Weekend Box Office (December 12 - 14, 1997)

THIS WEEKEND That deafening sound you heard over the weekend was a lethal combination of the screams of millions of moviegoers terrified in their seats, along with the screams of thousands of theater operators at the amount of cash overflowing from their registers. Steamrolling over the competition and crushing several box office records in its path, Scream 2 arrived with a killer $32.9M weekend gross. The Dimension title, released by parent company Miramax Films, hit the bullseye it was aiming for and went beyond everyone's expectations as it reached the same audience that made a surprise blockbuster out of the original Scream. Scream 2 averaged a meaty $12,364 per theater, second only to Amistad, and accounted for more ticket sales than the next 7 movies combined. For the year it is the fifth largest debut behind The Lost World ($92.7M in four days), Men in Black ($51.1M), Batman and Robin ($42.9M), and Star Wars ($35.9M).

Scream 2 smashed a number of opening weekend records over the Friday-to-Sunday period. It became the biggest December opening beating last year's Beavis and Butthead Do America's $20.1M. On the homefront, Scream 2 easily became the largest debut for both Dimension and Miramax by racing past former leaders From Dusk Till Dawn ($10.2M) and Cop Land ($13.5M) respectively.

The performance of the Scream sequel over the weekend was nothing short of gargantuan. Miramax had a product that millions of fans were (pardon the expression) dying to see, they released it super-wide so theaters can have showtimes every hour, and satisfied a tremendous amount of initial demand during its opening weekend. The teen/young adult horror train proceeds at full speed building on the momentum of last winter's Scream ($6.4M opening, $103M total) and the top fall movie I Know What You Did Last Summer ($15.8M opening, $69M to date). With the holiday season still upcoming, Scream 2 should slash the $100M mark with ease and should reach $125M+ even if it falls hard next weekend.

Obviously there were many winners over the weekend with the Scream sequel. Miramax and Dimension have an extremely profitable picture due to medium costs and high grosses. Also the franchise has never been better and should go out on a high note with next year's supposed closer Scream 3. Director Wes Craven holds onto his horror crown and writer Kevin Williamson, who also penned Scream and Last Summer, continues to show how valuable his skills are. Of course the cast members including Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Jada Pinkett have increased their exposure with this film. Also winning this weekend are those, including myself, who invested heavily in Scream 2 in online box office games like Hollywood Stock Exchange, Studio Boss, and Mr. Showbiz's Holiday Challenge.

Believe it or not, there was other activity over the weekend as four new titles entered the top five and pushed older releases to the back of the line. Dropping a notch to second place was Disney's Flubber which took in $6.8M, down 40%, to up its cume to $58.7M. Debuting in third place was For Richer or Poorer from Universal with $6M for an average of $3,160 per site. The comedy, which stars Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley, did not fare too well despite its starpower since it went after much of the same family audience as Flubber and Home Alone 3. That Fox sequel landed in fourth place opening with a tally of $5.1M and averaged $2,369 per theater. With children on vacation for the holidays, these two kidpics will be able to collect some modest returns but final grosses will probably be around $20-25M for each.

Opening in fifth place with a solid $4.6M in just 322 theaters was Amistad, the long-awaited first feature from Steven Spielberg for his own company DreamWorks. Setting sail with a potent average of $14,203 per location, Amistad led the top ten in per-theater averages. The acclaimed story of the slave ship revolution in 1839 began its run with a Wednesday opening in New York City and Los Angeles which netted the picture $88,000 before reaching other large markets on Friday. Amistad, which stars Djimon Hounsou, Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, and Matthew McConaughey, will expand in the coming weeks reaching more markets as it builds on positive word-of-mouth.

Spielberg's last serious film, Schindler's List, was released in December of 1993 and slowly rolled out across the country. It reached 172 theaters in weekend 4 and averaged $15,137 and moved to 343 locations in weekend 5 averaging $9,930. By comparison, last year's Oscar winner The English Patient averaged $10,123 when it expanded from 10 to 268 theaters in its second weekend of release. So far, Amistad looks to be on course for a successful run if it can keep up this pace.

