Weekend Box Office (August 27 - 29, 1999)

THIS WEEKEND A six pack of new films dumped into theaters were mostly greeted with disappointing ticket sales as none could dislodge The Sixth Sense from the number one spot. With too many movies, and not enough dollars to go around, many of the freshmen were instant casualties as moviegoers continued to spend their time seeing holdover releases.

The most popular film in North American theaters was once again the suspense chiller The Sixth Sense for the fourth consecutive weekend. The Bruce Willis thriller grossed $20.1M according to final studio figures, off just 16%, and boosted its 24-day cume to a remarkable $138.9M. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense is the first film to top the charts for four straight weeks since last summer's smash hit Saving Private Ryan. Only three other films have ever scored four straight $20M+ weekends - Titanic, Star Wars Episode I, and Jurassic Park. On Monday, the film will become the second highest-grossing picture of Bruce Willis' career surpassing the $140M that 1989's Look Who's Talking grossed. The A-list actor supplied the voice of the baby in that sleeper hit.

Buena Vista reports that repeat customers are making up a substantial portion of the daily crowds for The Sixth Sense and that the PG-13 movie is attracting men and women of all ages. Now in its fourth week, Sense is running at a pace even with another late-summer smash - 1994's Forrest Gump. The Tom Hanks picture posted similar weekly numbers, enjoyed low depreciations, and grossed $140.7M by the end of its fourth frame or less than half of its eventual final gross of $330M. With Labor Day weekend right around the corner, and little competition in the next two weeks, The Sixth Sense looks to hold onto the number one spot for at least two more sessions. While the film was truly made to be seen twice, the real test of longevity will be if moviegoers really want to see it three or more times.

The Mouse House also claimed the runnerup spot with the action-adventure film The Thirteenth Warrior, starring Antonio Banderas, which grossed $10.3M in its first weekend of release. Attacking 2,306 theaters, the Viking tale averaged a good, but not muscular, $4,453 per site. Directed by John McTiernan, Warrior was filmed two years ago and suffered numerous delays in its release date before being jettisoned into this crowded late-August frame. Carrying a large production budget, plus an expensive marketing campaign, the film does not look to be a big moneymaker. However, Buena Vista did manage to claim the top two movies at the box office - the first studio to accomplish this since Paramount which had Titanic and the Grease reissue in March 1998. The Thirteenth Warrior's Friday-to-Saturday increase of 13% was the smallest in the top ten.

Paramount's Runaway Bride starring Miss Blockbuster and Richard Gere eased just 26% this weekend allowing it to move up a notch to third place with $6.8M. The Garry Marshall comedy is the only film currently in release to play in over 3,000 theaters. With a hefty $124.4M to date, Runaway Bride is sprinting along splendidly at the box office as a steady flow of ticket buyers are walking down the aisle and enjoying this late summer hit. Over the weekend, Bride surpassed 1991's Hook to become Julia Roberts' third highest-grossing movie ever after Pretty Woman and My Best Friend's Wedding. Runaway Bride also has the nation's top-selling soundtrack for the fourth consecutive week and has powered its way to a number one opening in Australia. Moviegoers in South Korea and New Zealand are also packing the theaters while Europe will kiss the Bride this fall.

Bowfinger dropped two spots to fourth as moviegoers spent $6.6M on the Steve Martin-Eddie Murphy pic. Keepin' it together in its third weekend, the Universal comedy declined a reasonable 38% and brought its 17-day sum to $46.4M.

Dropping 47% to fifth place was the mob comedy Mickey Blue Eyes which collected $5.4M in its sophomore frame. The Hugh Grant flick took a rough hit over the weekend and brought its ten-day total to $19.7M. Look for a $35-40M final cume for Mickey Blue Eyes which would trail the domestic grosses of previous romantic comedies by the English actor including 1994's Four Weddings and a Funeral ($53M), 1995's Nine Months ($70M), and this summer's Notting Hill ($115M and counting).

Where would MGM/UA be without Pierce Brosnan? The Bond man's latest action-romance The Thomas Crown Affair took in another $4.6M in its fourth heist. Also starring Rene Russo, Affair saw a moderate 34% decline and raised its cume to a solid $49.8M. Director John McTiernan, who also helmed The Thirteenth Warrior, made a rare double appearance in the top ten with his pair of pics. Since 1995's Goldeneye, three of the top five grossing hits from MGM/UA have starred Brosnan. With The Thomas Crown Affair heading to about $65M in domestic sales, and the new James Bond feature This World Is Not Enough slated for November, Pierce Brosnan should be able to claim four of the five biggest hits for the studio in the last three years. Overseas, Affair has already begun a strong campaign with solid starts in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Netherlands.

The urban crime thriller In Too Deep made off with $4.2M over the weekend. Starring L.L. Cool J and Omar Epps, the Miramax action pic infiltrated only 667 joints and averaged a strong $6,327 per theater - second best in the top ten. Since its Wednesday opening, In Too Deep has grossed $5.8M in five days.

Falling 42%, The Blair Witch Project grossed $4.2M bringing its remarakable cume to a robust $128.1M. With the hype wearing off, the Artisan release is rapidly losing the interest of film fans but a final domestic tally of about $140M will keep those involved with the picture smiling for years to come.

Houston, we have a problem! The Astronaut's Wife, a new thriller starring Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron, failed to lift off as the New Line title attracted just $4M in ticket sales over the weekend. Launching wide in 2,209 locations, Wife averaged just $1,823 per theater giving its distributor yet another disappointment from this year's slate. Opening weekend grosses for the actors' previous outings include $4.3M for Depp's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and $10.6M for Theron's Mighty Joe Young.

Albert Brooks' new comedy The Muse debuted in tenth place with $3.9M. Starring Sharon Stone, Jeff Bridges, and Andie MacDowell, the USA Films release opened in 1,263 theaters and averaged a so-so $3,109 per site. Though ranked tenth overall, The Muse's per-theater average was fourth best in the top ten.

A pair of new family films were mostly ignored over the weekend and opened outside of the top ten. Dudley Do-Right, starring Brendan Fraser, claimed just $3M in 1,802 theaters for a bumbling $1,675 average. Warner Bros. offered A Dog of Flanders which landed in 1,267 sites but grossed only $808,000 for a puny average of just $638 per venue.

Four films tumbled out of the top ten over the weekend. Deep Blue Sea, from Warner Bros., chomped on another $1.9M. With a cume of $67.2M, the $60M suspense thriller should top out at roughly $70-75M. Disney's Inspector Gadget has reached $87.6M and is looking at a final take of $90-95M.

In their sophomore weekends, both Universal Soldier: The Return and Teaching Mrs. Tingle fell sharply and now stand at ten-day totals of $7.9M and $6.4M respectively. Both films should finish their weak domestic runs with about $10M a piece.

In its fifteenth frame, Star Wars Episode I finally saw a weekend gross of less than $1M and stands at $419.4M.

Miramax debuted a new version of the Oscar-winning picture Life is Beautiful that was dubbed into English. Offered in 16 sites in New York and Los Angeles, the holocaust-set film grossed $66,339 for a mediocre $4,146 average. Life is Beautiful grossed $57.2M domestically in its initial subtitled run which began in October 1998.

Compared to projections, The Thirteenth Warrior opened close to my $9M forecast while the other five newcomers all opened poorly as predicted. The Sixth Sense was on target with my $20M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the boys of summer. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether an action film starring both Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal would be good for both men's career. Of 2,195 responses, 53% said no while 47% voted yes.

Coming later this week - Box Office Guru's annual Summer Wrapup with a complete look at the record-breaking summer box office.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which looks at the performances of this summer's independent films. This Wednesday's new column will list the top September openings of the decade. For a review of The Sixth Sense and Teaching Mrs. Tingle visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $70.2M which was up 28% from last year when Blade remained at number one with $10.9M, and up 3% from 1997 when G.I. Jane commanded the top spot with $10.3M over the four-day Labor Day weekend.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Chill Factor and Outside Providence both premiere.

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

# Title Aug. 27 - 29 Aug. 20 - 22 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Sixth Sense $ 20,099,149 $ 23,950,088 -16.1 2,763 4 $ 7,274 $ 138,853,903 Buena Vista
2 The Thirteenth Warrior 10,267,756 2,306 1 4,453 10,267,756 Buena Vista
3 Runaway Bride 6,842,589 9,264,333 -26.1 3,090 5 2,214 124,425,308 Paramount
4 Bowfinger 6,584,350 10,609,885 -37.9 2,732 3 2,410 46,404,385 Universal
5 Mickey Blue Eyes 5,426,630 10,178,289 -46.7 2,573 2 2,109 19,735,111 Warner Bros.
6 The Thomas Crown Affair 4,620,007 7,007,321 -34.1 2,095 4 2,205 49,797,846 MGM/UA
7 In Too Deep 4,220,297 667 1 6,327 5,786,957 Miramax
8 The Blair Witch Project 4,219,020 7,265,546 -41.9 2,352 7 1,794 128,076,668 Artisan
9 The Astronaut's Wife 4,027,003 2,209 1 1,823 4,027,003 New Line
10 The Muse 3,926,825 1,263 1 3,109 3,926,825 USA Films
11 Dudley Do-Right 3,018,345 1,802 1 1,675 3,018,345 Universal
12 Inspector Gadget 2,367,348 4,316,854 -45.2 1,709 6 1,385 87,554,569 Buena Vista
13 Deep Blue Sea 1,867,206 3,980,468 -53.1 1,711 5 1,091 67,186,258 Warner Bros.
14 Universal Soldier: The Return 1,654,571 4,605,167 -64.1 1,639 2 1,010 7,875,178 Sony
15 Teaching Mrs. Tingle 1,458,351 3,326,870 -56.2 1,710 2 853 6,391,746 Miramax
16 American Pie 1,396,195 2,006,805 -30.4 895 8 1,560 96,668,245 Universal
17 Big Daddy 1,102,778 644,578 71.1 754 10 1,463 160,128,721 Sony
18 The Iron Giant 1,014,928 2,320,113 -56.3 1,302 4 780 18,817,413 Warner Bros.
19 Mystery Men 1,012,530 2,716,045 -62.7 983 4 1,030 26,868,815 Universal
20 Star Wars : Episode I 910,246 1,221,405 -25.5 497 15 1,831 419,423,967 Fox
Top 5 $ 49,220,474 $ 61,268,141 -19.7
Top 10 70,233,626 84,504,821 -16.9
Top 20 86,036,124 99,182,293 -13.3

Last Updated : August 30, 1999 at 8:00PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya