Weekend Box Office (October 23 - 25, 1998)
New Line's latest release Pleasantville
barely edged out last week's topper Practical
Magic to earn the number one spot with
an opening of $8.9M, according to final
studio figures. Debuting in 1,636 swell
locations, Pleasantville averaged
a solid $5,413 per theater which was easily the best average of any film
in the top ten. With an ensemble cast featuring Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon,
William H. Macy, Joan Allen, Jeff Daniels, and Don Knotts, the fantasy
comedy follows two teenagers who are mysteriously sent from their modern
1990s world into the good, clean, and wholesome world of a 1950s black-and-white
Overall, it was a solid opening for Pleasantville and its future looks promising as well. Reviews have been very positive and strong word-of-mouth is spreading from this weekend's movie patrons. Its healthy 40% rise in business from Friday to Saturday is also a good sign that Pleasantville will remain a top contender at the box office for weeks to come. For New Line, the Gary Ross-directed film became the distributor's fourth number one opening this year following Lost in Space, Blade, and Rush Hour. No other studio has had more top spot debuts in 1998.
Slipping one notch to a close second was Practical Magic, starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, which conjured up a weekend take of $8.8M. The Warner Bros. romantic comedy was off only 33% in its sophomore session despite not-so-favorable reviews from critics. After ten days, Magic has collected $25.9M and looks headed for a final tally of about $50M.
Still crawling all over the number three spot was one of the season's biggest hitz, Antz, with $8.1M. Off just 28%, the DreamWorks pic has boosted its cume to an impressive $61.7M. Later this week, Antz will become the highest-grossing non-Disney animated feature ever, surpassing Paramount's Beavis and Butthead Do America which grossed $63M. Plus, Antz will become the second biggest domestic film in the short history of DreamWorks after Saving Private Ryan. The studio is hoping to utilize the momentum of the bug pic to ensure brisk business for its next toon, The Prince of Egypt, which bows December 18th.
Universal's Bride of Chucky took a stab at fourth with $7.1M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Falling 40% (good for a horror sequel) in its second honeymoon, Bride has collected $21.4M in its registry and should scare up around $35M by the end of its run.
Rounding out the top five was the disappointing new cadet Soldier, starring Kurt Russell, which was court martialed by moviegoers and earned just $6.5M according to estimates. The big-budget Warners action vehicle was ambushed by critics and failed to generate much box office firepower as it averaged only $2,572 in 2,507 platoons. Soldier gave its star Russell his second-worst opening of the decade besting only the 1992 comedy clunker Captain Ron which set sail with $4.9M and docked with $22.5M. The would-be Mr. Goldie Hawn has enjoyed a consistently solid box office track record with action films over the years starring in hits like 1991's Backdraft ($77.5M domestic tally), 1994's Stargate ($71.5M), and 1996's Executive Decision ($56.7M). This time, his starpower could not open the Paul Anderson-helmed testosterone flick and long-term prospects look bleak.
The season's number one film, Rush Hour, took sixth place with $5.9M pushing its cume to a sparkling $117.3M. Meanwhile, Oprah Winfrey, ranked as the most powerful person in the entertainment industry by Entertainment Weekly magazine, showed little muscle as her cherished motion picture Beloved fell an alarming 48% giving it the biggest dropoff of any film in the top ten. Taking in $4.3M, the Buena Vista post-Civil War drama could not generate enough consumer support to power its way to a durable box office performance. After ten days, Beloved has earned $14.7M and looks destined for a final tally of about $25M, or roughly half its production budget. It is also unlikely that any end-of-year kudos from critics will have financial effects on the Jonathan Demme-directed pic.
Polygram's What Dreams May Come took eighth place with $4M, raising its heavenly cume to $47M. The frame's final new wide release, Apt Pupil from Sony, debuted in ninth with $3.6M. Playing in 1,448 sites, the Bryan Singer picture averaged a mild $2,475. The suspense drama about a teen's desire to unleash secrets of a Nazi war criminal's past did not play very well in areas like the midwest and the south, according to a Sony spokesman. Its small 18% bump on Saturday indicates a relatively swift theatrical life ahead. Paramount's A Night at the Roxbury rounded out the top ten with $2.3M. And in weekend number seventeen, Buena Vista's Armageddon crossed the $200M threshold making it the only film released this year to reach that level, and the 24th motion picture ever to cross the hurdle (in unadjusted dollars).
After four weeks in the top ten, both Ronin and Urban Legend fell below the ranks and stand with $38M and $33.3M respectively. Also stumbling out was Eddie Murphy's Holy Man, quite possibly the biggest flop of the autumn season, which has grossed just $10.6M in 17 days.
Opening in New York and Los Angeles was Cannes-winner Life is Beautiful from director/star Roberto Benigni which averaged a powerful $19,820 in six theaters. Also arriving in limited release was the porn industry comedy Orgazmo, directed by and starring Trey Parker. The NC-17-rated film grossed $210,073 in 94 sites for a mildly arousing $2,235 average and was evidently hurt somewhat by its rating. Miramax's Sharon Stone drama The Mighty expanded into 518 theaters, from 129 last week, and collected $623,183. That gives the pic a weak $1,203 average, a cume of just $1.2M, and a not-so-mighty future ahead of it.
So far this fall, moviegoers have indicated that they have been in the mood for fun, light-hearted fare as witnessed by the success of Rush Hour, Antz, and the promising start to Pleasantville. More serious films, which have been the traditional staple of the season, have struggled to find a large audience. Movies like Beloved, One True Thing, Apt Pupil, Simon Birch, and The Mighty have not energized ticket buyers very much this season. Nevertheless, with about two months left in 1998, domestic box office sales are up 10% from this point last year with $5.39 billion collected to date, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Compared to projections, Pleasantville came in a notch below my $10M forecast. Soldier did not meet my $12M expectation and Apt Pupil was below my $7M forecast.
Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on your favorite horror movie series. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of six November releases they were most looking forward to seeing. Of 1,983 responses, 23.3% picked I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, 23.2% chose A Bug's Life, 16.8% opted for Enemy of the State, 14.6% said The Siege, 11.8% selected The Waterboy, and 10.2% picked Meet Joe Black.
Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which goes back to the year 1989. This Wednesday's new column looks at the box office killings earned by horror movies during the last few years. For a review of Pleasantville visit Chief's Movie Review Page.
The top ten films grossed $59.4M which was up 20% from last year when I Know What You Did Last Summer took number one with $12.5M, and up 34% from 1996 when Sleepers was on top with $9.6M.
Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for Halloween weekend when John Carpenter's Vampires debuts.
Below are final studio figures for the weekend. Click on the title to jump to its official home page:
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.
Written by Gitesh Pandya