Weekend Box Office (December 14 - 16, 2001)

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THIS WEEKEND Tom Cruise took his usual place at the top of the box office charts with the psychological thriller Vanilla Sky which debuted at number one with $25M, according to final studio figures. Directed by Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous), the R-rated film tells of a successful Manhattan publishing icon who falls for a beautiful young dancer, played by Penelope Cruz, and finds himself on a reality-bending journey of self-discovery. Cameron Diaz, Jason Lee, and Kurt Russell also star in the remake of the Spanish hit film Abre Los Ojos.

Playing in 2,742 theaters, Vanilla Sky averaged a sturdy $9,123 per site and gave Cruise his eighth consecutive number-one opening (not counting 1999's Magnolia in which he took a supporting role.) Still a durable box office titan, Cruise last failed to hit the top spot in a starring vehicle in May 1992 with Far and Away, co-starring ex-wife Nicole Kidman, which bowed at number three behind summer sequels Lethal Weapon 3 and Alien 3. For Vanilla Sky, Cruise, also a producer of the picture, hit the publicity rounds harder than he has for any other recent movie. Critics were mixed with many reviewers slamming the film.

Starpower and Paramount's marketing efforts opened the $60M picture, but the long-range forecast seems cloudy for Vanilla Sky. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the drama a horrible D- grade and Saturday sales inched up only 10% from Friday's take which is relatively small for a film which caters to mature adults. The studio reported that 70% of the audience for Vanilla Sky was 25 or older while the gender split was slightly more female. In 1999, hype and anticipation pushed Cruise's offbeat Eyes Wide Shut to a top spot debut of $21.7M, but horrendous word-of-mouth caused the Stanley Kubrick film to crumble by more than 50% each subsequent week. As an avalanche of holiday films opens in the next week, Vanilla Sky will try its best to not become another Eyes Wide Shut.

Slipping to second place after a week as the big jackpot winner, the casino heist picture Ocean's Eleven collected $22.1M. Off 42%, the Warner Bros. title has grossed a terrific $72.3M in only ten days and should reach the $100M mark by Christmas Day. The Steven Soderbergh film looks to hold its own throughout the holiday season and may find its way to $150-170M overall.

Debuting in third place was the spoof comedy Not Another Teen Movie with $12.6M. The R-rated gross-out picture poked fun at several teen flicks from the past two decades and played in 2,365 theaters averaging a solid $5,334 per venue. Budgeted at just $15M, the Sony release played evenly among males and females and drew mainly from the 17-25 age bracket, according to studio data. Teen Movie performed much like other recent December comedies targeting young adults like last year's Dude Where's My Car? (PG-13) and 1999's Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (R) which opened with $13.8M and $12.2M respectively.

With students leaving classes for the holidays, Sony is hoping to keep the film going strong. However, exit polls were not very encouraging as the comedy earned only a C+ grade from CinemaScore. Plus, a Friday-to-Saturday decline of 6% does not bode well for the future. Critics, not surprisingly, were unimpressed.

In its final pre-Lord of the Rings weekend, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone dropped 33% to $9.9M and took fourth place. The Warner Bros. smash crossed the $250M mark after 31 days of release. Star Wars Episode I needed only 19 days while Titanic took 36 days to reach the same level. With a cume of $253.3M, and school holidays just around the corner, Harry Potter should be able to coast its way to $300M.

After a horrendous second weekend drop, Fox's military action film Behind Enemy Lines stabilized in its third mission declining just 33% to $5.4M putting its 17-day total at $38.8M. Aided by an ad campaign touting its new outtakes, the animated blockbuster Monsters, Inc. enjoyed the second-smallest decline in the top ten easing 25% to $5M. The Disney/Pixar production has grossed $218.8M to date. Universal's thriller Spy Game continued to fall rapidly dropping another 45% to $2.5M for a $57.8M cume.

Martin Lawrence's comedy Black Knight fell 36% to $2M giving the Fox release $29.7M thus far. The studio's other comedy Shallow Hal tumbled 42% to $1.5M giving it a $67M total. The French-language comedy Amelie continued to win over audiences with a slim 23% dip to a weekend take of $773,164 giving the Miramax release $12.5M overall.

Next weekend, a half dozen new releases will clean house and cause some major changes in the top ten. The Lord of the Rings bows in over 3,300 theaters on Wednesday and will be joined on Friday by the hip hop comedy How High, the animated kidpic Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius, the Tim Allen family comedy Joe Somebody, Meg Ryan's romance Kate & Leopold, and Jim Carrey's drama The Majestic.

Director Wes Anderson's dysfunctional family comedy The Royal Tenenbaums sparkled in its limited-release debut grossing $276,981 from only five theaters in New York and Los Angeles. The Buena Vista release, which stars Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Gwenyth Paltrow, and Ben Stiller, averaged a muscular $55,396 per location and will expand into additional markets this Friday and again on December 28 before rolling out nationwide on January 4.

Two films dropped from the top ten over the weekend. Buena Vista's snowboarding comedy Out Cold fell 50% to $694,866 in its fourth frame to bring its total to just $13.2M. The modestly-priced picture should finish with less than $15M. Paramount's thriller Domestic Disturbance fell to $425,372 in its seventh weekend for a $44.4M cume. The $53M John Travolta vehicle looks to conclude with about $46M.

The top ten films grossed $86.8M which was down 10% from last year when What Women Want opened in the top spot with $33.6M; but up 19% from 1999 when Stuart Little debuted at number one with $15M.

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Compared to projections, Vanilla Sky opened exactly on target with my $25M forecast while Not Another Teen Movie debuted below my $17M prediction.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on next summer's big sequels. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether they planned to see the re-release of Steven Spielberg's E.T. Of 2,885 responses, 53% said Yes while 47% said No.

Read the Weekly Rewind column which looks at Tom Cruise's recent box office track record. For a review of Not Another Teen Movie visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Wednesday for a special box office preview, including projections, for The Lord of the Rings.

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

# Title Dec 14 - 16 Dec 7 - 9 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Vanilla Sky $ 25,015,518 2,742 1 $ 9,123 $ 25,015,518 Paramount
2 Ocean's Eleven 22,076,664 38,107,822 -42.1 3,075 2 7,179 72,306,190 Warner Bros.
3 Not Another Teen Movie 12,615,116 2,365 1 5,334 12,615,116 Sony
4 Harry Potter 9,919,596 14,737,696 -32.7 3,422 5 2,899 253,269,579 Warner Bros.
5 Behind Enemy Lines 5,414,981 8,042,009 -32.7 2,792 3 1,939 38,813,329 Fox
6 Monsters, Inc. 4,980,223 6,597,454 -24.5 2,682 7 1,857 218,815,112 Buena Vista
7 Spy Game 2,465,455 4,473,550 -44.9 2,503 4 985 57,825,105 Universal
8 Black Knight 2,035,439 3,155,226 -35.5 1,907 4 1,067 29,747,173 Fox
9 Shallow Hal 1,492,695 2,577,048 -42.1 1,767 6 845 66,967,310 Fox
10 Amelie 773,164 1,005,599 -23.1 221 7 3,498 12,513,841 Miramax
11 Out Cold 694,866 1,396,830 -50.3 1,183 4 587 13,245,127 Buena Vista
12 Thirteen Ghosts 430,164 411,660 4.5 555 8 775 41,601,840 Warner Bros.
13 Domestic Disturbance 425,372 922,279 -53.9 882 7 482 44,379,332 Paramount
14 The Wash 309,514 532,896 -41.9 429 5 721 9,279,948 Lions Gate
15 The Royal Tenenbaums 276,981 5 1 55,396 276,981 Buena Vista
16 Life as a House 274,239 639,486 -57.1 504 8 544 15,412,701 New Line
17 Training Day 229,348 352,772 -35.0 345 11 665 76,074,739 Warner Bros.
18 Heist 228,606 453,646 -49.6 515 6 444 23,287,872 Warner Bros.
19 The Man Who Wasn't There 225,257 340,502 -33.8 230 6 979 6,330,513 USA Films
20 Hardball 209,441 78,341 167.3 286 14 732 39,697,363 Paramount
Top 5 $ 75,041,875 $ 71,958,531 4.3
Top 10 86,788,851 81,015,513 7.1
Top 20 90,092,639 85,182,179 5.8
Top 20 vs. 2000 90,092,639 103,307,452 -12.8

Last Updated : December 17, 2001 at 9:00PM EST