Weekend Box Office (September 29 - October 1, 2000)

THIS WEEKEND Denzel Washington scored a career-best opening with the football drama Remember the Titans which seized first place with a powerful $20.9M in ticket sales, according to final studio figures, grossing more than the next four contenders combined. Based on a true story, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film follows a high school football coach who in 1973 led a racially integrated squad to the Virginia state championship game. Buena Vista launched the Walt Disney picture in 1,865 theaters and averaged a spectacular $11,210 per site. Titans delivered the third best September opening ever after Rush Hour's $33M and Double Jeopardy's $23.2M. For Washington, the launch was an all-time high beating the $18.6M debut of another Bruckheimer-produced Buena Vista release - 1995's Crimson Tide.

A number of factors contributed to the enormous success of Titans over the weekend. The starpower of Denzel Washington and the uplifting story drew in a wide audience across many demographic groups. The PG rating made it accessible to all ages which was crucial since the majority of national releases during the past two months have been R-rated. Disney's brand name ensured a quality product for family audiences and Bruckheimer's track record certainly did not hurt. Also helping Titans was the fact that moviegoers have been disappointed by most recent films and actively looking for a good picture to see. For market share leader Buena Vista, it was the distributor's first number one opening since June's Gone in 60 Seconds which over the weekend managed to become the year's thirteenth film to cross the $100M mark.

Looking forward, early indicators show a strong season ahead for Remember the Titans. Buena Vista reported that males made up 55% of the audience and an incredibly high 97% described the movie as "excellent" or "very good". According to CinemaScore, patrons in every demographic group gave Titans a remarkable A+ grade. Saturday sales jumped a terrific 40% over Friday and the distributor plans to expand the release to roughly 2,500 locations next weekend. Considering all these factors, a prolonged theatrical run seems likely throughout the fall. With a reported budget of $27M, Remember the Titans could certainly find its way into the $100M club.

Despite the impressive opening of Titans, the overall box office still trailed the comparable weekend in each of the last three years. However, next weekend could bring the turning point that the industry has been looking for. Robert De Niro's comedy Meet the Parents and Sylvester Stallone's action pic Get Carter both hit theaters along with what should be a strong sophomore outing for Titans which together will try to generate the first year-to-year increase in over two months.

Moviegoers continued to flock to the reissue of The Exorcist which pulled in $7.2M in its second weekend. Warner Bros. expanded the run of the horror classic from 664 to 1,150 theaters and generated a strong $6,266 average. An even wider run is planned for Friday, October 13th. With added scenes and digitally enhanced sound, The Exorcist has grossed $17.7M in ten days of rerelease and has upped its lifetime tally to $183M.

Picking up another bronze medal was the rock music saga Almost Famous which added 442 theaters and dipped 20% to $5.6M. The DreamWorks/Sony co-production managed a good $3,407 average in its third leg and has banked $17.8M to date.

Last weekend's top film, Urban Legends : Final Cut, tumbled 48% to fourth place with $4.4M. The Sony slasher pic has grossed $14.7M to date and seems set to reach the vicinity of $25M. Still playing in over 2,400 theaters in its sixth weekend, Universal's hit cheerleader comedy Bring It On claimed fifth with $3M pushing its rosy cume to $59.7M.

Sliding 38%, The Watcher starring James Spader and Keanu Reeves took in $2.3M giving the crime thriller $26M to date. The USA Films comedy Nurse Betty collected $2.1M in its fourth weekend and lifted its total to $21M. Eighth place was claimed by the action-comedy Bait starring Jamie Foxx which picked up $1.7M for a $13.2M sum.

This summer's most popular ghost story, What Lies Beneath, continued to show tremendous legs dipping just 25% to $1.6M in its eleventh weekend in the top ten. The Harrison Ford-Michelle Pfeiffer thriller has reached $150.6M to date giving the A-list actor the ninth film of his career to gross over $150M domestically. Overseas, where Fox is handling the release, What Lies Beneath has been a strong performer with solid starts in France, Switzerland, India, and Mexico, while this weekend the Robert Zemeckis film opened in Germany, Indonesia, South Korea, and Thailand.

