Weekend Box Office (September 15 - 17, 2000)

*** Summer 2000 Box Office Wrapup ***

THIS WEEKEND A lack of appealing films and the start of the Summer Olympics sent box office sales tumbling as no film was able to collect at least $6M over the Friday-to-Sunday span. The cumulative total for the top ten fell to its lowest level in four years and the number one movie posted the smallest gross since January 1997. The weekend's three new releases contributed small amounts to the overall marketplace but DreamWorks' Almost Famous scored a sizzling per-theater average.

Topping a terribly weak box office for the second weekend was the serial killer film The Watcher with $5.8M, according to final studio figures. Starring James Spader, Marisa Tomei, and Keanu Reeves, the Universal release dropped a moderate 36% from its opening and has scared up $17.4M in ten days. However, as the weekend's widest release, its per-theater average slumped to a mild $2,115 from 2,745 venues. The Watcher was produced by Interlight for $32M although Universal paid $5M for domestic rights plus prints and advertising costs. A final tally of around $30-35M could be in the works.

Opening poorly in second place was the weekend's only new wide release, the action-comedy Bait with $5.5M. The Jamie Foxx title entered 2,352 sites and captured a dismal $2,332 average. Warner Bros. distribution president Dan Fellman noted "the Olympics had a strong effect on Friday, but we bounced back 38% on Saturday." Demographic information was unavailable for Bait.

Two-time box office champ Bring It On collected $5.1M in its fourth frame sliding just 25%. Universal's hit teen comedy has raised its cume to $50.9M to date. The dark comedy Nurse Betty slipped a decent 35% in its second weekend taking in $4.7M. After ten days, the USA Films release has grossed $13.6M and could be headed for $25-30M.

The box office has not collapsed this badly in years. The top ten films grossed just $34.8M which was the lowest such cume since the weekend of September 13-15, 1996 when the top ten brought in $33.3M. The Watcher's $5.8M take was the smallest for a number one film since the weekend of January 24-26, 1997 when Jerry Maguire led the frame with $5.5M in its seventh weekend of release.

The Summer Olympics in Sydney seem to be hurting the box office directly, and indirectly. Potential moviegoers are staying home to watch their country's athletes compete for medals instead of going to the theater to see movies which will most likely still be playing days or weeks from now. Plus, in anticipation of the national distraction of the Games, major distributors have decided not to release many of their better films during this time for fear of not reaching their target audiences. With the Olympics continuing for two more weeks, attendance may remain low which will make it even tougher for October releases to get consumers back into the moviegoing habit.

Space Cowboys roped up $2.5M, off 25%, bringing its sum to a stellar $82.2M. Jennifer Lopez saw $2.4M for her crime pic The Cell which has grossed a solid $55M thus far. The Harrison Ford-Michelle Pfeiffer thriller What Lies Beneath eased only 13% with $2.4M giving the DreamWorks/Fox venture $145.6M domestically.

The weekend's lone bright spot came from DreamWorks which launched Cameron Crowe's new film Almost Famous in limited release and grossed $2.3M. Playing in just 131 theaters, the tale of a young journalist covering a rock tour in 1973 averaged a powerful $17,669 per location. Since its Wednesday premiere in New York and Los Angeles, Almost Famous has collected $2.38M. Critics have been very supportive of the film which witnessed a healthy 46% increase on Saturday over Friday.

DreamWorks distribution chief Jim Tharp stated that the audience was split evenly between men and women and that 70% were 25 and older. A promising 89% of those polled rated the film "Excellent" or "Very Good". "Crowe's name means a lot to fans and the sneaks we held last weekend really started the word-of-mouth on this picture," Tharp said referring to last weekend's sneak previews held in selected cities. The studio also held 418 sneaks over the weekend in markets where the film will open next weekend and the results were nearly identical to the prior frame's. Tharp estimates that the company will add 600-800 more theaters on Friday and will be in 1,600-2,000 locations on September 29. Sony Pictures will distribute Almost Famous overseas.

Miramax reissued the summer's surprise hit Scary Movie into wide release and claimed $2M. Playing in 1,997 theaters, the spoof comedy averaged just $1,021 but brought its mammoth cume to $151.8M. Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow's new film Duets debuted quietly in tenth place with $2M as well. Buena Vista launched the karaoke comedy in moderate release with 581 runs and a so-so average of $3,447. Co-starring Huey Lewis, Duets was directed by Bruce Paltrow (Gwyneth's father) and carries a reported budget of $16M.

Four films fell out of the top ten over the weekend. Paramount's $3M standup comedy film The Original Kings of Comedy laughed up $1.5M in its fifth round. With $34M in the bank, the Spike Lee joint should conclude with a superb $37-40M making it one of the summer's most profitable movies as well as the director's top grossing film since 1992's Malcolm X.

Wesley Snipes' latest action entry The Art of War brought in $1.55M in its fourth weekend lifting its cume to $27.4M. The Warner Bros. release should finish its run with $30-32M.

Artisan's action film The Way of the Gun has grossed a mere $4.3M in ten days and should conclude with a disappointing $6-7M. Highlander: Endgame has conjured up $10.8M after 17 days and is likely to stumble to about $13M before hitting video stores.

The top ten films grossed $34.8M over the weekend which was down an alarming 47% from last year when Blue Streak opened in the top spot with $19.2M; and down 46% from 1998 when Rush Hour debuted at number one with a September record $33M.

Compared to projections, Bait opened well below my $12M forecast while Almost Famous debuted very close to my $2M prediction. Duets launched below my $4M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey which asks for your box office prediction on the November release Charlie's Angels. In last week's survey, readers were asked how much the Summer Olympics will affect the box office. Of 1,287 responses, 23% said Very Much, 37% said Somewhat, 19% voted Slightly, and 21% thought Not At All.

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.

Read the Weekly Rewind column which looks at the top September openings. 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 Urban Legends and the reissue of The Exorcist hit theaters nationwide.

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

# Title Sep. 15 - 17 Sep. 8 - 10 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Watcher $ 5,805,680 $ 9,062,295 -35.9 2,745 2 $ 2,115 $ 17,376,895 Universal
2 Bait 5,485,591 2,352 1 2,332 5,485,591 Warner Bros.
3 Bring It On 5,084,580 6,813,120 -25.4 2,427 4 2,095 50,935,610 Universal
4 Nurse Betty 4,658,762 7,145,950 -34.8 1,469 2 3,171 13,552,543 USA Films
5 Space Cowboys 2,515,232 3,340,850 -24.7 2,461 7 1,022 82,202,221 Warner Bros.
6 The Cell 2,448,012 3,654,515 -33.0 2,250 5 1,088 54,985,122 New Line
7 What Lies Beneath 2,406,524 2,767,993 -13.1 2,007 9 1,199 145,578,552 DreamWorks
8 Almost Famous 2,314,646 131 1 17,669 2,376,387 DreamWorks
9 Scary Movie 2,039,085 199,301 1,997 11 1,021 151,771,492 Miramax
10 Duets 2,002,588 581 1 3,447 2,002,588 Buena Vista
11 The Art of War 1,553,230 2,476,366 -37.3 1,705 3 911 27,378,910 Warner Bros.
12 The Original Kings of Comedy 1,537,461 2,354,174 -34.7 1,040 4 1,478 34,013,542 Paramount
13 The Replacements 1,384,541 1,764,843 -21.5 1,713 5 808 41,022,781 Warner Bros.
14 Nutty Professor II 1,219,740 1,634,720 -25.4 1,402 7 870 118,545,210 Universal
15 The Way of the Gun 1,217,915 2,150,979 -43.4 1,565 1 778 4,253,728 Artisan
16 Highlander: Endgame 1,103,835 1,915,328 -42.4 1,546 2 714 10,804,448 Miramax
17 Coyote Ugly 1,003,196 1,308,214 -23.3 1,104 6 909 56,717,183 Buena Vista
18 Autumn in New York 945,789 1,409,198 -32.9 1,572 5 602 35,445,797 MGM/UA
19 Saving Grace 896,914 1,195,997 -25.0 874 6 1,026 9,691,210 Fine Line
20 The Crew 670,811 1,156,268 -42.0 1,188 3 565 11,877,369 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 23,549,845 $ 30,016,730 -21.5
Top 10 34,760,700 41,681,570 -16.6
Top 20 46,294,132 52,951,263 -12.6
Top 20 vs. 1999 46,294,132 72,066,839 -35.8

Last Updated : September 18 at 7:30PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya