Weekend Box Office (September 26 - 28, 1997)
Business was booming once again at theaters nationwide, as The
Peacemaker led the box office to another
September record. The Clooney/Kidman action picture exploded on the scene
and raced to number one with a $12.3M take. DreamWorks SKG, its studio,
must be delighted with the solid performance and top spot debut since Peacemaker
is the long-awaited first film from the startup studio. After disappointments
in their television, music, and interactive divisions, DreamWorks finally
scored a hit from its motion picture unit. For Clooney, this weekend's
total exceeds the opening weekend performances of his previous films From
Dusk Till Dawn ($10.2M) and One
Fine Day ($6.2M). The marketing for this
film started early and intensified in the final two weeks as the two stars
did what high-priced talent should be doing - lots of press to support
Despite other heavy-hitters in the marketplace, The Peacemaker came away with a strong bow and looks like it will sustain strong business thoughout October and is likely to reach a final tally of $50-60M. The $12.3M gross was quite close to my $12M projection. Speaking on Monday with Jim Tharp, head of distribution for DreamWorks, the opening gross for The Peacemaker exceeded the studio's expectations. Given the number of high-grossing films in the market, he said that it opened very well, that theaters were very happy with its performance, and that it played strongly with both males and females over 25. Tharp also believes that it should hold well over the next weekend and has a good chance of retaining the number one spot against newcomers Kiss the Girls and U-Turn.
The big surprise over the weekend was the robust debut of Soul Food from Fox 2000. The infant division of Twentieth Century Fox reported a take of $11.2M for its family drama which starred Vanessa L. Williams and Vivica A. Fox. Food, which reportedly cost only $7.5M to make, served up tasty numbers that will quickly make it into a profitable venture for Fox 2000 and continues the successful film careers for both actresses. Its per-screen average of $8,363 was by far the best of any film in the top ten. The strong debut of Food bested the opening weekends of Vivica A. Fox's last two films Booty Call ($6.4M) and Set It Off ($8.8M). Also, it was the largest opening weekend for a drama led by a black cast since Waiting to Exhale which collected $14.1M over the four-day Christmas weekend in 1995. The total of $11.2M almost doubled my prediction of $6M.
Paramount's In & Out, which was in third place according to Sunday's estimates, edged out Soul Food for second place when actual figures were released Monday with $11.23M in its second outing. Out added screens this weekend and benefited from strong word-of-mouth. The gross indicates a small decline of 25% from last weekend - exactly as I predicted. Opening in fourth place was another Fox release - the action film The Edge with $7.7M which was much lower than initial estimates. The debut was ok, but its long-term prospects are not too wild. A final gross of around $25M is likely. My forecast of a $7M opening was close but a bit below its performance. For reviews of The Edge and The Peacemaker, visit Sujit Chawla's Movie Review Page.
Rounding out the top five was The Game, in its third frame, with a $5M tally - down a hefty 45%. Elsewhere, L.A. Confidential and The Full Monty added screens and showed great legs with declines of just 15% and 9% respectively. Strong reviews and word-of-mouth will continue to carry these films to higher altitudes in the coming weeks. Wishmaster and A Thousand Acres both plummeted in their second weekends registering dropoffs of 48% and 46% respectively. My predicted dropoffs were 20% for L.A. Confidential, 50% for Wishmaster, and 45% for A Thousand Acres.
For a wrapup of the summer, be sure to check The Top 30 Films of the Summer 1997 Box Office Season.
Overall, the top ten films set a new September record by grossing $60.7M which was up 47% from last year and up 40% from 1995. 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 : Variety, EDI.
Send comments to Gitesh Pandya at email@example.com