For the first time the tale is centered firmly on the Batman himself or in this case Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and not on one of his over-the-top enemies. Now the non-comics audiences can witness--and understand--the sequence of events that led an orphaned billionaire to dress up like a bat and scare the bejeezus out of bad guys. Expanding The Batman's world beyond the claustrophobic confines of Gotham the film opens on a tormented and rudderless Wayne abroad in Asia recruited by hypnotic Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) to join the world-redefining forces of the enigmatic Ra's al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) by way of some serious ninja schooling. All the while Bruce flashes back on his parents' violent murder and his growing sense of impotence against injustice despite the attentions of childhood sweetie and future D.A. Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes). Unwilling to mete out Ra's extreme form of "justice " Wayne returns to Gotham City to launch his own unique campaign to clean up the city's corrupt and crime-plagued streets with three key allies: his faithful family valet Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine); Gotham's only clean cop Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman); and tech-savvy Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) who provides the Batman's wonderful toys from Wayne Enterprises' experimental arsenal. Now trying on two different masks--Batman's crime-hating fury for the back alleys and a foppish playboy façade for the public--Wayne soon finds himself pitted against an inventive doomsday plot instigated by psychologist Dr. Jonathan Crane better known as the sinister Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) who uses fear as a weapon almost as formidably as The Batman himself. We're finally given a noble post-modern Batman who with compelling motivation will not resort to lethal force.
Bale leads the all-star cast making the best movie Batman since Michael Keaton's excellently eccentric 1989 performance. Whereas Keaton's slight intensely brilliant Wayne seemed to don the Batsuit to gain an edge of intimidation Bale's Batman is simply a dark emblem expressing the rage and fury roiling underneath the billionaire's surface. His is a ferocious Dark Knight indeed. He's also effective portraying two other sides of the character's persona: the silly randy public face of Bruce Wayne and the tortured real man underneath both guises. Of the potent supporting cast Caine imbues Alfred with the appropriate fatherly warmth and wit while adding a fresh element of authority and capability as well; Neeson's multidimensional Ducard leaves one guessing if he's a hero antihero villain or all of the above; and Freeman is clearly having a ball as Batman's own "Q." Holmes is comely capable and utterly superfluous; Tom Wilkinson tastefully chews the scenery as crime boss Carmine Falcone; and Murphy (once a close contender for the role of Batman himself) is tantalizingly creepy and villainous--the film could have used more of his off-kilter charisma. The only minor speed bump is Oldman's Gordon. His acting is always on the mark but the character so well-developed in the seminal comic book tale Batman: Year One is never utilized to its fullest potential.
Along the way every element of the Batman's back story is fleshed out in almost excruciating detail. Here's how he found the Batcave. Here's where he got the Batmobile. Here's why he has little pockets on his utility belt. Yadda yadda yadda. But some clever plot twists from director Christopher Nolan and screenwriter/professional comic book scribe David S. Goyer fuel the story's forward momentum. Nolan and Goyer work hard to inventively crib together a mélange of origin elements and plot points from influential comic book storytellers including original Batman creator Bob Kane unsung early writer Bill Finger Sin City's Frank Miller David Mazzuccelli Dennis O'Neil Neal Adams and others (even bits and pieces from a comic story penned by Ducard's creator Sam Hamm also the screenwriter behind Burton and Keaton's 1989 film). All these patches are effectively sewn into a clever quilt creating a cohesive original tale told with entertaining gusto. However the film does lack a certain knockout visual flair that defines the best comics--great imposing "money shots" of the fearsome Batman are few and far between--and the action sequences are a tad too choppy close-up and over-edited. Plus for a film about a dude dressed as a winged mammal it takes itself so darn seriously. The movie would definitely have benefited from a jolt of loopy outlandishness akin to Burton's undeniably quirky vision. And--despite the reigning notion that the previous films overdid the villains--a crazier more charismatic bad guy would have done wonders to liven up the stately proceedings. There's a reason the audience burst into wild applause in the screening I saw at a third-act allusion to one of Batman's more famous adversaries. Let's hope for a little more inspired lunacy in the sequel.
There was a close race for first place between Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar's animated blockbuster "Toy Story 2" and Warner Bros. and Castle Rock Entertainment's opening of the drama "The Green Mile."
Based on Sunday's estimates, the G-rated "Toy 2" held on to the top spot on the chart, but only by a nose. When the box office dust settles Monday, it is possible that because the two films were so close in the estimates, they could wind up reversing positions.
Working against "Mile" was the fact that its adult audience is busy with holiday shopping and office parties. An additional negative for "Mile" is that its three-hour running time gives it fewer performances per day than "Toy 2" has with its running time of about 90 minutes. To some extent, however, "Mile's" broad release at 2,875 theaters gives it the potential to take in big grosses even with fewer showings per day.
"Toy 2" was bolstered by strong sneak previews Saturday night for Buena Vista/Touchstone's "Bicentennial Man," starring Robin Williams (for details, see SNEAK PREVIEWS below). Also adding to "Toy 2's" strength vs. "Mile" is that it is playing even wider, with 3,257 theaters.
In its fourth weekend, "Toy 2" did a still punchy estimated $18.70 million (-32%) at 3,257 theaters (+19 theaters, $5,747 per theater). Its total is approximately $140.8 million, heading for a domestic theatrical total of $250 million to $275 million. Directed by John Lasseter, it features the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, Wayne Knight, Laurie Metcalf, Estelle Harris and R. Lee Ermey. Its score and two new songs were composed by Grammy Award winner Randy Newman.
"I'm putting it at roughly $200 million on New Year's weekend," Buena Vista Distribution President Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "The original did $42 million after New Year's. So it will be very interesting to see if we can outdo that and get into the $260-270 millions."
Noting that "Toy 2" was only off 32% this weekend, Viane said, "It's right in line (with where the first 'Toy Story' was at the same point in its run). The original was off 31% and considering we're wider, I'm really happy with this. I know the gross was bumped (up) a little by the sneaks (of "Bicentennial Man" on Saturday at 260 theaters playing 'Toy 2'), but that's OK."
Focusing on BV's critically acclaimed but underperforming drama "The Insider," Viane said its strong showing in the L.A. Critics' vote Saturday -- winning Best Picture, Actor (Russell Crowe) and Supporting Actor (Christopher Plummer) -- should help it at the box office. "That's going to help us in the long run. There's no question about it," Viane said.
Warner and Castle Rock's R-rated "Mile" kicked off to a very close second with a solid but unelectrifying estimated $18.57 million at 2,875 theaters ($6,459 per theater). "Mile's" per-theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide release last weekend. "Mile's" opening was in line with Warner's launch of "You've Got Mail" to $18.43 million the weekend of Dec. 18-20 last year. Written and directed by Frank Darabont, "Mile" stars Tom Hanks.
"It was the best exit interviews we've ever had," Warner Bros. Distribution President Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "They were sensational. Audiences just loved this movie. We had a definite recommend of over 80%. The top two boxes (excellent and very good) were in the 90%s. Response was phenomenal. CinemaScore had the people who rated the movie A or B at 97%. Overall grade was an A."
Buena Vista/Touchstone's R-rated youth-appeal comedy "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" opened in the money, placing third with a muscular estimated $13 million at 2,151 theaters ($6,058 per theater). Directed by Mike Mitchell, it stars Rob Schneider.
"We had projected the picture to be flat (from Friday to Saturday)," BV's Viane said. "We thought Friday-Saturday would be the same as (what is) typical of teen-age movies. But it went from $4.4 million to $5.1 million last night (Saturday), up 14%. So we're very pleased with that. It plays great. Last night the ethnic theaters came alive, so I have a feeling today's (Sunday) going to be really good."
MGM's PG-13-rated "The World Is Not Enough," the 19th in its James Bond series, fell two rungs to fourth place in its fourth weekend with a less worldly estimated $6.20 million (-42%) at 3,063 theaters (-100 theaters, $2,024 per theater). Its total is approximately $99.5 million, heading for $130 million to $135 million in domestic theaters. Directed by Michael Apted, it stars Pierce Brosnan in his third performance as 007.
"We'll get to $130-135 million," said Larry Gleason, MGM worldwide theatrical distribution president, on Sunday morning. "The holidays will push it back up."
Universal and Beacon Pictures' R-rated action-fantasy adventure "End of Days" dropped two notches to fifth place in its third weekend with a slower estimated $4.72 million (-51%) at 2,652 theaters (+54 theaters, $1,780 per theater). Its total is approximately $53.2 million, heading for about $70 million in domestic theaters. Directed by Peter Hyams, it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Paramount's R-rated period action adventure "Sleepy Hollow" slipped two notches to sixth place in its fourth weekend with a quieter estimated $4.60 million (-48%) at 3,065 theaters (-4 theaters, $1,501 per theatre). Its total is approximately $81.3 million, heading for $100 million in domestic theaters. Directed by Tim Burton, it stars Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci and is based on Washington Irving's classic "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."
Universal's R-rated suspense thriller "The Bone Collector" dipped two pegs to seventh place in its sixth weekend with an OK estimated $1.70 million (-47%) at 2,031 theaters (-490 theaters, $835 per theater). Its total is approximately $60.8 million. Directed by Phillip Noyce, it stars Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. Sony's Columbia Pictures unit is partnered 50-50 with Universal on "Bone's" worldwide film rentals. Sony is releasing the picture internationally.
Lions Gate's release of "Dogma," the controversial R-rated irreverent comedy it took over from Miramax, fell one slot to eighth place in its fourth weekend with an unexciting estimated $1.20 million (-43%) at 1,159 theaters (-133 theaters, $1,035 per theater). Its total is approximately $26.4 million. Directed by Kevin Smith, it stars Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Salma Hayek, Jason Lee, Jason Mewes, Alan Rickman and Chris Rock.
Warner Bros.' G-rated Japanese animated feature "Pokemon: The First Movie" slipped three rungs to ninth place in its fifth weekend with a dull estimated $1.11 million (-53%) at 2,426 theaters (-617 theaters, $458 per theater). Its total is approximately $82.3 million, heading for a domestic theatrical gross of about $90 million.
Rounding out the Top 10 was USA Films' R-rated comedy "Being John Malkovich," down one rung in its seventh weekend with a decent estimated $0.96 million (-30%) at 630 theaters (+6 theaters, $1,517 per theater). Its total is approximately $15.3 million. Directed by Spike Jonze, it stars John Malkovich, playing himself, John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener.
"The top markets were really pretty strong (for 'Malkovich'). They were relatively unaffected by the new business," USA Films distribution head Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "I think we'll be able to cruise through, particularly now that the (critics year-end) lists are coming out. The main markets --(like) Washington, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle -- are holding in. That's where we'll be able to drive the picture up into the $20 million range, which I think we'll get to, even without a lot of big awards. I think if we get nominations, we're going to go p into the $25 million range with it."
USA opens the drama "Topsy Turvy," written and directed by Mike Leigh and starring Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner as Gilbert & Sullivan, at two theaters this week.
"We'll be in the Paris in New York and AMC Century City for a week only in Century City," Foley said. "We'll open the picture in the Paris and run it. Los Angeles has been a little bit bumpy lately when you look at how art films have opened recently. It's been inclement in that market. So we'll qualify the film (for Oscars). We'll open it this Wednesday (Dec. 15). It will be off screen the following Tuesday.
"The Paris will run through. I think in New York, the levels of risk are diminished greatly because of the culture. And with that theater, particularly, it enhances its opportunity. If there's a theater in the country that's going to make that picture snap to life, it's the Paris."
Weekend 50 also saw the arrival of Miramax's PG-13-rated drama "The Cider House Rules" in New York and Los Angeles, placing 19th with a promising estimated $0.115 million at 9 theaters ($14,375 per theater). Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, it stars Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron and Michael Caine.
"It goes to the top 20 (markets) this Friday," Miramax senior vice president, marketing, said Sunday morning.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's R-rated drama "Cradle Will Rock" arrived in 20th place to an encouraging estimated $0.094 million at 9 theaters ($11,780 per theater). Its total after five days is approximately $0.125 million. Written and directed by Tim Robbins, it stars Hank Azaria, Ruben Blades and Joan Cusack.
"We're going to add some cities, like San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, D.C., Dec. 25," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "Then on Jan. 14 we're going to broaden it out."
Miramax's PG-13-rated comedy-drama "Diamonds" opened in New York and for a one-week Oscar qualifying run in L.A., placing 24th with a not very sparkling estimated $7,500 at 2 theaters ($3,750 per theater). Directed by John Asher, it stars Kirk Douglas, Dan Aykroyd and Lauren Bacall.
MGM's R-rated drama "Miss Julie" began exclusive runs in New York and L.A., placing 25th with a slow estimated $6,219 at 3 theaters ($2,073 per theater). Directed by Mike Figgis, it stars Saffron Burrows, Peter Mullan and Maria Doyle Kennedy.
Weekend 50 saw Buena Vista/Touchstone hold sneak previews of its PG-rated comedy-drama "Bicentennial Man." "Bicentennial," financed jointly by Touchstone and Columbia Pictures, is directed by Chris Columbus and stars Robin Williams.
"We snuck on the second and third screens of 'Toy Story' last night and everything sold out," Viane said Sunday morning.
Viane said there were 260 sneaks and that the studio's exit polls showed that "94% rated it excellent or very good. The cume score was 91%, which means it snuck just as well as 'Phenomenon' for us, which is really good. In terms of male/female -- 52% female. In terms of audience -- couples and families represented 87%, and teens represented 13%. In terms of ticket sales -- approximately 80% of the seats were sold."
"Bicentennial" opens Friday (Dec. 17) at about 2,200 theaters.
Twentieth Century Fox held a second round of sneak previews Saturday night at 1,200 theaters of its PG-13-rated drama "Anna and the King." Directed by Andy Tennant, it stars Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat.
"They did really well," Tom Sherak, 20th Domestic Film Group chairman and senior executive vice president of Fox Filmed Entertainment, said Sunday morning. "Sixty-three percent of the theaters were between 50-100% full. The picture played extremely well -- 80% in the top two boxes (excellent and very good)."
"Anna" opens Friday (Dec. 17) at about 2,000 theaters.
On the expansion front, Weekend 50 saw Warner Bros.' R-rated comedy-drama "Liberty Heights" place 17th with an OK estimated $0.29 million at 42 theaters (+36 theaters, $6,904 per theater). Its total is approximately $0.725 million. Warner will hold sneak previews of the critically acclaimed "Heights" next weekend and will expand its run again Dec. 22. Written and directed by Barry Levinson, it stars Adrien Brody, Ben Foster, Orlando Jones, Bebe Neuwirth and Joe Mantegna.
Fine Line's PG-13-rated drama "Tumbleweeds" went wider, placing 22nd with a quiet estimated $0.081 million at 31 theaters (+26 theaters, $2,610 per theater). Its total is approximately $0.80 million. Directed by Gavin O'Connor, it stars Janet McTeer and Kimberly J. Brown.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $73.25 million, up approximately 5% from $69.77 million for the same weekend last year.
Weekend 50's key film gross was down approximately 2.08% from the $74.78 million that key films took in during Weekend 49 of this year.
Last year, Paramount's opening weekend of "Star Trek: Insurrection" was first with $22.05 million at 2,620 theaters ($8,417 per theater), and Buena Vista/Disney's third weekend of "A Bug's Life" was second with $11.19 million at 2,748 theaters, $4,073 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $33.3 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $37.3 million.
For the first 50 weekends of 1999, ticket sales were approximately $4.738 billion, up about 4.83% from 1998's gross of $4.52 billion. Of this year's 50 weekends, 29 were up (one marginally and one because of a four-day vs. a three-day holiday weekend comparison) and 21 were down (three only marginally and one because of a holiday vs. a nonholiday comparison) vs. last year.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES
Based on business by key films, the top six distributors in Weekend 50 were the following:
Buena Vista (Touchstone and Disney) was first with four films ("Toy Story 2," "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo," "The Insider" and "The Sixth Sense") grossing an estimated $32.90 million or 44.9% of the market.
Warner Bros. was second with two films ("The Green Mile" and "Pokemon: The First Movie") grossing an estimated $19.68 million or 26.8% of the market.
Universal was third with two films ("End Of Days" and "The Bone Collector") grossing an estimated $6.42 million or 8.8% of the market.
MGM was fourth with one film ("The World Is Not Enough") grossing an estimated $6.20 million or 8.5% of the market.
Paramount was fifth with one film ("Sleepy Hollow") grossing an estimated $4.60 million or 6.3% of the market.
Lions Gate was sixth with one film ("Dogma") grossing an estimated $1.20 million or 1.6% of the market.
(11) "Anywhere But Here"/Fox: Theaters: 1,128 (-498) Gross: $0.71 million (-46%) Average per theater: $630 Total: $17.5 million
(12) "The Sixth Sense"/BV: Theaters: 856 (-178) Gross: $0.63 million (-35%) Average per theater: $733 Total: $274.4 million
(13) "American Beauty"/DreamWorks: Theaters: 595(-99) Gross: $0.59 million (-25%) Average per theater: $985 Total: $68.5 million
(14) "The Insider"/BV/Touchstone: Theaters: 823 (-660) Gross: $0.57 million (-55%) Average per theater: $697 Total: $24.9 million
(15) "The Best Man"/Universal: Theaters: 457 (-46) Gross: $0.38 million (-34%) Average per theater: $840 Total: $32.7 million
(16) "Flawless"/MGM Theaters: 483 (+5) Gross: $0.35 million (-23%) Average per theater: $720 Total: $4 million
(17) "Liberty Heights"/Warner Bros.: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(18) "Mansfield Park"/Miramax: Theaters: 33 (+1) Gross: $0.17 million (-25%) Average per theater: $5,151 Total: $1.1 million
(19) "The Cider House Rules"/Miramax: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(20) "Cradle Will Rock"/BV/Touchst one: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(21) "The End of the Affair"/Columbia: Theaters: 7 (0) Gross: $0.12 million (-41%) Average per theater: $16,726 Total: $0.4 million
(22) "Tumbleweeds"/Fine Line: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(23) "Ride With the Devil"/USA Films: Theaters: 12 (-3) Gross: $0.022 million (-58%) Average per theater: $1,797 Total: $0.2 million
(24) "Diamonds"/Miramax: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(25) "Miss Julie"/MGM: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
'Save' Tops Holiday Box Office
"Save the Last Dance" kicked off in first place to a record-setting $28 million for the four-day Martin Luther King holiday weekend.
Distribution executives had anticipated that Paramount's PG-13-rated teen appeal dance drama would end 20th Century Fox's three-week chart-topping reign with "Cast Away," but they were only thinking in terms of an opening of about $20 million. Instead, "Dance" came in swinging to the tune of an ESTIMATED $28.00 million at 2,230 theaters ($12,556 per theater). (For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, Paramount estimated "Dance" at $24.00 million.)
"Dance" had the highest per-theater average for any film playing at over 1,000 theaters last weekend.
"$20 million was kind of the benchmark (estimate going into the weekend)," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "I had it at $18-21 million. That's where I thought it would be. Normally, when you have a film that appeals to a teen audience like this, the Friday goes through the roof and it sort of flattens out on Saturday. We were actually up 21% Saturday. The Friday figure was $7.5 million and it went to $9.1 million Saturday.
"I think it's the biggest opening ever on Martin Luther King weekend. It's not the biggest gross. We actually had that in '98 with 'Titanic' with $36 million. The previous record (for an opening this weekend) was 'Varsity Blues' with $17.5 million (via Paramount in 1999). We looked back all the way to '93 (without finding anything bigger than 'Dance')."
Why did "Dance" work so well? "Obviously, I think the (marketing) campaign worked and delivered the young female (audience)," Lewellen replied. "But it also appealed to an older female audience. We had about 300 sneaks last weekend and the exit polls were extraordinary -- like 95% were excellent or good (the Top Two Boxes). It just hits the nerve and appeals to a very broad audience."
Directed by Thomas Carter, "Dance" stars Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas.
Driven by "Dance," the holiday weekend went into the record books as Hollywood's biggest Martin Luther King weekend ever. That's what insiders were predicting last week, pointing out that the previous three-day weekend had seen very strong ticket sales by key films (those grossing $500,000 or more) of about $116 million.
Although distributors were thinking the holiday weekend would do about $150 million in key film ticket sales, business proved to be much stronger than expected. Based on Sunday morning studio estimates, the overall marketplace expanded to nearly $168 million.
The previous King weekend record was set Jan. 16-19, 1998, when key films grossed $128.68 million for four days. Paramount's "Titanic" led the pack that weekend with $36.0 million.
This weekend's arrival of "Dance" cast a shadow over Fox's PG-13-rated drama "Cast Away," which slid one slot to second place in its fourth week. Nonetheless, "Cast" held better than expected, grossing an ESTIMATED $20.21 million (-15%) at 3,048 theaters (+100 theaters; $6,630 per theater). (For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, Fox estimated "Cast" at $17.15 million.) Its cume is approximately $168.2 million, heading for $200 million-plus.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, "Cast Away" stars Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt.
USA Films' R-rated Oscar contender drama "Traffic" held on to third place in its third week with a solid ESTIMATED $13.07 million (-22%) at 1,527 theaters (+17 theaters; $8,559 per theater). (For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, USA estimated "Traffic" at $11.17 million.) Its cume is approximately $35.1 million.
"It looks like it has the least amount of drop (for three days) of all the other films out there, which is a really good indication of its holding power," USA Films distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning, "particularly in light of the fact that it's a very special film insofar as its subject matter is concerned. This isn't broad-based entertainment. It's issue oriented.
"In that respect, America seems to be embracing the film very well because our numbers, particularly in the major markets in the country, are very strong. The drop in major markets in the high-end zones are modest. They're like one and two percent and some of them are even up over last weekend. Mainstream markets like Cincinnati and Kansas City are holding their own, too. Their drops are a little bit more than what's reflected by the four days. They're going to be (down in) like the 30%s. With that type of drop, it shows that Middle America is embracing the film as much as the high-end, more urban and urbane markets are. Those markets -- New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago -- they're through the roof!"
With five nominations, including best picture and director, "Traffic" is a major contender for Golden Globes. What effect would a strong showing in the Globes have? "The Globes are indicative of how the winds are blowing for the Academy," Foley replied. "It may even sort out some of this stuff with what (film) Steven Soderbergh is ultimately going to be recognized for -- whether it's 'Erin Brockovich' or 'Traffic' or both. I think Benicio (Del Toro) is really going to have an indication given to him if he does well in the Golden Globes for the Academy."
Asked about further expansion plans, Foley said, "That's going to come at Academy nomination time where the values are the greatest. If the film secures significant nominations then, above and beyond just best director, then the film obviously takes on a hell of a lot more value out there and we have every intention of responding in kind to that opportunity. It's not only just the significant noms, it's the number of noms. This picture's going to be up for a number of nominations, so we could kick the number up to 500 or 1,000 more runs."
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, "Traffic" stars Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Quaid and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Paramount's PG-13-rated romantic comedy "What Women Want" from Icon Productions dropped two pegs to fourth place in its fifth week with a still-attractive ESTIMATED $12.00 million (-27%) at 3,092 theaters (+40 theaters; $3,881 per theater). (For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, Paramount estimated "Women" at $10.50 million.) Its cume is approximately $153.9 million.
Directed by Nancy Meyers, "Women" stars Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt.
Columbia Pictures' went wide with its PG-13-rated drama "Finding Forrester" in its fourth week, tying for fourth place with a solid ESTIMATED $12.00 million at 2,002 theaters (+1,802 theaters; $5,994 per theater). (For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, Columbia estimated "Forrester" at $10.00 million.) Its cume is approximately $21.4 million.
"We had an A-plus CinemaScore," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "We've continued to get fantastic exit polls. This is a movie that audiences love. The 200 runs we started out with held firm during their run, and we would expect really strong holdover on this very good opening, as well.
"We think we're in for a nice long run. Finally, the volume of product lets up going forward. So we think we'll more than hold our own in the market."
Looking at the expansion of the overall holiday weekend marketplace, Blake observed, "Unbelievable! I didn't think December could be as huge as it turned out to be. I didn't think November could be as huge as it turned out to be. And here we go again -- so it's terrific!"
Directed by Gus Van Sant, "Forrester" stars Sean Connery.
New Line Cinema's wide opening of its PG-13-rated drama "Thirteen Days" was sixth with an encouraging ESTIMATED $11.70 million at 2,029 theaters (+2,028 theaters; $5,766 per t eater). (For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, New Line estimated "Days" at $10.23 million.) Its cume is approximately $12.3 million.
