Weekend Box Office (September 25 - 27, 1998)
Good old-fashioned violence was what moviegoers were looking for this weekend
as evidenced by the top three films at the box office. New Line's runaway
hit Rush Hour
easily held onto the top spot with an impressive gross of $21.2M, according
studio figures. Slipping 36% from its opening salvo of $33M, the Jackie
Chan-Chris Tucker cop picture has pushed its ten-day total to a solid $64M
and should reach $100M by mid-October. The sizzling combination of laughs
and action is making Rush Hour
the top choice among movie patrons across the board.
With its powerful opening and second frames, the pic now can claim the two biggest weekend grosses in the month of September ever. At its current pace, Rush Hour should be able to gross $120-130M at the domestic box office which would be spectacular for a film that cost about $35M. Overseas, the action-comedy had a strong #1 bow in Malaysia last weekend and is opening in Singapore, and will roll out in more territories later in the year.
Robert De Niro's new film Ronin had a solid debut in second place with $12.7M. The MGM/UA action thriller opened in 2,487 theaters and averaged a very good $5,106 per site. Ronin scored the seventh-biggest September opening ever and stands as the best debut for the Oscar-winning actor in a lead role. De Niro's supporting roles in Backdraft and Cop Land led to openings of $15M and $13.5M respectively. By comparison, opening weekend grosses for some previous films by the actor include $7.8M for Wag the Dog, $8.4M for Heat, $9.9M for Casino, and $10.3M for Cape Fear.
Good reviews for Ronin should allow the film to experience a healthy run over the weeks ahead. Set in France, the film boasts a cast of international stars like Jean Reno, Jonathan Pryce, and Natascha McElhone. Overseas prospects for this $50M De Niro action film look encouraging and it has already premiered at the Venice Film Festival.
Larry Gleason, head of distribution at MGM/UA, stated that audience response has been "really strong across the board" and as expected, the turnout skewed towards older males. About 71% of the crowd was over 25 and the male/female split was about 60/40. With a 32% uptick on Saturday versus Friday, Gleason believes that long-term prospects will be very good for Ronin.
Another new release landed in third place as the horror film Urban Legend grossed $10.5M. Slaughtering college students in 2,257 dormitories, the Sony scarefest averaged $4,659 per theater. Displaying one of the best openings for a horror movie in September, Urban Legend is sure to become another profitable picture for Sony which spent just $14M producing it. The film's formula was nothing new mixing a youth-oriented story with female protagonists and casting recognizable television stars popular with the under-25 crowd - Alicia Witt, Rebecca Gayheart, Jared Leto, and Joshua Jackson. The release date of Urban Legend was also crucial to its success as it arrived about two months after the mid-summer horror duo of Disturbing Behavior and Halloween: H20, and a full seven weeks ahead of Sony's highly-anticipated sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer which has been moved up to a November 13th opening.
"It exceeded our expectations and we're thrilled with the performance of Urban Legend which is really more than just a slasher film" said Sony distribution chief Jeff Blake. The opening weekend crowd was a bit more female (53%) and was more young and suburban, according to Blake. As is usually the case for teen horror movies, Friday's gross was especially strong leading to a 16% increase in business on Saturday.
Last weekend's Meryl Streep tearjerker One True Thing dipped 33% and placed fourth with $4.4M. With its ten-day total now at $13.2M, the Universal drama should top out at around $25M. Also raking in $4.4M over the weekend was the comedy that won't die - There's Something About Mary. The Fox comedy broke through the $150M mark on Friday, its 73rd day of release, to finish the weekend with $153.3M. Comparing Mary to 1990's sleeper hit Ghost, the gross-out comedy is still running 3.4% ahead of the Demi Moore romance which had accumulated $148.3M by the end of its eleventh weekend. Mary is finally starting to decelerate more and should be able to finish its domestic run with an amazing $175-185M at its current pace.
Elsewhere in the top ten, Saving Private Ryan crossed the $180M level with its weekend take of $2.5M which brought its overall cume to a brutal $181.8M. New Line's Blade became Wesley Snipes' second highest-grossing film with $64.3M and trails only White Men Can't Jump which grossed $72M in 1992. Dropping out of the top ten were Armageddon after nine weeks and Snake Eyes after seven. The two action films now stand at $197.1M and $54.6M respectively.
Fine Line averaged a mild $2,944 with Pecker, directed by John Waters, which took in an estimated $541,646 in 184 locations. Gramercy's comedy Clay Pigeons, starring Vince Vaughn and Janeane Garofalo, debuted in limited markets and collected $167,364 in 19 theaters for a more potent $8,809 per site. Meanwhile, the controversial romance Lolita opened in 15 theaters in the Los Angeles and New York areas and attracted $93,797 for a $6,253 average. Although the Adrian Lyne-directed picture screened on the Showtime cable network last month, theatrical distributor Goldwyn plans to expand Lolita into markets nationwide in the coming weeks.
Compared to projections, Rush Hour came in about even with my forecast of $21M. Ronin opened a bit above my prediction of $12M and Urban Legend was a little stronger than my projection of $9M. One True Thing came in almost exactly at my $4.5M forecast.
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Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Antz vs. A Bug's Life. In last week's survey, readers were asked if Ronin would open with at least $12M. Of 1,236 responses, 67% said yes while 33% answered no. 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.
Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which reviews the top grossing films from New Line Cinema this decade. This Wednesday's new column will focus on the films of Robin Williams. For reviews of Ronin and Urban Legend, visit Chief's Movie Review Page.
The top ten films grossed $65.1M which was up 6% from last year when The Peacemaker opened at number one with $12.3M, and up a hefty 55% from 1996 when The First Wives Club spent its second weekend at the top with $15.3M. Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Antz, What Dreams May Come, and A Night at the Roxbury all open nationwide.
Below are final studio figures for the weekend. Click on the title to jump to its official home page:
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.
Written by Gitesh Pandya