Weekend Box Office (November 5 - 7, 1999)

THIS WEEKEND A trio of new releases collected a combined $31M from moviegoers as The Bone Collector, The Bachelor, and The Insider all enjoyed top five debuts. Double Jeopardy managed to break the $100M barrier, however the busy and lucrative month of November got off to a slower start this year than in previous years.

Denzel Washington captured the number one spot over the weekend as his latest crime thriller The Bone Collector opened impressively with $16.7M, according to final figures, more than doubling the gross of its closest competitor. The Universal release finds Washington as a brilliant forensics expert who is paralyzed and must team up with a street-smart cop (played by Angelina Jolie) to hunt down a serial killer in New York City. Stalking 2,587 theaters, The Bone Collector averaged a solid $6,460 per venue. Directed by Phillip Noyce, the $48M film was co-financed by Sony which will handle overseas distribution.

Moviegoers who have been spending lavishly on suspense thrillers in recent months turned out in droves for The Bone Collector which gave Washington the second biggest opening of his career after 1995's Crimson Tide which launched with $18.6M. Universal scored its fifth number one opening of the year. By comparison, in 1998 it had no films debut at the top until Patch Adams arrived on the last weekend of the year. The studio now hopes that The Bone Collector will have legs at the box office much like Double Jeopardy which was also a popular thriller with a strong female protagonist fighting for justice.

Last weekend's Halloween favorite, The House on Haunted Hill, saw sales nosedive as the fright flick pulled in $7.7M to finish second. Down a disturbing but understandable 52%, the Warner Bros. entry has grossed $28M in its first ten days and should continue its rapid erosion in the weeks ahead. By comparison, the summer spookfest The Haunting and last Halloween's top film Vampires saw second weekend drops of 54% and 57% respectively. However, with a $15M production cost, Haunted Hill should bring in some tidy profits from its theatrical and home video runs. A final domestic theatrical gross of around $45M looks likely.

Rushing into matrimony in third place was New Line's romantic comedy The Bachelor which premiered weaker than originally estimated with a weekend take of $7.5M. Rival distributors found New Line's original $8M estimate to be quite generous and indeed they were right as final figures showed that Sunday sales were much less than expected. The Chris O'Donnell-Renee Zellweger picture tells of a man who must marry in 24 hours in order to earn his $100M inheritance. Rejected by critics, The Bachelor landed in 2,522 theaters and averaged a bland $2,966 per site.

Chris O'Donnell's Scent of a Woman co-star, Al Pacino, was close behind in fourth place with the debut of The Insider which grossed $6.7M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. The Michael Mann film chronicles the scandal that erupted when television news magazine 60 Minutes dropped a story which would have blown the whistle on the tobacco industry. Opening in 1,809 theaters, The Insider averaged a moderate $3,711 per location but enjoyed an encouraging 47% increase in Saturday traffic. The critically praised Buena Vista release stirred controversy of its own in recent weeks with members of the 60 Minutes team denouncing the film for allegedly altering the real story. The distributor hopes that positive word-of-mouth will carry the film into the holiday season fueling numerous award nominations.

Holding the ring in fifth place was The Best Man, starring Taye Diggs and Nia Long, which grossed $4.3M. Off a respectable 31%, the Universal release has taken in $24M to date and enjoyed the third best per-theater average in the top ten. Crossing the $100M barrier on Friday, its 43rd day of release, Double Jeopardy enjoyed another strong weekend despite the new competition taking in $4.3M. Down just 20% from last weekend, Paramount's revenge thriller has worked its way up to $104.3M and is still playing in more theaters than any other movie in release. The Ashley Judd-Tommy Lee Jones starrer is the 15th blockbuster this year to reach the century mark. Easing only 12%, American Beauty placed seventh with $3.3M upping its sum to a robust $58.9M.

A little movie called The Sixth Sense took the number eight spot with $3.1M in ticket sales falling by only 2% from last weekend's Halloween gross. The Bruce Willis smash has climbed to $264M domestically and now has its ghostly eyes set on reaching the $285.8M level of 1990's Home Alone which ranks as the eleventh biggest domestic blockbuster of all time. Meanwhile, The Sixth Sense continues to haunt theaters overseas as its international cume from just a handful of countries is set to surpass $75M this weekend.

The Meryl Streep drama Music of the Heart slipped a slim 23% in its sophomore frame to $2.8M. With $7.7M in ten days, the Wes Craven film could eventually reach $20M. Brad Pitt and Edward Norton rounded out the top ten with the brutal drama Fight Club which scored $2.4M bringing its total after four rounds to $31.9M.

Three fall pictures dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The Story of Us, starring Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer, slid 35% to $1.9M upping its cume to $25.3M. Universal's $49M romantic drama should top out at a not-so-lovely $30-32M. Martin Scorsese's Bringing Out the Dead fell 44% in its third weekend grossing $1.9M. The $30M Nicolas Cage film has brought in $14.6M to date and is set to finish with a disappointing $20-22M.

Warner Bros. has collected $56.2M thus far from Three Kings which stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Ice Cube. The $50M Gulf War tale should conclude its campaign with a respectable $60-62M making it Clooney's highest grossing movie outside of the franchise flop Batman & Robin.

While Buena Vista holds a commanding $100M lead in year-to-date box office thanks to The Sixth Sense and Tarzan, a sizzling battle is being fought for the runnerup spot by two studios that just a year ago were suffering huge losses from an endless series of expensive flops. Warner Bros. and Universal have certainly turned things around in 1999 selling over $800M in tickets a piece and now have only about $30M separating them after this weekend. Warners currently ranks second for the year with Pokemon and Tom Hanks' The Green Mile waiting in the wings. However, Universal is posing a serious challenge with the solid opening of The Bone Collector plus upcoming star vehicles like Arnold Schwarzenegger's End of Days and Jim Carrey's Man on the Moon yet to open. The final weeks of the year should feature an intense battle for the box office silver medal.

USA Films expanded the release of the offbeat comedy Being John Malkovich from 25 to 175 theaters and saw sales grow almost threefold. The John Cusack-Cameron Diaz pic collected $1.85M giving it a strong $10,583 average and a $2.9M cume in ten days of limited release.

Compared to projections, The Bone Collector opened very close to my $18M forecast. The Bachelor was a little better than my $6M prediction while The Insider debuted weaker than my $11M projection. Holdovers The House on Haunted Hill and The Best Man were both close to my respective forecasts of $8M and $4M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the upcoming Pokemon movie. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of five November releases they most wanted to see. Of 3,159 responses, 36% chose The World Is Not Enough, 26% selected End of Days, 19% picked Sleepy Hollow, 10% voted for Dogma, and 9% said Toy Story 2.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which reports on the box office grosses of Denzel Washington's films from the last ten years. This Wednesday's new column will look at the openings of some of the biggest animated films in recent years. For a review of The Bone Collector visit The Chief Report.

The top ten films over the weekend grossed $59M which was down 34% from last year when The Waterboy opened at number one with a November record $39.4M, and down 13% from 1997 when Starship Troopers debuted on top with $22.1M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Pokemon, Dogma, and The Messenger attack the box office.

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

# Title Nov. 5 - 7 Oct. 29 - 31 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Bone Collector $ 16,712,020 2,587 1 $ 6,460 $ 16,712,020 Universal
2 The House on Haunted Hill 7,711,699 15,946,032 -51.6 2,710 2 2,846 27,984,396 Warner Bros.
3 The Bachelor 7,480,288 2,522 1 2,966 7,480,288 New Line
4 The Insider 6,712,361 1,809 1 3,711 6,712,361 Buena Vista
5 The Best Man 4,340,850 6,281,690 -30.9 1,290 3 3,365 24,037,745 Universal
6 Double Jeopardy 4,326,785 5,405,037 -19.9 2,722 7 1,590 104,290,418 Paramount
7 American Beauty 3,324,526 3,779,747 -12.0 1,553 8 2,141 58,931,005 DreamWorks
8 The Sixth Sense 3,131,538 3,200,961 -2.2 1,802 14 1,738 264,042,695 Buena Vista
9 Music of the Heart 2,821,480 3,653,281 -22.8 1,353 2 2,085 7,737,994 Miramax
10 Fight Club 2,423,069 3,296,137 -26.5 1,603 4 1,512 31,909,073 Fox
11 Superstar 2,054,153 1,852,652 10.9 1,730 5 1,187 26,133,852 Paramount
12 The Story of Us 1,917,105 2,968,895 -35.4 2,018 4 950 25,315,745 Universal
13 Bringing Out the Dead 1,906,535 3,384,042 -43.7 1,967 3 969 14,605,199 Paramount
14 Being John Malkovich 1,852,093 637,721 190.4 175 2 10,583 2,875,714 USA
15 Three Kings 1,657,497 2,522,288 -34.3 1,401 6 1,183 56,236,442 Warner Bros.
16 Three to Tango 1,058,026 2,143,958 -50.7 1,295 3 817 9,619,159 Warner Bros.
17 The Omega Code 1,012,551 1,429,371 -29.2 365 4 2,774 7,794,122 Providence
18 Bats 802,234 2,236,978 -64.1 1,310 3 612 9,313,342 Destination
19 Blue Streak 651,708 917,455 -29.0 694 8 939 65,601,734 Sony
20 Hum Saath-Saath Hain 651,575 69 1 9,443 651,575 Eros
Top 5 $ 42,957,218 $ 35,065,787 22.5
Top 10 58,984,616 50,438,110 16.9
Top 20 72,548,093 62,270,251 16.5

Last Updated : November 8 at 9:45PM EST

Written by Gitesh Pandya