Weekend Box Office (November 13 - 15, 1998)
It was another box office touchdown for Adam Sandler as his smash comedy
hit The Waterboy
sacked two strong competitors and retained the top spot with a $24.4M weekend
gross according to final
studio figures. Down just 38%, the Buena Vista film displayed a very good
hold, especially for a movie with such poor reviews. Moviegoers seem to
be ignoring critics and buying tickets for The
Waterboy because they want to see a fun
movie. After ten days of release, the Adam Sandler pic, which also stars
Kathy Bates and Henry Winkler, has amassed an enormous sum of $79.1M putting
it on course for a final tally that might end up in the $150-160M region.
The table below shows how some other recent blockbusters have performed
after ten days:
Phil Barlow, distribution chief of Buena Vista, noted that The Waterboy is already showing signs of significant repeat business and very good word of mouth. The film's average of $9,133 per theater easily outdistanced all other movies over the weekend and its 38% depreciation almost mirrored the second weekend dropoff of Sandler's last hit The Wedding Singer which slipped 35%. Look for the gridiron comedy to pass the $80.2M gross of The Wedding Singer on Monday to become Sandler's highest-grossing film. The Waterboy was also the first film to spend back-to-back November weekends at number one since Home Alone 2 in 1992. Like in June, the Hollywood studios release major event films every weekend during the month of November making it extremely difficult for one film to lead the pack for more than one frame.
Debuting in second place with a strong opening was Sony's I Still Know What You Did Last Summer with $16.5M. Playing in 2,443 locations, the horror sequel averaged a strong $6,762 per theater. Both the opening gross and average were a bit higher than the original's which were $15.8M and $6,267 respectively. Starring the singing/acting teen divas Jennifer Love Hewitt and Brandy, I Still Know... capitalized on the success of last year's surprise hit I Know What You Did Last Summer by bringing back fans of the original with another damsel-saves-herself-from-distress formula that has become common in horror films since Scream.
According to Sony's distribution president Jeff Blake, I Still Know..., as expected, performed best with young adults and females. About 63% of the audience came from the 15-25 year-old age group, while the gender split was 53/47. Blake also noted that the opening weekend crowd was much more racially mixed than for most recent fright films most likely due to Brandy's drawing power. With a production cost of $24M, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer should end up being a profitable endeavor for Sony Pictures. However, its long-term prospects are questionable since horror sequels tend to attract a disproportionately large share of their audience during the debut weekend, plus the film saw a 3% fall on Saturday compared to Friday instead of the customary uptick.
Brad Pitt entered the box office charts in third place with his new romance Meet Joe Black which collected a creepy $15M. The story of the Grim Reaper who pays a visit by taking a human form opened in 2,503 theaters and averaged a good $6,000 per site. Also starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and relative newcomer Claire Forlani, Meet Joe Black was killed by critics for its story and three-hour length. The Universal picture, directed by Martin Brest, was originally slated for a summer release but was pushed to the holiday season due to production delays and costly budget overruns. Pitt reportedly snagged a $17.5 million salary for Meet Joe Black helping to send the budget north of $80 million.
Universal pegged high hopes to the film counting on it to help bring the studio out of a year-and-a-half long box office slump. With its $15M launch, Meet Joe Black gave Universal its best opening weekend performance of the year (which isn't saying much). Good word-of-mouth is needed to make this into a big hit which means moviegoers will need to ignore the poor reviews. Overall, Meet Joe Black opened a little stronger than most of Brad Pitt's previous films which included debuts of $14.3M for The Devil's Own, $13.9M for Seven, and $14M for Legends Of The Fall.
Slipping from second to fourth was the Denzel Washington-Bruce Willis action thriller The Siege with $8.1M. Off 42%, the Fox title has climbed to a cume of $26.4M in ten days and looks headed to a final domestic tally of about $50M. With the starpower of Willis (despite his small supporting role) The Siege should be able to easily surpass that total in the international arena.
Spending its seventh frame in the top five, Antz from DreamWorks ate up another $4M boosting its impressive gross to $81.1M. The durable computer-animated bug flick enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten slipping only 28%.
The weekend's other new wide release was Disney's I'll Be Home For Christmas starring Home Improvement star Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Opening six weeks ahead of the holiday it is named after, the family film grossed just $3.9M from 1,759 theaters for a weak average of $2,216 per stocking. With a barrage of family films hitting theaters during the holiday season, Christmas should fade away quickly and see a wider audience on home video next year.
Dropping out of the top ten were Rush Hour with $128.8M in its ninth weekend, Vampires with $18.5M in its third frame, and Belly with $7.3M in its sophomore weekend.
In Star Wars news, Lucasfilm and Fox have announced that the first theatrical trailer for Star Wars Episode 1 : The Phantom Menace will screen at selected theaters in the United States and Canada this Tuesday, November 17th. This is a special advance screening of the highly-anticipated trailer which will begin playing in theaters across North America on November 20th and throughout the holiday box office season. To find out exactly where it will play, visit the Star Wars official web site.
Compared to projections, The Waterboy finished the weekend extremely close to my $24M forecast while my $26M prediction for I Still Know What You Did Last Summer was far too optimistic. Meet Joe Black and I'll Be Home For Christmas both came within a notch of my projections of $16M and $5M respectively.
Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Adam Sandler. In last week's survey, readers were asked if Universal's remake of Psycho would be a flop at the domestic box office. Of 1,625 responses, 55% said no, 37% voted yes, while 8% did not know.
Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which reports on the biggest opening weekends of November. This Wednesday's new column will look at Universal Pictures' recent box office drought. For a review of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer visit Chief's Movie Review Page.
The top ten films grossed $83.5M which was up 33% from last year when The Jackal opened at number one with $15.2M, and up 4% from 1996 when Space Jam debuted at the top spot with $27.5M.
Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Will Smith's Enemy of the State and The Rugrats Movie open.
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