Weekend Box Office (December 11 - 13, 1998)
At warp speed, Star Trek: Insurrection
easily debuted at number one over the
weekend with $22.1M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Opening in 2,620
starships, the ninth installment in the long-running franchise scored a
strong $8,417 average per theater. Insurrection's
opening trailed the debuts for the last two Trek
films First Contact,
which opened with $30.7M in 1996, and Generations
which launched with $23.1M in 1994. However, both of those films opened
in November while Insurrection bowed
in a month when films have smaller openings but longer legs. With the debut
of this new film, Captain Picard and his crew were able to generate the
fourth best December opening ever.
For Paramount, Insurrection was the studio's fourth and final number one opening of the year joining Deep Impact, The Truman Show, and The Rugrats Movie. Add in Titanic's historic voyage and Paramount claimed the top spot 19 times this year. Star Trek: Insurrection got off to a very promising start and has the holiday season right around the corner to look forward to. With movies like You've Got Mail, Stepmom, and Patch Adams on their way to the multiplexes, Star Trek faces few other competitors for the action-adventure segment of moviegoers. Paramount is hoping that the film can crossover to non-Trekkers especially with its added elements of humor and romance. Star Trek: Insurrection invades Germany, Australia, and the United Kingdom in three weeks.
The $60 million-budgeted Insurrection was just what Paramount needed to thwart a late-year surge by Buena Vista for the annual market share crown. After this weekend, Paramount's lead increases to about $32M over Disney and should continue to grow, although at a very small pace, until Christmas weekend when Buena Vista releases Mighty Joe Young hoping for a final week rally.
Slipping one spot to second was the computer-animated insect feature A Bug's Life with $11.2M. Down 35% from last weekend, the Disney/Pixar collaboration pushed its cume to an impressive $83.5M after 19 days of wide release. A Bug's Life is now running about even with Toy Story which collected $83.1M over the same period in 1995, and 11% ahead of 101 Dalmatians which grossed $75.6M over the period and finished its domestic run with $136.2M. With kids going on their vacations next week, the insect pic should see some new life later this month. By Saturday, A Bug's Life should pass the cumulative gross of the DreamWorks bug film Antz which currently stands at $86.4M.
Michael Keaton was a jolly, happy soul taking third place with the family film Jack Frost which opened with $7.1M. The story of a dad who dies and comes back as a snowman averaged $3,301 per theater in 2,152 sites. Frost's debut actually represented the biggest opening for Keaton's starring vehicles since leaving the Batman franchise in 1992. His films since then have included Desperate Measures ($13.3M domestic gross), the ensemble film Jackie Brown ($39.7M), Multiplicity ($20.1M), and Speechless ($20.6M). Family films tend to show stability at the box office in December so Jack Frost may have a decent road ahead of it.
Enemy of the State dropped one place to fourth with $6.7M. Off just 31%, the Will Smith-Gene Hackman conspiracy thriller has upped its cume to $72.2M and did not seem to be too affected by incoming competition from Star Trek: Insurrection. Claiming the fifth spot were the toddler titans of The Rugrats Movie with $4.5M. Down 41% from last weekend, the other Paramount franchise film in the top five raised its 24-day total to $73.2M.
Buena Vista's The Waterboy, splashed its way down to sixth with $4.4M pushing its gross to date to $136.6M. The Adam Sandler comedy now stands as the sixth highest-grossing release of 1998 and is set to leapfrog over Deep Impact ($140.5M) and Doctor Dolittle ($144.1M) before the year is through. The combined strength of A Bug's Life, Enemy of the State, and The Waterboy helped push Buena Vista over the $1 billion mark in annual ticket sales for 1998 this weekend. This marks the first time that two different distributors crossed the mark in the same year as Paramount Pictures has also reached the milestone.
Universal Studios contributed the next three films at the box office. Psycho got slashed in its sophomore frame tumbling 62% to $3.8M. After ten days, the Gus Van Sant remake of the Hitchcock classic thriller has collected just $15.6M and should finish its domestic run with $20-25M. The studio is likely to turn a small profit from the $25M-budgeted Psycho once worldwide theatrical, home video, and television revenues are tabulated.
Babe: Pig in the City enjoyed a slim 30% decline and took eighth with $1.7M. The talking pig movie has now eaten up $13.6M since its Thanksgiving debut. Meet Joe Black, another costly film for Universal, placed ninth with $1.7M. Off 33% from last weekend, the Brad Pitt romance has managed to gross $41.5M and is the studio's top grosser of 1998.
Rounding out the top ten, Gramercy's period piece Elizabeth added $1.3M to its fortune and now stands with a royal $11.7M while still playing in 555 theaters.
In limited release, Paramount opened the critically-acclaimed Sam Raimi dark drama A Simple Plan in 27 markets and concocted a $390,563 gross for a powerful $12,599 average in 31 theaters. Starring Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, and Bridget Fonda, A Simple Plan recently was named one of the year's ten best films by the National Board of Review, and over the weekend saw Thornton win Best Supporting Actor accolades from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association in a tie with Bill Murray, as well as from the Boston Society of Film Critics in a tie with William H. Macy. The studio will expand the film on a week-to-week basis hoping to springboard off of end-of-year kudos and into a successful winter run for a hard-to-market film. Also a big winner with the L.A. Critics was Saving Private Ryan which won three top prizes for picture, director, and cinematography.
Popping its head into the arthouses was Miramax's Shakespeare in Love which rang up $224,012 in eight theaters for a stellar $28,002 average. In its fourth round with movie fans, Fox Searchlight's Waking Ned Devine expanded into 49 houses and took in $554,922 giving the pic a still-sturdy $11,325 per site.
Compared to projections, Star Trek: Insurrection came in a few of notches below my $25M prediction while Jack Frost was very close to my $6M forecast.
Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on You've Got Mail vs. The Prince of Egypt. In last week's survey, readers were asked which of five films would win the Oscar for Best Picture of 1998. Of 2,314 responses, 54% chose Saving Private Ryan, 22% selected The Thin Red Line, 20% picked The Truman Show, 3% said Life is Beautiful, and 2% said A Civil Action.
Online right now are Box Office Guru's movie review for Insurrection and an interview with cast members Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, and Brent Spiner. Be sure to read the Weekly Rewind column which reports on the box office fortunes of the Star Trek franchise. For reviews of recent films visit Chief's Movie Review Page.
The top ten films grossed $64.3M which was down 7% from last year when Scream 2 opened loudly at number one with $32.9M, and up 4% from 1996 when Tom Cruise's last film Jerry Maguire debuted in first place with $17.1M.
Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when You've Got Mail and The Prince of Egypt invade theaters everywhere.
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.
Last Updated : December 14, 1998 at 9:00PM EST
Written by Gitesh Pandya