Weekend Box Office (September 11 - 13, 1998)

THIS WEEKEND The September doldrums hit the box office as for the first time since early May, no film crossed the $10M mark over the Friday-to-Sunday period. The weekend after Labor Day is typically one of the slowest of the year and this one was no different.

Miramax grabbed hold of the top spot with the opening of the Matt Damon gambling film Rounders which grossed $8.5M according to final studio figures. Dealing cards in 2,176 joints, Rounders, which also stars Edward Norton and newcomer Gretchen Mol, averaged a lucky $3,887 per theater. But it was more than just the luck of the draw that sent this film to the top. With the success of Good Will Hunting and Saving Private Ryan driving him, Damon proved he could rise to the top during a typically sluggish weekend. While not matching the $10.3M that Hunting collected when it first went wide last January, Rounders still had an encouraging debut and should have a solid run over the next several weeks.

As usual, There's Something About Mary enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten as it slipped from first to second with $7M in its ninth weekend. Interestingly, the final gross figure came in a full million dollars less than Fox's estimate from Sunday. Down just 36% from last weekend's four-day holiday frame, Mary has managed to catch $139.2M in its zipper. The Fox comedy's amazing popularity will allow it to pass Doctor Dolittle and Deep Impact in the next couple of days to become the third highest-grossing release of 1998. Mary is still as durable as 1990's sleeper smash Ghost as its total gross is running 4.3% ahead of the Demi Moore tearjerker which collected $133.4M by the end of its ninth weekend.

Slaying vampires in third place was New Line's hit movie Blade which snatched $5.2M elevating its total to $56.4M. The Wesley Snipes pic is still doing vibrant business and is not falling off like the distributor's previous August sci-fi/action entries Spawn and Mortal Kombat.

With $4.5M in its eighth battle, Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan finished fourth and saw its cume march to $173.1M. The Tom Hanks battle epic is now the third biggest domestic grosser for the two-time Oscar winner trailing only Forrest Gump ($329.7M) and Toy Story ($191.8M). Ryan has also become one of Spielberg's most long-lasting hits as its eight weekends in the top five trails only Jurassic Park's eleven among the director's movies from this decade. The DreamWorks war film may only be able to stretch the streak to nine as more autumn releases make their way to the cinemas.

Rounding out the top five was Buena Vista's drama Simon Birch which opened with $3.3M over the weekend. Although the gross was diminutive, the film's per-theater average was the best among all movies in the top ten. Debuting in just 596 locations, Simon took home an encouraging $5,573 per site and saw an impressive 66% Friday-to-Saturday boost. If the picture can expand its release and generate positive word-of-mouth, it could have a solid run through the fall which would be commendable since it has no major stars in it.

Ever After grossed $2.3M, allowing it to finish in sixth place, and raising the Drew Barrymore-starrer's overall tally to $57.2M. With The Wedding Singer and Ever After both outperforming expectations, Warner Bros. should be happy since the studio will release the actress's next film Home Fries in October.

Jean-Claude Van Damme had the wind knocked out of him as his latest action flick Knock Off plunged 65% from last weekend's four-day holiday opening. Even when comparing its weekend take to the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the Labor Day gross, Knock Off still tumbled an alarming 57% signaling that moviegoers are tired of an endless string of bad action films from the Muscles from Brussels. By comparison, his last two films, Double Team and Maximum Risk, fell by 58% and 48% respectively in their sophomore frames. Knock Off is on course for a final gross of about $11M and could very well become the kickboxing actor's lowest-grossing movie of the decade.

With Titanic widely available on home video, the James Cameron film again lost considerable box office steam as it fell 68% from last weekend's four-day holiday gross to $57,308. Its domestic treasure chest is now at $600.74 million. Meanwhile, the home video of Titanic easily debuted at number one on the video rental and sales charts with an estimated 12-15 million units sold in the first week alone, according to The Hollywood Reporter. On the Billboard album sales chart, the second soundtrack, Back to Titanic, jumped five spots to number two with 278,000 units sold in two weeks. At the overseas box office, Titanic crossed the $1.2 billion mark with theatrical revenue still coming in from Japan, India, and Brazil where local totals are $187M, $10M, and $69M respectively.

Compared to projections, Rounders and Simon Birch both opened close to my forecasts of $10M and $3M respectively.

For a complete look at the summer box office, read the Box Office Guru Summer Wrapup which analyzes the record-breaking season with projected final grosses and plenty of data. The summer was especially noteworthy as two female directors broke into a typically male-dominated field and saw their films land in the top five - Betty Thomas' Doctor Dolittle and Mimi Leder's Deep Impact.

Box Office Guru now feaures a Marketplace where readers can conveniently search and shop for movies, DVDs, music, and books. The online retailers Reel.com, Music Boulevard, and Amazon.com offer wide selections and discounted prices for internet users and will ship items directly to you. Search engines for all three retailers can be found in the Marketplace.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on movies about the U.S. President. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of six fall releases they were most looking forward to seeing. Of 1,668 responses, 23% voted for John Carpenter's Vampires, 22% chose Rounders, 20% picked Ronin, 18% opted for Antz, 10% said Practical Magic, and 6% said Holy Man.

Be sure to read the NEW Weekly Rewind column which compares the top films of the last three summers. For reviews of recent films visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films grossed $37.3M which was down 3% from last year when The Game opened at number one with $14.3M, and up 12% from 1996 when Jean-Claude Van Damme's Maximum Risk debuted at the top with $5.6M. Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend's activity which features the opening of Rush Hour starring Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan.

Below are final studio figures for the holiday weekend. Click on the title to jump to its official home page:

# Title Sep 11 - 13 Sep 4 - 7 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Rounders $ 8,459,126 2,176 1 $ 3,887 $ 8,459,126 Miramax
2 There's Something About Mary 6,952,863 10,920,201 -36.3 2,555 9 2,721 139,238,354 Fox
3 Blade 5,193,323 10,788,664 -51.9 2,389 4 2,174 56,437,673 New Line
4 Saving Private Ryan 4,504,502 8,825,090 -49.0 2,705 8 1,665 173,076,992 DreamWorks
5 Simon Birch 3,321,370 596 1 5,573 3,321,370 BV
6 Ever After 2,296,421 4,348,419 -47.2 1,913 7 1,200 57,216,628 Fox
7 Knock Off 1,922,829 5,516,231 -65.1 1,800 2 1,068 8,275,072 Sony
8 Snake Eyes 1,583,354 3,331,861 -52.5 1,681 6 942 52,520,488 Paramount
9 Armageddon 1,581,421 2,828,361 -44.1 1,334 11 1,185 194,125,324 BV
10 How Stella Got Her Groove Back 1,483,946 3,019,496 -50.9 1,275 5 1,164 33,992,350 Fox
11 54 1,387,417 4,025,576 -65.5 1,765 3 786 15,154,617 Miramax
12 Why Do Fools Fall in Love? 1,337,227 3,540,408 -62.2 1,123 3 1,191 10,611,134 WB
13 The Parent Trap 1,256,091 3,202,708 -60.8 1,671 7 752 61,983,694 BV
14 Dance With Me 1,021,905 2,620,594 -61.0 1,150 4 889 14,282,035 Sony
15 The Mask of Zorro 1,003,555 2,106,833 -52.4 1,085 9 925 89,228,663 Sony
16 Dead Man on Campus 867,173 2,119,324 -59.1 1,600 4 542 13,628,660 Paramount
17 Slums of Beverly Hills 857,867 1,062,421 -19.3 548 5 1,565 3,605,414 Fox Searchlight
18 Everest (IMAX) 732,035 1,084,566 -32.5 62 28 11,807 41,678,933 Freeman
19 The Negotiator 718,421 1,443,961 -50.2 830 7 866 41,967,339 WB
20 Doctor Dolittle 677,948 1,161,070 -41.6 833 12 814 140,304,005 Fox
Top 5 $ 28,431,184 $ 40,398,605 -29.6
Top 10 37,299,155 57,518,654 -35.2
Top 20 47,158,794 74,686,300 -36.9

    This column is updated three times each week : Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Source : EDI, Exhibitor Relations. Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.

Last Updated : September 14, 1998 at 9:30PM EDTHome

Written by Gitesh Pandya