Tomb Raider buried its box office competition this weekend with $48 million in ticket sales.
Paramount and Mutual Film Company's PG-13 rated action adventure Lara Croft: Tomb Raider arrived to a butt kicking ESTIMATED $48.2 million at 3,308 theaters ($14,571 per theater), heading for $140-150 million in domestic theaters.
Tomb's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend. Tomb opened bigger than the similar female power themed Charlie's Angels, which arrived to $40.13 million the weekend of Nov. 3-5, 2000 at 3,037 theaters, averaging $13,213 per theater). Angels, which played through the holiday season rather than the summer, went on to gross $125.3 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Simon West, Tomb stars Angelina Jolie.
Distribution sources noted that Tomb's ticket sales fell from Friday to Saturday by five or six percent instead of going up as is typically the case. Some attributed that decline to the film's unfavorable reviews, saying they kept adults away and that Paramount should not have screened the picture for critics. Other insiders countered that the bad reviews didn't really matter to the film's core audience of young moviegoers and that it wasn't unusual for movies opening so huge to be down a little on Saturday from Friday's heat of opening day.
"I can tell you that it wasn't unexpected," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning about Saturday's drop versus Friday. "I was using X-Men as the comparison to this. Their opening was like $54 million ($54.47 million the weekend of July 14-16, 2000 at 3,025 theaters, averaging $18,007 per theater) versus this one at $48 million. They were down seven percent on Saturday versus Friday and we're down five percent.
"Their Sunday was off 25 percent. I've estimated this one to be off 23 percent Sunday to Saturday, but quite frankly the fact that it's Fathers Day is (helpful because it's) a good movie day. I've looked back (at Sunday versus Saturday drops on Father's Day) and Mission: Impossible 2 was only off 21 percent (and) Shaft was off 11 percent. Most of the films were in the 10 to 15 percent drop on Sunday versus Saturday. So we could actually end up with a little better number."
Driven by Tomb, this Fathers Day weekend's box office for key films -- those grossing at least $500,000 - is about $128 million. Several distributors pointed out that that total is about 35 percent bigger than last year's $94.4 million key film gross and would make this the biggest Fathers Day weekend ever.
As for Tomb's exit polls, Lewellen said, "It was about 55 percent to 45 percent male versus female and younger than older. 25 and under is the majority of the audience. I don't have the breakdown (yet), but the majority of the audience was under 25. The definite recommends were very good -- in the younger audience more so than the older audience."
The film's strong opening came despite largely negative reviews. "I think is one of those films that may be review proof," Lewellen said. "That audience was ready to go see it. Particularly being a younger audience, the reviews don't have as much of an impact as (they would on) an older audience."
Asked where Tomb is heading in domestic theaters, Lewellen said it most likely would be in the $140-150 million range: "Obviously, the key to it is the second weekend and how it holds. If it continues to play along the lines of X-Men, (that) was off 57% the second weekend. If we follow that, you're looking at around $140-145 million." X-Men opened to about $6 million more than Tomb and ended up with $157.2 million in domestic theaters.
Buena Vista/Disney's PG rated animated feature Atlantis went wide after one week of sold-out exclusive engagements in New York and Los Angeles. Atlantis made sizable second place waves with an ESTIMATED $20.35 million at 3,011 theaters (+3,009 theaters; $6,760 per theater). Its cume is approximately $20.9 million.
Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, its voice talents include Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Cree Summer and Leonard Nimoy.
"We're extremely pleased," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "We always set a target of $20 million and to be able to get there in the face of such an overpowering opening by Tomb Raider. I just think is great. We always try to counter program, but who could have ever imagined Tomb Raider to be that big? It's fabulous. I'm just happy to be number two and at a number that is really, really comfortable for everybody."
Asked about audience reaction to the film, Viane noted, "I saw the CinemaScores and they were A-plus for males under 21 and A for females (under 21). For the 21-34s, they were both A and for the 35 and overs, they were both B-plus. I think that says a lot. It shows that both fathers and moms are having a good time at the movie and that obviously helps us a lot because you get the whole family to go together then.
"Historically, what will happen is that your weekdays become that much more important now that it's summertime and everybody's getting out of school. By the time the week's over, I'd imagine we're going to be somewhere around $31 to $32 million and, boy, that's a hell of a start!"
Last summer, BV/Disney's launch of its animated feature Dinosaur opened to $38.85 million the weekend of May 19-21, averaging $11,930 per theater. It went on to gross $137.7 million in domestic theaters.
In the summer of 1999, BV/Disney's animated feature Tarzan kicked off to $34.2 million the weekend of June 18-20, averaging $11,388 per theater. It went on to gross $171.1 million in domestic theaters.
DreamWorks' PG rated computer animated blockbuster Shrek fell one slot to third place in its fifth week, still holding impressively with an ESTIMATED $12.9 million (-22%) at 3,317 theaters (-398 theaters; $3,885 per theater). Its cume is approximately $197.5 million on its way to $250 million or more.
DreamWorks said Sunday morning that it expects Shrek to crack $200 million this Tuesday or Wednesday.
Directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, its voice talents include Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow.
Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow's R rated action thriller Swordfish dropped three rungs to fourth place in its second week, holding well with an ESTIMATED $12.16 million (-33%) at 2,688 theaters (+10 theaters; $4,522 per theater). Its cume is approximately $39.2 million, heading for the $70 millions in domestic theaters.
