Weekend Box Office (October 17 - 19, 1997)

Last SummerTHIS WEEKEND Racing past the Devil and God, the teen horror film I Know What You Did Last Summer slashed its way to number one with a final total of $15.8M in ticket sales over the weekend giving it the largest opening of the fall season thus far. Launching in 2524 theaters, the Sony frightfest posted the second-best October opening ever after 1994's Stargate which debuted with $16.7M. The mammoth opening of Summer proved once again how important the teenage audience is. Last winter, they made big hits out of Romeo & Juliet ($46.4M), Beavis and Butthead Do America ($63M), and Scream ($103M).

This time it was a potent combination of popular teen television stars Jennifer Love Hewitt (Party of Five) and Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) along with Scream writer Kevin Williamson that drove moviegoers to the multiplexes. And a release date two weeks before Halloween didn't hurt either. The boffo opening of Summer comes as good news for many involved including Sony who has been silent this fall after a record summer, Williamson who remains the horror guru of Hollywood, Hewitt and Gellar who made successful splashes into the film medium, and Miramax which opens Scream 2 in December and now knows what sort of opening to expect. Summer averaged $6,267 per location.

Speaking with Jeff Blake, head of distribution for Sony Pictures, he stated that the opening was greater than expected and played well in urban markets as well as suburban multiplexes. "The teen audience is a sleeping giant" said Blake, and the performance of Summer will "help bring a return of teen-genre films." In addition, its audience was about 56% female according to Blake.

Devil's AdvocateLanding in second place with a hell-raising gross of $12.2M was Devil's Advocate featuring Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino. The Warner Bros. thriller's performance was the best opening for Pacino since The Godfather III's $14M debut in 1990 (over a five-day Christmas weekend) and Reeves' best opening since 1994's Speed ($14.5M). Certainly Warner Bros. was hoping for a top-spot bow but Summer stole the spotlight instead. Still, with $12.2M, and an average of $5,632 per theater, it was a solid opening for the actors, the distributor, and for producer Arnold Kopelson whose credits include Eraser ($101.3M), Seven ($100.1M), and The Fugitive ($183.9M). Devil should continue to perform well over the next couple of weeks as Halloween approaches and finish with a total gross of about $50M - similar to Pacino's last film Donnie Brasco which opened to $11.7M and finished with $42M.

Barry Reardon, President of Distribution for Warners, said that Devil opened as projected and played well in big cities and with older audiences, but was weaker, as expected, in the Bible Belt states due mostly to the subject matter. "Exit polls were very strong and the Saturday-to-Sunday dropoff was smaller than most other films'" said Reardon. He expects a good run over the next few weeks.

After reigning for two weeks, Paramount's Kiss the Girls fell 37% to third with $7M bringing its total to $39.2M. Kiss was off just 16% last frame, but was hit harder this weekend because of new competition from Summer and Devil offering chills and thrills to moviegoers. Also down two places was the Brad Pitt vehicle Seven Years in Tibet which declined 36% to a $6.5M take upping its cume to $19.8M after ten days. The dropoff is average for this kind of film and gave Sony two titles in the top five. In fifth was In & Out, down 32%, with $3.7M (total : $53.1M) giving Paramount two films in the top five as well. And with over $115M in overseas ticket sales so far, Bean dropped into Canadian theaters over the weekend and collected $2.3M - a record for Canada-only releases. It invades the U.S. market on November 7th. Finally, in its 15th week of release, Jodie Foster's Contact reached the celestial $100M mark.

Playing GodThe other new release of the weekend, Playing God, just missed the top ten and debuted at number eleven. Starring David Duchovny, the Disney action-thriller collected just $1.9M over the weekend and averaged a weak $1,310 per site. This shows that Duchovny, so far, does not have what it takes to sell movie tickets but the real test comes next summer when he stars with Gillian Anderson in X Files : The Movie. For reviews of all three new releases, visit Chief's Movie Review Page. Adding more markets, Boogie Nights registered a promising per-theater average of $28,972 - up from last weekend's $25,084 average in two locations in New York City. The Ice Storm, also adding screens, averaged $14,705 in 22 sites.

Compared to my projections, I Know What You Did Last Summer greatly exceeded my expectations. I thought it would be a decent hit with a small chance at being a strong hit. My $6M pick was way off as I underestimated the teen turnout. Devil's Advocate opened to $12.2M which was very close to my forecast of $13M. I had little faith in Playing God, as did moviegoers, as my low prediction of $4M still was more than the $2M it secured. Among holdovers, Kiss and Seven Years lost 37% and 36% respectively, while I predicted 30% losses for each.

Overall, the top ten films grossed $58.9M which was up 19% from last year and up 31% from 1995.

Be sure to check in on Thursday for a complete summary and projections for next weekend's releases which include Gattaca, A Life Less Ordinary, and FairyTale.

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

# Title Oct 17 - 19 Oct 10 - 12 % Chg. Weeks Cumulative
1 I Know What You Did Last Summer $ 15,818,645 1 $ 15,818,645
2 Devil's Advocate 12,170,536 1 12,170,536
3 Kiss the Girls 6,975,730 11,122,441 -37.3 3 39,219,860
4 Seven Years in Tibet 6,412,250 10,020,378 -36.0 2 19,752,365
5 In & Out 3,713,247 5,474,143 -32.2 5 53,147,645
6 Soul Food 3,312,268 5,622,362 -41.1 4 35,170,436
7 Rocket Man 2,987,753 4,472,937 -33.2 2 8,652,785
8 The Peacemaker 2,671,106 5,208,646 -48.7 4 35,747,750
9 L.A. Confidential 2,543,752 3,665,776 -30.6 5 26,864,037
10 Bean 2,255,233 1 2,255,233
Top 5 $ 45,090,408 $ 37,447,970 20.4
Top 10 58,860,520 54,339,832 8.3

For a wrapup of the summer, be sure to check The Top 30 Films of the Summer 1997 Box Office Season.

    This column is updated three times each week : Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Source : Variety, EDI.

    Last Updated : October 20, 1997 at 8:15PM ESTHome