Weekend Box Office (September 17 - 19, 1999)

*** Read the Summer 1999 Box Office Wrapup ***

THIS WEEKEND Keeping audiences laughing, Martin Lawrence scored his second number one movie this year with the action-comedy Blue Streak which opened impressively with $19.2M, exactly as estimated, according to final studio figures. The Sony release averaged a strong $7,023 per theater in 2,735 sites. Blue Streak now claims the second largest September opening ever behind Rush Hour which exploded this very weekend last year with $33M. Though not a favorite with critics, Blue Streak scored with moviegoers, especially young males, and successfully built on its sneak preview last Saturday. Martin Lawrence's previous film Life, which paired the comic with Eddie Murphy, also opened with strength grossing a similar $20.4M in its April bow last spring.

Kevin Costner attracted a solid, but not spectacular, turnout to his latest baseball romance For Love of the Game which grossed $13M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Pitching in 2,829 parks, the Universal drama averaged a good $4,610 per theater. While the debut for Game was below the $16.8M opening for Costner's last film Message in a Bottle, it did exceed the launches for the actor's other recent releases like 1997's The Postman ($5.3M) and 1996's Tin Cup ($10.1M).

Bruce Willis and his spiritual pals in The Sixth Sense dropped a notch to third with $11.2M in ticket sales. With $213.3M in the bank, the Buena Vista chiller continues to have one of the lowest declines in the top ten. Sense also surpassed the $201.6M stateside gross of last summer's Armageddon to become the studio's biggest live-action hit as well as the A-list actor's highest-grossing domestic film. At its current pace, the M. Night Shyamalan-directed thriller should reach a superb $245-255M and spook up big sales around the world.

Falling hard from first to fourth place in its sophomore frame was MGM's supernatural thriller Stigmata which grossed $9.2M over the weekend. Off an alarming 50%, the Patricia Arquette-Gabriel Byrne pic has collected $33M in ten days and should eventually reach $50-55M.

The Kevin Bacon thriller Stir of Echoes declined a respectable 32% in its second weekend and placed fifth with $3.9M. After ten days, the Artisan release has conjured up $11.9M and is likely to finish its run with $22-25M. Slipping to sixth place was Paramount's Runaway Bride which honeymooned with $2.6M bringing its total gross to a ravishing $144.2M. Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo collected $2M for their action hit The Thomas Crown Affair which saw its cume rise to $64.3M.

Universal's comedy Bowfinger saw its cume rise to $63M after a weekend take of $1.7M. Buena Vista's brutal adventure tale The Thirteenth Warrior clobbered its way to eighth place with $1.7M lifting its overall domestic sum to $29.5M. The Hugh Grant mob comedy Mickey Blue Eyes took tenth with $1.1M putting its total at $32.1M.

DreamWorks saw a spectacular performance from its critically-praised new film American Beauty which premiered in limited release over the weekend. The Kevin Spacey-Annette Bening starrer grossed $861,531 from a mere sixteen theaters for a colossal average of $53,846 per location. That's almost as muscular as the opening of The Blair Witch Project which delivered $56,002 per site in 27 theaters in mid-July. American Beauty, which was just crowned with the People's Choice award at the Toronto Film Festival, will expand across North America over the next two weekends.

USA Films released a pair of pictures over the weekend in limited release. Sugar Town, starring Rosanna Arquette and Ally Sheedy, grossed $42,668 in eight sites for a $5,334 average. Meanwhile, the French-language item Lucie Aubrac collected $19,644 from a single theater in New York.

Two films fell out of the top ten over the weekend. The Blair Witch Project, in its eighth weekend of wide release, scared up $806,363 boosting its total domestic gross to $137.6M. Artisan's ultralow-budget film should eventually finish with about $140M. The Warner Bros. action pic Chill Factor crumbled 76% reaching a disappointing cume of $10.7M and should finish with $12M.

Compared to projections, Blue Streak was stronger than my $14M forecast while For Love of the Game opened below my $18M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on your choice for the king of comedy. In last week's survey, readers were asked if they thought For Love of the Game would open at number one. Of 1,915 responses, 71% said yes while 29% correctly voted no.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which reviews the box office track record of Kevin Costner. For a review of Stigmata visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $65.7M which was up 2% from last year when Rush Hour hit the top spot with a record-shattering $33M, and up 33% from 1997 when In & Out opened at number one with $15M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Double Jeopardy and Jakob the Liar hit theaters.

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

# Title Sep. 17 - 19 Sep. 10 - 12 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Blue Streak $ 19,208,806 2,735 1 $ 7,023 $ 19,208,806 Sony
2 For Love of the Game 13,041,685 2,829 1 4,610 13,041,685 Universal
3 The Sixth Sense 11,207,422 16,511,464 -32.1 2,788 7 4,020 213,275,834 Buena Vista
4 Stigmata 9,229,007 18,309,666 -49.6 2,901 2 3,181 32,953,476 MGM/UA
5 Stir of Echoes 3,947,618 5,811,664 -32.1 1,943 2 2,032 11,855,733 Artisan
6 Runaway Bride 2,604,841 3,833,803 -32.1 2,384 8 1,093 144,182,467 Paramount
7 The Thomas Crown Affair 1,956,007 2,700,191 -27.6 1,658 7 1,180 64,308,215 MGM/UA
8 Bowfinger 1,712,290 3,604,425 -52.5 2,063 6 830 62,989,770 Universal
9 The Thirteenth Warrior 1,667,843 3,027,182 -44.9 1,969 4 847 29,526,292 Buena Vista
10 Mickey Blue Eyes 1,134,270 2,211,309 -48.7 1,530 5 741 32,098,771 Warner Bros.
11 American Beauty 861,531 16 1 53,846 1,021,385 DreamWorks
12 The Blair Witch Project 806,363 1,631,535 -50.6 1,434 10 562 137,642,473 Artisan
13 Star Wars : Episode I 799,369 653,324 22.4 732 18 1,092 423,299,088 Fox
14 Love Stinks 620,000 1,398,046 -55.7 1,240 2 500 2,622,075 Ind. Artists
15 Outside Providence 618,407 1,090,705 -43.3 929 3 666 6,724,321 Miramax
16 Inspector Gadget 609,331 958,334 -36.4 1,057 9 576 93,404,574 Buena Vista
17 The Muse 550,531 1,076,083 -48.8 655 4 841 11,075,772 USA Films
18 Dudley Do-Right 513,935 1,003,090 -48.8 1,142 4 450 9,053,795 Universal
19 American Pie 501,325 689,750 -27.3 604 11 830 100,705,485 Universal
20 In Too Deep 476,258 1,238,871 -61.6 597 4 798 12,817,269 Miramax
Top 5 $ 56,634,538 $ 48,071,022 17.8
Top 10 65,709,789 59,580,103 10.3
Top 20 72,066,839 69,105,766 4.3

Last Updated : September 20, 1999 at 8:00PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya