Julia Roberts showed great box-office legs as Universal's "Erin Brockovich" held on to the top spot on the chart.
"Erin Brockovich" The R-rated dramatic comedy, co-financed by Universal and Columbia, finished first in its second week with a sexy estimated $19.03 million (-32%) at 2,851 theaters (+3 theaters, $6,675 per theater). Its total to date is approximately $56.3 million.
"This is a picture that is obviously a crowd pleaser," Universal Distribution President Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "The exit polls were very indicative that the picture would have legs, and now we're just playing out.
"It's a difficult marketplace because the Academy Awards (Best Picture nominees) did take a huge visibility on a weekend like this. It's quite obvious when you look at what 'Cider House Rules' and 'American Beauty' did. There were tons of activity last night on the Academy nominated films. We had calculated this into the (release) plan. That's why we opened last weekend."
How will Sunday's Oscar telecast affect "Erin"? "We certainly feel that 'Erin' will suffer," Rocco replied. "We would normally have a great Sunday with this kind of film, and we know it will be impacted to some extent. We show that we're down 32% in our estimate. If it weren't for the Oscars, we probably would have been down 20%."
A drop of only 20% would have given "Erin" a gross of about $22.5 million for the weekend, about $3.5 million more than it's likely to wind up with, given its Oscar competition.
"We've got our version of Super Tuesday going the weekend of April 7, where we have six major (international) territories releasing, including the U.K., Spain and Germany," Sony Pictures Releasing President Jeff Blake said Sunday morning.
"I think it's a real sign of the times that even though Erin Brockovich is not a familiar name (abroad), certainly Julia Roberts is not an unfamiliar name. So we felt good about being aggressive and putting the international territories very close to the U.S. date. I think the tremendous publicity it's getting out of its back-to-back No. 1 finishes -- and I wouldn't bet against it next week, either -- will really put us in a great place. I think pretty much everyone around the world has now heard of 'Erin Brockovich.'"
Sony and Universal, he noted, "are 50% partners in everything around the world. They're releasing domestic, and we're releasing internationally."
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, it stars Roberts, Albert Finney and Aaron Eckart.
Warner Bros.' R-rated hip-hop, kung-fu movie "Romeo Must Die" kicked off in second place with a knock 'em dead estimated $18.58 million at 2,641 theaters ($7,035 per theater). Its total to date after five days is approximately $25.1 million.
Its per-theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak and produced by Joel Silver and Jim Van Wyck, it stars Jet Li, Aaliyah, Russell Wong, DMX and Delroy Lindo.
"'Romeo' is performing extremely well," Warner Bros. Distribution President Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "The exit polls are excellent. CinemaScore actually ranked it an A-minus, which parallels our own exits. The majority of the audience is split evenly between male and female under 25. That's driven by Jet Li, Aaliyah, the music, the MTV video and, of course, a fantastic campaign created by (Warners' creative advertising head) Joel Wayne.
"It's the second-largest three-day opening of any action-adventure movie from January through April. That's only behind 'The Matrix.' Joel Silver has one and two (having produced 'Matrix' for Warners)."
New Line's R-rated suspense thriller "Final Destination" held on to third place in its second weekend, holding well with an estimated $7.10 million (-29%) at 2,587 theaters (theater count unchanged, $2,744 per theater). Its total to date is approximately $20.3 million.
Directed by James Wong, it stars Devon Sawa, Ali Larter and Kerr Smith.
"We're thrilled out of our minds," New Line distribution head David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. "For a teen-age horror picture to drop 29% when we had two teen-age pictures plus 'Romeo Must Die' open up on top of us -- it's terrific. We were hoping (for only a) 40% drop. Six million dollars would have been great."
Where does it wind up? "I would say it's going to be $35 million," Tuckerman speculated.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's "Mission to Mars" was falling in its third week, down two orbits to fourth place with a slower estimated $5.80 million (-48%) at 3,101 theaters (+41 theaters, $1,870 per theater). Its total to date is approximately $49.3 million.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13-rated romantic drama "Here on Earth" arrived in fifth place with a quiet estimated $4.60 million at 1,712 theaters ($2,687 per theater).
Directed by Mark Piznarski and produced by David T. Friendly, it stars Chris Klein, Leelee Sobieski and Josh Hartnett.
Columbia's PG-13-rated teen-appeal romantic comedy "Whatever It Takes" from Phoenix Pictures took only enough ticket sales to open in sixth place with a calm estimated $4.30 million at 2,272 theaters ($1,893 per theater).
Directed by David Raynr, it stars Shane West, Marla Sokoloff and Jodi Lyn O'Keefe.
"It's a $15 million picture (in terms of cost), and we should gross that," Sony Pictures Releasing President Jeff Blake pointed out Sunday morning. "And with spring break coming up, the weekdays should be pretty good. We certainly won't get hurt. And it should have nice ancillaries."
DreamWorks' R-rated drama "American Beauty," the front-running Best Picture Oscar contender, held on to seventh place in its 28th week with a still beautiful estimated $3.90 million (+25%) at 1,662 theaters (+1 theater, $2,347 per theater). Its total to date is approximately $108.4 million.
Directed by Sam Mendes, it stars Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening.
Warner Bros. PG-rated family drama "My Dog Skip" from Alcon Entertainment fell four rungs to eighth place in its 11th week with an OK estimated $3.24 million (-38%) at 2,331 theaters (theater count unchanged, $1,390 per theater). Its total to date is approximately $26.2 million.
Directed by Jay Russell, "Skip" stars Frankie Muniz, Diane Lane, Luke Wilson and Kevin Bacon.
Miramax's PG-13-rated Best Picture Oscar contender "The Cider House Rules" fell one notch to ninth in its 16th week with a solid estimated $2.80 million (+13%) at 1,671 theaters (-67 theaters, $1,675 per theater). Its total to date is approximately $49.7 million.
Directed by Lasse Hallström, it stars Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo, Paul Rudd and Michael Caine.
"It was at $23 million before the nominations," Miramax's David Kaminow, senior vice president for marketing, pointed out Sunday morning. He noted that "Cider" had more than doubled its total to date thanks to its high profile in the Oscar race (with seven nominations).
Rounding out the Top Ten was Warner Bros.' "The Whole Nine Yards," the R-rated 'hit' comedy from Morgan Creek and Franchise Pictures, down four pegs in its sixth weekend with a quieter estimated $2.08 million (-37%) at 2,109 theaters (-394 theaters, $985 per theater). Its total to date is approximately $54.2 million.
Directed by Jonathan Lynn, "Yards" stars Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry.
OTHER OPENINGS Last weekend also saw the arrival of USA Films' R-rated drama "Waking the Dead," placing 26th with a not very lively estimated $0.18 million at 63 theaters ($2,860 per theater).
Directed by Keith Gordon, it stars Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly.
SNEAK PREVIEWS Last weekend saw MGM hold 640 sneak previews Saturday night of its PG-rated romantic comedy "Return to Me."
"They were s upendous," an MGM spokesperson said Sunday morning. "About 60% were either sold out or three-quarters full. We did exit polls, and 85% were in the Top Two Boxes (excellent or very good) with an 80% definite recommend. They're pretty tremendous. It was 60% female."
"Return" opens Apr. 7 at about 2,000 theaters.
Directed by Bonnie Hunt, it stars David Duchovny and Minnie Driver.
EXPANSIONS On the expansion front, last weekend saw Fox Searchlight's "Boys Don't Cry" widen in its 24th week, placing 17th and benefiting from its Oscar acting nominations with an estimated $0.77 million (+51%) at 285 theaters (+25 theaters, $2,712 per theater). Its total to date is approximately $7.9 million.
Directed by Kimberly Peirce, it stars Hilary Swank, a leading contender in the Best Actress Oscar race, and Chloë Sevigny, a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee.
"It's caught four waves of publicity," Fox Searchlight Distribution President Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning. "The year-end Best Actress critics awards. Then it got the Golden Globes. Then it got the (Oscar) nominations. Two weeks ago, (Swank) had a round of publicity through all the talk shows -- from Charlie Rose to Rosie -- and then this week we've got the awards. With The Wall Street Journal (prediction that Swank would win), she got a whole new wave (of publicity). It's absolutely phenomenal.
"The surge that we've seen (is) in many of the theaters that have playing a long time. At the Sunset (in West Hollywood), in the 23rd week, it's up 80% this weekend. It's quite extraordinary. In New York City, theaters are up 40-50-60%, theaters that have been playing it for months. Each time we've had a round of publicity, it sort of reaches the consciousness of another group of moviegoers."
USA Films PG-rated suspense drama reissue "Rear Window" widened in its 10th week, placing 29th with a quiet estimated $0.069 million (-22%) at 39 theaters (+2 theaters, $1,780 per theater). Its total to date is approximately $1.4 million.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, it stars James Stewart and Grace Kelly. Robert Harris and James Katz restored the 1954 film classic.
WEEKEND COMPARISONS Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $80.41 million, up about 23.20% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $65.27 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down about 6.95% from this year's previous weekend, when key films grossed $86.42 million.
Last year, DreamWorks' second week of "Forces of Nature" was first with $9.44 million at 2,224 theaters ($4,244 per theater) and Warner Bros.' fourth week of "Analyze This" was second with $8.67 million at 2,537 theaters ($3,418 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $18.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $37.6 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES Based on business by key films, last weekend's top six distributors were the following:
Warner Bros. was first with four films ("Romeo Must Die," "My Dog Skip," "The Green Mile" and "The Whole Nine Yards") grossing an estimated $24.52 million or 30.5% of the market.
Universal was second with one film ("Erin Brockovich") grossing an estimated $19.03 million or 23.7% of the market.
Buena Vista (Disney, Touchstone) was third with four films ("Mission to Mars," "The Tigger Movie," "The Sixth Sense" and "Fantasia 2000") grossing an estimated $9.40 million or 11.7% of the market.
New Line was fourth with one film ("Final Destination") grossing an estimated $7.10 million or 8.8% of the market.
20th Century Fox (Fox and Fox Searchlight) was fifth with two films ("Here on Earth" and "Wonder Boys") grossing an estimated $5.37 million or 6.7% of the market.
Sony Pictures Releasing (Columbia and TriStar) was sixth with one film ("Whatever It Takes") grossing an estimated $4.30 million or 5.3% of the market.
(11) "The Ninth Gate"/Artisan Theaters: 1,684 (+37) Gross: $1.72 million (-51%) Average per theater: $1,015 Total to date: $15.4 million
(12) "Fantasia 2000"/BV/Disney Theaters: 54 (0) (all IMAX) Gross: $1.40 million (domestic) (-8%) Average per theater: $26,123 Total to date: $36 million (domestic)
(13) "The Sixth Sense"/BV/Touchstone Theaters: 876 (-2) Gross: $1.30 million (+25%) Average per theater: $1,500 Total to date: $290.3 million
(14) "Snow Day"/Paramount Theaters: 1,924 (-463) Gross: $0.88 million (-60%) Average per theater: $455 Total to date: $57.7 million
(15) "The Tigger Movie"/BV/Disney Theaters: 1,360 (-341) Gross: $0.90 million (-49%) Average per theater: $665 Total to date: $43.0 million
(16) "Drowning Mona"/Destination Theaters: 1,126 (-587) Gross: $0.79 million (-54%) Average per theater: $705 Total to date: $14.8 million
(17) "Boys Don't Cry"/Fox Searchlight (see EXPANSIONS above)
(18) "Wonder Boys"/Paramount Theaters: 1,210 (-248) Gross: $0.69 million (-42%) Average per theater: $570 Total to date: $18 million
(19) "The Next Best Thing"/Paramount Theaters: 1,682 (-353) Gross: $0.66 million (-60%) Average per theater: $390 Total to date: $14.5 million
(20) "Pitch Black"/USA Films Theaters: 917 (-467) Gross: $0.65 million (-55%) Average per theater: $705 Total to date: $37.6 million
(21) "The Green Mile"/Castle Rock/Warner Bros. Theaters: 438 (-335) Gross: $0.51 million (-15%) Average per theater: $1,164 Total to date: $135.1 million
(22) "Reindeer Games"/Dimension Theaters: 941 (-760) Gross: $0.49 million (-63%) Average per theater: $515 Total to date: $22.8 million
(23) "Beyond the Mat"/Lions Gate Theaters: 298 (0) Gross: $0.38 million (-61%) Average per theater: $1,260 Total to date: $1.6 million
(24) "3 Strikes"/MGM Theaters: 544 (-134) Gross: $0.36 million (-64%) Average per theater: $650 Total to date: $9.3 million
(25) "Scream 3"/Dimension Theaters: 763 (-553) Gross: $0.32 million (-65%) Average per theater: $415 Total to date: $86.5 million
(26) "Waking the Dead"/USA Films (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(27) "The Hurricane"/Universal Theaters: 306 (-30) Gross: $0.13 million (-35%) Average per theater: $425 Total to date: $50 million
(28) "Topsy-Turvy"/USA Films Theaters: 101 (-8) Gross: $0.13 million (-6%) Average per theater: $1,260 Total to date: $5.6 million
(29) "Rear Window"/USA Films (see EXPANSIONS above)
At the holiday weekend box office, Oliver Stone's homage to football scored, while Jim Carrey's homage to Andy Kaufman fumbled.
Director Stone's "Any Given Sunday," released by Warner Bros. and starring Al Pacino, and Cameron Diaz, was No. 1, grossing $14.2 million Friday through Sunday, studio estimates say. The film opened Wednesday in 2,505 theaters and averaged $5,669 per screen over the weekend, and has pulled in an estimated $21.3 million in its first five days.
But perhaps the biggest story of the weekend was all the money "Man on the Moon" didn't pull in. The Andy Kaufman biopic, starring Jim Carrey as the late "Taxi" comedian, is not expected to earn more than about $9 million for the Friday-Sunday weekend and $13.8 million for the week. (Like the Stone film, "Man on the Moon" opened Wednesday.)
"I think we pretty much expected this, given the fact that it's different from any other Jim Carrey movie and given the challenge of the material," Universal Vice President Jeff Sakson said today. "We didn't expect it to be No. 1 in its opening weekend, but we believe it will grow based on word of mouth."
"Man on the Moon" does indeed have lots of room to grow--it bowed in a (relatively) lowly sixth place. And if Universal wasn't expecting "Man on the Moon" to open big dollarwise, it certainly opened the film big theaterwise--putting it up on 2,079 venues where it averaged $4,329 per screen.
The real star of the weekend, meanwhile, might just be the No. 2 finisher. "The Talented Mr. Ripley," released on Christmas Day by Paramount and Miramax and boasting the Oscar-winning talents of Matt Damon (cast against type as an opportunistic serial killer), Gwyneth Paltrow and director Anthony Minghella ("The English Patient"), wrapped up the second spot with an estimated $13.8 million at 2,307 theaters, for an average of $5,982 per screen. That tidy sum was accumulated in just two days.
"If you look at the two-day figures [Saturday and Sunday], we are No. 1, and we are thrilled with that," Blaise Noto, Paramount's vice president of worldwide publicity, said today.
"We expect it to do even better next week as word-of-mouth spreads, because this film delivers what it promises and the reviews have been great across the country, averaging three to five stars. And now we've got a whole week of uninterrupted holiday playing time," Noto said.
Not unexpectedly, Warners--the studio behind "Any Given Sunday"--refused to yield a yard.
"This is the biggest opening weekend ever for an Oliver Stone film," Warner Bros. distribution president Dan Fellman said this morning. "Before this, his biggest was 'Natural Born Killers,' had about $11 million in its first weekend in 1993. We love this movie and we expected it to do well, so we are not surprised at the critical and commercial response."
The kiddie pics "Toy Story 2" and "Stuart Little" continued to perform well at the box office and were tied for the No. 3 spot. In its sixth week of release, Disney's "Toy" posted $12.5 million, up 3 percent over last weekend. "Toy" continued to play in an impressive 3,151 theaters, averaging $3,967 per screen. Its cumulative gross is now an estimated $179.7 million.
Columbia's "Stuart Little," which was last weekend's No. 1 flick, also grossed an estimated $12.5 million, a drop-off of 17 percent. The movie, which features the voice of Michael J. Fox as author E.B. White's famed talking mouse, averaged $4,310 per screen in 2,900 theaters. That film has now grossed approximately $40.2 million in two weeks.
"It's looking like one of the season's hits," said Jeff Blake, Columbia president of worldwide distribution. "The kids' pictures are not favored over Christmas weekend because families with children are staying home, so we're very pleased. We expect [Stuart Little's grosses] to be up next week, because the kids are out of school."
Warner Bros. "The Green Mile," starring Tom Hanks, earned just over $9 million for the weekend, according to estimates, edging out "Man on the Moon" by just $40,000 for No. 5. Experts said "Mile" and "Man on the Moon" could flip-flop in the ranks by the time actual ticket-sales numbers are calculated.
"The Green Mile," adapted from Stephen King's series of novellas about a death-row inmate gifted with miraculous healing powers, has grossed an estimated $52.8 million in three weeks of release. At 2,875 theaters, it averaged about $3,144 per screen, a 29 percent drop compared to last weekend, when the film was No. 2 at the box office.
The bottom half of the Christmas weekend Top 10 was occupied by comedies and family fare. Disney's "Bicentennial Man," starring Robin Williams, dropped two places to No. 7 in its second weekend. On the upside, the critically panned robot saga held its own, grossing an estimated $8.3 million for the second weekend in a row. The movie averaged $3,000 per screen in 2,767 theaters. Its overall take stands at $22.5 million.
In addition to "The Talented Mr. Ripley," one other film was given a wide release on Christmas Day. Dreamworks' "Galaxy Quest," a knowing spoof of "Star Trek," came in at No. 8 in the weekend box office race. The film, starring Tim Allen as a Shatner-esque sci-fi icon, bowed in 2,412 theaters and grossed $8.1 million over Saturday and Sunday, for an average of $3,358 per screen.
With surprisingly strong legs, the R-rated Disney-backed comedy "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" stood firm in the Top 10 for the third straight weekend despite its no-star cast (led by "Saturday Night Live" alumnus Rob Schneider as a bumbling male prostitute). "Deuce" earned an estimated $6.2 million at 2,162 theaters, for an average of 2,868 per screen. The low-budget feature has now grossed $35.4 million.
Rounding out the Top 10 was 20th Century Fox's "Anna and the King," starring Jodie Foster and Hong Kong star Chow Yun-Fat. The film dropped four notches in its second weekend, grossing $4.1 million at 2,140 theaters, averaging 2,196 per screen. "Anna" has now grossed $13.5 million in two weeks.
Several films that had been Top 10 mainstays were eliminated from contention during the Christmas weekend. The latest James Bond actioneer "The World Is Not Enough" slipped four places to No. 11; Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" fell two notches to No. 12; and Arnold Schwarzenegger's would-be comeback vehicle, the apocalyptic thriller "End of Days," slipped five places to No. 13. The latter film has earned just $60.8 million after five weeks.
Estimates released by Exhibitor Relations Co., the box-office tracking firm, indicate that movie attendance for the top-grossing features declined about 27 percent compared to Christmas 1998. Although the actual ticket sales figures won't be tallied until Monday, it appears that the box-office total won't surpass last year's record of $147.5 million, as some experts had predicted.
Five films were released this week in limited runs--the better to qualify for the Academy Awards. Sony's "Girl, Interrupted," with Winona Ryder as a patient in a women's mental hospital, opened Tuesday in nine theaters, earning an estimated $206,000 for the week. Universal's "Snow Falling on Cedars," a thriller starring Ethan Hawke, opened Wednesday in three theaters and grossed $49,000 through Sunday. Paramount's "Angela's Ashes," based on author Frank McCourt's best-selling memoir, earned $60,000 in six theaters since opening on Christmas. Fox Searchlight's "Titus," starring Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange, bowed in two theaters and made $25,000 over the weekend. Disney's "Play it to the Bone," starring Woody Harrelson and Antonio Banderas, opened in one theater and grossed $3,660 for the Saturday-Sunday period.
Brace yourself Dr. Laura. This clueless teen queen (Natasha Lyonne) has it all: good looks a football captain boyfriend and a popular pair of pom-poms. But her candy-colored world crumbles when her panicked parents stage an intervention after finding a Melissa Etheridge poster that leads them to conclude she's a friend of Ellen. After being carted off to an anti-gay rehab camp for teens the perky princess must choose between the straight and narrow-minded or the love that dare not speak its name.
The quirky ensemble casting is half this film's fun. Lyonne is charming as the pepster tempted by T&A and she sparks onscreen with swanky and sexy co-star Clea DuVall who plays the butch femme fatale suitor (alarmingly reminiscent of Nancy McKeon's Jo from "The Facts of Life.") Drag queen supreme RuPaul is unrecognizable out of his high heels and even higher blond wig wearing a "Straight is Great" T-shirt as a macho militant ex-gay counselor. Cathy Moriaty is sweetly sinister as the homophobic headmistress and Mink Stole steals scenes as the uptight upright meddling mom.
Kudos to Jamie Babbit for tackling this hot-potato topic but this well-intentioned film too often misses its mark turning potentially comical scenes into unbearably awkward moments. Babbit fouls when tugging at the heartstrings but hits home runs when the humor is at its broadest.