Debuting at number ten was the beauty pageant comedy Beautiful with $1.4M from 646 theaters and a mild $2,182 average. Directed by Sally Field, the Destination Films release stars Minnie Driver and should work its way to a final gross of under $5M.

Dropping out of the top ten were the astronauts of Space Cowboys who lassoed $1.4M pushing the cume for the Warner Bros. hit to $87M. A final tally of $90-95M seems likely.

Premiering in just 13 theaters, the comedy Best in Show collected a hefty $413,436 for a superb $31,803 average. Warner Bros. plans to widen the run soon adding more cities in the coming weeks.

Opening in limited release over the weekend was the boxing drama Girlfight which punched up a solid $7,068 average with $197,896 in 28 theaters in the top 24 markets. Starring Michelle Rodriguez, the film picked up two trophies at Sundance last January and was acquired by Sony's Screen Gems banner for $3M. Girlfight will enter the ring in about 200 additional theaters on Friday in the same markets.

The top ten films grossed $50.2M over the weekend which was down 33% from last year when Double Jeopardy remained in the top spot with $17M; and down 37% from 1998 when Antz debuted at number one with $17.2M.

Compared to projections, Remember the Titans surged well ahead of my $11M forecast. The Exorcist and Almost Famous were both very close to my respective predictions of $7M and $6M. Beautiful was on target with my projection of under $2M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Friday's competing films Meet the Parents and Get Carter. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Remember the Titans would open with at least $13M. Of 2,713 responses, 46% correctly chose Yes while 54% voted No.

Read the Weekly Rewind column which looks at the top-grossing Denzel Washington films of the last decade. 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 Meet the Parents, Get Carter, Digimon, and Bamboozled all open.

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

# Title Sep. 29 - Oct. 1 Sep. 22 - 24 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Remember the Titans $ 20,905,831 1,865 1 $ 11,210 $ 20,905,831 Buena Vista
2 The Exorcist (reissue) 7,205,523 8,175,666 -11.9 1,150 2 6,266 17,671,975 Warner Bros.
3 Almost Famous 5,570,441 6,926,467 -19.6 1,635 3 3,407 17,833,970 DreamWorks
4 Urban Legends : Final Cut 4,406,105 8,505,513 -48.2 2,539 2 1,735 14,678,251 Sony
5 Bring It On 3,008,525 4,275,380 -29.6 2,466 6 1,220 59,696,570 Universal
6 The Watcher 2,280,260 3,665,640 -37.8 2,636 4 865 26,009,895 Universal
7 Nurse Betty 2,072,981 3,270,176 -36.6 1,489 4 1,392 21,003,845 USA Films
8 Bait 1,731,888 3,365,674 -48.5 2,010 3 862 13,244,329 Warner Bros.
9 What Lies Beneath 1,644,746 2,192,119 -25.0 1,674 11 983 150,596,856 DreamWorks
10 Beautiful 1,409,433 646 1 2,182 1,409,433 Destination
11 Space Cowboys 1,402,641 2,156,506 -35.0 2,006 9 699 86,975,047 Warner Bros.
12 Woman on Top 1,101,067 2,008,191 -45.2 1,086 2 1,014 3,753,521 Fox Search.
13 The Cell 1,040,830 1,604,220 -35.1 1,423 6 731 59,084,146 New Line
14 Scary Movie 816,607 1,311,566 -37.7 1,253 12 652 154,863,326 Miramax
15 The Original Kings of Comedy 765,434 1,105,070 -30.7 1,049 5 730 36,589,121 Paramount
16 The Replacements 716,798 1,136,149 -36.9 1,156 6 620 43,487,911 Warner Bros.
17 Nutty Professor II 678,165 1,227,565 -44.8 1,085 8 625 120,834,495 Universal
18 Coyote Ugly 544,249 813,097 -33.1 725 7 751 58,553,881 Buena Vista
19 Saving Grace 476,308 694,240 -31.4 632 7 754 11,483,975 Fine Line
20 Duets 461,748 935,044 -50.6 577 2 800 4,262,782 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 41,096,425 $ 31,548,666 30.3
Top 10 50,235,733 44,541,332 12.8
Top 20 58,239,580 54,889,077 6.1
Top 20 vs. 1999 58,239,580 81,633,614 -28.7

Last Updated : October 2 at 8:15PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya