Weekend Box Office (September 8 - 10, 2000)

*** Summer 2000 Box Office Wrapup ***

THIS WEEKEND Five new releases failed to invigorate the box office as the top ten delivered the smallest cumulative gross of the year. Most freshmen films generated disappointing results, though The Watcher took the top spot and Nurse Betty claimed the best per-theater average. For the first time in six months, no movie managed a weekend gross of at least $10M. With the Olympics commencing next weekend, it will be difficult to get attendance levels back up again in the near term.

Opening at number one was the serial killer film The Watcher starring James Spader, Marisa Tomei, and Keanu Reeves with $9.1M, according to final studio figures. Launching very wide in 2,742 theaters, the Universal release averaged a not-so-threatening $3,305 per venue. The Watcher generated the second-lowest gross for a number one opening this year behind January's Eye of the Beholder which premiered on top with only $6M. In The Watcher, Spader plays an FBI agent trying to stop a ruthless murderer (Reeves) from striking again. Reeves' last film, The Replacements, opened last month with $11M in the same amount of theaters.

Debuting in almost half the number of theaters, USA Films released the comedy Nurse Betty and collected a commendable $7.1M. Directed by Neil LaBute, the picture stars Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock, Renee Zellweger, and Greg Kinnear and follows a woman who lives out her fantasy by searching Hollywood for her favorite soap opera character. Nurse Betty operated in 1,459 theaters and averaged a solid $4,898 per site. Reviews have been very supportive and the film's 50% Friday-to-Saturday jump bodes well for the future.

After two weeks on top, the dueling cheerleaders of Bring It On slipped two spots to third with $6.8M. Off 41% from the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the Labor Day frame, the Universal hit has now brought in $44.8M in only 17 days.

Dropping to fourth place in its fourth weekend was the Jennifer Lopez crime thriller The Cell with $3.7M. The New Line release has grossed a solid $51.3M in 24 days and should soon become the distributor's highest-grossing film this year.

Clint Eastwood's latest hit Space Cowboys took in $3.3M in its sixth orbit bringing its stellar cume to $78.8M. The suspense pic What Lies Beneath followed with $2.8M pushing its blockbuster tally to $142.4M.

The Art of War starring Wesley Snipes, crumbled 60% to $2.5M for a $25M cume to date. Falling 50%, Spike Lee's comedy tour film The Original Kings of Comedy laughed up $2.4M in its fourth lap lifting its sum to $31.9M.

Debuting poorly in ninth place with $2.2M was the action film The Way of the Gun from Artisan. Starring Ryan Phillipe and Benicio Del Toro, the picture averaged a terrible $1,420 per site in 1,515 houses. Rounding out the top ten was Highlander: Endgame which plunged 62% in its sophomore frame to $1.9M giving the Miramax release a feeble $9.1M in ten days.

A pair of hip-hop-themed films opened poorly outside of the top twenty. Miramax's Backstage, a documentary on the successful Hard Knock Life concert tour, debuted in only 322 theaters and New Line's urban drama Turn It Up played in 661 sites. Both films grossed under $1M over their Wednesday-to-Sunday launches.

Three late-summer comedies fell out of the top ten over the weekend. The football flick The Replacements, with Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman, grossed $1.8M in its fifth attempt. With $39.2M in the bank, the Warner Bros. film should end its season with about $42-44M. The retired mobsters of The Crew have made off with $10.9M to date and look to conclude with a cume of roughly $13-15M.

Eddie Murphy's comedy sequel Nutty Professor II claimed $1.6M in its seventh round pushing its plump total to $117M. The Universal hit should be able to reach $120M domestically which nearly matches the $128.8M haul of the 1996 predecessor.

The top ten films grossed $41.7M over the weekend which was down 30% from last year when Stigmata opened in the top spot with $18.3M; but up 12% from 1998 when Rounders debuted at number one with $8.5M.

Compared to projections, The Watcher opened weaker than my $14M forecast but Nurse Betty debuted very close to my $7M prediction. The Way of the Gun came in below my $6M projection and both Turn It Up and Backstage did not reach my $3M forecast for each.

Now online, read the annual Summer Box Office Wrapup which takes an in-depth look at the busy season just concluded with analysis plus reports on the Top 20 Films and Top 20 Openings of the season.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on how much you think the Summer Olympics will affect the box office. In last week's survey, readers were asked which September release they wanted to see the most. Of 2,243 responses, 25% said Nurse Betty, 22% picked Almost Famous, 17% chose Urban Legends, 16% selected The Watcher, 16% went with Remember The Titans, and 4% said Bait.

Read the Weekly Rewind column which examines the legs of this summer's notable films. For a review of The Watcher visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Bait, Almost Famous, and Duets open.

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

# Title Sep. 8 - 10 Sep. 1 - 3 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Watcher $ 9,062,295 2,742 1 $ 3,305 $ 9,062,295 Universal
2 Nurse Betty 7,145,950 1,459 1 4,898 7,145,950 USA Films
3 Bring It On 6,813,120 11,447,495 -40.5 2,416 3 2,820 44,800,590 Universal
4 The Cell 3,654,515 7,096,207 -48.5 2,476 4 1,476 51,341,527 New Line
5 Space Cowboys 3,340,850 6715332 -50.3 2,607 6 1,281 78,825,796 Warner Bros.
6 What Lies Beneath 2,767,993 4,713,153 -41.3 2,166 8 1,278 142,381,640 DreamWorks
7 The Art of War 2,476,366 6,154,124 -59.8 2,370 3 1,045 25,028,790 Warner Bros.
8 The Original Kings of Comedy 2,354,174 4,685,704 -49.8 997 4 2,361 31,874,700 Paramount
9 The Way of the Gun 2,150,979 1,515 1 1,420 2,150,979 Artisan
10 Highlander: Endgame 1,915,328 5,067,331 -62.2 1,545 2 1,240 9,053,672 Miramax
11 The Replacements 1,764,843 3,516,233 -49.8 2,058 5 858 39,209,497 Warner Bros.
12 Nutty Professor II 1,634,720 3,039,525 -46.2 1,694 7 965 117,029,125 Universal
13 Autumn in New York 1,409,198 2,815,628 -50.0 1,801 5 782 34,002,007 MGM/UA
14 Coyote Ugly 1,308,214 2,342,343 -44.1 1,412 6 926 55,315,914 Buena Vista
15 Saving Grace 1,195,997 2,335,385 -48.8 875 6 1,367 8,391,894 Fine Line
16 The Crew 1,156,268 2,869,404 -59.7 1,487 3 778 10,854,829 Buena Vista
17 Bless the Child 805,393 1,919,696 -58.0 1,165 5 691 27,429,185 Paramount
18 Hollow Man 770,511 2,026,625 -62.0 1,184 6 651 71,342,018 Sony
19 The Perfect Storm 634,000 1,348,499 -53.0 705 11 899 178,684,608 Warner Bros.
20 Whipped 590,549 2,181,378 -72.9 1,561 2 378 3,780,907 Destination
Top 5 $ 30,016,730 $ 36,480,489 -17.7
Top 10 41,681,570 55,304,508 -24.6
Top 20 52,951,263 73,844,917 -28.3
Top 20 vs. 1999 52,951,263 69,105,766 -23.4

Last Updated : September 11 at 9:00PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya