Weekend Box Office (December 13 - 15, 2002)

THIS WEEKEND Jennifer Lopez's romantic comedy Maid in Manhattan edged out the space sequel Star Trek: Nemesis for the number one spot at the North American box office while the marching band pic Drumline bowed impressively in third. New releases pushed stale leftovers to the side as the overall marketplace surged higher than last weekend's levels.

J. Lo reached a new career milestone with the $18.7M bow of Maid in Manhattan, according to final figures, which represented the pop diva's best opening ever. Co-starring Ralph Fiennes, the Wayne Wang-directed film played in 2,838 theaters and averaged a solid $6,593. Maid beat out the $17.5M bow of 2000's The Cell which was Lopez's previous biggest debut. Sony shrewdly offered sneak previews of the PG-13 film during the two prior frames and generated a buzz in the marketplace that carried into this weekend. Adult women made up the core audience as a whopping 70% of the crowd was female while 54% was over 25, according to studio exit polls. Moviegoers polled by CinemaScore.com gave Maid in Manhattan a decent B+ grade.

Sony is hoping for a healthy run throughout the holiday season as star-driven romantic comedies opening in mid-December tend to have great legs since the target audience is often preoccupied by holiday shopping at the beginning of the run, but start filling up the seats over the weeks ahead. In 1998, You've Got Mail opened to a similar $18.4M and found its way to $115.8M while two years later, What Women Want bowed with $33.6M on its way to $182.8M. In both cases, the films reached a total gross that was about six times its opening weekend figure. Could Maid in Manhattan become J. Lo's first $100M hit? Possibly. But it should at the very least become her top-grossing film.

Debuting close behind in the runnerup spot was Paramount's sci-fi actioner Star Trek: Nemesis which grossed $18.5M giving it the worst performance for the long-running franchise in recent memory. Debuts for the other Trek films featuring the cast of The Next Generation included $22.1M for 1998's Insurrection, $30.7M for 1996's First Contact, and $23.1M for 1994's Generations. Nemesis launched in 2,711 theaters and grossed a weaker-than-expected $6,829 per ship. The studio had hoped that a four-year gap since the last installment and the promotion that it was the final voyage for this crew would stir some excitement among loyal Trekkers.

Paramount reported that the Nemesis audience was 64% male and predominantly over 25. Fans were pleased as those polled by CinemaScore.com gave it an encouraging A-. However, long-term prospects seem cloudy. Most of the sci-fi/fantasy crowd is already purchasing advance tickets for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers which opens on Wednesday. Plus Trek movies traditionally attract a large share of their audience on opening weekend meaning hefty declines in future weeks seem likely.

Marching into third place with a surprisingly powerful opening, Fox's college band pic Drumline grossed $12.6M from 1,836 theaters. The PG-13 film's powerful $6,865 average was tops among all movies in wide release. Reviews were generally good and moviegoers showered Drumline with praise as those polled by CinemaScore.com gave the film an A+ grade. The future looks promising for the young adult drama as positive word-of-mouth could lead to prolonged sales as students begin going on their holiday breaks and spending more time at the multiplexes.

In fourth place, MGM's Die Another Day became the highest grossing James Bond movie in the forty-year history of the franchise taking in $7.8M to push its cume to $131.9M in 24 days. That beat out the $126.9M of the previous record-holder The World is Not Enough from 1999. Of course, ticket prices have escalated over the passing decades so Die has not matched the admission levels of older Sean Connery hits from the 1960s like Thunderball and Goldfinger. Overseas, Die Another Day has already surpassed $115M.

Rob Schneider generated a mild opening for his latest comedy The Hot Chick which debuted in fourth place with $7.4M. Playing in 2,217 theaters, the PG-13 film averaged only $3,338 per location. The Buena Vista release about a teenage girl stuck in a man's body opened weaker than the comedian's previous comedies The Animal and Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo which bowed with $12.2M and $19.6M respectively.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets dropped out of the top five in its fifth frame and placed sixth with $6.3M, sliding 37%. The Warner Bros. blockbuster has grossed $222.6M to date putting it at number 32 on the list of all-time blockbusters right behind Rush Hour 2's $226.1M. Chamber could end its run in the vicinity of $255M in North America which would be 19% less than Stone's $317.6M which is quite commendable for a sequel. Overseas, Chamber has smashed the $300M barrier and is actually outperforming the pace of Stone.

The studio's other second-parter, the mob comedy Analyze That, got whacked in its sophomore weekend falling 50% from its disappointing debut and collected $5.5M. The Robert De Niro-Billy Crystal film has taken in just $19.8M in ten days compared to the $39.9M that Analyze This grossed in the same period. Look for That to finish with about $35M or about one-third of the $106.8M that This brought in back in 1999.

Disney's hit sequel The Santa Clause 2 eased just 24% in its seventh session taking in $4.1M. With $125.4M in its sack, the Tim Allen comedy looks to play through the holiday season and wind up with about $140M which would put it in the same neighborhood as The Santa Clause's $144.8M from 1994.

The Mouse House's other holiday offering, the big-budget flop Treasure Planet, continued its disasterous voyage dropping 44% to $3.1M. The animated adventure has grossed $27.9M in 19 days and looks to be on course to dock with about $35-40M. Rounding out the top ten was Universal's urban drama Empire which took in $3M, off 53% from last weekend. The John Leguizamo flick has a ten-day cume of $10.9M and should approach $20M.

Indie smash My Big Fat Greek Wedding continued its historic run taking twelfth place with $1.7M, off only 15%, for an eye-popping cume of $215.6M.

In a spectacular limited bow, New Line's Jack Nicholson starrer About Schmidt opened with $282,367 from only six theaters in New York, Omaha, and Los Angeles for a scorching $47,061 average. The R-rated film has been surrounded by Oscar buzz and was named best picture of the year by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association this weekend.

The Spike Jonze pic Adaptation starring Nicolas Cage in a dual role grossed $277,184 from seven venues for a powerful $39,598 average in its second weekend of platform release. Off 29% from last weekend, the Sony release has a cume of $858,055 in ten days.

A quartet of films dropped from the top ten over the weekend. Adam Sandler's 8 Crazy Nights tumbled 63% to $1.8M putting its total at just $22.6M. The Sony toon should finish with just under $30M. Friday After Next has grossed $31.1M for New Line and seems set to conclude with around $34M.

The fall season's sleeper horror smash The Ring finally exited the top ten after two months and has lifted its cume to $125.4M. The DreamWorks hit could finish with about $130M. Another profitable hit, Eminem's 8 Mile, collected $1.4M, down 47%, and put its total at $113.4M. A $116-118M final cume is likely.

The top ten films grossed $86.9M which was even with last year when Vanilla Sky opened at number one with $25M; but down 10% from 2000 when What Women Want debuted in the top spot with $33.6M.

Compared to projections, Star Trek: Nemesis opened well below my $28M forecast while Maid in Manhattan was very close to my $18M prediction. Drumline more than doubled my $5M projection while The Hot Chick opened below my $12M forecast.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on the opening weekend of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. For a review of Star Trek: Nemesis visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend's big frame when The Two Towers, Gangs of New York, Two Weeks Notice, and The Wild Thornberrys all open over the pre-Christmas session.

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

# Title Dec 13 - 15 Dec 6 - 8 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Maid in Manhattan $ 18,711,407 2,838 1 $ 6,593 $ 18,711,407 Sony
2 Star Trek: Nemesis 18,513,305 2,711 1 6,829 18,513,305 Paramount
3 Drumline 12,604,705 1,836 1 6,865 12,604,705 Fox
4 Die Another Day 7,785,055 12,843,007 -39.4 3,377 4 2,305 131,851,422 MGM
5 The Hot Chick 7,401,146 2,217 1 3,338 7,401,146 Buena Vista
6 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 6,324,387 10,086,264 -37.3 3,025 5 2,091 222,619,375 Warner Bros.
7 Analyze That 5,467,471 11,034,422 -50.5 2,635 2 2,075 19,779,760 Warner Bros.
8 The Santa Clause 2 4,051,966 5,327,205 -23.9 2,207 7 1,836 125,424,182 Buena Vista
9 Treasure Planet 3,102,173 5,547,431 -44.1 2,192 3 1,415 27,905,575 Buena Vista
10 Empire 2,963,290 6,281,415 -52.8 869 2 3,410 10,883,390 Universal
11 Eight Crazy Nights 1,785,832 4,854,255 -63.2 2,177 3 820 22,552,415 Sony
12 My Big Fat Greek Wedding 1,704,285 2,013,029 -15.3 1,230 35 1,386 215,640,319 IFC Films
13 8 Mile 1,354,575 2,548,975 -46.9 1,375 6 985 113,357,310 Universal
14 The Ring 1,344,695 2,519,379 -46.6 1,282 9 1,049 125,358,069 DreamWorks
15 Friday After Next 1,259,953 2,800,165 -55.0 1,104 4 1,141 31,077,567 New Line
16 Frida 868,088 1,251,136 -30.6 498 8 1,743 18,478,584 Miramax
17 They 835,060 2,346,792 -64.4 1,271 3 657 12,224,342 Miramax
18 The Emperor's Club 770,325 1,545,405 -50.2 694 4 1,110 12,962,995 Universal
19 Far From Heaven 722,430 945,818 -23.6 270 6 2,676 7,981,302 Focus
20 Bowling for Columbine 562,410 629,154 -10.6 234 10 2,403 13,769,089 MGM/UA
Top 5 $ 65,015,618 $ 45,792,539 42.0
Top 10 86,924,905 63,842,518 36.2
Top 20 98,132,558 76,653,371 28.0
Top 20 vs. 2001 98,132,558 90,092,639 8.9

Last Updated : December 16, 2002 at 9:15PM EST