Weekend Box Office (September 3 - 6, 1999)

*** Read the new Summer Box Office Wrapup ***

THIS WEEKEND The biggest summer ever went out with a bang with the largest Labor Day weekend in history led, to nobody's surprise, by the creepy thriller The Sixth Sense. The top ten films grossed a whopping $82M over the four-day Friday-to-Monday frame beating 1997's holiday record by 20%. The best sales increases were enjoyed by established, star-driven, late-summer hits like Sense, Runaway Bride, and The Thomas Crown Affair while freshmen and sophomore releases were pushed to the side. As is normally the case over Labor Day weekend, moviegoers were spending their money catching up on the bonafide summer hits rather than seeing newer, less exciting films.

Ticket buyers lined up once again to see The Sixth Sense over the holiday weekend as the supernatural chiller grossed an incredible $29.3M, according to final studio figures, in its fifth scare with audiences pushing its spectacular cume to $176.2M and allowing it to set a number of benchmarks. The Buena Vista blockbuster, which stars Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment, became the first film since Titanic to remain number one at the box office for five consecutive weekends. It also stands as only the second movie in history to score five straight $20M+ weekends, the other being the iceberg romance which locked up ten straight. The Sixth Sense smashed the Labor Day weekend gross record held since 1993 by The Fugitive by crushing the Harrison Ford thriller's $17.2M long weekend haul by an astonishing 70%. Sense should surpass Fugitive's $183.9M domestic take by Saturday to become the highest-grossing film ever released in August.

After only 32 days of release, The Sixth Sense also ranks as the second biggest Bruce Willis film, the third largest live-action release from Buena Vista, and the third biggest domestic hit of 1999. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, Sense will be within striking distance of the $200M mark by the end of next weekend. Now in its fifth frame, Sense is running 6% ahead of the pace of that other late-summer smash - 1994's Forrest Gump.

With movie fans loving the film, seeing it twice, and recommending it to friends, The Sixth Sense has become that long-lasting runaway success that studios and exhibitors rarely get to embrace. The paranormal thriller will now have to battle the September box office which sees aggregate ticket sales contract every year as the busy summer playperiod comes to an end. If the $55M film continues to spook audiences this fall as expected, Buena Vista could see a final domestic gross of $250-275M.

Julia Roberts stepped right up to the bridesmaid spot over the long weekend with an $8.6M gross for her smash hit Runaway Bride. Moviegoers were busy catching up with Roberts and Richard Gere as the Paramount blockbuster increased its total purse to $135.5M and counting. Reclaiming second place in its sixth weekend, Runaway Bride also became the superstar's second biggest hit ever passing the $126.8M gross of 1997's My Best Friend's Wedding. Bride has been a very durable title this summer and a final domestic gross of $155-160M looks to be in the works.

The Thirteenth Warrior suffered the largest decline in the top ten as the vikings-against-cannibals adventure tale munched on an estimated $8.4M in its second weekend of release. The four-day tally was off 17% from the three-day debut last week while the Friday-to-Sunday portion was down about 37% from its comparable frame the previous week. After eleven days, the Buena Vista title has brought in $22.4M and seems headed for a finish of about $35-40M. Universal's Bowfinger placed fourth with $7.4M bringing its cume to a solid $55.9M.

Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo were a popular couple over the weekend as their action hit The Thomas Crown Affair took in $6.1M boosting its total to $57.7M. Moving up a notch to fifth place, the MGM/UA remake has now become the highest-grossing release for the studio since 1997's Bond flick Tomorrow Never Dies which also starred Brosnan. With so much media attention on the success of The Sixth Sense, many are not noticing what a successful showing Thomas Crown is displaying in these late summer weeks. Enjoying the second-best increase in the top ten, the John McTiernan-helmed hit is cruising towards a final domestic total of $70-75M plus a healthy overseas run that may push worldwide ticket sales north of $150M.

Cuba Goodling Jr. and Skeet Ulrich attracted mild business over the weekend with their new action pic Chill Factor which opened in sixth with $5.8M. Warner Bros. ambitiously launched the film very wide in 2,558 theaters but averaged a frigid $2,272 per venue over the four days. Since its Wednesday opening, Chill Factor has grossed $6.7M.

Mickey Blue Eyes claimed the seventh spot with $5.5M pushing its cume to $27.3M. Eighth place went to The Blair Witch Project which scared up $4.1M over the long weekend to boost its total to date to a towering $133.8M. The Artisan release is not only one of the most profitable films in history but also is one of the highest-grossing movies to never reach the number one spot at the box office. Others in its company include As Good As It Gets ($147.7M), Good Will Hunting ($138.4M), and Tomorrow Never Dies ($125.3M) which all brought in large crowds while Titanic held a firm grip on the top spot week after week.

The Astronaut's Wife starring Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron followed in ninth with $3.46M. The New Line thriller has not excited moviegoers bringing in just $8.9M in eleven days and looks headed for a $15-17M final. Rounding out the top ten were Albert Brooks and Sharon Stone with the comedy The Muse which grossed $3.45M. After eleven days of play, it has collected $8.6M and should top out at $16-18M.

Opening poorly outside of the top ten at number eleven was Miramax's coming-of-age comedy Outside Providence which took in $3.4M. Playing in 1,050 sites, the picture averaged $3,210 per theater over the long weekend and has grossed just $3.9M since its Wednesday launch.

Compared to projections, both new entries, Chill Factor and Outside Providence, opened very close to my forecasts of $6M and $3M respectively.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on next summer's movies. In last week's survey, readers were asked which young boy had the breakthrough performance of the Summer of 1999. Of 2,380 responses, 74% chose Haley Joel Osment of The Sixth Sense, 22% voted for Jake Lloyd from Star Wars Episode I, while 4% picked Cole and Dylan Sprouse of Big Daddy.

Be sure to read the NEW Box Office Guru Summer Wrapup and the Weekly Rewind column which looks at the top September openings of the decade. For a review of The Sixth Sense visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films over the Labor Day weekend grossed $82.1M over the four-day session which was up 43% from last year when There's Something About Mary finally hit the top spot in its eighth weekend with $10.9M, and up an amazing 118% from 1997 when Fire Down Below opened at number one with $6.1M over a standard Friday-to-Sunday non-holiday frame.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when competing thrillers Stir of Echoes and Stigmata both debut.

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

# Title Sep. 3 - 6 Aug. 27 - 29 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Sixth Sense $ 29,271,146 $ 20,099,149 45.6 2,775 5 $ 10,548 $ 176,245,282 Buena Vista
2 Runaway Bride 8,610,287 6,842,589 25.8 3,015 6 2,856 135,504,513 Paramount
3 The Thirteenth Warrior 8,477,149 10,267,756 -17.4 2,313 2 3,665 22,393,026 Buena Vista
4 Bowfinger 7,389,970 6,584,350 12.2 2,702 4 2,735 55,870,320 Universal
5 The Thomas Crown Affair 6,078,007 4,620,007 31.6 1,977 5 3,074 57,652,861 MGM/UA
6 Chill Factor 5,810,531 2,558 1 2,272 6,672,448 Warner Bros.
7 Mickey Blue Eyes 5,513,813 5,426,630 1.6 2,230 3 2,473 27,314,758 Warner Bros.
8 The Blair Witch Project 4,077,463 4,219,020 -3.4 2,297 8 1,775 133,839,255 Artisan
9 The Muse 3,452,346 3,926,825 -12.1 1,263 2 2,733 8,592,473 USA Films
10 The Astronaut's Wife 3,460,766 4,027,003 -14.1 2,209 2 1,567 8,910,055 New Line
11 Outside Providence 3,370,662 1,050 1 3,210 3,948,011 Miramax
12 In Too Deep 3,283,073 4,220,297 -22.2 674 2 4,871 10,260,563 Miramax
13 Dudley Do-Right 3,051,475 3,018,345 1.1 1,855 2 1,645 7,006,810 Universal
14 Inspector Gadget 3,043,901 2,367,348 28.6 1,545 7 1,970 91,403,839 Buena Vista
15 Deep Blue Sea 2,083,860 1,867,206 11.6 1,394 6 1,495 69,884,507 Warner Bros.
16 American Pie 1,587,750 1,396,195 13.7 1,095 9 1,450 98,958,465 Universal
17 Star Wars : Episode I 1,534,860 910,246 68.6 604 16 2,541 421,381,756 Fox
18 The Iron Giant 1,476,801 1,014,928 45.5 1,289 5 1,146 20,730,553 Warner Bros.
19 Universal Soldier: The Return 1,202,641 1,654,571 -27.3 1,327 3 906 9,705,089 Sony
20 Teaching Mrs. Tingle 1,157,403 1,458,351 -20.6 1,402 3 826 8,214,943 Miramax
Top 5 $ 59,826,559 $ 49,220,474 21.5
Top 10 82,141,478 70,233,626 17.0
Top 20 103,933,904 86,036,124 20.8

Last Updated : September 7, 1999 at 8:30PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya