Weekend Box Office (December 8 - 10, 2000)

THIS WEEKEND Jim Carrey fended off competition from a trio of new action releases and spent his fourth straight weekend at number one with the unstoppable holiday smash How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Making off with $18.6M, according to final studio figures, the Universal Pictures/Imagine Entertainment blockbuster slid just 31% and saw its cume rocket to $195.6M in only 24 days of release. That makes Grinch the second highest-grossing movie of the year, behind Mission: Impossible 2 ($215.4M), and the biggest non-Spielberg film in Universal's history. Also, it now ranks as the largest grosser for Jim Carrey, director Ron Howard, and Imagine. Grinch's remarkable staying power could even allow the holiday picture to approach the $300M mark in domestic receipts by the end of its run.

Generating a strong opening in second place was the action thriller Vertical Limit which took in $15.5M in its debut frame. Sony's mountaintop rescue picture played in 2,307 theaters and averaged a terrific $6,722 per venue. Directed by Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, The Mask of Zorro), the $78M action vehicle stars Chris O'Donnell and Bill Paxton and carried a PG-13 rating. The audience for Vertical Limit was 52% male and split evenly among age groups, according to Jeff Blake, president of worldwide marketing and distribution for the studio. "It was a great opening and we're ready to run the long race," said Blake who expects Vertical Limit to perform well as the holiday season approaches and students begin leaving school. Blake also noted that the film enjoyed a very strong opening in Japan this weekend, although preliminary estimates were not available as of Sunday morning.

Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe escaped the weekend battle with a third-place finish for their action drama Proof of Life which collected $10.2M. Infiltrating 2,705 theaters, the Warner Bros. release averaged $3,774 per site. The Taylor Hackford-directed film finds Ryan as a woman who hires a hostage specialist, played by Crowe, to find her kidnapped husband. Proof of Life, which reportedly cost about $80M to produce, attracted mixed reviews and played primarily to an adult audience with women outnumbering men.

Historically, early December has not been a strong time to launch motion pictures. Holiday shopping preoccupies many consumers making moviegoing a lesser priority. However, late December gets much stronger so films tend to last longer. Aside from instant flops, most movies opening in early December have gone on to reach a final gross of about five or six times their opening weekend figure.

Debuting in fifth place was New Line's fantasy action feature Dungeons & Dragons with $7.2M. Starring Jeremy Irons, Marlon Wayans, and Thora Birch, the effects-filled adventure film opened in 2,078 theaters and averaged a mild $3,483. Dungeons & Dragons is based on the popular role-playing game and attracted mostly boys. Crucified by critics, the $36M film saw sales dip by 2% on Saturday which does not bode well for the future.

Dropping two spots to fourth was the suspense drama Unbreakable which took in $7.5M in ticket sales falling 48%. The Buena Vista title has brought in $77.4M thus far. Disney's other Thanksgiving opener, 102 Dalmatians, slipped 25% to $6.2M and pushed its gross to $44.3M.

The Dalmatians figure, however, included grosses for the studio's Saturday night sneak preview of the animated feature The Emperor's New Groove. Buena Vista reported that the shows reached 82% capacity with an exceptionally high 93% rating the film "excellent." Emperor opens next weekend in over 2,500 theaters and faces Paramount's Mel Gibson comedy What Women Want, bowing in 3,000 theaters, and Fox's teen comedy Dude, Where's My Car? which also opens nationwide.

Rugrats in Paris followed in seventh place with $4M, off 39%, bringing its cume to $60.5M. Spending its tenth weekend in the top ten, Universal's comedy smash Meet the Parents slipped 21% to $3M take boosting its total to $157.1M. The studio also offered moviegoers two sneak previews of the Nicolas Cage picture The Family Man which opens wide on December 22. Universal reported that the sneaks were 79% full on Friday and at 87% capacity on Saturday.

Falling 48% and placing ninth was Charlie's Angels with $2.6M for a $119.3M domestic cume. Add in overseas grosses and Sony expects the worldwide total to surpass $200M this weekend. Miramax's Bounce rounded out the top ten with $2.6M giving the romance picture $34.1M to date.

The arthouse arms of the major studios had much to celebrate this weekend with films playing in select cities. With fists of fury, Ang Lee's epic action-romance Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon set the limited release box office on fire with a phenomenal $663,205 from its opening. Playing in only 16 theaters, many of which offered multiple screens, the Mandarin-language film averaged an unbelievable $41,450 per location. Backed by some of the year's best reviews, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon stars Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, and Zhang Zi Yi and combines an epic Chinese tale with dazzling martial arts sequences. Sony Pictures Classics will open the film in Los Angeles next weekend and add more cities later in the month.

Fox Searchlight's costume drama Quills, which last week was named the best film of the year by the National Board of Review, collected $160,164 pushing its total to $890,654 from only nine theaters. Averaging a fantastic $17,796, the acclaimed period piece will expand into 13 more cities next weekend adding roughly 50 theaters.

Sony opened the Guy Ritchie-directed picture Snatch in one Los Angeles theater for a one-week Oscar-qualifying run and took in $27,932 over the weekend and $37,662 since Wednesday. Starring Brad Pitt, the London-set film opens nationwide on January 19.

Three November releases fell out of the top ten over the weekend. In its fifth frame, Fox's military drama Men of Honor dropped 49% to $2.1M giving it $44.6M thus far. Produced for $38M, the Robert De Niro-Cuba Gooding Jr. film should eventually finish with around $50M.

The expensive disappointments The 6th Day and Little Nicky, both of which carried pricetags in the neighborhood of $80M, fell sharply over the weekend. Arnold Schwarzenegger's cloning thriller tumbled 65% to $1.4M lifting its cume to $33M. The Sony release looks to conclude with $35-40M domestically but should perform better in overseas markets as the actor's action films typically do. The studio reported that The 6th Day enjoyed strong number one bows in Hong Kong and Taiwan over the weekend and that it rolls out across several major markets like Japan and the United Kingdom next weekend.

Adam Sandler's starpower dimmed as well with Little Nicky which has collected $38.2M to date and should finish with roughly $40M.

The top ten films grossed $77.6M which was up 12% from last year when Toy Story 2 remained in the top spot with $18.2M; and up 21% from 1998 when Star Trek: Insurrection opened at number one with $22.1M.

Compared to projections, Vertical Limit opened very close to my $15M forecast while Proof of Life debuted below my $16M prediction. Dungeons & Dragons opened one notch above my $6M projection while The Grinch was on target with my $18M forecast.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on which of next weekend's movies will have the biggest opening. In last week's survey, readers were asked if Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone could help their careers by doing an action film together. Of 4,459 responses, 56% said yes while 44% voted no.

Read the Weekly Rewind column on the box office track record of Meg Ryan. For a review of Vertical Limit visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when What Women Want, The Emperor's New Groove, and Dude, Where's My Car? all open.

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

# Title Dec. 8 - 10 Dec. 1 - 3 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 How The Grinch Stole Christmas $ 18,646,520 $ 27,096,630 -31.2 3,182 4 $ 5,860 $ 195,646,175 Universal
2 Vertical Limit 15,507,845 2,307 1 6,722 15,507,845 Sony
3 Proof of Life 10,207,869 2,705 1 3,774 10,207,869 Warner Bros.
4 Unbreakable 7,538,063 14,440,935 -47.8 2,682 3 2,811 77,403,181 Buena Vista
5 Dungeons & Dragons 7,237,422 2,078 1 3,483 7,237,422 New Line
6 102 Dalmatians 6,233,029 8,295,041 -24.9 2,704 3 2,305 44,279,675 Buena Vista
7 Rugrats in Paris 3,952,419 6,506,221 -39.3 2,840 4 1,392 60,470,550 Paramount
8 Meet the Parents 3,026,710 3,823,050 -20.8 1,934 10 1,565 157,107,315 Universal
9 Charlie's Angels 2,626,076 5,020,164 -47.7 2,204 6 1,192 119,250,039 Sony
10 Bounce 2,592,226 4,415,726 -41.3 2,028 4 1,278 34,119,117 Miramax
11 Men of Honor 2,119,233 4,176,811 -49.3 1,999 5 1,060 44,622,941 Fox
12 The 6th Day 1,365,803 4,011,583 -66.0 1,833 4 745 33,001,394 Sony
13 Billy Elliot 916,095 1,341,300 -31.7 471 9 1,945 14,590,410 Uni. Focus
14 Little Nicky 862,745 2,223,324 -61.2 1,374 5 628 38,160,883 New Line
15 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 663,205 16 1 41,450 663,205 Sony Classics
16 Remember the Titans 434,055 1,006,166 -56.9 684 11 635 112,305,249 Buena Vista
17 The Legend of Bagger Vance 326,825 1,014,720 -67.8 713 6 458 30,366,277 DreamWorks
18 Best in Show 310,476 487,565 -36.3 286 11 1,086 16,233,165 Warner Bros.
19 You Can Count On Me 297,194 390,489 -23.9 53 5 5,607 2,046,537 Par. Classics
20 Bedazzled 173,881 240,922 -27.8 361 8 482 36,986,088 Fox
Top 5 $ 59,137,719 $ 61,358,991 -3.6
Top 10 77,568,179 80,009,485 -3.1
Top 20 85,037,691 86,085,208 -1.2
Top 20 vs. 1999 85,037,691 73,579,474 15.6

Last Updated : December 11 at 10:30PM EST

Written by Gitesh Pandya