Moviegoers celebrated "Mummy"'s Day this weekend with a record setting $70 million opening.
Universal's PG-13 rated adventure sequel The Mummy Returns kicked off Hollywood's pre-summer season with a staggering ESTIMATED $70.11 million at 3,104 theaters ($20,615 per theater). Mummy accounted for about 65% of the weekend's total key films gross of $107.5 million.
Mummy is well on its way to what looks like it could be a $200 million gross in domestic theaters. That would be about $45 million more than the first Mummy did domestically in 1999.
Mummy goes into the record books as the biggest three day non-holiday opening ever, beating the record set by 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm's Star Wars: Episode One -- The Phantom Menace with $64.81 million the weekend of May 21-23, 1999, at 2,970 theaters ($21,822 per theater). Having opened on a Wednesday, Phantom Menace's cume for five days was $105.7 million.
The 1999 original The Mummy opened to $43.4 million the weekend of May 7-9 at 3,209 theaters ($13,515 per theater). In its second weekend it fell 43% to $24.86 million at 3,226 theaters ($7,705 per theater). Its cume after 10 days was $80.6 million. Mummy went on to do $155.2 million domestically and $258.1 million internationally for a worldwide total of $413.3 million. In its third weekend, Mummy was knocked down to second place by the blockbuster arrival of Phantom Menace.
Mummy Returns's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide or limited release this weekend.
Written and directed by Stephen Sommers, Mummy stars Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. It also features an appearance by wrestling star The Rock. The Alphaville Production was produced by James Jacks and Sean Daniel and executive produced by Bob Ducsay and Don Zepfel.
"Except for Lost World, which was a holiday weekend, it's the greatest opening ever," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. Universal's The Lost World: Jurassic Park opened in 1997 to $74.7 million for the three day weekend portion of the four day Memorial Day holiday (May 23-26) weekend.
"What we did was we went into the history of Universal and we created a franchise that we truly believed could dominate the marketplace," Rocco explained. "We took a piece of Universal's history and created an unbelievable franchise. With appropriate sequel management, we brought back the cast, we brought back the director, we managed the cost and we had a great story. That's what made this so unique.
"Our exit polls are 90% in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) and a 70% Definite Recommend. That's huge."
The film's PG-13 rating, she added, "broadened the base. Because of the fact that it's a bit fantasy, parents and kids alike can enjoy it. There's no blood. It's part of comic book fantasy. This is a picture that's an absolute thrill ride that will certainly have tons of repeat business."
Universal's 1932 classic The Mummy, directed by Karl Freund and starring Boris Karloff, was a horror film. So were the studio's continuation of the Mummy story in the 1940s in such films as The Mummy's Hand, The Mummy's Tomb, The Mummy's Ghost and The Mummy's Curse.
"They were horror films," Rocco noted. "That's what's so unique about how we built the franchise. We took a piece of the history and created this whole new thing."
Assessing the film's impact in the marketplace, Rocco observed, "We kicked off summer early. We reinvigorated the marketplace to record breaking numbers (of about $107.5 million for key films). Last year was a record (for this weekend) of $82.2 million. We also hold the biggest Friday opening with $23.4 million and the biggest Saturday opening with $26.8 million." Those are the biggest ever for any Friday or Saturday, she said, adding that "Lost World did $21.9 million on Friday."
Warner Bros. and Franchise Pictures' PG-13 rated action drama Driven fell one notch in its second week to a slower ESTIMATED $6.06 million (-50%) at 2,905 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,084 per theater). Its cume is approximately $21.6 million.
Directed by Renny Harlin, Driven stars Sylvester Stallone. It was produced by Elie Samaha, Stallone and Harlin and written by Stallone.
Bridget Jones's Diary, the R rated romantic comedy co-financed by Miramax Films, Universal Pictures and StudioCanal and produced by Britain's Working Title, slid one peg to third place in its fourth week with a still attractive ESTIMATED $6.0 million (-20%) at 2,547 theaters (+15 theaters; $2,355 per theater). Its cume is approximately $44.7 million, heading for $55-60 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Sharon Maguire, Bridget stars Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant.
Having only cost about $25 million to produce, Bridget will be profitable for its financing partners.
Dimension's PG rated family appeal thriller Spy Kids fell one rung to fourth place in its sixth week with a less playful ESTIMATED $4.0 million (-31%) at 2,815 theaters (-290 theaters; $1,420 per theater). Its cume is approximately $98.5 million, heading for $105-110 million in domestic theaters.
"It should hit $100 million by next weekend," Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow said Sunday morning.
With a production cost of only $35 million, Spy Kidswill be very profitable for Dimension.
Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, Spy Kids stars Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino.
Paramount Pictures' R rated suspense thriller Along Came A Spider dropped one slot to fifth place in its fifth week with a quieter ESTIMATED $3.8 million (-32%) at 2,573 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,477 per theater). Its cume is approximately $60.0 million, heading for $65-70 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Lee Tamahori, Spider stars Morgan Freeman and Monica Potter.
"It's where we had it pretty much targeted," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning.
"I had it in the low $60 millions originally. I think it has a shot to get into the higher $60 millions (like) $67 or $68 million. If it continues to hang on at this level, it could get even closer to $70 million."
Spider is the prequel to the 1997 hit Kiss the Girls, which did $60.5 million in domestic theatrical release.
Paramount's PG rated sequel Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles skidded one rung to sixth place in its third week with a dull ESTIMATED $3.2 million (-31%) at 2,141 theaters (+17 theaters; $1,495 per theater). Its cume is approximately $18.0 million.
Directed by Simon Wincer, Crocodile stars Paul Hogan.
New Line Cinema's R rated drama Blow fell one step to seventh place in its fifth week with a quiet ESTIMATED $2.4 million (-28%) at 1,558 theaters (-155 theaters; $1,540 per theater). Its cume is approximately $44.2 million, heading for $50 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Ted Demme, Blow stars Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz.
Columbia Pictures PG-13 rated youth appeal comedy Joe Dirt, which was ninth last week, tied for eighth place in its fourth week with a slow ESTIMATED $1.5 million (-45%) at 1,783 theaters (-701 theaters; $841 per theater). Its cume is approximately $24.7 million.
Directed by Dennis Gordon, Joe stars David Spade.
Sony's Screen Gems division's R rated vampire tale The Forsaken, which was eighth last week, tied for eight place in its second week with a calm ESTIMATED $1.5 million (-50%) at 1,514 theaters (theater count unchanged; $991 per theater). Its cume is approximately $5.2 million.
Written and directed by J.S. Cardone, Forsaken stars Kerr Smith and Brendan Fehr.
There was a close race for tenth place based on studio ESTIMATES Sunday morning.
USA Films' R rated comedy drama One Night at McCool's, which was 11th last week, in its second week did a slow ESTIMATED $1.33 million (-47%) at 1,814 theaters (-4 theaters; $734 per theater). Its cume is approximately $4.7 million.
Directed by Harald Swart, McCool's stars Liv Tyler, Matt Dillon, John Goodman, Paul Reiser and Michael Douglas.
New Line Cinema's R rated comedy drama Town & Country, which was seventh last week, in its second week did a depressing ESTIMATED $1.3 million (-58%) at 2,222 theaters (theater count unchanged; $576 per theater). Its cume is approximately $5.2 million.
Directed by Peter Chelsom, Town stars Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Andie MacDowell, Garry Shandling, Jenna Elfman, Nastassja Kinski and Goldie Hawn.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Universal's Pavilion of Women, arriving quietly to an ESTIMATED $0.016 million at 7 theaters ($2,312 per theater).
Directed by Yim Ho, Women stars Willem Dafoe and Luo Yan.
Columbia held 766 national sneak previews Saturday night of its PG-13 rated pre-summer youth appeal adventure A Knight's Tale.
The studio said Sunday morning that the sneaks were 75% full and generated very encouraging exit polls. Those on hand scored the film 85% in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) with an 80% Definite Recommend. Columbia said the audience was divided evenly between males and females and those under and over the age of 25.
Tale opens May 11 at 2,800-plus theaters.
Written and directed by Brian Helgeland, Tale stars Heath Ledger.
On the expansion front, this weekend saw Newmarket's R rated film noir thriller Memento widen in its eighth week, still holding well with an ESTIMATED $1.29 million (+1%) at 410 theaters (+86 theaters; $3,140 per theater). Its cume is approximately $8.4 million.
Directed by Christopher Nolan, it stars Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano.
Columbia went wider with its R rated thriller The Tailor of Panama, continuing to hold well in its sixth week with an ESTIMATED $1.0 million (+7%) at 436 theaters (+77 theaters; $2,249 per theater). Its cume is approximately $9.4 million.
Directed by John Boorman, Tailor stars Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush.
Lions Gate Films' R rated drama Amores Perros went wider in its sixth week with a quiet ESTIMATED $0.3 million (-41%) at 184 theaters (+11 theaters; $1,610 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.4 million.
Directed and produced by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Perros stars Emilio Echevarria and Gael Garcia Bernal.
Warner Bros.' PG-13 rated comedy The Dish added theaters in its eighth week, continuing to hold well with an ESTIMATED $0.16 million (+5%) at 82 theaters (+22 theaters; $1,951 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.3 million.
Directed by Rob Stich, The Dish stars Sam Neill and Kevin Harrington.
Miramax's R rated French thriller With a Friend Like Harry... continued to widen in its third week with a still encouraging ESTIMATED $0.16 million at 25 theaters (+13 theaters; $6,400 per theater). Its North American cume is approximately $0.6 million.
Harry is being released under Miramax's French film banner Miramax Zoe.
Directed by Dominik Moll, it stars Laurent Lucas, Sergi Lopez, Mathilde Seigner and Sophie Guillemin.
Artisan Entertainment's controversial unrated The Center of the World added theaters in its third week with an okay ESTIMATED $0.12 million at 32 theaters (+24 theaters; $3,885 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.3 million.
Directed by Wayne Wang, it stars Molly Parker and Peter Sarsgaard.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $107.46 million, up about 30.7% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $82.22 million.
This weekend's key film gross was up about 71.67% from last weekend this year when key films did $62.60 million.
Last year, DreamWorks' opening week of Gladiator was first with $34.82 million at 2,938 theaters ($11,851 per theater); and Universal's third week of U-571 was second with $7.77 million at 2,701 theaters ($2,875 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $42.6 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $76.2 million.
It's shaping up as one of the greatest battles in the history of monster movies, right up there with "Frankenstein vs. the Wolf Man," "King Kong vs. Godzilla" and even the yet-unfilmed "Freddy vs. Jason." Coming soon to a courtroom near you (via Court TV, natch): "Forry vs. Ferry," with cameos by Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Hugh Hefner and others.
The "Forry" in question is Forrest J. Ackerman, founder of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and a guru to sci-fi and horror movie geeks all over the world (including Hollywood directors Joe Dante, Sam Raimi and Frank Darabont). "Ferry" is one Ray Ferry, the magazine's current publisher, and the target of a $1 million lawsuit in which Ackerman seeks to regain control of his creature-feature legacy.
"I hope future generations of fans will remember me as the preserver and promoter of the imagi-movie genre, and the original Famous Monsters of Filmland as the bible according to Saint Forry," the 83-year-old Ackerman tells Hollywood.com.
Famous Monsters of Filmland Ackerman produced Famous Monsters (or "FM" as readers know it) from 1958 to 1982. FM was the first magazine of its kind, a ritual read for lovers of horror galore -- from the good stuff (Karloff, Lugosi, Christopher Lee) to the bad (like "Reptilicus" and "The Hideous Sun Demon"). Every issue overflowed with huge photographs, and there was lots of cool stuff to buy (like monster masks and model kits) via old-school mail order. But what made it unique was Ackerman's inimitable, pun-prone prose. ("Hello boils and ghouls! I'm looking forryward to Mummorial Day! Hope your horrordays are everything you scream of!" Etc.)
Ferry, a filmmaker, photographer and Forry fan, revived the mag in 1993 and retained Ackerman as editor. The two men parted ways around 1995, with Ackerman exiting the magazine and Ferry continuing to publish it.
Now Ackerman says Ferry drove a Dracula-sized stake through his heart. Not only does Ackerman's suit say that he wasn't paid for work he did on the mag, it alleges that Ferry stole the monstermeister's vernacular, downplayed his role in producing the magazine and publicly demeaned his abilities as a writer and editor.
Forrest J. Ackerman (right) with Vincent Price To help defend his rightful place in horrordom, Ackerman plans to summon a few friends to the witness stand when the case goes to trial April 11 in a San Fernando Valley, Calif., court. Among them are authors King and Bradbury (both former clients from Ackerman's days as a literary agent), director John Landis ("Twilight Zone: The Movie"), Playboy mogul Hefner, Sara Karloff (daughter of Boris) and Gene Simmons, the blood-spitting, fire-breathing rocker from KISS.
A point of contention for the Ackerman camp is that, after all these years, FM still looks and reads pretty much the same as it did 30 years ago. The horror mogul says that his pen name ("Dr. Acula") and all the catchphrases he created -- like "Fang Mail," "You Axed For It!" and "Beast Witches" -- belong to him. But Ferry and his lawyer say it's a matter of intellectual property rights; since Ackerman created his "Forryisms" for FM, they remain property of the magazine and, therefore, they have the right to them -- and Ackerman doesn't.
"We think the complaint is preposterous," says Ferry's attorney, Thomas Brackey. "We try a lot of cases, and this one is really from left field."
As in any decent monster vs. monster movie, it's not always easy to tell the "good" creature from the "evil" one.
Brackey says his client never ripped off Ackerman, and there are canceled checks to prove it. Moreover, Ferry has filed a $25 million countersuit, alleging that Ackerman issued death threats, harassed him by posting a stir-up-the-fans message on the Internet and sent him hundreds of faxes at all hours. Ferry also says the windows of his home have been shot out.
"I don't think we're worried so much about Mr. Ackerman coming out and doing something [to Ferry], but he has a lot of supporters who are dedicated to his cause, and some of these guys are going around shooting out windows," Brackey says. "There's a little bit of a mob mentality out there in monster fandom."
Ackerman retorts: "I have never threatened Ferry over the Internet or anywhere, even verbally or mentally."
At the trial, Ferry plans to summon iconic science-fiction writer Harlan Ellison as his star witness. Ellison went to court last year seeking a restraining order against Ackerman, saying he was similarly harassed with faxes.
Ackerman, who coined the term "sci-fi" in the 1950s, is also one of the world's biggest collectors of sci-fi books, movie props and other memorabilia. He has an estimated 300,000 items (such as Lon Chaney's teeth and hat from 1927's "London After Midnight" and a vampire cape worn by Bela Lugosi), all housed at his creepy home, "The Ackermansion," in the Hollywood Hills.
The collection is also at issue in the lawsuit. Ackerman once gave Ferry the right to purchase part of it for a mere $2,500 after his own death, but now Ackerman wants to rescind that agreement so he'll be free to sell or donate his memorabilia.
Ackerman, who gives his version of events on his Web site (http://www.best.com/~4forry/), has solicited contributions from friends to help pay his legal bills, and some high-profile sci-fi aficionados have reportedly answered the call.
As John Landis once said: "It's amazing how many lives [Ackerman has] touched in his weird, bizarre way. He's a touchstone for all those crazy people out there."