Weekend Box Office (September 22 - 24, 2000)

*** Summer 2000 Box Office Wrapup ***

THIS WEEKEND Scary movies ruled the box office as Urban Legends : Final Cut and The Exorcist : The Version You've Never Seen led the marketplace to its first week-to-week increase in over two months. The Exorcist reissue played in far fewer locations and delivered a scorching per-theater average. Almost Famous expanded nationally and generated impressive results once again. However, the overall box office continued to struggle as the cumulative gross for the top ten films trailed last year, 1998, and 1997.

Sony Pictures topped the box office with the opening of the horror film Urban Legends which grossed $8.5M in its first weekend, according to final studio figures. Playing in 2,539 theaters, the Phoenix Pictures production averaged a mild $3,350 per location. In this slasher sequel, a murder spree occurs during production of a student film about urban legends. The first picture of the franchise enjoyed a better opening grossing $10.5M this very weekend in 1998 with a stronger $4,659 leading to a solid $38.1M domestic cume. The sequel may have watched potential moviegoers drawn into The Exorcist instead thereby limiting its gross somewhat. Sony distribution chief Jeff Blake noted that Legends successfully reached its target age group of 17-to-25 and that Saturday sales were up 21%. Just like the first installment, Urban Legends (which boasts less starpower than the first) carried a negative cost of $14M.

Scaring up strong numbers in second place was the 1973 classic chiller The Exorcist, which Warner Bros. reissued in moderate release, with a devilish $8.2M. Playing in only 664 theaters, the Warner Bros. title averaged a powerful $12,313 per site which more than doubled the next best average in the top ten. The new version features digitally improved sound and eleven minutes of additional footage not seen previously. Dan Fellman, the studio's distribution head, noted that test runs in March indicated strong demand for this rerelease which will expand by roughly 400 theaters next weekend, and then again in October on Friday the 13th. The Exorcist had grossed $165M at the box office making it one of the biggest blockbusters of the 1970s. The reissue now has a cume of $8.4M which includes $256,000 from the test runs.

After a sizzling performance in limited release last weekend, DreamWorks expanded its Cameron Crowe hit Almost Famous nationally and grossed $6.9M. Widening from 131 to 1,193 theaters, the critically acclaimed rock music saga averaged a healthy $5,806 per venue and pushed its cume to $10.1M. According to studio distribution president Jim Tharp, Almost Famous dipped just 15% in its holdover theaters and enjoyed a fabulous 55% Friday-to-Saturday increase overall. DreamWorks expects to add another 400 to 500 more theaters on Friday.

Universal claimed the next two spots with the cheerleader comedy Bring It On and the serial killer film The Watcher which registered weekend takes of $3.7M and $3.4M respectively. The leggy Kirsten Dunst pic dipped just 16% and raised its cume to a solid $56M. The James Spader-Keanu Reeves thriller fell 39% and brought its 17-day total to $22.8M.

Jamie Foxx's action-comedy Bait dropped 39% in its sophomore frame to $3.4M. The Warner Bros. release has collected just $10.6M in ten days and looks set to finish with $18-20M. Nurse Betty, starring Morgan Freeman and Renee Zellweger, was off 30% with $3.3M in its third weekend. Distributed by USA Films, the dark comedy has grossed $18M in 17 days.

A pair of strong summer holdovers followed. DreamWorks' suspense thriller What Lies Beneath grossed $2.2M, off just 9%, pushing its blockbuster cume to $148.4M. The Robert Zemeckis film spent its tenth weekend in the top ten and aims to reach the $150M mark next weekend. Clint Eastwood's latest hit Space Cowboys took in $2.2M lifting its sum to $85.1M.

Fox Searchlight offered its new romantic comedy Woman on Top but was greeted with only $2M. Playing in 1,085 theaters, the Penelope Cruz starrer averaged a weak $1,851 per location. The distributor reported that Woman played mostly to mature adults, enjoyed a healthy 54% Friday-to-Saturday increase, and performed best in Spanish-speaking markets as well as in San Francisco where the story takes place. Woman on Top was the widest opener ever for Fox Searchlight edging out the 1,080-theater launch of last year's A Midsummer Night's Dream which debuted with a stronger $4.3M.

Universal held 177 sneak previews of the Robert De Niro-Ben Stiller comedy Meet the Parents on Saturday and reported encouraging results. Attendance was at between 80% and 90% capacity, females made up 52% of the crowd, and 61% were over the age of 25. Meet the Parents opens nationwide on October 6 opposite Sylvester Stallone's Get Carter, and Fox's kidpic Digimon.

Three pictures fell out of the top ten over the weekend. New Line's The Cell took in $1.6M pushing its cume to $57.4M. The Jennifer Lopez crime thriller should reach a solid $60-63M. The $19M spoof comedy Scary Movie has grossed $153.7M to date and could conclude with a stellar $156-159M. Gwyneth Paltrow's karaoke comedy Duets, which carries a reported $16M pricetag, has taken in just $3.5M so far and may end with just $6M in ticket sales for Buena Vista.

The top ten films grossed $44.5M over the weekend which was down 36% from last year when Double Jeopardy opened in the top spot with $23.2M; and down 31% from 1998 when Rush Hour spent its second weekend at number one with $21.2M.

Compared to projections, Urban Legends opened a couple of notches below my $11M forecast. The Exorcist did much better than my $3M prediction while Almost Famous came close to my $8M projection. Woman on Top was also near my $2M forecast.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the opening of Denzel Washington's new film Remember the Titans. In last week's survey, readers were asked for their box office prediction on Charlie's Angels. Of 2,198 responses, 53% projected it would be a Big Hit, 36% described it as a Moderate Performer, and 11% said it would be a Flop.

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 goes back to September 1994. For a review of Urban Legends visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Remember the Titans opens nationwide.

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

# Title Sep. 22 - 24 Sep. 15 - 17 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Urban Legends : Final Cut $ 8,505,513 2,539 1 $ 3,350 $ 8,505,513 Sony
2 The Exorcist (reissue) 8,175,666 664 1 12,313 8,431,437 Warner Bros.
3 Almost Famous 6,926,467 2,314,646 199.2 1,193 2 5,806 10,147,759 DreamWorks
4 Bring It On 4,275,380 5,084,580 -15.9 2,457 5 1,740 56,000,070 Universal
5 The Watcher 3,665,640 5,805,680 -36.9 2,777 3 1,320 22,758,200 Universal
6 Bait 3,365,674 5,485,591 -38.6 2,352 2 1,431 10,576,895 Warner Bros.
7 Nurse Betty 3,270,176 4,658,762 -29.8 1,491 3 2,193 18,025,661 USA Films
8 What Lies Beneath 2,192,119 2,406,524 -8.9 1,819 10 1,205 148,433,841 DreamWorks
9 Space Cowboys 2,156,506 2,515,232 -14.3 2,170 8 994 85,072,147 Warner Bros.
10 Woman on Top 2,008,191 1,085 1 1,851 2,008,191 Fox Search.
11 The Cell 1,604,220 2,448,012 -34.5 1,903 5 843 57,434,557 New Line
12 Scary Movie 1,311,566 2,039,085 -35.7 1,678 11 782 153,684,491 Miramax
13 Nutty Professor II 1,227,565 1,219,740 0.6 1,210 7 1,015 120,004,345 Universal
14 The Replacements 1,136,149 1,384,541 -17.9 1,365 5 832 42,523,385 Warner Bros.
15 The Original Kings of Comedy 1,105,070 1,537,461 -28.1 1,082 4 1,021 35,524,631 Paramount
16 Duets 935,044 2,002,588 -53.3 583 1 1,604 3,500,516 Buena Vista
17 The Art of War 831,130 1,553,230 -46.5 1,085 3 766 28,736,689 Warner Bros.
18 Coyote Ugly 813,097 1,003,196 -18.9 883 6 921 57,815,798 Buena Vista
19 Saving Grace 694,240 896,914 -22.6 706 6 983 10,743,237 Fine Line
20 Autumn in New York 689,664 945,789 -27.1 1,182 5 583 36,490,271 MGM/UA
Top 5 $ 31,548,666 $ 23,549,845 34.0
Top 10 44,554,332 34,760,700 28.1
Top 20 54,889,077 46,294,132 18.6
Top 20 vs. 1999 54,889,077 74,530,566 -26.4

Last Updated : September 25 at 7:30PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya