Weekend Box Office (October 30 - November 1, 1998)
With Halloween falling on a Saturday, the busiest day at cinemas, box office
sales took a tumble and fell to one of the lowest levels of the year. But
leading the charge with a number one debut was Sony's horror-western pic
sank its teeth into a $9.1M gross, according to final
figures. Directed by horror legend John Carpenter, and starring James Woods,
in 1,793 theaters and averaged a bloodsuckingly strong $5,079 per coffin.
That gives the film a higher opening average than the season's two other
fright films Urban Legend
and Bride of Chucky,
and gives Sony its fourth top spot debut of the year tying the studio with
New Line for the most in 1998.
Jeff Blake, distribution head of Sony Pictures, stated that Vampires had a very good opening considering the fact that Halloween Saturday was brutal on the whole industry. The picture played well in both big cities and suburban markets and saw a 57/43 male/female split among opening weekend ticket buyers. Blake also noted that the debut performance of Vampires marks a new high for director John Carpenter beating the $8.68M launch of his last film Escape From L.A. in 1996. With a cost of $16M, Vampires was produced by Largo Entertainment and acquired for domestic distribution by Sony. Overseas, the horror entry opened in France in April and is currently playing in Italy, Mexico, and Singapore.
Last week's favorite film, Pleasantville, slipped one notch to second with an impressive $6.9M. Off just 22%, the New Line fantasy comedy has collected a colorful $18.3M in ten days and is showing durability at the box office. Easily experiencing the lowest decline of any film in the top ten, and one of the smallest of the fall season, Pleasantville seems on the road to a long-lasting shelflife and could be headed for a $45-50M cume by the end of its run.
Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman placed third over the Halloween weekend with Practical Magic which grossed $5.4M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. After 17 days, the witch pic has collected $33.7M in its cauldron and is on course to fly to about $50M.
Antz got stomped as kids were busy trick-or-treating and took in $4.5M, taking fourth place, and boosting its cume to $67.8M. But life is still a picnic for DreamWorks as the bug film has become the highest-grossing non-Disney animated picture ever surpassing Paramount's Beavis and Butthead Do America which rocked to the tune of $63M. Rounding out the top five, ghouls and goblins spent $4M on Bride of Chucky bringing its 17-day dowry to $26.8M.
In their sophomore weekends, Soldier and Apt Pupil were clobbered. Kurt Russell was stuck peeling potatoes as his futuristic action film commanded just $2.8M for a disturbing decline of 56%. With only $11.2M in ten days, look for Soldier to take home a dishonorable discharge with a final cume of around $15-20M, making it yet another expensive flop for Warners, and the action star's lowest-grossing film of the decade sinking further than 1992's Captain Ron. Sony's Apt Pupil failed to raise its grade point average falling 52% to a second weekend gross of $1.7M. The Bryan Singer movie has taken in $6.8M thus far and should finish its semester with roughly $10M.
Overall, dropoffs were rather high for most films as Halloween activities distracted moviegoers cutting into total box office revenue. The last time the spooky holiday fell on a Saturday was in 1992 when Under Siege led the field with $6.2M and ticket sales for the top ten titles shrank by 23.3% compared to the previous weekend. An even bloodier fate haunted this year's Halloween frame as grosses for the top ten plunged 27.3% from last weekend which was not a very strong period either. The top ten cume of $43.2M is the second worst of 1998 and the fifth-lowest of the last 24 months.
Falling out of the top ten was Paramount's hit comedy A Night at the Roxbury which laughed up $1.2M and now stands at $28.3M. Based on the popular Saturday Night Live skit, Roxbury has enjoyed a healthy run at the box office and has exceeded most industry expectations. The market's other horror film, Urban Legend, held up nicely over the pumpkin weekend dipping just 25% from last weekend and has amassed a scary $35M to date.
In limited release, New Line Cinema launched two very different films. Living Out Loud, starring Holly Hunter, Danny Devito, and Queen Latifah, saw a noisy start grossing $169,747. Platforming in New York and Los Angeles in eight houses, Loud averaged a promising $21,218 per site. The neo-Nazi drama American History X averaged a good $9,181 per theater earning $156,076 in 17 locations. The film's harsh subject matter will make it difficult to find a sizable audience in the coming weeks. American History X gradually expands into more markets over the next few weeks while Living Out Loud goes nationwide next weekend. Miramax's popular title Life is Beautiful expanded from 6 to 38 locations and grossed $459,634 giving the Cannes winner a still-powerful $12,096 average.
With the month of October now in the past, it turned out to be another one for the record books. Variety reports that the month's total box office amounted to $454.7M with admissions reaching 94.7 million tickets sold. Both figures were new all-time industry highs for the month beating last year's gross by 19% and 1993's admissions by 7.5%. Unit sales were also 13% better than last October which was dominated by I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Devil's Advocate, and Kiss the Girls. This year, the month's top performers were Antz, Rush Hour, and What Dreams May Come. Though October started off with a bang, it slowed down as the month progressed as some high-profile titles underwhelmed moviegoers leading to the final two weekends lacking any titles grossing over $10M.
Compared to projections, Vampires came in a notch below my $10M forecast while Pleasantville was very close to my $7M prediction.
Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on The Siege. In last week's survey, readers were asked to pick their favorite horror series. Of 2,304 responses, 41% chose Scream, 36% picked Child's Play, 11% said A Nightmare on Elm Street, 9% selected Halloween, and 5% indicated Friday the 13th.
Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which looks at the box office killings earned by horror movies during the last few years. This Wednesday's new column will examine the accuracy of studio estimates during the month of October. For a review of Vampires visit Chief's Movie Review Page.
The top ten films grossed $43.2M which was down 5% from last year when I Know What You Did Last Summer took number one with $9.4M, and down 9% from 1996 when Romeo and Juliet debuted at the top spot with $11.1M.
Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Siege faces off against The Waterboy.
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