STUDIO SPOTLIGHT It was a year to forget for Universal Pictures. All year long, the studio just could not get a break at the box office as moviegoers rarely found interest in their slate of pictures. Did Universal execs actually think that people would pay top dollar to see films like Blues Brothers 2000 and BASEketball? Even with more releases than in 1997, nothing they offered grossed over $40M until the very end of the year which was too late to prevent some top studio honchos from being relieved of their duties.
1997's drought continued into 1998 for Universal with such duds as Half Baked ($17.4M), Kissing A Fool ($4.1M), and Blues Brothers 2000 which launched in a massive 2,507 theaters with an embarrassing $6.1M and finished with only $14M. The spring brought some star-driven hopefuls in Primary Colors, starring John Travolta, and Mercury Rising with Bruce Willis. Both were disappointments with $39M and $33M respectively. Universal had little to offer during the busy summer months as even critics' favorite Out of Sight failed to generate box office heat and got mobbed by the competition collecting just $37.5M.
Bride of Chucky actually delivered some decent Halloween business to the studio with over $32M in ticket sales for a not-so-expensive flick. The final two months saw all of Universal's hopes tied to four high-profile films. The first three turned out to be underachievers. The megaexpensive pics Meet Joe Black and Babe: Pig in the City have grossed $44M and $16M to date and generated lots of red ink for the Seagrams-owned studio while the less costly Psycho remake has scared up just $21M. However, Universal ended the year with a blockbuster performance from Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams, which finally gave the studio a number one opening in the final frame of the year. The comedy hit seems destined for a domestic gross of over $140M making it Universal's biggest hit in 18 months.
Other 1998 releases from Universal included Black Dog ($12.8M), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ($10.6M), BASEketball ($7M), and One True Thing ($23.3M).