Weekend Box Office (October 8 - 10, 1999)

THIS WEEKEND Harrison Ford returned to theaters in the romantic drama Random Hearts but had to settle for the runnerup spot as Paramount's hit thriller Double Jeopardy squeaked out a slim victory to retain the box office crown for the third weekend in a row. Most films enjoyed low declines over the weekend preceding Columbus Day while American Beauty continued to successfully expand into more markets. Disregarding the views of film critics, moviegoers spent more on the poorly-reviewed Jeopardy and Hearts than on the acclaimed pictures Three Kings and American Beauty which followed in third and fourth respectively.

For the third consecutive weekend, moviegoers made the revenge thriller Double Jeopardy the most popular film in North America as the Paramount hit grossed $13.5M according to final studio figures. The Ashley Judd-Tommy Lee Jones picture eased just 20% from last weekend which is quite a feat considering it had to compete with the new Harrison Ford romance Random Hearts which also targeted adult women. Double Jeopardy is now only the third release this year to top the box office charts for at least three consecutive frames joining Star Wars Episode I and The Sixth Sense. The Matrix managed three non-consecutive weekends at number one in the spring. With its remarkable staying power, Double Jeopardy has grossed an amazing $65.8M in 17 days and is a sure candidate for the $100M club. A final domestic tally of $110-120M could be in the works for the $40M picture from Aussie director Bruce Beresford.

Harrison Ford followed with the opening of his latest film Random Hearts, directed by Sydney Pollack, which grossed $13M for a close second place finish. The Sony romantic drama features two Oscar-nominated stars, Ford and The English Patient's Kristen Scott Thomas, as two people who fall for each other after learning their respective spouses were having an affair. Launching very wide in 2,697 theaters, the $60M Sony picture, which did not impress many top critics, averaged a moderate $4,825 per site. Though his action films are some of Hollywood's greatest box office achievements, romance and drama are two genres that have always been tough to master for Harrison Ford. Openings for the A-list actor's recent releases include $16.5M for last year's Six Days, Seven Nights, $37.1M for 1997's blockbuster smash Air Force One, and $14.3M for that same year's The Devil's Own. Sony distribution president Jeff Blake noted that Random Hearts appealed mostly to patrons over 30 and that its Friday-to-Saturday increase was a decent 30%.

George Clooney's Gulf War saga Three Kings took the third spot sliding just 24% in its second assault to an estimated $11.7M for the weekend. The $50M Warner Bros. action drama has grossed a solid $32.7M in ten days and has displayed strength in both midweek sales and its sophomore frame. A favorite among critics, Three Kings could use this momentum to gross $70M domestically easily making it the highest-grossing film of Clooney's film career outside of Batman & Robin which grossed $107.3M stateside but cost much more to produce.

Slipping one spot to fourth was American Beauty which expanded from 706 to 1,226 theaters and collected $9.5M over the weekend. The critically-acclaimed DreamWorks tale used its extra playdates to boost its weekend take by 16% and brought its cumulative total to $31.1M. According to Jim Tharp, distribution chief of DreamWorks, American Beauty is now attracting equal business between moviegoers over and under age 30. While older adults made up a larger portion of the film's audience during earlier weeks, Tharp noted that young adults are now finding the picture and keeping sales strong. Generating a substantial amount of Oscar buzz, the Kevin Spacey-Annette Bening starrer will have no major increase in theaters next weekend. At its current pace, American Beauty could surpass $60M in North American ticket sales which would be superb for what is essentially a low-cost arthouse picture.

Crashing the party with a fifth place debut was Paramount's new comedy Superstar, featuring Molly Shannon, which opened with a good $8.9M. Landing in 1,943 locations, the Saturday Night Live-inspired film averaged $4,587 per theater which was roughly equal to the average of box office champ Double Jeopardy. In Superstar, Shannon plays bumbling Catholic school girl Mary Katherine Gallagher, a social misfit who enters a talent contest so she can become a famous star. Produced for $14M, the picture's opening almost matched the debut performance of the previous SNL skit-turned-movie, last October's A Night at the Roxbury, which launched with $9.6M and finished with $30.3M. Producer Lorne Michaels hopes to continue to mine the late night television show's talent pool with upcoming movies based on the sketches Sprockets, with Mike Myers, and The Ladies Man with Tim Meadows.

In its tenth weekend of seeing dead people, The Sixth Sense eased a mere 13% and grossed $6.1M bringing its total thus far to a towering $242.7M. The Bruce Willis chiller has now unseated 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark ($242.4M) as the 15th highest-grossing film in domestic box office history. However, ticket prices eighteen years ago were much lower than they are today. The Sixth Sense should crack the $250M barrier early next week. Showing remarkable staying power, Buena Vista's smash hit has enjoyed the smallest decline of any film in the top ten for all but one weekend of its run.

Blue Streak handcuffed the number seven spot with $5.7M, down a commendable 29%. With $55.2M in the bank, the Martin Lawrence comedy should end up walking away with around $65-70M. Fox's teen comedy Drive Me Crazy fell 42% in its sophomore weekend to $4M putting it in eighth place. The Melissa Joan Hart vehicle has grossed $11.8M to date and is likely to conclude with a modest $20M.

The Sesame Street pic The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland collected $2.25M over the weekend raising its ten-day tally to just $6.2M. Universal's baseball romance For Love of the Game dropped 40% to $2.15M and has grossed $31.5M so far. Look for final grosses of $12M and $37M respectively for Elmo and Game.

Mystery, Alaska and Stigmata fell out of the top ten over the weekend. Each film cost about $32M to produce but saw very different turnouts at the multiplexes. David E. Kelley's hockey story dropped 42% in its second period to $1.8M bringing its ten-day sum to a disappointing $5.9M. Look for Mystery to finish its season with just $10M. Stigmata brought in $1.4M in its fifth frame to boost its cume to a solid $46.5M. The supernatural thriller, which knocked The Sixth Sense out of the number one spot last month, should go on to gross around $50M.

In limited release, Artisan's The Limey, from director Steven Soderbergh, saw encouraging results averaging $11,007 per theater in 17 sites for a $187,122 weekend take.

Compared to projections, Random Hearts opened below my $17M forecast while Superstar was very close to my $10M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the November action films End of Days and The World Is Not Enough. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Random Hearts would open better or worse than the $16.5M debut of Harrison Ford's last film Six Days, Seven Nights. Of 3,566 responses, 72% thought stronger while 28% correctly predicted weaker.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which looks back at Harrison Ford's box office record over the last ten years. For a review of Random Hearts visit The Chief Report.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $77.2M which was up 22% from last year when Antz led with $14.7M, and up 42% from 1997 when Ashley Judd's last autumn crime thriller Kiss the Girls remained at number one with $11.1M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Brad Pitt's Fight Club hits theaters.

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

# Title Oct. 8 - 10 Oct. 1 - 3 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Double Jeopardy $ 13,541,285 $ 17,018,808 -20.4 2,913 3 $ 4,649 $ 65,833,516 Paramount
2 Random Hearts 13,012,585 2,697 1 4,825 13,012,585 Sony
3 Three Kings 12,004,295 15,847,636 -24.3 2,942 2 4,080 32,714,711 Warner Bros.
4 American Beauty 9,505,313 8,188,587 16.1 1,226 4 7,753 31,120,695 DreamWorks
5 Superstar 8,912,743 1,943 1 4,587 8,912,743 Paramount
6 The Sixth Sense 6,123,967 7,025,098 -12.8 2,784 10 2,200 242,710,195 Buena Vista
7 Blue Streak 5,717,945 8,008,574 -28.6 2,691 4 2,125 55,183,779 Sony
8 Drive Me Crazy 3,980,182 6,846,112 -41.9 2,233 2 1,782 11,824,005 Fox
9 Elmo in Grouchland 2,251,614 3,255,033 -30.8 1,210 2 1,861 6,228,046 Sony
10 For Love of the Game 2,148,230 3,548,930 -39.5 2,414 4 890 31,524,405 Universal
11 Mystery, Alaska 1,801,833 3,102,191 -41.9 1,704 2 1,057 5,918,663 Buena Vista
12 Stigmata 1,408,414 2,360,738 -40.3 1,382 5 1,019 46,483,606 MGM/UA
13 Stir of Echoes 801,336 1,228,061 -34.7 1,037 5 773 18,936,635 Artisan
14 Runaway Bride 657,562 953,884 -31.1 1,053 11 624 148,879,483 Paramount
15 Inspector Gadget 566,409 245,872 130.4 733 12 773 94,888,759 Buena Vista
16 Star Wars : Episode I 538,206 697,097 -22.8 550 21 979 426,141,814 Fox
17 The Blair Witch Project 487,885 267,285 82.5 924 13 528 139,468,795 Artisan
18 Jakob the Liar 434,132 1,002,114 -56.7 928 3 468 4,515,222 Sony
19 The Thomas Crown Affair 418,231 443,837 -5.8 717 10 583 67,398,334 MGM/UA
20 The Haunting 360,397 350,352 2.9 393 12 917 90,621,919 DreamWorks
Top 5 $ 56,976,221 $ 56,088,703 1.6
Top 10 77,198,159 75,201,707 2.7
Top 20 84,672,564 81,633,614 3.7

Last Updated : October 11, 1999 at 9:00PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya