Weekend Box Office (October 16 - 18, 1998)

THIS WEEKEND After a year of mostly disappointments, Warner Bros. and Universal took charge over the weekend with new films debuting in the top two spots. Meanwhile, Buena Vista saw a good start for its Oprah Winfrey pic Beloved while fall holdovers remained strong.

Playing sibling witches, Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman charmed moviegoers over the weekend with their romantic comedy Practical Magic which debuted at number one with $13.1M according to final studio figures. Casting spells in 2,652 theaters, the Warners film averaged a hexing $4,941 per site and stands as the widest October opening ever. Despite generally poor reviews, Magic still delivered the ninth best October debut and came close to the level of some of Bullock's other films like Hope Floats ($14.2M opening), Speed ($14.5M), and A Time To Kill ($14.8M).

In a weekend dominated by sports, this female-driven film delivered solid results. However, without strong reviews and positive word-of-mouth, Practical Magic could experience turbulence ahead. Warners will be hoping that ticket buyers stay in the mood for a witch pic during the days leading up to Halloween.

Scaring up impressive results in the bridesmaid position was the launch of Bride of Chucky with $11.8M. Exchanging homicidal vows in 2,412 theaters, the Universal horror flick averaged a healthy $4,905 per location. In addition to being the biggest opening in the Child's Play franchise, Chucky also saw the second best horror opening ever during the spooky month of October behind last year's I Know What You Did Last Summer which arrived with a $15.8M debut. With this strong of a start, and Halloween still two weeks away, Chucky could get lucky and become the best performer of the series surpassing the original Child's Play's $33.2M from 1988. Of course, ticket prices were lower a decade ago. Universal spokesman Alan Sutton indicated that the film's 29% uptick on Saturday was especially good for a horror film going up against the first game of the World Series. With the resurgence of the horror genre during the last two years, studios have successfully been tapping into older franchises with films like Bride of Chucky and Halloween: H20.

Slipping two spots to third place was the DreamWorks hit Antz collecting $11.2M. Off just 24%, the bug pic continues to show lots of legs and has pushed its 17-day total to a stellar $51.4M. With little competition for the family audience in the weeks ahead, Antz should be able to reach $90-100M making it the studio's second largest domestic title after Saving Private Ryan. DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp noted that the film was not as adversely affected in the New York City and San Diego areas as expected. With the World Series following an incredibly popular baseball season, and with the teams hailing from the heavily-populated areas of New York and southern California, some thought box office sales could take a hit.

Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker were still hitting home runs over the weekend as their smash hit Rush Hour took in $8.2M elevating its cume to a fantastic $109.9M. The New Line action-comedy has joined only three other of the distributor's films in joining the $100M club. By the end of its run, Rush Hour should become New Line's highest-grossing movie ever.

Oprah Winfrey's ten year journey to bring Beloved to the screen culminated with an $8.2M opening over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Toni Morrison, and directed by Academy Award winner Jonathan Demme, Beloved debuted in 1,501 sites giving it the best per-theater average in the top ten - $5,440. Also starring Danny Glover, Beloved garnered good reviews from critics and has started some Oscar buzz for Winfrey and for the film. Buena Vista backed the $55 million picture with a strong marketing campaign and was helped by a nationally televised one-hour infomercial for the movie (also known as The Oprah Winfrey Show). The film's 32% increase in business on Saturday was tops among the new releases. Beloved certainly has room to expand over the next few weeks and if word-of-mouth spreads, it could be a durable fall hit.

Polygram's What Dreams May Come placed sixth with $6.4M while A Night at the Roxbury, from Paramount, took seventh with $3.8M. Urban Legend took a direct hit from fellow horror pic Bride of Chucky and dropped 40% to finish with $2.9M. Ronin was in ninth place grossing $2.8M, and Eddie Murphy's Holy Man was clobbered losing 53% of its business and ended its sophomore frame with a measly $2.4M.

Falling out of the top ten were two of the summer's brightest stars. There's Something About Mary spent an incredible 13 weeks in the top ten since its July 15th opening and is still going strong with $164.8M in the bank. The Oscar frontrunner Saving Private Ryan enjoyed a twelve-week run in the top ten and has $187.7M in its war chest. Also slipping from the ranks of the top ten was Universal's Meryl Streep entry One True Thing which has weeped its way to $21.8M. Meanwhile, the year's highest-grossing release, Armageddon, is on course to hit $200M next weekend.

Compared to projections, Practical Magic and Beloved were extremely close to my forecasts of $13M and $9M respectively. Bride of Chucky performed better than my $9M prediction while Antz was in line with my $11M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on November's biggest releases. In last week's survey, readers were asked which star contributed more to the enormous success of Rush Hour. Of 2,003 responses, 58.3% chose Jackie Chan while 41.7% picked Chris Tucker.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which examines the box office history of Sandra Bullock. For a review of Practical Magic visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films grossed $70.9M which was up 20% from last year when I Know What You Did Last Summer opened at number one with $15.8M, and up 44% from 1996 when Sleepers debuted in the top spot with $12.3M.

Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Kurt Russell's Soldier marches into theaters.

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

Below are final studio figures for the weekend. Click on the title to jump to its official home page:

# Title Oct 16 - 18 Oct 9 - 11 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Practical Magic $ 13,104,694 2,652 1 4,941 13,104,694 WB
2 Bride of Chucky 11,830,855 2,412 1 4,905 11,830,855 Universal
3 Antz 11,215,721 14,713,918 -23.8 2,903 3 3,863 51,448,556 DreamWorks
4 Rush Hour 8,247,441 11,105,465 -25.7 2,724 5 3,028 109,911,590 New Line
5 Beloved 8,165,551 1,501 1 5,440 8,165,551 BV
6 What Dreams May Come 6,403,270 10,917,143 -41.3 2,506 3 2,555 41,145,926 Polygram
7 A Night at the Roxbury 3,818,323 6,108,845 -37.5 2,169 3 1,760 23,353,595 Paramount
8 Urban Legend 2,887,189 4,770,882 -39.5 2,063 4 1,400 30,859,469 Sony
9 Ronin 2,803,564 4,677,903 -40.1 1,982 4 1,415 35,431,139 MGM/UA
10 Holy Man 2,415,756 5,106,919 -52.7 2,013 2 1,200 8,987,319 BV
11 There's Something About Mary 1,868,532 2,777,500 -32.7 1,416 14 1,320 164,778,351 Fox
12 Saving Private Ryan 905,995 1,300,581 -30.3 851 13 1,065 187,722,738 DreamWorks
13 One True Thing 809,360 1,920,795 -57.9 1,072 5 755 21,758,185 Universal
14 Everest (IMAX) 632,441 669,270 -5.5 63 33 10,039 46,547,372 Freeman
15 Simon Birch 584,874 1,055,295 -44.6 708 6 826 16,307,868 BV
16 Armageddon 536,506 723,198 -25.8 653 16 822 199,629,136 BV
17 The Negotiator 524,544 40,764 1186.8 734 12 715 43,701,500 WB
18 Blade 393,574 601,619 -34.6 544 9 723 67,709,704 New Line
19 The Imposters 350,216 277,867 26.0 162 3 2,162 1,152,243 Fox Searchlight
20 The Mighty 347,453 87,705 296.2 129 2 2,693 472,616 Miramax
Top 5 $ 52,564,262 $ 47,952,290 9.6
Top 10 70,892,364 63,399,951 11.8
Top 20 77,845,859 69,351,038 12.2

    This column is updated three times each week : Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Source : EDI, Exhibitor Relations. Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.

Last Updated : October 19, 1998 at 10:30PM EDTHome

Written by Gitesh Pandya