Weekend Box Office (October 29 - 31, 1999)

THIS WEEKEND Audiences chose to scream over Halloween weekend as the horror film The House on Haunted Hill easily topped the box office in its opening weekend grossing more than the next three films combined. Warner Bros. saw a strong opening as moviegoers looking for a scare spent $15.9M, according to final studio figures, on the remake of the 1958 Vincent Price classic. The powerful performance, which exceeded the studio's original weekend estimate by $800,000, stands as the third largest October debut ever as well as the mightiest launch over Halloween weekend in history. Haunted Hill, which stars Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, and Taye Diggs, tells of a group of young people who will be awarded one million dollars if they can survive a night in a haunted house.

Warners backed the $15M film with a very wide 2,710 theater launch which allowed for a demonic $5,884 average. The studio reported that most patrons were under 25 and split evenly between genders. The real test for Haunted Hill will be after the passing of Halloween when moviegoers may no longer be in the mood for a scary picture. Last Halloween's debuting horror entry, John Carpenter's Vampires, opened at number one with $9.1M but then plunged after the holiday reaching a total gross of only $19.9M giving the Sony pic 47% of its overall tally during its first three days.

Taye Diggs could also be found in the second biggest movie this weekend as The Best Man enjoyed a solid sophomore weekend grossing $6.3M while playing in the fewest number of theaters in the top ten. Down only 30%, the $9M Universal release has banked $17.9M in ten days and the studio reported that the film is expanding beyond its core African-American audience. Saturday sales soared 59% above Friday's putting The Best Man at the same level as Double Jeopardy and The Sixth Sense. Boasting the top-selling soundtrack in America, The Best Man should end its run with a very profitable $38-40M.

Double Jeopardy, the fall season's most popular movie, slipped a notch to third place with $5.4M giving the Ashley Judd-Tommy Lee Jones hit $98.3M. By Friday, the Paramount hit should become the 15th film released this year to hit $100M in domestic ticket sales. Climbing two spots to fourth was American Beauty with $3.8M. Off only 27%, the DreamWorks pic has gathered $54.1M to date and has sustained its box office stamina for weeks.

Miramax premiered the new Meryl Streep drama Music of the Heart over the weekend and was met with mild interest from ticket buyers. The $22M Wes Craven-directed film about a teacher who inpires students with violin lessons opened with $3.7M in 1,349 theaters for a bland $2,708 average. Music of the Heart, which also stars Angela Bassett and Gloria Estefan, did however enjoy a terrific 51% increase in sales on Saturday over Friday which indicates that positive word-of-mouth may be spreading for the inspirational story.

Martin Scorsese's Bringing Out The Dead, starring Nicolas Cage, dropped a disturbing 45% in its second weekend to $3.4M putting its ten-day cume at $11.4M. While the Paramount film opened like a Scorsese picture with its modest gross, it is now depreciating more like a Cage flick. The actor's last film 8MM dropped 51% in its sophomore frame while last year's Snake Eyes fell 47%. Critical acclaim for Bringing Out The Dead seems to have no effect on the picture's legs as the $30M thriller, co-financed by Paramount and Disney, looks to conclude its domestic run in the vicinity of $20M. International prospects look equally bleak.

Fox's Fight Club tumbled 48% to $3.3M in its third round bringing its 17-day tally to $27.7M. Despite the free publicity the David Fincher pic has generated over its subject matter, moviegoers do not seem interested in joining the debate. While Fight Club's domestic gross should conclude with a mild $35M, Brad Pitt's immense international following could make this the actor's eighth consecutive $100M+ global grosser.

After three months of release, Buena Vista's The Sixth Sense remained a popular choice for consumers as the Bruce Willis chiller scared $3.2M from the wallets of moviegoers. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, Sense has watched its mammoth cume creep up to $259.8M and will soon surpass the domestic tally of Jaws which brought in $260M in sales almost a quarter of a century ago in an era before multiplexes and home video. That would put The Sixth Sense at number twelve on the all-time blockbuster list. Meanwhile, the supernatural thriller is exploding in its first overseas outings topping the Australian box office for three weeks as its international cume has reached $32M and is rapidly climbing.

Universal claimed ninth place with The Story of Us which grossed $3M in its third weekend putting its cume at $22.3M. The Gulf War pic Three Kings rounded out the top ten with $2.5M, down 41%, upping its sum to a solid $53.7M.

Two of last weekend's underachieving freshmen flunked out of the top ten losing more than half their audience in the process. Destination Films will not be winning any rookie of the year awards as its first release, the $12M horror entry Bats, plunged 53% to $2.2M bringing its ten-day cume to just $7.9M. The romantic comedy Three to Tango, from Warner Bros., sank 51% to $2.1M putting its total after ten days at a mere $7.7M. Look for each film to vanish from theaters in the weeks ahead and finish their domestic runs with $11-13M each.

USA Films' Being John Malkovich got off to a superb start grossing $637,721 in 25 theaters in ten markets. The Spike Jonze entry averaged a strong $25,509 per site and expands on Friday into roughly 150 theaters. Meanwhile Miramax unveiled the Japanese animated blockbuster Princess Mononoke to American audiences and also saw a promising start in limited release. Mononoke took in $144,446 in eight locations for a solid $18,056 average.

If the choice of movies at your local multiplex seem awfully familiar, consider how the current fall schedule hauntingly resembles the marketplace from 1997. The autumn box office in each year has included a chart-topping Ashley Judd crime thriller (Double Jeopardy / Kiss the Girls), a Brad Pitt vehicle (Fight Club / Seven Years in Tibet), a Kevin Spacey pic loved by critics (American Beauty / L.A. Confidential), a reunion film aimed at black adults (The Best Man / Soul Food), George Clooney armed with weapons (Three Kings / The Peacemaker), a straight-man-mistakenly-thought-to-be-gay comedy (Three to Tango / In & Out), a Michelle Pfeiffer family drama (The Story of Us / A Thousand Acres), and a film from director David Fincher (Fight Club / The Game). Can we expect new movies about haunted houses and bats in Fall 2001? Stay tuned.

Compared to projections, The House on Haunted Hill scared up more than my $10M forecast while Music of the Heart opened a few notches below my $6M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on November's big releases. In last week's survey, readers were asked if American Beauty would receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Of 2,306 responses, 74% said yes, 15% thought no, and 11% were not sure.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which reports on the largest November openings of the decade. For a review of Fight Club visit The Chief Report.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $50.4M which was up 17% from last year when Vampires opened at number one with $9.1M, and up 11% from 1997 when I Know What You Did Last Summer remained at the top with $9.4M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Bone Collector and The Insider both debut.

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

# Title Oct. 29 - 31 Oct. 22 - 24 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The House on Haunted Hill $ 15,946,032 2,710 1 $ 5,884 $ 15,946,032 Warner Bros.
2 The Best Man 6,281,690 9,031,660 -30.4 1,348 2 4,660 17,937,760 Universal
3 Double Jeopardy 5,405,037 7,622,515 -29.1 2,986 6 1,810 98,301,710 Paramount
4 American Beauty 3,779,747 5,180,253 -27.0 1,528 7 2,474 54,106,032 DreamWorks
5 Music of the Heart 3,653,281 1,349 1 2,708 3,653,281 Miramax
6 Bringing Out the Dead 3,384,042 6,193,052 -45.4 1,947 2 1,738 11,434,115 Paramount
7 Fight Club 3,296,137 6,335,870 -48.0 1,943 3 1,696 27,659,756 Fox
8 The Sixth Sense 3,200,961 4,057,846 -21.1 2,051 13 1,561 259,835,832 Buena Vista
9 The Story of Us 2,968,895 5,361,125 -44.6 2,175 3 1,365 22,256,765 Universal
10 Three Kings 2,522,288 4,274,782 -41.0 1,851 5 1,363 53,729,398 Warner Bros.
11 Bats 2,236,978 4,717,902 -52.6 2,540 2 881 7,926,751 Destination
12 Three to Tango 2,143,958 4,406,135 -51.3 2,234 2 960 7,689,192 Warner Bros.
13 Superstar 1,852,652 3,540,380 -47.7 2,016 4 919 23,508,841 Paramount
14 Random Hearts 1,451,911 2,927,069 -50.4 1,827 4 795 29,504,936 Sony
15 The Omega Code 1,429,371 1,595,926 -10.4 365 3 3,916 6,333,860 Providence
16 Blue Streak 917,455 1,764,184 -48.0 1,093 7 839 64,655,842 Sony
17 Being John Malkovich 637,721 25 1 25,509 637,721 USA
18 Elmo in Grouchland 423,226 878,213 -51.8 1,153 5 367 10,150,802 Sony
19 The Straight Story 372,733 276,787 34.7 96 3 3,883 863,769 Buena Vista
20 Crazy in Alabama 366,136 1,010,596 -63.8 1,214 2 302 1,723,957 Sony
Top 5 $ 35,065,787 $ 34,544,222 1.5
Top 10 50,438,110 57,181,140 -11.8
Top 20 62,270,251 71,146,511 -12.5

Last Updated : November 1 at 7:30PM EST

Written by Gitesh Pandya