Weekend Box Office (September 1 - 4, 2000)

THIS WEEKEND Ticket buyers were mostly in the mood for holdovers during the four-day Labor Day holiday period as the overall box office was about as exciting as the current presidential race. The frame's two new releases witnessed disappointing debuts over a sluggish session. Bring It On led the weekend for the second time but the late-summer hits Space Cowboys and What Lies Beneath saw strong attendance boosts as moviegoers spent time catching up on popular films they've missed during the season. Only one film managed to gross over $10M, but the remaining dollars were spread evenly across a wide variety of product.

All eyes were on cheerleaders once again as the high school comedy Bring It On led the Labor Day weekend period with $14.2M over the four-day Friday-to-Monday span, according to final studio figures. Produced by Beacon Pictures and released by Universal Pictures, the $10M film has grossed a cheerful $36.6M in only 11 days and could be headed for $65-70M. Its three-day portion was off a moderate 35% from its $17.4M opening. The story about cheerleaders competing for the national championship has struck a chord with teenage girls and young women who Hollywood has virtually ignored this summer. With the surprising success of Bring It On, can movies about softball and field hockey be far behind?

The top ten films over Labor Day weekend absorbed $69.5M which was down 15% from last year when the top choice, The Sixth Sense, grossed twice as much as Bring It On. Factor out the number one films and the rest of the box office was roughly even with last year's holiday frame.

Jennifer Lopez climbed one notch to second place with her crime thriller The Cell which captured $8.9M over the long weekend in its third outing. The New Line release witnessed a good hold and has reached a solid $46.3M to date. The Cell stands a chance of becoming the highest-grossing live-action film for the thirty-year-old star if it can surpass Anaconda's $65.5M.

Moviegoers continued to flock to the astronaut adventure Space Cowboys which grossed $8.6M, up 33% from last weekend's three-day sum. The Warner Bros. hit is the widest release around with 2,795 playdates and has steadily marched its way to $74.5M after its fifth frame.

The overall box office continued its slowdown as the summer movie season came to its traditional Labor Day conclusion. August offered only a small handful of films that consumers were excited to see which in turn gives September the added handicap of a weak lead-in. Lower attendance levels mean fewer people are seeing trailers and posters for the upcoming fall releases. Plus, studios have scheduled films with only moderate commercial appeal over the next few weeks. With the triple threat of a slow August, a weak slate of new releases, and the added distraction of the Summer Olympics, the September box office may turn out to be one of the worst months in recent years which is the last thing that hurting exhibitors need at the moment.

Wesley Snipes experienced the worst decline in the top ten with his action thriller The Art of War which dropped to $7.7M in its sophomore frame. After 11 days, the Warner Bros. entry has collected $21.5M and seems headed for a final tally of $35-40M.

The weekend's biggest opener came from Miramax's Highlander: Endgame which debuted in fifth with only $6.2M over four days. The sci-fi action picture stars Christopher Lambert and Adrian Paul as immortals fighting the forces of evil in the fourth installment of the fourteen-year-old franchise. Landing in 1,543 theaters, Highlander averaged $4,033 during the Friday-to-Monday span. The performance was similar to the openings of other male-skewing action films launched over Labor Day weekend like 1995's Prophecy ($7.5M) and 1998's Knock Out ($5.5M), but was shy of the holiday frame's record opener - 1996's The Crow : City of Angels ($8.2M). All of those films suffered steep declines after their openings. Highlander was not screened for critics prior to release and dipped 7% on Saturday which indicates a rocky road ahead.

Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer were a popular couple over Labor Day weekend as their suspense thriller What Lies Beneath was up 29% over last weekend's three-day total with $6M. Released domestically by DreamWorks, the Robert Zemeckis film has upped its cume to a robust $138.8M and remained in sixth place.

The Original Kings of Comedy took in $5.8M and had the best per-theater average among wide releases with $6,096. Paramount's standup comedy tour film has grossed an impressive $28.8M to date. With a new NFL season kicking off over the holiday weekend, the football comedy The Replacements dropped to eighth place with $4.5M. The Keanu Reeves-Gene Hackman picture has brought in $36.9M in 25 days.

Eddie Murphy's hit sequel Nutty Professor II grossed $3.9M over four days and saw its domestic tally rise to $115M. Buena Vista's mob comedy The Crew dipped to $3.6M in its sophomore frame giving it a mere $9.2M in 11 days.

Fine Line expanded its British comedy Saving Grace from 255 to 875 theaters and grossed $3M in its first weekend of national release. The film about a widow who grows marijuana to rid herself of debt averaged a good $3,396 per site over four days and raised its cume to $6.7M. Saving Grace is proving to be a popular foreign alternative to the many run-of-the-mill Hollywood films currently filling up the marquees. With a weak September slate on its way, the Brenda Blethyn-starrer could take advantage of solid reviews and good word-of-mouth to post strong numbers all month long.

Finding no strength whatsoever in its opening weekend, the romantic comedy Whipped debuted to a poor $2.7M. Starring Amanda Peet, the R-rated film played in 1,561 theaters and averaged a pathetic $1,749 over four days. It was the smallest opening ever in the short history of Destination Films which aggressively marketed the picture.

Autumn in New York, starring Richard Gere and Winona Ryder, fell out of the top ten and took in $3.6M. With $32M to date, the romantic drama should end its domestic run with around $40M.

The top ten films grossed $69.5M over the four-day weekend which was down 15% from last year when The Sixth Sense held the top spot for the fifth straight time with a $29.3M Labor Day frame; but up 21% from 1998 when There's Something About Mary finally hit number one in its eighth weekend with $10.9M over the long holiday weekend.

Compared to projections, Highlander: Endgame came very close to my four-day forecast of $6M but Whipped opened below my holiday prediction of $7M. Saving Grace was on target with my $3M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on which September release you are looking forward to the most. In last week's survey, readers were asked which summer film they most wanted to see a sequel to. Of 3,567 responses, 53% picked X-Men, 30% said Mission: Impossible 2, 16% chose Scary Movie, and 1% voted for Nutty Professor II.

Read the Weekly Rewind column which examines the legs of this summer's notable films. 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 next weekend when The Watcher, Nurse Betty, The Way of The Gun, Turn It Up, and Backstage all open.

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

# Title Sep. 1 - 4 Aug. 25 - 27 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Bring It On $ 14,170,825 $ 17,362,105 -18.4 2,410 2 $ 5,880 $ 36,649,970 Universal
2 The Cell 8,929,313 9,676,012 -7.7 2,444 3 3,654 46,270,539 New Line
3 Space Cowboys 8,640,825 6,514,903 32.6 2,795 5 3,092 74,535,279 Warner Bros.
4 The Art of War 7,685,402 10,410,993 -26.2 2,630 2 2,922 21,451,997 Warner Bros.
5 Highlander: Endgame 6,223,330 1,543 1 4,033 6,223,330 Miramax
6 What Lies Beneath 5,952,607 4,612,974 29.0 2,407 7 2,473 138,783,687 DreamWorks
7 The Original Kings of Comedy 5,803,123 5,906,038 -1.7 952 3 6,096 28,790,999 Paramount
8 The Replacements 4,475,975 4,075,896 9.8 2,485 4 1,801 36,879,115 Warner Bros.
9 Nutty Professor II 3,882,060 3,560,195 9.0 2,133 6 1,820 115,031,670 Universal
10 The Crew 3,714,745 4,051,921 -8.3 1,515 2 2,452 9,215,258 Buena Vista
11 Autumn in New York 3,603,172 3,267,896 10.3 2,216 4 1,626 31,976,248 MGM/UA
12 Saving Grace 2,971,435 943,705 214.9 875 5 3,396 6,744,300 Fine Line
13 Coyote Ugly 2,873,649 2,867,004 0.2 1,822 5 1,577 53,548,255 Buena Vista
14 Whipped 2,729,625 1,561 1 1,749 2,729,625 Destination
15 Hollow Man 2,517,807 2,811,159 -10.4 1,949 5 1,292 70,202,548 Sony
16 Bless the Child 2,436,755 2,712,898 -10.2 1,942 4 1,255 26,244,972 Paramount
17 Gone in 60 Seconds 1,711,794 119,005 1,426 13 1,200 98,696,150 Buena Vista
18 Dinosaur 1,711,794 17,585 1,426 16 1,200 135,606,304 Buena Vista
19 The Perfect Storm 1,706,184 1,207,115 41.3 1,004 10 1,699 177,845,359 Warner Bros.
20 X-Men 1,390,987 1,369,713 1.6 848 8 1,640 153,257,611 Fox
Top 5 $ 45,649,695 $ 49,870,051 -8.5
Top 10 69,478,205 69,438,933 0.1
Top 20 93,131,407 85,054,798 9.5
Top 20 vs. 1999 93,131,407 103,933,904 -10.4

Last Updated : September 5 at 11:00PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya