Weekend Box Office (December 26 - 28, 1997)

THIS WEEKEND The Christmas weekend saw millions of moviegoers put on their life jackets and hop onboard the Titanic for a one-way cruise into box office history. Its three-day gross of $35.5M is the biggest weekend gross of any film in December beating the $32.9M opening of Scream 2 two weeks ago. Over the four-day holiday period, the Paramount/Fox collaboration grossed a hefty $44.6M. The mighty Titanic easily beat out competing films and left many casualties in its path. Up 24% from last weekend's gross, the James Cameron epic romance has zoomed to a ten-day cume of $88.4M and could be able to hit the $100M mark by the time we change our calendars. Its per-theater average of $13,078 was also up dramatically from last weekend and was tops among films in the top ten.

Titanic's Christmas day total came to $9.2M which beat the old record, held by Paramount stablemate Godfather III since 1990, by an enormous 46%. Fantastic reviews, great word-of-mouth, numerous award nominations, and an overall increase in leisure time due to the holiday all contributed to the massive haul that Titanic pulled in. After a year filled with delays and negative press, the incredible performance of the $200M budgeted movie is a wonderful holiday gift for Paramount Pictures (the domestic distributor) and Lightstorm Entertainment (the production company), and looks good for Twentieth Century Fox who will distribute Titanic around the world. For a review of Titanic visit Chief's Movie Review Page.

Holding steady as the runnerup was the James Bond action/adventure hit Tomorrow Never Dies which was down 19% from last weekend's opening to end the holiday frame with a three-day gross of $20.5M. Its ten-day cume stands at a hefty $62.2M and is a likely candidate for the $100M club like its predecessor Goldeneye which grossed $57.2M in its first ten days. Tomorrow's average per site was $7,296. Because of the remarkable performance of Titanic, Tomorrow Never Dies is losing out on lots of attention as it sits in the ship's shadow, but the Bond picture is also playing extremely well and doing solid business.

Opening in third place was the Jack Nicholson romantic comedy As Good As It Gets which scored $12.6M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and $16.2M since its Tuesday opening. This was the best start for a Nicholson film since the $17.9M opening of Wolf in June 1994. Good, which also stars Helen Hunt and Greg Kinnear, played in just 1,572 houses for a per-theater average of $8,020 - second only to Titanic in the top ten. The opening bodes well for the Golden Globe-nominated picture and if it holds over the weeks ahead it should be able to top $50M.

Opening in fifth place was the long-awaited Jackie Brown from Hollywood's favorite pugilist Quentin Tarantino. Reportedly budgeted at only $12M, Brown swiped $9.3M over the four-day weekend. Playing in only 1,370 sites, Brown averaged $6,783 per theater. So far it is running even with Pulp Fiction which opened to a three-day gross of $9.3M in 1,338 locations during a less-competitive October 1994 weekend. But, Jackie Brown showed strong day-to-day declines over the weekend which will cause it to fade away in the coming weeks.

Kidpic Mouse Hunt from DreamWorks surged by 60% from last weekend's three-day opening and took fourth with $9.7M putting its ten-day cume at $21.5M. It seems that the Nathan Lane film needed a little time to reach its target audience since its opening was disappointing, but the holidays fixed that.

Overall, the Christmas holiday frame was the biggest weekend of the year. The cumulative gross of the top ten films during the four-day Thursday-to-Sunday period came to a record breaking $154.3M. Until now, 1997's biggest weekend has been the four-day Memorial Day weekend period when The Lost World led the top ten films to a $137.1M haul. This weekend's three-day total for the top ten came to $120.1M beating Independence Day weekend's three-day haul of $113.8M for its top ten. 1997 went out with a bang as the last frame of the year was also its busiest.

Three other new entries landed below the top five over the four-day holiday weekend. An American Werewolf in Paris clawed its way to $7.6M and a $4,399 average. Mr. Magoo starring Leslie Nielsen fumbled into tenth place with $5.2M averaging just $2,818.

Warner Brothers continued its losing streak with the Kevin Costner epic drama The Postman which was lost on its route with just $5.3M. The disgruntled Postman invaded 2,207 theaters, which was wider than any other freshman film went, and scored a low per-theater average of just $2,383 which was the lowest average in the top ten. The opening performance was similar to two previous Costner movies that debuted during the holiday season. JFK, directed by Oliver Stone, opened to $5.2M in December 1991 and eventually grossed $70.4M. In November 1994, The War opened to $5.2M as well but managed to only collect $16.5M. Budgeted at about $80M, The Postman seems to be headed to end off its run in the middle but much closer to The War's numbers unless the three-hour drama can manage to create great word-of-mouth.

Titanic performed better than my $28M projection while Tomorrow Never Dies was close to my $20M forecast. As Good As It Gets and An American Werewolf in Paris were stronger than expected, while Jackie Brown and The Postman were weaker. Mr. Magoo was close to my $6M forecast.

Amistad added 232 locations and saw a 58% jump in sales to land in eleventh place with $5.2M. The Steven Spielberg drama has grossed $17.8M thus far which is a slow start. Also falling out of the top ten were three family films including For Richer or Poorer which stands at $17.6M to date, Home Alone 3 with $16M, and Anastasia which has grossed $48.4M so far.

Debuting in platform release were Disney's Kundun and New Line's Wag the Dog. Kundun, Martin Scorsese's tale of the fourteenth Dalai Lama, averaged an enlightening $36,048 as it was reincarnated in two theaters. Barry Levinson's political satire Wag the Dog starring Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman did well in the polls averaging $30,693 per site in three theaters. Also opening in three locations was Fine Line's The Winter Guest, directed by Alan Rickman and starring Emma Thompson, which pulled in $7,102 per theater. By comparison, last Christmas weekend Albert Brooks' Mother averaged $22,950 in six theaters, The Portrait of a Lady averaged $15,403 in seven locations, and Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet scored $30,228 per site in three theaters.

Overall, the top ten films grossed $120.1M over the three-day holiday frame which was up 33% from last year's three-day weekend and up 5% from 1995's four-day weekend. Be sure to check in again on Wednesday for a complete summary, including projections, for the New Years holiday weekend.

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

# Title Dec 26 - 28 Dec 19 - 21 % Chg. Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Titanic $ 35,455,673 $ 28,638,131 23.8 2 $ 13,078 $ 88,425,009 Par.
2 Tomorrow Never Dies 20,480,931 25,143,007 -18.5 2 7,296 62,211,421 MGM
3 As Good As It Gets 12,606,928 1 8,020 16,164,889 Sony
4 Mouse Hunt 9,702,770 6,062,922 60.0 2 4,428 21,505,569 Dream.
5 Jackie Brown 9,292,248 1 6,783 12,888,609 Miramax
6 Scream 2 9,085,992 13,921,565 -34.7 3 3,403 71,100,014 Miramax
7 An American Werewolf in Paris 7,600,878 1 4,399 10,985,777 BV
8 Flubber 5,407,445 4,277,276 26.4 5 2,693 73,056,808 Dream.
9 The Postman 5,260,324 1 2,383 6,814,391 WB
10 Mr. Magoo 5,233,631 1 2,818 6,471,459 BV
Top 5 $ 87,538,550 $ 78,042,901 12.2
Top 10 120,126,820 91,234,918 31.7

    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 30, 1997 at 10:00AM ESTHome