Weekend Box Office (December 4 - 6, 1998)

THIS WEEKEND Insects continued to infest theaters as Disney and Pixar's hit film A Bug's Life led the box office for the second straight weekend with a gross of $17.4M, according to final figures. After 12 days of wide release, the computer-animated picture has already collected $68.7M while dropping a very respectable 48% from last weekend's holiday feast. By comparison, Disney's last two Thanksgiving leaders Flubber and 101 Dalmatians dropped 58% each on the weekend after the turkey frame. After 12 days, A Bug's Life is running 37% ahead of Flubber (which ended up grossing $93M domestically) and 8% ahead of Dalmatians (which reached $136M). Bug's is also 6% ahead of the last Disney/Pixar toon Toy Story over the same time period, however that film enjoyed a stronger sophomore hold dipping just 31% on the weekend after Thanksgiving while Bug's dropped 48%. Toy Story went on to collect $192M domestically.

Nevertheless, it was a splendid performance by A Bug's Life and the film is well on its way to becoming another smash for Disney bringing in endless revenue from various ancillary streams for years to come. It should surpass rival bug pic Antz next week and cross $100M by Christmas weekend when Bug's could then begin seeing a holiday resurgence like Toy Story did three years ago.

Spooky Norman Bates kept a watchful eye over the runnerup position as the remake of Psycho opened with $10M. Universal has promoted this film for months but chose a relatively sluggish weekend to open it hoping to avoid direct competition from other newcomers. Debuting in 2,477 motels, Psycho delivered a weak opening and averaged just $4,050 per theater. Starring Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, and William H. Macy, the Gus Van Sant shot-for-shot remake will have its work cut out for it when other holiday films with bigger stars come marching into theaters over the next three weeks. Universal backed Psycho with an extensive marketing campaign hoping to give a new generation of fright fans an update on a classic, but moviegoers voted with their dollars and showed little interest in the Hitchcock remake.

Adding to the overall poor showing, Psycho actually saw business drop on Saturday by 5% after a decent performance on Friday. Normally, ticket sales rise on Saturday due to more traffic at theaters. Universal Pictures spokesman Alan Sutton noted that Psycho's core audience was the under-25 crowd and that attendance by males and females was roughly even. With a production cost of $25M, plus a hefty marketing tab, Universal should still turn a small profit once overseas grosses, worldwide video sales, and television rights are accounted for. Psycho's debut was about even with Universal's previous post-Thanksgiving opener Daylight which launched this weekend in 1996. The Stallone action pic debuted with $10M and ended with $32.9M.

Will Smith held onto third place with Enemy of the State which grabbed another $9.7M to boost its 17-day cume to an impressive $62.9M. The Buena Vista thriller's 47% decline was the second best in the top ten. Being the only major action entry in the market is certainly helping Enemy and the picture's chances of hitting $100M look promising . If it does cross nine digits, Enemy of the State will be producer Jerry Bruckheimer's fourth consecutive film to reach the century mark domestically following The Rock, Con Air, and Armageddon plus it will be the superproducer's first non-summer blockbuster since 1984's Beverly Hills Cop.

The season's other cartoon, The Rugrats Movie, caused a commotion in fourth with $7.6M. Falling 64% from Thanksgiving weekend, the Paramount film suffered the worst depreciation of any film in the top ten. The animated adventure, based on the hit kids show airing on Nickelodeon, has amassed $67.5M in 17 days of release but seems to be running out of steam. The Rugrats, produced for $25M, should end its run with $80-90M if it continues on its current trajectory.

Rounding out the top five was slowminded Adam Sandler with $6.5M for the enormously popular comedy The Waterboy. Down 52% from last weekend, the Buena Vista smash has climbed to $130.8M after a month of release. Look for The Waterboy to finish its season with $145-155M. Once again, the Disney machine had three of the five biggest films and accounted for 56% of all ticket sales in the top ten. Year-to-date box office totals now put Buena Vista just $35M behind industry leader Paramount.

Taking sixth place was Universal's romantic drama Meet Joe Black with $2.4M. Down 58%, the Brad Pitt-Anthony Hopkins starrer has grossed $39.2M to date which, believe it or not, makes it Universal's highest-grossing film of the year inching ahead of Primary Colors which took in $39M last spring. The studio's other pricey holiday pic Babe: Pig in the City oinked its way to seventh in its sophomore session with $2.4M. Stumbling 62%, the swine sequel has managed to round up just $11.4M in its trough after 12 days of release and will be lucky to max out at $20M. Babe's weak box office showing should also put a huge dent into merchandise sales this holiday season since children and parents are obviously not too excited about the movie.

With a combined production cost of approximately $170M, Meet Joe Black and Babe 2 should end up grossing less than $70M domestically with only $35M or so making its way back to Universal. Add in the huge marketing costs for both pictures and it all leads to one giant headache for the studio. Luckily, Brad Pitt films and the original Babe have done tremendous business overseas in the past so strength there will help cover some of the losses at Universal.

Gramercy's critically-acclaimed costume drama Elizabeth experienced the lowest decline in the top ten easing just 42% to $2M for the weekend. With a domestic tally of $9.8M and an overseas gross of over $17M, the virgin queen is enjoying a solid reign with moviegoers worldwide. Playing in just 540 castles, Elizabeth's per-theater average of $3,619 was the fourth best in the top ten.

Sony's horror sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer placed ninth with $1.7M. With a $36M cume, the $17M slasher pic is on a course for a $40-42M finish which makes it profitable, but still a little disappointing given its pre-release hype and expectations.

The romantic comedy Home Fries dipped 54% and ate up $1.7M for eighth place. Starring Drew Barrymore as a soon-to-be mom, the Warner Bros. picture had a relatively low dropoff rate but has only taken in $7.8M in 12 days of release. Overall, Home Fries should reach $15-20M in the end.

Opening in just six theaters, Miramax's Little Voice grossed $93,722 giving it a strong $15,620 average.

Compared to projections, Psycho opened two notches below my forecast of $12M. A Bug's Life and Enemy of the State were both extremely close to my predictions of $18M and $10M respectively.

Read Part 1 of Box Office Guru's review of Star Trek: Insurrection. Part 2, which features interviews with cast members, will be published on Tuesday.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on your Oscar picks. In last week's survey, readers were asked which December films they most wanted to see. Of 3,048 responses, 28% picked Star Trek: Insurrection, 27% chose The Prince of Egypt, 22% selected Psycho, 12% said The Faculty, 6% picked You've Got Mail, and 5% chose Stepmom.

Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which reports on December's biggest openings. This Wednesday's new column will look back at the box office fortunes of the Star Trek franchise. For a review of Psycho visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

The top ten films grossed $61.2M which was up 45% from last year when Flubber remained at number one with $11.3M, and up 14% from 1996 when Universal's Daylight debuted in second place with $10M.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Star Trek: Insurrection beams into theaters everywhere.

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

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

# Title Dec 4 - 6 Nov 27 - 29 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 A Bug's Life $ 17,174,218 $ 33,258,052 -48.4 2,701 3 $ 6,358 $ 68,678,006 BV
2 Psycho 10,031,850 2,477 1 4,050 10,031,850 Universal
3 Enemy of the State 9,668,783 18,114,221 -46.6 2,458 3 3,934 62,872,780 BV
4 The Rugrats Movie 7,632,293 21,010,116 -63.7 2,832 3 2,695 67,452,270 Paramount
5 The Waterboy 6,511,707 13,601,032 -52.1 2,778 5 2,344 130,768,331 BV
6 Meet Joe Black 2,417,780 5,786,830 -58.2 2,188 4 1,105 39,220,300 Universal
7 Babe: Pig in the City 2,375,065 6,162,640 -61.5 2,387 2 995 11,421,985 Universal
8 Elizabeth 1,954,089 3,391,187 -42.4 540 5 3,619 9,780,813 Gramercy
9 I Still Know… 1,732,855 4,461,455 -61.2 2,212 4 783 35,960,227 Sony
10 Home Fries 1,725,359 3,784,023 -54.4 1,925 2 896 7,844,785 Warner Bros.
11 Very Bad Things 1,518,619 3,245,853 -53.2 1,260 2 1,205 7,093,369 Polygram
12 Ringmaster 1,305,480 3,344,022 -61.0 1,320 2 989 7,002,057 Artisan
13 The Siege 1,037,257 2,498,458 -58.5 1,206 5 860 37,829,456 Fox
14 Life is Beautiful 720,955 871,072 -17.2 134 7 5,380 6,207,910 Miramax
15 I'll Be Home For Christmas 680,009 1,678,703 -59.5 1,335 4 509 10,285,007 BV
16 American History X 532,218 989,684 -46.2 470 6 1,132 4,904,220 New Line
17 Celebrity 530,059 1,026,750 -48.4 468 3 1,133 4,115,638 Miramax
18 Pleasantville 501,005 1,204,095 -58.4 831 7 603 37,437,387 New Line
19 Everest (IMAX) 445,380 643,079 -30.7 61 40 7,301 53,472,864 Freeman
20 There's Something About Mary 386,820 659,473 -41.3 584 21 662 172,920,167 Fox
Top 5 $ 51,018,851 $ 92,146,061 -44.6
Top 10 61,223,999 112,913,578 -45.8
Top 20 68,881,801 126,683,644 -45.6

    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.

Last Updated : December 7, 1998 at 8:00PM EST

Written by Gitesh Pandya