Weekend Box Office (December 22 - 25, 2000)

THIS WEEKEND Tom Hanks saw his long-running box office hit streak extended over the Christmas holiday as his latest offering, the adventure tale Cast Away, debuted powerfully at number one to lead a very crowded marketplace. Three other new releases - Nicolas Cage's The Family Man, Sandra Bullock's Miss Congeniality, and the horror film Dracula 2000 - saw mixed results in their openings over the four-day holiday weekend. The arthouse sensation Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon expanded its run and made a triumphant debut in the top ten while a handful of other small pictures debuted in limited release in order to qualify for Academy Award consideration.

Fox's ambitious desert island saga Cast Away opened with a stellar $39.9M over the Friday-to-Monday span, according to final studio figures, to easily become the most popular film in North America. Washing ashore in 2,774 theaters, the Robert Zemeckis-helmed picture averaged a spectacular $14,366 over the four days. Hanks, who received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance, witnessed the second-best opening of his career as Cast Away collected $30.1M over the traditional three-day period putting it a bit behind the $30.6M launch of Saving Private Ryan in July 1998. Rated PG-13, the adventure film also delivered the third-largest December bow ever after last weekend's What Women Want and 1997's Scream 2.

With so many end-of-year movies to choose from, Cast Away's performance was especially impressive. Bruce Snyder, Fox's president of distribution, remarked "we're delighted with this opening which really soared above everyone's expectations." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a B grade. With a reported cost of $85M, Cast Away is a co-production between Fox and DreamWorks which will handle the picture overseas. With a full week of holiday moviegoing, and a potent four-day New Year's weekend on the horizon, Cast Away should easily become Tom Hanks' ninth live-action blockbuster to cross the $100M domestic mark.

Last weekend's top movie, the Mel Gibson comedy What Women Want, faced intense competiton over the crowded holiday weekend and dropped to second place with $21.6M. After only eleven days, the Paramount film has grossed a muscular $70.2M and is certain to become the seventh $100M live-action blockbuster of Gibson's career. Helen Hunt co-stars in What Women Want, as well as Cast Away.

Opening in third place with $15.1M was The Family Man starring Nicolas Cage who plays a hotshot single businessman who gets a glimpse of how wonderful his life could have been had he married and raised kids. Settling down in 2,388 theaters, the Universal release averaged $6,325 over four days and took in $10.7M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the long weekend. Directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour), the $60M film also starred Tea Leoni. As expected, The Family Man appealed mostly to an adult female audience, according to the studio's research. Universal is only handling the domestic release with producer Beacon Pictures releasing internationally with various other distributors.

Slipping one position to fourth place was the holiday megablockbuster How The Grinch Stole Christmas which swiped $14.7M from the pockets of moviegoers. As the year's top-grossing film, the Jim Carrey smash has now banked $235.1M domestically putting it at number 20 on the all-time domestic blockbuster list inching ahead of Beverly Hills Cop's $234.8M. Of course, ticket prices were much lower in 1984 when the Eddie Murphy comedy was released.

With Family Man and Grinch grossing a combined $30M over the four-day frame, Universal has closed the gap even further between it and Buena Vista for the lead in market share this year. Universal, which has released fewer movies in 2000, now trails by roughly $20M and will use this final week of the year to attempt to erase the difference.

Walking down the runway in fifth place was Sandra Bullock in her new comedy Miss Congeniality which opened with $13.9M. The Warner Bros. release about an FBI agent who goes undercover as a beauty pageant contestant to catch a terrorist averaged $5,193 from 2,668 venues. Miss Congeniality played well across all demographic groups, according to studio distribution head Dan Fellman, and scored exceptionally high exit marks with young females. Friday-to-Sunday openings for Bullock's most recent films include $10.3M for last spring's 28 Days and $13.5M for 1999's Forces of Nature.

Finishing in sixth place was Disney's animated feature The Emperor's New Groove with $9.6M. The four-day gross was almost even with last weekend's three-day debut of $9.8M. After eleven days, Emperor has taken in $24.2M and hopes to remain a strong performer during the week with school chrildren on vacation.

In a counterprogramming move, Miramax launched the season's only horror film, Wes Craven presents Dracula 2000, but came up with just $8.6M. Playing in 2,204 theaters, the R-rated fright flick averaged $3,919 per location.

The mountain-climbing action film Vertical Limit ranked eighth with $5.7M for a cume of $38.4M. Stumbling in its second weekend, the teen comedy Dude, Where's My Car? placed ninth with $5.6M. Down sharply from its strong $13.8M debut, the Fox release has grossed $24.6M in eleven days.

Rounding out the top ten was the award-winning Ang Lee film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which expanded from 31 to 143 theaters and collected $3.7M. Its brawny per-theater average of $25,843 towered over all others in the top ten and its total reached $6.5M while still in select theaters.

Debuting in limited release was Finding Forrester starring Sean Connery which grossed $51,178 over the Friday-to-Sunday period from only 3 theaters for a strong $17,050 average. On Christmas morning, Sony expanded the critically acclaimed picture into 200 theaters bringing the four-day mixed gross to $650,000. The David Mamet comedy State and Main opened with $580,163 from 72 sites for a good $8,058 average.

