Americans volunteered to buy over $24 million in basic Training tickets at this weekend's box office.
Driven by powerful openings for Warner Bros.' Training Day and Miramax's Serendipity, ticket sales for key films rose nearly 32 percent over the previous weekend and about 15 percent over the prior year. Insiders called it another clear indication that moviegoing is once again a routine part of American life.
The weekend also benefited from Monday, Oct. 8 being Columbus Day in the U.S. and Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Holiday Mondays typically generate stronger Sunday night ticket sales.
Also helping to propel this weekend's box office were strong sneak previews Saturday night for MGM and Hyde Park Entertainment's comedy Bandits (for details see SNEAK PREVIEWS below).
With the breaking news Sunday morning at about 10 o'clock Pacific time of America's military action in Afghanistan in response to Sept. 11's terrorist bombings in the U.S., it is possible that anticipated Sunday ticket sales may be hurt by non-stop television crisis news coverage. If so, Monday's final numbers will be somewhat less than today's early morning estimates. But with Friday and Saturday ticket sales having already exhibited great strength, Hollywood should look good even if Sunday's numbers are less than projected.
THE TOP TEN
Warner Bros. launched its R rated police corruption drama Training Day to an explosive ESTIMATED $24.18 million at 2,712 theaters ($8,914 per theater).
Training's average per theater was the highest for any film this weekend.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the Warner Bros. presentation in association with Village Roadshow Pictures and NPV Entertainment stars Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke.
"This is the largest opening weekend in Denzel Washington's distinguished career," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "His previous
record was Remember the Titans with $20.9 million (via Buena Vista at 1,865 theaters the weekend of Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2000) and also became his largest grossing film at $115 million (in domestic theaters). This is the largest October opening in Warner history."
Training, Fellman added," performed extremely well in all markets with the largest grosses coming from major urban areas -- New York, L.A., Detroit, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco, Atlanta. The demographics were about 48 percent male and 52 percent female, of which 75 percent were 25 and older. All segments had excellent reactions to the film."
What accounts for the film's strong opening? "I think it really has to be credited to excellent reviews, Denzel's performance and the direction of Antoine Fuqua," Fellman replied. "We're very happy. It's terrific."
Warners originally planned to release Training on Sept. 21, but moved it to Oct. 5 following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Those attacks resulted in the networks pre-empting regular television programming and advertising for days in order to provide wall-to-wall crisis news coverage.
"We needed the time to promote the film and we obviously had to make an adjustment in our release schedule," Fellman explained. "This turned out to be a great date and we made the right choice."
Miramax's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Serendipityarrived in second place to an engaging ESTIMATED $14.0 million at 2,601 theaters ($5,382 per theater).
Directed by Peter Chelsom, it stars John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale.
"It's off to a great start," Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow, said Sunday morning. "I think the sneaks (last Friday and Saturday nights) definitely helped set us up for this weekend because we had great word of mouth out of the sneaks and continue to (have) this weekend. We have, again, 80 percents in the Top Two Boxes and 70 percents definite recommend."
Who was on hand opening weekend? "Our core age demo looks to be 21 to 39, making up about 60 percent of the audience," Kaminow said. "And what's encouraging is we shifted a bit on our male-female split. Where last week it was 65-35 (female-male), we're now looking more like 60 percent female and 40 percent male, which is great because the guys are liking it as much as the women. So we don't have to get pigeonholed as just a female movie. Last night looked to be a big date night movie.
"As I said last week, the movie provides romance and comedy, which is a great combination for all audiences and for right now. For the time, I think it's the perfect movie. It's the first romantic comedy to come out since the tragedies. And it's a love letter to New York, as well. So (for) all of these factors, it just seems like the right movie for the time. We think like Bridget Jones's Diary and The Others earlier in the year, this is going to hang in there and continue to play and be a word of mouth hit and, hopefully, not have the big drops each week and really play through. So it's a very encouraging start and we're very happy."
20th Century Fox's release of Regency Enterprises and Village Roadshow Pictures' R rated thriller Don't Say A Word fell two pegs to third place in its second weekend with a solid sizzling ESTIMATED $10.0 million (-41 percent) at 2,842 theaters (+40 theaters; $3,519 per theater). Its cume is approximately $32.2 million, heading for about $70 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Gary Fleder and produced by Arnon Milchan, Arnold Kopelson and Anne Kopelson, Word stars Michael Douglas.
"There's a lot of business this weekend," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said Sunday morning.
"The marketplace is certainly strong. I only track 12 pictures and I'm up 4 percent from last year."
Asked what accounts for the upswing in ticket sales, Snyder replied, "As always, people are going to the movies and there are some good movies being put out -- and not
with thoughts about just make it soft or whatever. We're putting out regular movies and the public's responding."
Paramount and Village Roadshow Pictures' PG-13 youth appeal comedy Zoolander slipped two slots to fourth place in its second week with a still funny ESTIMATED $9.85 million (-37 percent) at 2,520 theaters (+13 theaters; $3,909 per theater). Its cume is approximately $28.7 million, heading for $45-50 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by and starring Ben Stiller, it was produced by Scott Rudin, Ben Stiller and Stuart Cornfeld.
20th Century Fox and Regency's R rated thriller Joy Ride kicked off quietly in fifth place to an ESTIMATED $7.3 million at 2,496 theaters ($2,955 per theater).
Directed by John Dahl, it stars Steve Zahn, Paul Walker and LeeLee Sobieski.
Buena Vista/Disney's PG rated comedy Max Keeble's Big Move opened in sixth place to a not-so-big ESTIMATED $5.5 million at 2,014 theaters ($2,752 per theater).
Directed by Tim Hill, it stars Alex D. Linz, Larry Miller, Jamie Kennedy, Nora Dunn and Robert Carradine.
Warner Bros.' release of Castle Rock Entertainment's PG-13 rated drama Hearts In Atlantis went wider in its second week, sliding four rungs to seventh place with a slower ESTIMATED $5.4 million (-40 percent) at 2,010 theaters (+259 theaters; $2,687 per theater). Its cume is approximately $16.8 million, heading for about $30 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Scott Hicks, it stars Anthony Hopkins.
Paramount's PG-13 rated urban appeal drama-comedy Hardball slid four notches to eighth place in its fourth week with an okay ESTIMATED $3.7 million (-28 percent) at 2,314 theaters (+96 theaters; $1,599 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.8 million, heading for $40 million.
Directed by Brian Robbins, it stars Keanu Reeves.
Dimension Films' hit PG-13 thriller The Others fell four rungs to ninth place in its ninth week with a less scary ESTIMATED $3.0 million (-39 percent) at 2,272 theaters (-452 theaters; $1,320 per theater). Others, which cost only $17 million to make, has a cume of approximately $90.7 million, heading for $100 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Alejandro Amenabar, it stars Nicole Kidman.
Rounding out the Top Ten was New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated action comedy blockbuster sequel Rush Hour 2, which was sixth last week, with an okay ESTIMATED $1.78 million in its tenth week (-29 percent) at 1,549 theaters (-537 theaters; $1,146 per theater). Its cume is approximately $221.6 million, heading for $225 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Brett Ratner, it stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.
This weekend saw no other wide releases.
This weekend saw MGM hold 1,000 well-attended sneak previews Saturday night of its PG-13 rated comedy Bandits. The sneaks were held at theaters playing Paramount's Hardball, which reflected their success in its Saturday grosses. After doing about $0.9 million on Friday, Hardball soared to about $1.75 million on Saturday, up about 95 percent.
Directed by Barry Levinson, it stars Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett.
"We were two-thirds full overall with 15 percent sell-outs," MGM marketing executive Amanda Lundberg said Sunday morning. "80 percent were in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good). 70 percent definite recommend. The average age was between 25 and 34. It was 52 percent male and 48 percent female.
"We're thrilled. It's exactly what we wanted. It's exactly why you sneak a picture. It's exactly what you hope to get when you sneak a picture."
Bandits opens Friday (Oct. 12) at about 3,000 theaters.
There was no significant action on the expansion front this weekend.
Universal International reported Sunday morning that it had the number one and two films in Germany this weekend with American Pie 2 and Bridget Jones's Diary. Pie 2 in its second week in theaters grossed $3.9 million for Thursday-Saturday, bringing its 10 day cume to $16.6 million, the year's 10-day best for any film playing in Germany. Bridget in its seventh week took in $0.8 million, bringing its 45 day cume to $18 million.
In Austria, Pie 2 was first on the chart in its second week with $0.38 million in ticket sales for Friday-Saturday. Its nine day cume is $1.8 million, matching what Pearl Harbor did but running 47 percent ahead of The Mummy Returns and 145 percent ahead of Jurassic Park III.
In the Netherlands, Pie 2 opened to over $0.5 million for three days, more than double the first four days for the original American Pie.
In Spain, Universal's The Fast and the Furious got off to a strong start this weekend with
$0.55 million for two days. The film was second to Miramax/Dimension's The Others, which has topped the chart in Spain for five weeks.
In its fourth week in the U.K., Fast had a two-day gross of $0.525 million, ranking fifth in the marketplace. In its third week in Australia, it grossed $0.425 million for three days, placing fifth on the chart.
Overall, Universal said Pie 2's international cume is now $22 million with 36 countries still to open. Fast has an international cume of $28 million with 20 countries still to open. Bridget, which Miramax released domestically (and co-financed with Universal), has an international cume that is now over $150 million with 10 countries still to open.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $91.07 million, up about 15.06 percent from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $79.15 million.
This weekend's key film gross was up about 31.64 percent from last weekend of this year, when key films took in approximately $69.18 million.
Last year, Universal's opening week of Meet the Parents was first with $28.62 million at 2,614 theaters ($10,950 per theater); and Buena Vista's second week of Remember the Titans was second with $19.21 million at 2,701 theaters ($7,112 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $47.8 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $38.2 million.