'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.
He's baaaack! "Home Improvement" alumnus Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who viewers saw grow up on the hit ABC sitcom, has signed a six-figure deal with 20th Century Fox TV to star in a primetime series for the network, Daily Variety reports.
Whether he'll appear in another comedy or a drama is still up in the air, but word is that the former child star is leaning toward a drama. And if you ask a Fox exec, Thomas is more than capable of making the switch.
"Jonathan has tremendous range," 20th Century Fox TV Co-President Dana Walden told Variety. "He's proven in his work on 'Home Improvement' and his new features that he can play both lighter and more dramatic roles."
Now a student at Harvard, Thomas spent seven seasons on "Home Improvement" playing Tim Allen's middle son, Randy Taylor. His recent work includes "Common Ground," a made-for-TV movie in which he plays a gay student, and a memorable guest-starring stint on "Ally McBeal" last season. His film credits include "Tom and Huck," "Man of the House," "Wild America" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas."
You're within spitting distance of some of the world's biggest stars and movie personalities. You've got mere minutes to ask the right questions that will shed light on their feelings about what it's like to be nominated for an Oscar. Tom Cruise But here's the problem: You're corralled into a roomful of other reporters, who all want to ask the same questions. And some of their voices are louder than yours.
Welcome to the annual Oscar Nominees' Luncheon held today at the posh Beverly Hilton hotel, where Tom Cruise is on the menu.
"Tom, is this the weirdest role you've ever done in your life?" you ask, referring to that scurrilous Frank T.J. Mackey guy he plays in "Magnolia".
"Yes," Tom replies. Then he adds: "Hahahahahahahahaha!"
At a time of year when Hollywood is engrossed in awards ceremonies -- the SAGs, the DGAs and every other trophy-dispensing event worth its acronym -- this Oscar-sponsored meet-and-greet with the stars serves as a reminder that the Academy is a cut above.
And nobody seems to know this better than the journalists, herded into an anterior room while the stars lunch in the dining room. Undeterred by the tight quarters, the scribes shout out their queries quickly and loudly, without fear of being laughed at by Tom Cruise, and as if there were something urgent about knowing things such as:
-- "How elated must you be about your nomination?"
-- "Are you going to be emotional in your acceptance speech?"
-- "Do you have a big, fashion-designer outfit?"
-- "What's the most fun of being a nominee?
-- "Sam, why has this film hit such a nerve?" (Hint: Always remember to call the nominee by his and/or her first name, all chummy like. Even if you'd never heard of Sam Mendes, the "American Beauty" director guy, until about five months ago.)
-- And, finally: "What was the most difficult part of making this film?" (Word of advice: Don't ask this question of an auteur-type like "The Insider's" Michael Mann unless you're prepared for a long-winded, boring answer.)
In other luncheon fun:
CAN YOU SAY THAT AT THE LUNCHEON? We already know that "Blame Canada," the Oscar-nominated song from "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut," is causing headaches for producers of the Oscar telecast and ABC censors. Now we know why.
Songwriters Trey Parker and Marc Shaiman used the dreaded "F" word no less than a dozen times while speaking to reporters at the luncheon. (In the song, the word is used just once.)
Parker said the flap over how the song will be censored at the awards ceremony hasn't been completely settled. But it's not the "F" word that's the problem (Parker concedes that it will most definitely be cut or bleeped out). He's more surprised that the censors are giving him guff about the word "fart."
Meanwhile, Randy Newman, whose song "When She Loved Me" from "Toy Story 2" is also nominated, threw in a word of support for the "South Park" guys -- er, make that a nonsequitur of support. "I'm glad something got nominated from 'South Park' because it's better than 'Cats,'" Newman said. "I like it. I like my song better, though."
AT EASE: Of all the celebs paraded before the press, Best Actor hopeful Kevin Spacey seemed to be most enjoying his turn in the Oscar limelight. Bleary-eyed and slightly pale after a night of post-SAG Awards partying, Spacey handled the hungry reporters' verbal onslaught with jovial irony. When a post-answer burst of questions caused his (self-described) hungover body to lurch backward, he yelped, "Jesus! Don't do that! I'm not awake!" And when innumerable reporters stepped on top of one another with a question, he said, "I can answer all four of those questions, and it would probably make as much sense as if I'd heard only one of them."
Running a close second in the at-ease department would be almost-octogenarian actor Richard Farnsworth, in the Best Actor race for his role in "The Straight Story," wherein he plays an old guy who drives across the country on a lawn tractor. True to character, Farnsworth said he was milking a cow on his New Mexico farm when he heard he was nominated.
THE ODD COUPLE: Best Supporting Actor nominee Tom Cruise, looking cool in a gray suit and burgundy turtleneck, and "Magnolia" director Paul Thomas Anderson, looking pale-faced, mussy-haired in a slobby red shirt and suit.
SHE'S ALL WOMAN: Hilary Swank gave a great performance as a young woman who blurs the line between male and female in "Boys Don't Cry." But now, the Best Actress nominee seems to be blurring the line herself. In paying lip service to Teena Brandon (aka Brandon Teena), the real-life subject of the film, Swank said, "He was very inspiring to me, because he was somebody who lived his life the way he wanted." He? (For the record, Brandon technically was a she.)
HE DON'T GOT GAME: Who knows what they really think of reporters, but most of the nominees were willing to play the Hollywood game: Show up, meet the press, dish out a few sound bites, go eat lunch. But not Best Actor nominee Denzel Washington. He showed up and met the press, but wasn't generous with the sound bites, avoiding direct answers and opting for a "Well, you know …" until his voice trailed off and you forgot what you asked him (or why you cared) in the first place.
IT'S THE NOMINEES' LUNCHEON, STUPID: Reporters are accustomed to being plied with food and drink, but the Academy don't play that. The libation du jour for the press was … water. Served in carafes. Really. Here's what the stars ate: Salad (mixed greens, fruits and nuts), a platter of appetizers (salmon, cheese, asparagus, etc.), and a main course (grilled shrimp, filet mignon and fresh vegetables).