Weekend Box Office (December 21 - 23, 2001)

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THIS WEEKEND After months of hype and anticipation, New Line Cinema's fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings debuted atop the North American box office charts delivering the largest opening ever in the month of December. Four other films scrambled into the marketplace during the weekend before Christmas and generated mixed results. The animated family film Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and the hip hop comedy How High both performed well and entered the top five while The Majestic, Jim Carrey's latest attempt at landing an Oscar nomination, and the Tim Allen comedy Joe Somebody were mostly ignored by ticket buyers.

The Lord of the Rings ruled the box office with a mighty $47.2M three-day opening, according to final figures, giving it the largest bow ever in the twelfth month surpassing the previous $38.1M record set by Ocean's Eleven just two weeks ago. Since its Wednesday launch, Rings has collected a magical $75.1M in a mere five days. The PG-13 film played in 3,359 theaters with over 5,700 prints and averaged a stellar $14,055 per theater over the Friday-to-Sunday period. The three-hour event film drew praises from critics almost across-the-board and has also been cited by many organizations as one of the ten best films of the year.

Fellowship also began its international voyage with premieres in 15 different territories including Germany, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand where the film, and its two future installments, were filmed. The towering overseas haul of $60M since Wednesday gives the Peter Jackson-directed film a worldwide cume of over $133M in just five days with Christmas and New Year's weeks still to come. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave Fellowship a good A- grade which bodes well for the coming play period. Based on the trilogy of novels by J.R.R. Tolkien, the Rings pictures together carry an estimated production budget of $270M with tens of millions of dollars more earmarked for marketing costs.

Maintaining its position in second place, the casino heist picture Ocean's Eleven took in $14.7M in its third weekend pushing its winnings to $95.3M after 17 days. The Warner Bros. film should reach the $100M mark on Christmas Day and cruise through the holiday season as one of the top choices for adults.

Kids too young for the darker themes in The Lord of the Rings were taken to see Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius which grossed $13.8M in its first weekend. The G-rated animated adventure rocketed into a massive 3,139 theaters and averaged a decent $4,407. Based on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series, the Paramount release was backed by a heavy push from the popular network. Both media companies are Viacom units and have succeeded in the past with the Rugrats films. CinemaScore audiences gave the film an A- with those under 21 giving it an A.

Produced for $23M, Jimmy Neutron aims to be the first choice among kids who are now on vacation until January 2nd and should show up in large numbers during the midweek period. Many recent family films opening before Christmas have gone on to gross seven to nine times their opening weekend figures overall. Last year's The Emperor's New Groove opened with $9.8M on its way to $89.3M, 1999's Stuart Little debuted with $15M concluding with $140M, and 1998's The Prince of Egypt bowed wth $14.5M leading to $101.3M. With Harry Potter and Monsters, Inc. aging, Joe Somebody bombing, and no new kidpics set for the next few weeks, Jimmy Neutron will try to hold its ground throughout the winter.

The sky has fallen for megastar Tom Cruise. After opening at number one last weekend, the A-list actor's psychological thriller Vanilla Sky was rejected by moviegoers tumbling 52% in its second weekend to $12.1M in ticket sales. With poor word-of-mouth killing the picture, the Cameron Crowe film pushed its ten-day total to $45.1M. With a reported budget of $60M, Vanilla Sky looks to reach $70-80M domestically. Cruise witnessed a similar fate in 1999 with the offbeat adult drama Eyes Wide Shut which also opened in the top spot but fell 54% in its sophomore frame.

Universal offered moviegoers a counterprogramming choice with the hip hop comedy How High and delivered solid results collecting $7.1M from just 1,266 theaters. Starring rap stars Method Man and Redman as a pair of unlikely Harvard students, the R-rated film averaged a healthy $5,610 per joint giving it the second-best average in the top ten behind The Lord of the Rings. Shot on digital video with a relatively small $12M budget, How High looks to be a profitable title for Universal.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone slipped 29% to $7.1M taking sixth place. Still playing in 3,311 theaters, the Warner Bros. blockbuster has grossed $264.1M to date. Showing no stamina whatsoever, the spoof comedy Not Another Teen Movie crumbled 58% to $5.3M in its second weekend. The $15M Sony release has grossed $21.4M in ten days and should finish with around $30M.

Two television-comics-turned-movie-stars flopped with their latest holiday films over the weekend. Jim Carrey's 1950s era drama The Majestic debuted in eighth place with only $4.9M. Screening in 2,361 theaters, the Warner Bros. title averaged a weak $2,077. Opening poorly in tenth place was Tim Allen's family comedy Joe Somebody with $3.6M. Playing in 2,503 theaters, the Fox release averaged a dismal $1,418 per location. Both films did moderately well with the few moviegoers who actually did buy tickets registering CinemaScores of B+ and B respectively. Long-term outlooks are bleak for both pics.

Rounding out the top ten was the Disney/Pixar smash Monsters, Inc. with $3.8M, off 24%, upping its cume to a scary $224.5M.

Opening with gorgeous results in limited release was Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind which grossed $367,151 from only 11 theaters for a brainy $33,377 average. Starring Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, and Jennifer Connelly, the R-rated drama about a brilliant but troubled mathematician was honored with six Golden Globe nominations on Thursday. Domestic distributor Universal reported very strong exit poll results with 95% of the audience marking the film as "excellent" or "very good" and 79% definitely recommending it. Females slightly outnumbered males and 75% were age 30 or older. A Beautiful Mind expands into 514 theaters across the country on Christmas Day and opens wide on January 4.

Wes Anderson's dysfunctional family comedy The Royal Tenenbaums continued to shine in its second weekend of limited play collecting $1.3M. Widening from 5 to 40 theaters, the Buena Vista release averaged a sparkling $31,722 per venue. Tenenbaums expands to over 100 theaters on December 28 and will eventually reach 700-800 theaters by January 11.

Five films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Fox's military actioner Behind Enemy Lines fell 41% to $3.2M pushing its total to $43.8M. The $40M picture should dock with $50-55M. The studio's November comedies Black Knight and Shallow Hal have reached $30.8M and $67.8M respectively and are set to finish with not much more.

Universal's $90M espionage thriller Spy Game has taken in $59.6M to date and should end with under $62M. Miramax's French-language comedy Amelie has grossed about $13.7M from 250 theaters but is still going strong.

The top ten films grossed $119.5M which was down 14% from last year's four-day holiday frame when Cast Away opened in the top spot with $39.9M over four days; but up 33% from 1999 when Any Given Sunday debuted at number one with $13.6M.

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Compared to projections, The Lord of the Rings came in a few notches below my $50M weekend forecast. How High was very close to my $8M prediction. However, Jimmy Neutron, The Majestic, and Joe Somebody all debuted below my respective projections of $17M, $13M, and $10M.

For a review of The Lord of the Rings visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Monday for final studio figures, and again on Wednesday for an early look at next weekend which will include Christmas openings for Ali and Kate & Leopold.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Gitesh Pandya will be off for the next two weeks for the holidays. Sujit Chawla will be covering box office during that time. Happy Holidays to all the readers of BoxOfficeGuru.com!

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# Title Dec 21 - 23 Dec 14 - 16 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 The Lord of the Rings $ 47,211,490 3,359 1 $ 14,055 $ 75,129,468 New Line
2 Ocean's Eleven 14,716,582 22,076,664 -33 3,075 3 4,786 95,347,822 Warner Bros.
3 Jimmy Neutron 13,832,786 3,139 1 4,407 13,832,786 Paramount
4 Vanilla Sky 12,076,661 25,015,518 -52 2,744 2 4,401 45,081,570 Paramount
5 How High 7,102,260 1,266 1 5,610 7,102,260 Universal
6 Harry Potter 7,092,906 9,919,596 -29 3,311 6 2,142 264,095,956 Warner Bros.
7 Not Another Teen Movie 5,250,880 12,615,116 -58 2,365 2 2,220 21,404,064 Sony
8 The Majestic 4,904,339 2,361 1 2,077 4,904,339 Warner Bros.
9 Monsters, Inc. 3,801,516 4,980,223 -24 2,097 8 1,813 224,450,540 Buena Vista
10 Joe Somebody 3,553,725 2,506 1 1,418 3,553,725 Fox
Top 5 $ 94,939,779 $ 75,041,875 38
Top 10 119,543,145 86,788,851 27

Last Updated : December 23, 2001 at 7:15PM EST