Buena Vista debuted the Coen brothers comedy O Brother, Where Art Thou? in five joints in New York and Los Angeles and grabbed $195,104 over four days for a scorching $39,021 average. Paramount Classics opened Sam Raimi's thriller The Gift for a one-week run in Los Angeles and unwrapped $12,000 from one theater over four days.

Other films in limited release utilized the holiday weekend to expand their already successful runs. Fox Searchlight took in an estimated $433,511 over four days for Quills adding 100 theaters and pushing its cume to $2.06M. You Can Count On Me, which has made Laura Linney a top contender for a best actress Oscar nod, grossed an estimated $485,000 from 150 venues for a $2.95M sum to date. Miramax's Chocolat expanded from 8 to 255 theaters and brought in $1.1M over the Friday-to-Monday span for a good $4,344 average and a $1.36M cume.

With so many new films opening over the holiday weekend, five pictures tumbled out of the top ten. The hostage actioner Proof of Life, starring Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe has grossed $23.7M after its third frame. Produced for around $80M, the Warner Bros. release should finish its run with roughly $30M. The Bruce Willis thriller Unbreakable pushed its sum to date to $86.5M. A final domestic tally of $90-95M seems likely while Willis' global starpower could push the overseas cume much higher.

Disney's live-action sequel 102 Dalmatians boosted its total to $51.7M. The Glenn Close film looks to reach about $60M, or less than half the $136.2M of its 1996 predecessor 101 Dalmatians. Competing holiday kidpic Rugrats in Paris reached a cume of $65.5M. Budgeted at $30M, the Paramount release should close with $70-75M - a reasonable amount below the $100.5M of 1998's first Rugrats feature. New Line's $36M fantasy adventure Dungeons & Dragons has collected $13M so far in ticket sales and should conclude its run with under $16M.

The top ten films grossed $138.4M over the four-day holiday weekend which was up significantly from last year's three-day frame when Any Given Sunday opened in the top spot with $13.6M; and up slightly from 1998's three-day session when Patch Adams debuted at number one with $25.3M.

Compared to projections, Cast Away surged well north of my $22M four-day forecast. The Family Man opened a couple of notches below my $17M prediction. Miss Congeniality and Dracula 2000 were both on target with my respective projections of $14M and $8M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Oscar host Steve Martin. In last week's survey, readers were asked what was the biggest box office flop of the fall season. Of 2,988 responses, 35% chose Lucky Numbers, 33% picked Blair Witch 2, 22% said Red Planet, and 10% selected Get Carter.

Read the Weekly Rewind column on the Christmas weekend box office of 1995. For reviews of Cast Away, What Women Want, and The Family Man visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend which will close out the year 2000.

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

# Title Dec. 22 - 25 Dec. 15 - 17 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Cast Away $ 39,852,075 2,774 1 $ 14,366 $ 39,852,075 Fox
2 What Women Want 21,632,466 33,614,543 -35.6 3,044 2 7,107 70,199,545 Paramount
3 The Family Man 15,104,055 2,388 1 6,325 15,104,055 Universal
4 How The Grinch Stole Christmas 14,728,460 13,805,465 6.7 3,164 6 4,655 235,119,990 Universal
5 Miss Congeniality 13,853,686 2,668 1 5,193 13,853,686 Warner Bros.
6 The Emperor's New Groove 9,571,198 9,812,302 -2.5 2,887 2 3,315 24,212,108 Buena Vista
7 Dracula 2000 8,636,567 2,204 1 3,919 8,636,567 Miramax
8 Vertical Limit 5,661,275 9,103,866 -37.8 2,405 3 2,354 38,384,502 Sony
9 Dude, Where's My Car? 5,648,536 13,845,914 -59.2 2,100 2 2,690 24,591,612 Fox
10 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 3,695,485 1,078,762 242.6 143 3 25,843 6,533,541 Sony Classics
11 Proof of Life 2,428,859 5,382,656 -54.9 2,062 2 1,178 23,702,323 Warner Bros.
12 102 Dalmatians 2,139,377 2,664,601 -19.7 1,270 4 1,685 51,717,906 Buena Vista
13 Unbreakable 1,618,334 3,734,493 -56.7 1,455 4 1,112 86,489,717 Buena Vista
14 Rugrats in Paris 1,504,799 1,839,832 -18.2 1,890 5 796 65,524,415 Paramount
15 All The Pretty Horses * 1,304,971 1,483 1 880 1,304,971 Miramax
16 Chocolat 1,107,766 157,624 602.8 255 2 4,344 1,357,237 Miramax
17 Dungeons & Dragons 779,640 2,438,086 -68.0 1,214 2 642 12,987,828 New Line
18 Finding Forrester * 701,207 200 1 3,506 743,056 Sony
19 State and Main 580,163 72 1 8,058 580,163 Fine Line
20 Meet the Parents 457,515 1,200,775 -61.9 602 11 760 160,103,515 Universal
Top 5 $ 105,170,742 $ 80,182,090 31.2
Top 10 138,383,803 96,241,758 43.8
Top 20 151,006,434 103,307,452 46.2
Top 20 vs. 1999 151,006,434 96,797,532 56.0

Last Updated : December 26 at 11:30PM EST

Written by Gitesh Pandya