Weekend Box Office (October 4 - 6, 2002)

THIS WEEKEND For the second straight week, a monthly opening weekend record was broken as Hannibal Lecter devoured the October benchmark with the new killer thriller Red Dragon which led the North American box office. Sweet Home Alabama, which last week set a new September opening record, slipped to second place with a strong sophomore performance. Despite the dominance of the two market leaders, most holdovers performed well helping the box office deliver the biggest October weekend in history.

Audiences lined up once again to see Anthony Hopkins reprise his Oscar-winning role as the sophisticated cannibal as Universal's Red Dragon opened at number one with $36.5M, according to final studio figures. Directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour), the prequel to 1991's The Silence of the Lambs debuted ultrawide in 3,357 theaters and averaged a tasty $10,885. The R-rated film easily beat the October opening weekend record set two years ago this weekend by the Robert De Niro comedy Meet the Parents which bowed to $28.6M from 2,614 theaters for a nearly identical $10,950 average.

Red Dragon stars Edward Norton as a semi-retired FBI agent, brought back to prevent a killer from striking again, while using the help of Dr. Lecter. Though the $36.5M bow topped the charts this weekend, it was well below the $58M which the last film in the series, last year's Hannibal, generated in its opening weekend. That blockbuster, however, benefited from a decade of build-up as audiences were hungry for a Hannibal Lecter story after so long. Red Dragon, which garnered mostly favorable reviews, also starred Oscar nominees Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Kietel, and Emily Watson.

Moviegoers were generally pleased with the $78M production. Universal reported that 91% of audiences polled rated the film "excellent" or "very good" while CinemaScore.com patrons gave the suspense pic a solid A- grade. Males and females were evenly split. The studio, which will also distribute overseas, hopes that Red Dragon will have better playability than Hannibal which, despite its stellar grosses, left many fans dissatisfied. The much-hyped sequel, which earned a discouraging C+ grade from CinemaScore.com, collected 35% of its overall $165.1M domestic gross in its first three days.

Next weekend will be cluttered with a half dozen new films opening nationally over the Columbus Day holiday frame, but Red Dragon aims to remain on top for a second helping.

Last weekend's box office champ, Reese Witherspoon's romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama, settled for the bridesmaid position with $21.3M in its second weekend. The Buena Vista release fell a reasonable 40% and has now collected a sweet $65.3M in just ten days. The PG-13 pic held up better in its sophomore weekend than Witherspoon's last hit comedy Legally Blonde which fell 46% in its second frame. Look for Alabama to reach $120-130M - a career-best for the actress.

Jackie Chan also slipped a notch in his second weekend and claimed third place with the action-comedy The Tuxedo which grossed $10M. Down only 33%, the DreamWorks release has kicked up $28M in ten days and should find its way to $55-60M.

Indie sensation My Big Fat Greek Wedding slipped just 13% in its 25th weekend. The ethnic comedy blockbuster took in $8.2M and boosted its remarkable cume to $147.7M making it the highest-grossing independent film ever beating The Blair Witch Project's $140.5M haul from 1999. With its incredible word-of-mouth-driven jackpot, the PG-rated comedy has already outgrossed many of this year's big-budget Hollywood films such as Tom Cruise's Minority Report, Vin Diesel's XXX, and even Road to Perdition starring Tom Hanks who is one of the executive producers of Greek Wedding.

Barbershop, another ethnic comedy that continues to fill up theaters, dipped 34% to $6.6M in its fourth weekend. The MGM hit continues to expand adding 125 locations and has banked $60M to date.

Opening with solid results in sixth place was the children's film Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie which grossed $6.2M from 940 theaters for a stellar $6,597 average. Based on the decade-old home video series featuring talking vegetables who reenact Bible stories, the G-rated film took advantage of being the only kidpic in the marketplace and the first family film in almost two months. Artisan opened VeggieTales primarily in the regions where the property is best known including the south and midwest. This Friday, the distributor will add several hundred more runs in existing markets and plans to go fully national on October 18th.

Fox Searchlight's The Banger Sisters dropped 36% to $3.5M lifting its 17-day cume to $24.3M. The Four Feathers followed in eighth place with $2.1M, off 42%, for a $15.5M total.

Buena Vista expanded its Dustin Hoffman drama Moonlight Mile into semi-national release and grossed $1.9M from 434 theaters. The PG-13 film averaged a decent, but not strong, $4,338 per theater and raised its sum to $2.3M.

Rounding out the top ten was Fox Searchlight's One Hour Photo with $1.7M in its seventh weekend. The Robin Williams picture has grossed $28.8M thus far.

With the fall season rolling on, there was plenty of activity in the arthouses over the weekend. The George Clooney-produced comedy Welcome to Colinwood opened with $75,180 from 16 theaters for a mild $4,699 average. Miramax's Cate Blanchett starrer Heaven bowed in New York and Los Angeles with $51,909 from four sites for a strong $12,977 average.

Paramount Classics successfully launched its Irish historical drama Bloody Sunday in two Manhattan locations grossing $29,419. The well-reviewed pic will add three markets on Friday and seven more the following weekend. Disney's Spirited Away widened into 97 theaters and grossed $611,047 in its third session for a solid $6,299 average. Cume is $1.9M.

Miramax tried to re-expand its family adventure film Spy Kids 2 with additional prints and advertising but came up with only $1.3M. The PG-rated film played in 2,205 theaters, up 635 from last weekend, and averaged just $576 per location. Cume to date stands at $83M.

A trio of films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Buena Vista's suspense thriller Signs slid just 30% in its tenth weekend to $1.7M putting its total at $223.4M. The M. Night Shyamalan-directed hit sits at number 31 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters right behind Rush Hour 2's $226.1M. Budgeted at $70M, Signs should find its way to $225-230M in North America and well over $200M from overseas territories.

Warner Bros. has grossed just $13.5M with its big-budget actioner Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever and should finish up with about $16M. Fox's $10M teen thriller Swimfan has taken in $27.8M thus far and looks to conclude with around $30M.

The top ten films grossed $98.1M which was up 21% from last year when Training Day opened at number one with $22.6M; and up 33% from 2000 when Meet the Parents bowed in the top spot with $28.6M.

Compared to projections, Red Dragon opened below my $46M forecast. Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie doubled my $3M prediction while Moonlight Mile came in below my $4M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Red Dragon. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of two summer hits they most wanted to see a sequel to. Of 4,923 responses, 71% picked XXX while 29% chose The Bourne Identity.

For a review of Red Dragon visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Brown Sugar, Knockaround Guys, The Rules of Attraction, The Transporter, Tuck Everlasting, and White Oleander all open.

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

# Title Oct 4 - 6 Sep 27 - 29 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Red Dragon $ 36,540,945 3,357 1 $ 10,885 $ 36,540,945 Universal
2 Sweet Home Alabama 21,325,435 35,648,740 -40.2 3,303 2 6,456 65,334,029 Buena Vista
3 The Tuxedo 10,035,750 15,051,028 -33.3 3,022 2 3,321 27,988,910 DreamWorks
4 My Big Fat Greek Wedding 8,223,801 9,434,602 -12.8 1,971 25 4,172 147,717,828 IFC Films
5 Barbershop 6,634,684 10,007,996 -33.7 2,176 4 3,049 60,018,041 MGM
6 Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie 6,201,345 940 1 6,597 6,201,345 Artisan
7 The Banger Sisters 3,484,958 5,426,857 -35.8 2,532 3 1,376 24,299,294 Fox Searchlight
8 The Four Feathers 2,057,714 3,556,687 -42.1 2,187 3 941 15,517,239 Paramount
9 Moonlight Mile 1,882,703 329,771 470.9 434 2 4,338 2,327,627 Buena Vista
10 One Hour Photo 1,733,871 3,021,854 -42.6 1,261 7 1,375 28,780,731 Fox Searchlight
11 Signs 1,652,469 2,363,791 -30.1 1,537 10 1,075 223,400,036 Buena Vista
12 Spy Kids 2 1,269,776 1,130,047 12.4 2,205 9 576 83,042,587 Miramax
13 Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever 1,009,338 2,738,311 -63.1 1,507 3 670 13,501,840 Warner Bros.
14 Swimfan 731,485 1,554,112 -52.9 1,108 5 660 27,753,119 Fox
15 Spirited Away 611,047 527,719 15.8 97 3 6,299 1,855,297 Buena Vista
16 Stealing Harvard 607,885 1,488,770 -59.2 1,155 4 526 13,660,714 Sony
17 XXX 538,419 1,010,682 -46.7 841 9 640 140,605,505 Sony
18 Igby Goes Down 476,397 613,890 -22.4 147 4 3,241 2,716,094 MGM/UA
19 Trapped 430,597 1,502,880 -71.3 1,043 3 413 6,703,127 Sony
20 Secretary 395,292 361,695 9.3 106 3 3,729 1,198,744 Lions Gate
Top 5 $ 82,760,615 $ 75,569,223 9.5
Top 10 98,121,206 88,803,978 10.5
Top 20 105,843,911 97,023,430 9.1
Top 20 vs. 2001 105,843,911 87,631,734 20.8

Last Updated : October 7, 2002 at 9:15PM EDT