Speaking with Jim Tharp, distribution president at DreamWorks, he stated that Amistad opened better than anticipated considering the number of theaters. "Audience reactions were very positive and the turnout was very strong among African-Americans and non-African-Americans alike." Tharp also said that the film skewed a little older and that both male and female segments were strong. Because of the performance this weekend, he plans to expand it further than originally planned with a boost to about 500 sites on December 19th and another increase to 750-800 theaters on Christmas weekend. Tharp believes that Amistad will be able to play strongly well into February and March and capitalize on the upcoming film awards and nominations.

Woody Allen's latest effort Deconstructing Harry entered 10 theaters for a $356,476 debut. The $35,648 average for Harry, which stars Kirstie Alley, Robin Williams, and Demi Moore, was a strong start for the ensemble comedy. Allen's last film Everyone Says I Love You averaged $43,893 in 3 locations during its opening but 1995's Mighty Aphrodite opened in 19 sites for an average of $17,184. Final grosses for those movies were $9.6M for Everyone and $6.4M for Aphrodite.

L.A. Confidential, the darling of the film critics and current frontrunner for Oscar glory, got a small boost due to the added attention of its recent wins. Instead of a normal depreciation, Confidential stayed strong and gained 4% in sales compared to last weekend and raised its total cume to $35.8M. The crime thriller has already won Best Picture awards, as well as numerous other directing, writing, and acting trophies, from The National Board of Review, New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and the Boston Society of Film Critics. Armed with these awards, Warners plans to relaunch Confidential this Friday with a new ad campaign focusing on its critical acclaim.

Looking across the Atlantic, Bond bowed big in Britian. MGM/UA's crown jewel, Tomorrow Never Dies starring Pierce Brosnan, opened at number one over the weekend, to nobody's surprise, with a mighty $6.1M in 426 theaters averaging $14,421 per location during its world premiere engagement. Audiences in Canada, the United States, and most of Europe get to sample the 18th James Bond film this coming weekend.

Scream 2 performed better than expected and surged past my projection of around $28M. Amistad's $4.6M was close to my $4M prediction which was revised from $7M on Friday morning. For Richer or Poorer grossed less than the $8M I was expecting while Home Alone 3 was not far from my $6M projection.

Overall, the top ten films grossed $75.4M which was up 22% from last year and up 39% from 1995. Be sure to check in again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend's new releases which includes the long-awaited face off between Titanic and Tomorrow Never Dies.

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

# Title Dec 12 - 14 Dec 5 - 7 % Chg. AVG Weeks Cumulative Dist.
1 Scream 2 $ 32,926,342 $ 12,364 1 $ 32,926,342 Miramax
2 Flubber 6,779,130 11,292,933 -40.0 2,530 3 58,688,466 BV
3 For Richer or Poorer 6,015,970 3,160 1 6,015,970 Univ.
4 Home Alone 3 5,085,482 2,369 1 5,085,482 Fox
5 Amistad 4,573,523 14,203 1 4,661,866 Dream.
6 The Rainmaker 3,330,234 5,656,333 -41.1 1,406 4 39,177,644 Par.
7 Alien : Resurrection 3,259,415 6,660,086 -51.1 1,401 3 41,506,438 Fox
8 Anastasia 3,031,625 5,093,749 -40.5 1,347 5 41,943,900 Fox
9 The Jackal 2,443,465 4,006,115 -39.0 1,185 5 49,886,715 Univ.
10 Midnight in the Garden ... 1,646,217 2,946,639 -44.1 1,255 4 20,431,431 WB
Top 5 $ 55,380,447 $ 32,709,216 88.6
Top 10 69,091,403 42,185,260 78.8

    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 : December 15, 1997 at 8:15PM ESTHome