Weekend Box Office (October 22 - 24, 1999)

THIS WEEKEND Marriage was on the minds of moviegoers as the wedding picture The Best Man surprised many by its number one opening while the avenging wife thriller Double Jeopardy held on for second place. Real life couples Nicolas Cage and Patricia Arquette along with Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith both debuted their latest collaborations to mild results. Meanwhile, marital turmoil films like The Story of Us, American Beauty, and Random Hearts remained among the top dozen movies in release. A number of newcomers opened over the World Series weekend with most attracting weak results as a sluggish box office prevented any film from grossing $10M for just the second time this year.

Taye Diggs was the most wanted man in North America as his Universal release The Best Man scored a number one opening with ticket sales of $9M, according to final studio figures. Landing in just 1,346 theaters, the story of friends reuniting for a wedding averaged a stellar $6,710 per venue. With a reported budget of $9M, The Best Man, which also stars Nia Long, looks to become a profitable picture for its studio. Plus, the film lays claim to the new number one selling soundtrack in America as its disc finally ended the eleven-week reign of the Runaway Bride album.

The top spot debut of The Best Man spotlights the utter lack of films in the marketplace these days with predominantly black casts as well as the commercial power displayed by the few films that do. Before this weekend, most industry observers labeled Bringing Out The Dead starring Nicolas Cage as the frontrunner among all the new releases opening Friday. But The Best Man showed how an underserved segment of the moviegoing public will rally behind that rare quality picture which features faces like its own. Films starring mostly African-Americans have been few and far between this year. The last such movie, The Wood which also included Taye Diggs, cost just $6M to produce yet grossed $25M over the summer. Fox's 1997 hit Soul Food cost $8M and grossed $43.5M helping to prove how lucrative this genre can be.

Ashley Judd remained the bridesmaid this weekend as her revenge hit Double Jeopardy lost just 26% of its business and grossed $7.6M. The Paramount film's remarkable durability continued this weekend despite the arrival of several new releases as its cume reached a lofty $91M. Look for Double Jeopardy, which also stars Tommy Lee Jones, to hit nine digits next week.

Dropping a sizable 43% in its second round, Fox's Fight Club claimed third place with $6.3M. The $65M Brad Pitt-Edward Norton slugfest has bullied its way to $21.9M in ten days and should end up putting the smack down on moviegoers to the tune of $40M before hitting the more lucrative overseas markets.

The starpower of Nicolas Cage did little to bring in sales for Martin Scorsese's latest effort Bringing Out The Dead. Paramount's ambulance medic pic premiered with $6.2M in 1,936 theaters for a mediocre average of $3,199 per hospital. Cage's previous films attracted much larger crowds as last spring's 8MM opened with $14.3M and Snake Eyes debuted with $16.3M in August 1998. Bringing Out The Dead, which also stars Cage's wife Patricia Arquette, Ving Rhames, John Goodman, and Tom Sizemore, performed more like a Scorsese picture than a Cage flick since the acclaimed director's films do not open big but display good staying power. Opening grosses have included $9.9M ($6,155 average) for 1995's Casino, $10.3M ($11,105 average) for 1991's Cape Fear, and $6.4M ($5,952 average) for the previous year's Goodfellas.

In its second try, The Story of Us, starring Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer, declined a hefty 45% to $5.4M. The $49M Universal title has grossed $17.8M in ten days and looks headed for a $30-35M stateside final. Sixth place went to the DreamWorks gem American Beauty which slipped only 22% to $5.2M. The critically praised tale of unrest in the lives of a suburban family has been a leggy entry since its release and has tallied $48.6M so far with more promising weeks ahead as its audience builds and expands.

A pre-Halloween launch did little to boost interest in the horror film Bats as the fright pic opened with only $4.7M. The first release from the newly-formed Destination Films enjoyed the widest launch of any new film this weekend with 2,544 playdates. But consumers did not bite as Bats' average stood at a feeble $1,857 per cave.

Matthew Perry, Neve Campbell, and Dylan McDermott failed to excite moviegoers with their romantic comedy Three to Tango which debuted in eighth place with $4.4M. Warner Bros. launched the vehicle in 2,234 theaters and averaged a weak $1,972 per site.

Three Kings took ninth place with $4.3M in ticket sales dropping 41% to hit a cume of $50.1M. The Bruce Willis chiller The Sixth Sense eased just 21% and has now grossed a towering $255.5M domestically for Buena Vista surpassing the $251M of 1989's Batman and the $250M of 1997's Men in Black to rank thirteenth on the all-time blockbuster rankings. By next weekend, The Sixth Sense should match the $260M that Jaws grossed almost a quarter of a century ago when tickets cost much less.

Debuting poorly at number fifteen was Antonio Banderas' first directorial effort Crazy in Alabama, starring his wife Melanie Griffith. The Sony release collected just $1M in 1,214 theaters for an insanely low average of $832. Yet another flunking freshman was New Line's Body Parts which grossed $488,342 in 309 theaters for a dull $1,580 average per site.

Four films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend to make room for the newcomers. Paramount's Molly Shannon comedy Superstar slipped a reasonable 37% in its third term to $3.5M. With $21.1M in ticket sales thus far, the $14M production should finish its run with roughly $30M. Harrison Ford's cheating spouse drama Random Hearts continued to be shunned by moviegoers falling 48% to $2.9M in just its third weekend. With $27.2M so far, the $65M Sony pic should conclude with a disappointing domestic take of about $35M.

The Martin Lawrence comedy Blue Streak has upped its cume to $63.3M and is on course to reach $68-70M making it one the top-grossing pictures of the fall season. Last weekend's surprise contender The Omega Code declined 32% giving it $4.6M in ten days and a solid per-theater average of $5,215 in its sophomore frame.

Compared to projections, The Best Man debuted very close to my $8M projection while Bringing Out The Dead was well below my $12M forecast. Bats was weaker than my $8M prediction but Three to Tango was on par with my $5M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on American Beauty's Oscar chances. In last week's survey, readers were asked if they planned to see any of the upcoming Lord of the Rings films. Of 2,532 responses, 79% said yes while 21% chose no.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which goes back to October 1989. For a review of Fight Club visit The Chief Report.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $57.2M which was down 4% from last year when Pleasantville led with $8.9M, but up 16% from 1997 when I Know What You Did Last Summer remained at number one with $12.5M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The House on Haunted Hill and Being John Malkovich both debut over Halloween weekend.

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

# Title Oct. 22 - 24 Oct. 15 - 17 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Best Man $ 9,031,660 1,346 1 $ 6,710 $ 9,031,660 Universal
2 Double Jeopardy 7,622,515 10,231,222 -25.5 3,002 5 2,539 90,950,121 Paramount
3 Fight Club 6,335,870 11,035,485 -42.6 1,966 2 3,223 21,891,777 Fox
4 Bringing Out the Dead 6,193,052 1,936 1 3,199 6,193,052 Paramount
5 The Story of Us 5,361,125 9,673,080 -44.6 2,166 2 2,475 17,771,665 Universal
6 American Beauty 5,180,253 6,608,144 -21.6 1,459 6 3,551 48,630,401 DreamWorks
7 Bats 4,717,902 2,540 1 1,857 4,717,902 Destination
8 Three to Tango 4,406,135 2,234 1 1,972 4,046,135 Warner Bros.
9 Three Kings 4,274,782 7,276,940 -41.3 2,411 4 1,773 50,071,162 Warner Bros.
10 The Sixth Sense 4,057,846 5,160,171 -21.4 2,191 12 1,852 255,501,006 Buena Vista
11 Superstar 3,540,380 5,616,615 -37.0 2,016 3 1,756 21,057,619 Paramount
12 Random Hearts 2,927,069 5,651,420 -48.2 2,547 3 1,149 27,181,534 Sony
13 Blue Streak 1,764,184 3,825,556 -53.9 1,541 6 1,145 63,330,698 Sony
14 The Omega Code 1,595,926 2,354,362 -32.2 306 2 5,215 4,580,986 Providence
15 Crazy in Alabama 1,010,596 1,214 1 832 1,010,596 Sony
16 Elmo in Grouchland 878,213 1,363,710 -35.6 1,125 4 781 9,553,345 Sony
17 Drive Me Crazy 836,791 2,289,847 -63.5 1,062 4 788 16,269,752 Fox
18 Body Shots 488,342 309 1 1,580 488,342 New Line
19 Stigmata 477,530 925,974 -48.4 709 7 674 48,758,507 MGM/UA
20 For Love of the Game 446,340 1,077,480 -58.6 642 6 695 33,970,335 Universal
Top 5 $ 34,544,222 $ 44,824,871 -22.9
Top 10 57,181,140 67,432,995 -15.2
Top 20 71,146,511 76,138,072 -6.6

Last Updated : October 26, 1999 at 1:00AM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya