Weekend Box Office (October 15 - 17, 1999)

THIS WEEKEND After Sunday estimates showed a tight three-way race for the top spot at the box office, final studio figures have indicated that Fight Club was the most popular film in North America over the Friday-to-Sunday period with an opening of $11M. Fox underestimated the film's Sunday strength as the final gross came in $735,000 ahead of the original weekend estimate of $10.3M. On the other hand, Paramount's Double Jeopardy and Universal's The Story of Us both saw final weekend grosses below their respective studio estimates of $10.5M and $10.4M. Jeopardy took in $10.2M, off $269,000 from the estimate, while Story brought home $9.7M or $729,000 less than originally projected.

This weekend proved to be a clear example of how weekend estimates released on Sundays do not always paint an accurate picture of the box office. The end result was that Paramount's optimistic forecast for Double Jeopardy, which was just $100,000 above its closest competitor, gave it tons of undeserved publicity in all media outlets for its supposed fourth weekend at number one. Instead, Fox's Fight Club should have been the one to make all the headlines.

Brad Pitt's newest entry Fight Club stepped into the box office ring and defeated all competitors with $11M in ticket sales, according to final studio figures. Throwing punches in 1,963 theaters, the Fox title averaged a solid $5,622 per venue. The $65M dramatic thriller, which also stars Edward Norton, tells the story of two guys who start an underground organization for young men who relieve their frustrations through boxing. Opening weekend grosses for recent Brad Pitt films include $15M for last November's Meet Joe Black, $10M for 1997's Seven Years in Tibet and $14.3M for The Devil's Own. Fight Club marks the first Brad Pitt pic to open at number one since 1996's Twelve Monkeys and the first for Fox since The Phantom Menace in May.

Fight Club may have seen sales affected by a big sports weekend as its core audience of young males had many distractions to deal with including some major baseball playoff games featuring teams from big markets. In addition, the intense brutality of the David Fincher-directed story could have deterred much of Pitt's large female following from making a trip to the cinema. As expected, the slugfest still performed best with young men as 60% of the audience was male and 58% was under age 25. Despite a steady stream of televised sports, Sunday sales were much better than the studio had anticipated allowing Fight Club to rise to the top from the third place position which previous estimates had it at. While the film's domestic performance may not come close to its reported budget, Pitt's enormous starpower overseas should allow this picture to soar in worldwide sales.

After three weeks at number one, the Ashley Judd-Tommy Lee Jones thriller Double Jeopardy took in $10.2M during its fourth frame putting it in the runnerup spot. Off only 24%, the Paramount hit has taken in a healthy $80.3M thus far and should cross the $100M mark during the first week of November. That would make the $40M revenge pic the studio's third blockbuster of the year after Runaway Bride and The General's Daughter. But unlike those hits, Double Jeopardy was not co-financed by Disney leaving Paramount with all of the upside.

Taking custody of $9.7M from moviegoers was The Story of Us from Universal Pictures. The $49M Rob Reiner film debuted in 2,164 houses and averaged a mediocre $4,470 per theater. Willis and Pfeiffer play a couple who struggle to save their 15-year marriage while their kids are away in summer camp. Willis' red hot success with The Sixth Sense may have helped attract some extra business to Story. Universal reported that ticket sales increased 37% on Saturday over Friday indicating a good response from audiences. For Pfeiffer, it was her best premiere since the $11.1M opening of 1996's Up Close and Personal.

In its third weekend, the Gulf War tale Three Kings looted $7.3M pushing its 17-day total to a golden $43.7M. Falling 39% from last weekend the Warner Bros. action drama, which stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Ice Cube, will soon become the highest-grossing non-Batman film for the former ER star. Grosses for previous movies starring Clooney include $46.1M for One Fine Day, $41.3M for The Peacemaker, and $37.6M for last year's Out of Sight.

DreamWorks claimed fifth place with its critical darling American Beauty which took home $6.6M. Down only 31% from last weekend, the Kevin Spacey picture has grossed an impressive $41.2M to date and boasted the third largest per-theater average in the top ten collecting $4,895 per venue. If American Beauty continues to depreciate at its current pace, it would end up grossing around $65M overall which would easily outshine its production cost of $15M.

Harrison Ford's latest film Random Hearts suffered severe bleeding as the romantic drama plunged 57% in its second weekend to $5.65M. That gave the Sydney Pollack-directed picture $22.6M in ten days. Also starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Random Hearts did not please critics and is now being rejected by moviegoers as well. A final domestic tally of about $35M might be in the works for the $60M Sony picture with international prospects still uncertain.

Sniffing her armpits in seventh place was Mary Katherine Gallagher whose comedy Superstar grossed $5.6M in its sophomore weekend. The Paramount movie stars Molly Shannon, 34, who plays the fictional Catholic school teen who desperately wants to be famous and loved. Off a reasonable 37% from its debut weekend, Superstar has grossed $16.5M to date and looks headed for a final cume of around $28-30M. By comparison, last autumn's Saturday Night Live-inspired picture A Night At The Roxbury grossed a slightly better $17.8M in its first ten days on its way to a $30.3M total.

Bruce Willis worked overtime this weekend as his smash blockbuster The Sixth Sense placed eighth giving the actor two films in the top ten. As usual, the ghostly thriller enjoyed the smallest depreciation in the top ten easing just 16% to $5.2M. With a towering $249.9M in North American ticket sales thus far, The Sixth Sense is just inches away from surpassing the $250.1M gross of 1997's Men in Black for the number fourteen spot among all-time domestic blockbusters. If Sense can continue to stay this strong, it could haunt its way to $275M or more.

Martin Lawrence's comedy Blue Streak grabbed ninth with $3.8M, off 33%, giving the Sony hit $60.7M to date. The popular comic looks to achieve a career-best gross if he can beat the $70M performance of 1992's Boomerang which starred Eddie Murphy.

Rounding out the top ten was the independently-distributed film The Omega Code starring Casper Van Dien and Michael York which grossed $2.35M while playing in only 304 sites. The film was heavily supported by Christian television programs and word-of-mouth which helped drive a large audience into movie houses allowing it to achieve the best per-theater average in the top ten with $7,745. The Omega Code posted a very impressive opening for a movie with an inexpensive marketing campaign not playing in many major markets like New York.

A trio of films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Drive Me Crazy, Fox's high school comedy starring Melissa Joan Hart, grossed $2.3M pushing its cume to $15M. The modestly-budgeted $8M teen pic should eventually reach about $20M. Sony's kidpic The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland slipped 39% to $1.4M for the weekend. With only $8.3M in 17 days, look for the family entry to conclude with about $12M before realizing its true potential on home video.

Kevin Costner and Kelly Preston saw sales fall by half for their baseball romance For Love of the Game which took in $1.1M. The $50M Universal release has grossed a somewhat disappointing $33.2M and is set to retire with roughly $35M. While a Costner romance could attract decent business overseas, the baseball setting may hurt it in much of the world where the sport is not the national pastime.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight expanded Boys Don't Cry from two to eighteen theaters and saw sales jump 64% to $121,018 for the weekend. David Lynch's The Straight Story opened by collecting $92,312 in just 7 sites for a powerful $13,187 per-theater average.

Compared to projections, Fight Club and The Story of Us each debuted very close to my respective forecasts of $12M and $8M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether End of Days or The World Is Not Enough would gross more at the domestic box office. Of 8,494 responses, voting was relatively even with 51% picking End of Days and 49% choosing The World Is Not Enough.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which features the Studio Spotlight report reviewing the performances of the major distributors thus far in 1999. For a review of Fight Club visit The Chief Report.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $67.4M which was down 5% from last year when Practical Magic led with $13.1M, but up 15% from 1997 when I Know What You Did Last Summer debuted at number one with $15.8M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when a number of new films go into wide release including Bringing Out The Dead, Bats, The Best Man and Three to Tango.

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# Title Oct. 15 - 17 Oct. 8 - 10 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Fight Club $ 11,035,485 1,963 1 $ 5,622 $ 11,035,485 Fox
2 Double Jeopardy 10,231,222 13,541,285 -24.4 2,936 4 3,485 80,340,361 Paramount
3 The Story of Us 9,673,080 2,164 1 4,470 9,673,080 Universal
4 Three Kings 7,276,940 12,004,295 -39.4 2,942 3 2,473 43,681,624 Warner Bros.
5 American Beauty 6,608,144 9,505,313 -30.5 1,350 5 4,895 41,159,439 DreamWorks
6 Random Hearts 5,651,420 13,012,585 -56.6 2,697 2 2,095 22,553,661 Sony
7 Superstar 5,616,615 8,912,743 -37.0 2,016 2 2,786 16,515,436 Paramount
8 The Sixth Sense 5,160,171 6,123,967 -15.7 2,682 11 1,924 249,858,389 Buena Vista
9 Blue Streak 3,825,556 5,717,945 -33.1 2,353 5 1,626 60,666,802 Sony
10 The Omega Code 2,354,362 304 1 7,745 2,354,362 Providence
11 Drive Me Crazy 2,289,847 3,980,182 -42.5 2,088 3 1,097 15,012,075 Fox
12 Elmo in Grouchland 1,363,710 2,251,614 -39.4 1,210 3 1,127 8,340,302 Sony
13 For Love of the Game 1,077,480 2,148,230 -49.8 1,476 5 730 33,206,535 Universal
14 Stigmata 925,974 1,408,414 -34.3 1,007 6 920 47,961,934 MGM/UA
15 Mystery, Alaska 877,734 1,801,833 -51.3 1,208 3 727 7,518,901 Buena Vista
16 Inspector Gadget 456,118 566,409 -19.5 662 13 689 95,515,139 Buena Vista
17 Star Wars : Episode I 435,504 538,206 -19.1 494 22 882 426,818,051 Fox
18 Stir of Echoes 433,211 801,336 -45.9 651 6 665 19,690,393 Artisan
19 Runaway Bride 428,633 657,562 -34.8 740 12 579 149,518,485 Paramount
20 The Thomas Crown Affair 416,866 418,231 -0.3 717 11 581 67,993,608 MGM/UA
Top 5 $ 44,824,871 $ 56,976,221 -21.3
Top 10 67,432,995 77,198,159 -12.6
Top 20 76,138,072 84,672,564 -10.1

Last Updated : October 18, 1999 at 7:30PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya