Weekend Box Office (November 22 - 24, 2002)

THIS WEEKEND The North American box office was stricken with franchise fever as high-profile sequels captured the top four positions on the charts during an extremely busy weekend at the multiplexes. James Bond led the way as Die Another Day, the 20th installment in the 40-year-old series, opened triumphantly at number one pushing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets down to number two. Friday After Next bowed in third, The Santa Clause 2 slipped to fourth, and the freshman pic The Emperor's Club debuted in seventh.

MGM generated the biggest opening weekend ever for the Bond franchise, and the second best bow in studio history, with Die Another Day which debuted at number one with $47.1M, according to final figures. Playing ultrawide in 3,314 theaters, the PG-13 film averaged a stellar $14,204 per location. The premiere bested the $35.5M from 3,163 sites that the last 007 flick, The World Is Not Enough, generated three years ago. For MGM, only last year's Hannibal has ever given the beleaguered studio a better opening with its $58M launch. The blockbuster performance comes as welcome news for the company which went into the weekend with a measly $206M in year-to-date grosses putting it in eleventh place among distributors with less than 3% marketshare.

With the popular Pierce Brosnan returning for his fourth turn as the British secret agent, the $125M-budgeted Die Another Day brought in existing Bond fans but with the addition of Oscar winner Halle Berry, the action-adventure broadened its appeal to a younger and more diverse audience. As has become standard with the Bond franchise, a seemingly endless line of promotional partners were lined up with each kicking in millions of marketing dollars to add to the pre-release hype. Audiences were pleased with Die as moviegoers polled by CinemaScore.com gave the Lee Tamahori-directed picture a grade of A-.

International openings in Spain, France, and the United Kingdom brought in an additional $23M this weekend. Brosnan's three previous spy flicks generated about two-thirds of their global grosses from outside of North America and Die Another Day is positioned to follow in the same footsteps. Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, and World each took in over $340M worldwide and MGM and Fox, its overseas distribution partner, hope that the latest installment can reach the quadruple century mark.

Fellow Brit Harry Potter was not too far behind James Bond and settled for second place with $42.2M for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The 52% decline was not too surprising considering the wizard pic is a sequel coming off of a monster bow, but with glowing reviews and excellent exit polls last weekend, many in the industry were eyeing a smaller depreciation. Last year's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone fell only 36% in its second weekend, however that session was the busy Thanksgiving holiday frame so comparisons would be unfair. After ten days of release, Chamber has grossed a terrific $148.4M and could reach the $200M mark by the end of Thanksgiving weekend.

Proving his bankability once again was Ice Cube whose Christmas comedy Friday After Next opened with $13M from 1,616 theaters. Averaging a strong $8,051, the R-rated sequel bowed below the level of its predecessor, 2000's Next Friday, which opened with $14.5M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of its holiday frame from 1,103 sites. Friday After Next represents the third release for Cube this year after March's action-comedy All About the Benjamins which opened to $10M from 1,505 theaters and the fall hit Barbershop which debuted with $20.6M from 1,605 and has cut up over $75M to date. Moviegoers polled by CinemaScore.com gave the pic a B+ grade.

Kris Kringle and pals remained strong this weekend as Disney's The Santa Clause 2 dropped only 32% and collected $10.2M for fourth place. Tim Allen's holiday sequel has now banked $94.9M and hopes to be a major family choice over the upcoming Thanksgivng frame. Eminem's 8 Mile got punched around once again collapsing 55% in its third weekend to $8.6M giving the Universal drama $97.6M in only 17 days. Both films should break the $100M mark over the long Turkey Day session.

DreamWorks continued to see prolonged strength with its horror gem The Ring which slid just 29% to $7.6M in its sixth weekend. The remake thriller has upped its cume to $110.8M.

Universal kicked off its campaign for the Kevin Kline prep school drama The Emperor's Club with a small, but solid, opening of $3.8M from only 809 theaters. Averaging an encouraging $4,755 per site, the PG-13 film appealed mostly to adult women as 81% of the audience was over 30 and 62% were female, according to studio exit polls. With Die Another Day distracting adults, Universal opted for only a moderately wide release this weekend hoping that strong word-of-mouth will carry the $12.5M film through Thanksgiving weekend and December. Moviegoers polled by CinemaScore.com gave The Emperor's Club a grade of A- and 90% called the movie "Excellent" or "Very Good". Of the five new wide releases opening on Wednesday, only Fox's Solaris starring George Clooney should provide any major direct competition for Emperor.

Slipping down to eighth place was the surprise sensation of the year, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which grossed $3.7M, off only 22%. The IFC Films smash has spent the last seventeen consecutive weekends in the top ten and is now depreciating at a steady rate. With $204.5M in the bank, Greek Wedding now sits at number 42 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters and could eventually find its way to the neighborhood of $220M.

Sony's prison actioner Half Past Dead saw 60% of its audience escape in its sophomore weekend as the Steven Seagal pic grossed $3.1M pushing its ten-day cume to a weak $12.5M. Miramax rounded out the top ten with the Salma Hayek film Frida which took in $2.4M, down just 19% thanks in part to 275 extra playdates, for a total to date of $12.1M.

Three films dropped from the top ten over the weekend. Paramount's $5M surprise hit Jackass: The Movie has grossed $62.1M to date and should conclude with around $65M before a healthy life on video. Sony's $70M action-comedy I Spy has collected just $32.6M to date and should finish with a disappointing $36M. Buena Vista's Sweet Home Alabama has been one of the fall's top performers with a $123.4M take and looks to end with roughly $126M.

The top ten films grossed $141.7M which was up 2% from last year's Thanksgiving frame when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone remained at number one with $57.5M; but down 13% from 2000's Turkey weekend when How the Grinch Stole Christmas stayed in the top spot with $52.1M.

Compared to projections, Die Another Day opened a few notches below my $53M forecast. Friday After Next debuted below my $18M prediction while The Emperor's Club bowed close to my $5M projection.

For a review of Die Another Day visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Wednesday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Treasure Planet, 8 Crazy Nights, Solaris, Extreme Ops, and They all open for Thanksgiving weekend.

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

# Title Nov 22 - 24 Nov 15 - 17 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Die Another Day $ 47,072,040 3,314 1 $ 14,204 $ 47,072,040 MGM
2 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 42,227,263 88,357,488 -52.2 3,682 2 11,469 148,358,831 Warner Bros.
3 Friday After Next 13,010,767 1,616 1 8,051 13,010,767 New Line
4 The Santa Clause 2 10,210,369 15,102,078 -32.4 3,251 4 3,141 94,944,099 Buena Vista
5 8 Mile 8,620,975 19,344,025 -55.4 2,585 3 3,335 97,579,500 Universal
6 The Ring 7,560,200 10,662,183 -29.1 2,628 6 2,877 110,837,875 DreamWorks
7 The Emperor's Club 3,846,780 809 1 4,755 3,846,780 Universal
8 My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3,657,055 4,713,464 -22.4 1,585 32 2,307 204,520,221 IFC Films
9 Half Past Dead 3,125,916 7,820,536 -60.0 2,113 2 1,479 12,501,542 Sony
10 Frida 2,369,554 2,914,103 -18.7 794 5 2,984 12,055,767 Miramax
11 Far From Heaven 1,621,020 902,667 79.6 259 3 6,259 3,194,844 Focus
12 Jackass: The Movie 1,612,186 3,875,319 -58.4 1,522 5 1,059 62,081,693 Paramount
13 I Spy 1,043,101 3,806,001 -72.6 1,535 4 680 32,644,729 Sony
14 Sweet Home Alabama 1,041,324 2,233,774 -53.4 952 9 1,094 123,408,235 Buena Vista
15 Bowling for Columbine 983,467 1,263,380 -22.2 244 7 4,031 10,341,936 MGM/UA
16 El Crimen del Padre Amaro 742,169 504,681 47.1 86 2 8,630 1,480,131 IDP
17 Star Wars Episode II: IMAX 617,201 909,917 -32.2 58 4 10,641 307,898,696 Fox
18 Real Women Have Curves 433,227 520,378 -16.7 163 6 2,658 3,196,281 Newmarket
19 Punch-Drunk Love 422,209 1,210,367 -65.1 411 7 1,027 17,277,359 Sony
20 Ghost Ship 349,963 1,117,492 -68.7 570 5 614 28,913,705 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 121,141,414 $ 141,286,310 -14.3
Top 10 141,700,919 158,828,971 -10.8
Top 20 150,566,786 167,486,727 -10.1
Top 20 vs. 2001 150,566,786 148,222,147 1.6

Last Updated : November 25, 2002 at 7:00PM EST