"We're extremely happy," New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. "We knew it was going to be a crowded marketplace with a lot of pictures in our demos. And not only a lot of pictures, but a lot of good pictures -- I mean 'Forrester's' a good picture, 'Traffic's' a good picture, 'Crouching Tiger's' a good picture. These are good movies. I'm a big believer that movies beget themselves no matter what the demographic is. So if this weekend you see a good movie, next weekend the first thing you think about doing is going to see another movie. Whether you're 50 years old or 20 years old, it's the same deal. We really think we're going to be in the marketplace for a long time. It's a high quality film and plays great."
Directed by Roger Donaldson, "Thirteen Days" stars Kevin Costner.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13-rated action comedy "Double Take" opened in seventh place to a better-than-anticipated ESTIMATED $11.50 million at 1,631 theaters ($7,057 per theater). (For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, BV estimated "Take" at $10.00 million.)
Directed by George Gallo, "Double Take" stars Eddie Griffin and Orlando Jones.
Warner Bros. and Castle Rock Entertainment's PG-13-rated comedy "Miss Congeniality," which was fourth last week, tied for seventh place in its fourth week with a still-winning ESTIMATED $11.50 million (-17%) at 2,668 theaters ($4,310 per theater). (For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, Warners estimated "Miss" at $9.36 million.) Its cume is approximately $80.6 million.
Directed by Donald Petrie, "Congeniality" stars Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine, Benjamin Bratt and Candice Bergen.
Sony Pictures Classics took ninth place with the expansion of its critically-acclaimed PG-13-rated action adventure "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." The Mandarin Chinese language Oscar contender from director Ang Lee continued to enjoy killer ticket sales with an ESTIMATED $8.92 million at 700 theaters (+528 theaters; $12,735 per theater). Its cume is approximately $28.9 million.
Directed by Ang Lee, "Dragon" stars Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Buena Vista/Disney's G-rated animated comedy "The Emperor's New Groove," down four pegs in its fifth week, with a less-lively ESTIMATED $7.50 million (-4%) at 2,237 theaters (-537 theaters; $3,353 per theater). (For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, BV estimated "Emperor" at $5.70 million.) Its cume is approximately $71.2 million.
Directed by Mark Dindal and produced by Randy Fullmer, it features the voices of David Spade, Eartha Kitt, John Goodman and Patrick Warburton.
OTHER OPENINGS This weekend also saw the arrival of MGM's PG-13-rated suspense thriller "AntiTrust," placing 12th with an uneventful ESTIMATED $6.30 million at 2,433 theaters ($2,589 per theater). (For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, MGM estimated "AntiTrust" at $5.20 million.)
Directed by Peter Howitt, "AntiTrust" stars Ryan Phillippe, Rachael Leigh Cook, Claire Forlani and Tim Robbins.
SNEAK PREVIEWS There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
EXPANSIONS On the expansion front, Buena Vista/Touchstone went wider with its PG-13-rated dark comedy "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," placing 13th with a hopeful ESTIMATED $3.00 million at 431 theaters (+266 theaters; $6,961 per theater). (For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, BV estimated "Brother" at $2.60 million.) Its cume is approximately $7.3 million.
Directed by Joel Coen and written by Ethan and Joel Coen, it stars George Clooney and John Turturro.
Fine Line Features went wider with its R-rated comedy "State and Main," placing 18th with a quiet ESTIMATED $1.67 million at 460 theaters (+383 theaters; $3,625 per theater). Its cume is approximately $4.0 million.
Written and directed by David Mamet, its ensemble cast is headed by Alec Baldwin.
Fine Line also went wider with its R-rated drama "Before Night Falls," placing 30th with a calm ESTIMATED $0.16 million at 18 theaters (+10 theaters; $8,833 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.6 million.
Directed by Julian Schnabel, it stars Javier Bardem.
WEEKEND COMPARISONS Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the four-day period -- took in approximately $167.94 million, up about 37.69% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $121.97 million.
This weekend's key film gross cannot be compared to the previous weekend this year, a normal three-day period.
Last year, New Line's opening week of "Next Friday" was first with $16.92 million at 1,103 theaters ($15,338 per theater); and Sony's second week of "Stuart Little" was second with $12.52 million at 3,092 theaters ($4,048 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $29.4 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $48.2 million.