for a $26.8M total.

A trio of August releases was voted off the top ten island over the weekend. Buena Vista's Coyote Ugly grossed $2.9M in its fourth round raising its tab to a solid $49.4M. The heavily-advertised Jerry Bruckheimer production aims to conclude its run with $55-60M.

Sony's sci-fi thriller Hollow Man claimed $2.9M in its fourth weekend bringing its cume to $66.6M. Starring Kevin Bacon and Elisabeth Shue, the $95M effects-filled picture should reach $70-75M domestically. The supernatural thriller Bless the Child took in $2.7M lifting its 17-day sum to $22.8M. Produced for $40M, the Paramount release looks set to end with roughly $30M.

In its second weekend, Godzilla 2000 crumbled 61% to $1.7M for a ten-day sum of only $7.6M. The Japanese film was acquired by Sony for North American release, dubbed into English, and backed by $10-12M in P&A. A final gross of around $10M seems likely for Godzilla 2000.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $69.4M which was down 1% from last year when The Sixth Sense retained the top spot for the fourth straight time with $20.1M; but up 27% from 1998 when Blade spent its second weekend at number one with $10.9M.

Compared to projections, Bring It On surged well ahead of my pessimistic $6M forecast. The Art of War opened weaker than my $15M prediction while The Crew came in a little below my $6M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on which summer film you most want to see a sequel to. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether they would have seen the comedy Dieter had Mike Myers and Universal Pictures made the film. Of 1,987 responses, 39% chose Yes, 42% voted no, and 19% said they didn't know.

Read the Weekly Rewind column which reviews the top-grossing films of Wesley Snipes. For a review of Bring It On visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for Labor Day weekend when Highlander: Endgame and Whipped both debut.

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

# Title Aug. 25 - 27 Aug. 18 - 20 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Bring It On $ 17,362,105 2,380 1 $ 7,295 $ 17,362,105 Universal
2 The Art of War 10,410,993 2,630 1 3,959 10,410,993 Warner Bros.
3 The Cell 9,676,012 17,515,050 -44.8 2,430 2 3,982 33,745,083 New Line
4 Space Cowboys 6,514,903 9,476,221 -31.2 2,795 4 2,331 63,709,955 Warner Bros.
5 The Original Kings of Comedy 5,906,038 11,053,832 -46.6 875 2 6,750 21,213,020 Paramount
6 What Lies Beneath 4,612,974 6,758,142 -31.7 2,568 6 1,796 130,919,547 DreamWorks
7 The Replacements 4,075,896 7,215,305 -43.5 2,717 3 1,500 30,777,664 Warner Bros.
8 The Crew 4,051,921 1,510 1 2,683 4,051,921 Buena Vista
9 Nutty Professor II 3,560,195 6,309,125 -43.6 2,543 5 1,400 109,992,755 Universal
10 Autumn in New York 3,267,896 5,548,412 -41.1 2,260 3 1,446 26,822,408 MGM/UA
11 Coyote Ugly 2,867,004 5,023,192 -42.9 2,296 4 1,249 49,366,137 Buena Vista
12 Hollow Man 2,811,159 6,010,644 -53.2 2,481 4 1,133 66,562,821 Sony
13 Bless the Child 2,712,898 4,837,688 -43.9 2,350 3 1,154 22,752,806 Paramount
14 Godzilla 2000 1,742,857 4,407,720 -60.5 2,111 2 826 7,593,423 Sony
15 X-Men 1,369,713 2,552,163 -46.3 1,175 7 1,166 151,232,499 Fox
16 The Perfect Storm 1,207,115 1,811,490 -33.4 1,205 9 1,002 175,604,700 Warner Bros.
17 Saving Grace 943,705 1,030,257 -8.4 255 4 3,701 3,351,920 Fine Line
18 The Kid 703,456 1,130,553 -37.8 919 8 765 65,759,135 Buena Vista
19 Scary Movie 682,288 1,289,455 -47.1 1,051 8 649 148,497,444 Miramax
20 Chicken Run 575,670 902,870 -36.2 823 10 699 102,899,454 DreamWorks
Top 5 $ 49,870,051 $ 52,018,550 -4.1
Top 10 69,438,933 79,747,611 -12.9
Top 20 85,054,798 94,948,463 -10.4
Top 20 vs. 1999 85,054,798 86,036,124 -1.1

Last Updated : August 28 at 8:30PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya