Weekend Box Office (November 21 - 23, 1997)

THIS WEEKEND With fists of fury, Mortal Kombat : Annihilation did away with its competitors to open at the top of the box office charts. The New Line sequel to the 1995 martial arts fantasy film was prepared to fight and collected $16.8M in 2,140 theaters for a savage $7,837 average. It achieved 72% of the opening weekend gross of the original Mortal Kombat which bowed with $23.3M in August 1995. The success of Annihilation came as a surprise to many in the industry and could lead to a continuation of the Mortal Kombat franchise. By targeting and reaching its core audience of young males, the movie-adaptation of the popular video game claimed the seventh-best opening ever for New Line Cinema.

Debuting in second place was Fox's highly-anticipated animated feature Anastasia with $14.1M. Moving from an exclusive run in one theater to a nationwide release in 2,478 locations, Anastasia averaged a charming $5,692 per site despite various attempts by Disney to thwart a successful opening. Although Fox will not be able to call it "the number one movie in America", the launch for the tale of the Russian princess was very strong indeed and with kids on vacation for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, Anastasia should be able to post a mighty ten-day gross. With $14.1M, it stands as the second-best opening for a non-Disney animated film, behind Paramount's Beavis and Butthead Do America which grabbed $20.1M during its opening frame last year.

By comparison, Disney's last two animated features Hercules and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which both opened in the busier month of June) each opened with about $20M and achieved final grosses of about $100M. Anastasia proved that mass audiences are willing to see animated films from other studios and should come as good news to Warner Bros. and DreamWorks who are both preparing their own animated films for release next year.

Paramount's John Grisham legal thriller The Rainmaker brought some life back into the series with a third-place bow of $10.6M and averaged $4,586 per theater. Its performance was significantly better than the last movie adaptation of a Grisham novel, The Chamber, which opened last year with just $5.6M and closed with a total gross of only $14.4M. However, it does not seem to be headed to the same territory as prior Grisham movies The Firm ($158.3M), The Pelican Brief ($100.8M), The Client ($92M), and A Time to Kill ($108.7M).

For the first time in nearly two and a half years, moviegoers pushed three new releases to opening weekends of over $10M each. The last such occurence was the weekend of June 30, 1995 which saw the launches of Apollo 13 ($25.4M opening), Mighty Morphin Power Rangers ($13.1M), and Judge Dredd ($12.3M). For reviews of Mortal Kombat : Annihilation and The Rainmaker, visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

Also opening this weekend was the Clint Eastwood-directed version of the best-selling novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The Warner pic played in just 824 sites and grossed $5.2M, landing it in sixth-place overall, for a sturdy $6,352 average which was second only to Mortal Kombat's in the top ten. It is too early to tell how Warner's decision to open the movie semi-wide this weekend, and fully wide in December, will affect the grosses for the critically-acclaimed motion picture.

Among holdovers, last weekend's top film The Jackal dropped 41% in its second frame and took fourth place with a $9M take. The Disney reissue of The Little Mermaid felt the presence of its competitor Anastasia and sank 42% in its second lap, placing fifth with $5.7M. Wings of the Dove widened from 77 to 259 locations and scored $1.3M as it averaged $5,041. Continuing its terribly slow expansion, The Ice Storm added 63 sites, now at 217, and collected $677,000 for a $3,120 average. In platform release, The Sweet Hereafter from Exotica director Atom Egoyan took in about $92,000 in 19 theaters averaging $4,861.

Meanwhile, Sony's mega-budgeted Starship Troopers continued its freefall taking another 53% hit, the largest in the top ten, and collected $4.7M in ticket sales according to estimates. Just two weekends ago, it opened to $22.1M. However, Sony did claim the lowest percentage drop of the top ten with the sixth weekend of their horror smash I Know What You Did Last Summer which, along with The Man Who Knew Too Little, edged by 36%. After breaking the record for highest grosses by a distributor in one year, which was set by Disney in 1996 with $1.2 billion, Sony now has little artillery in its camp to get it through the final five weeks of the year.

Kombat performed much better than my projected $12M gross. Anastasia's $14.1M gross was on target with my $14M forecast. The Rainmaker's $10.6M was stronger than my $9M prediction and Midnight's $5.2M was less than my projection of $7M. The Jackal and The Little Mermaid both dipped more than expected as they lost 41% and 42% compared to my anticipated dropoffs of 35% and 30% respectively.

November continued to be slower than usual as the top ten films grossed $76M which was down 17% from last year and down 27% from 1995 (when Thanksgiving landed on this weekend).

NOTE : Due to the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, the next column will appear a day earlier on Wednesday and will feature a complete summary, including projections, of the holiday weekend releases including Flubber and Alien : Resurrection.

For a seasonal wrapup, be sure to check out The Top 20 Films of the Fall 1997 Box Office.

Below are final studio figures for the weekend. Click on the title to jump to its official home page:

# Title Nov 21 - 23 Nov 14 - 16 % Chg. Weeks Cumulative Dist.
1 Mortal Kombat : Annihilation $ 16,771,694 1 $ 16,771,694 NL
2 Anastasia 14,104,933 120,541 2 14,242,807 Fox
3 The Rainmaker 10,626,507 1 10,626,507 Par.
4 The Jackal 9,024,095 15,164,595 -40.5 2 28,563,725 Univ.
5 The Little Mermaid (reissue) 5,687,421 9,814,520 -42.1 2 17,950,386 BV
6 Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil 5,233,658 1 5,233,658 WB
7 Starship Troopers 4,707,484 10,034,337 -53.1 3 46,268,918 Sony
8 Bean 4,288,080 7,938,313 -46.0 6 37,388,614 Gram.
9 The Man Who Knew Too Little 2,938,348 4,604,819 -36.2 2 8,574,922 WB
10 I Know What You Did Last Summer 2,582,086 4,062,163 -36.4 6 63,805,370 Sony
Top 5 $ 56,214,650 $ 47,556,584 18.2
Top 10 75,964,306 62,856,559 20.9

    This column is updated three times each week : Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Source : Variety, EDI. Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.

    Last Updated : November 25, 1997 at 11:30AM ESTHome