Directed by Dominic Sena and produced by Joel Silver and Jonathan Krane, it stars John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Don Cheadle.
"We had the largest percentage increase over Friday night -- up 54 percent -- than any other film this weekend," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "Audiences continue to enjoy and recommend the film. They like our cast, they like the movie."
Buena Vista/Touchstone and Jerry Bruckheimer Films' PG-13 rated three hour epic action romance Pearl Harbor slid two levels to fifth place in its fourth weekend with a quieter $9.5 million (-35%) at 3,140 theaters (-115 theaters; $3,025 per theater). Its cume is approximately $159.9 million, on its way to $200 million by late summer.
Directed by Michael Bay, Pearl was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay and written by Randall Wallace. Its extensive cast is led by Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight and Alec Baldwin.
Focusing on where Pearl is heading, BV's Chuck Viane said, "I think it'll take us the rest of the summer (to reach $200 million). The picture shows that it plays very well on Saturday night. I think it'll be around for quite a while and that's the blessing of (having) all these megaplexes."
DreamWorks' and Columbia's PG-13 rated sci-fi comedy Evolution plunged two pegs to sixth place in its second week with a slower ESTIMATED $6.5 million (-52%) at 2,613 theaters (+2 theaters; $2,469 per theater). Its cume is approximately $25.4 million.
Directed by Ivan Reitman, it stars David Duchovny, Orlando Jones, Seann William Scott and Julianne Moore.
Columbia's release of Revolution Studios PG-13 youth appeal comedy The Animal dropped two rungs in its third weekend to seventh place with a slower ESTIMATED $5.7 million (-41%) at 2,741 theaters (-47 theaters; $2,080 per theater). Its cume is approximately $45.4 million, heading. for $55 million or more in domestic theaters.
Directed by Luke Greenfield, it stars Rob Schneider.
20th Century Fox's PG-13 rated romantic musical drama Moulin Rouge slipped two notches in its fifth week (its third in wide release) to eighth place, holding well with an ESTIMATED $5.18 million (-32%) at 2,091 theaters (-192 theaters; $2,475 per theater). Its cume is approximately $36.8 million.
Directed by Baz Luhrmann, it stars Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.
"This is very, very encouraging," Fox distribution executive Rick Myerson said Sunday morning, pointing to the film's good legs. "The other pictures seem to be off a little bit more or about the same, so I think this is really good news for Moulin."
MGM's PG-13 comedy What's The Worst that Could Happen? fell two pegs to ninth place in its third weekend with a dull ESTIMATED $2.75 million (-50%) at 1,927 theaters (-748 theaters; $1,427 per theater). Its cume is approximately $27.3 million.
Directed by Sam Weisman, it stars Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Universal's PG-13 rated adventure blockbuster sequel The Mummy Returns, down two slots in its seventh week with an okay ESTIMATED $2.43 million (-48%) at 1,777 theaters (-763 theaters; $1,370 per theater). Its cume is approximately $193.2 million, heading for $200 million in domestic theaters.
Written and directed by Stephen Sommers, Mummy stars Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz and features an appearance by wrestling star The Rock.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Fox Searchlight's R rated drama "Sexy Beast" to a sexy ESTIMATED $0.18 million at 9 theaters ($20,077 per theater). Its cume after five days is approximately $0.23 million.
Directed by Jonathan Glazer, it stars Ben Kingsley.
"We're thrilled with the excellent opening we had which is really supported by the fantastic reviews that we've gotten almost unanimously across the board," Fox Searchlight distribution president Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning.
"It's a tremendous opening, I think, that shows that counter-programming of good alternative movies in the summertime can work (very well)."
Lions Gate Films' PG-13 rated drama Songcatcher opened to an unexciting ESTIMATED $0.040 million at 7 theaters ($5,686 per theater).
Directed by Maggie Greenwald, it stars Janet McTeer and Aidan Quinn.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front, this weekend saw Miramax's R rated French thriller With a Friend Like Harry... continue to widen in its ninth week with an okay ESTIMATED $0.4 million at 220 theaters (+121 theaters; $1,835 per theater). Its North American cume is approximately $2.6 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.
Fine Line Features' R rated comedy The Anniversary Party went wider in its second week with an encouraging ESTIMATED $0.19 million at 16 theaters (+5 theaters; $11,955 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.4 million.
Written and directed by Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh, its ensemble cast includes Jane Adams, Jennifer Belas, Phoebe Cates, Alan Cumming, Kevin Kline, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gwyneth Paltrow, Parker Posey and John C. Reilly.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $128.01 million, up about 28.56% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $99.58 million.
This weekend's key film gross was up about 35.65% from last weekend this year when key films took in $94.37 million.
Last year, Paramount's opening week of Shaft was first with $21.71 million at 2,337 theaters ($9,292 per theater); and Buena Vista's second week of Gone In 60 Seconds was second with $14.90 million at 3,049 theaters ($4,886 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $36.6 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $68.6 million.
# # #
Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane!
No, it's another "Spider-Man" rumor.
For nearly seven years, speculation has run rampant among comic-book geeks and genre-film fanatics about the red-and-blue building-climbing superhero. Nearly every director worth his box-office salt has been linked to "Spider-Man" at one time or another, beginning with no less than James Cameron ("Titanic") and ending with Sam Raimi ("A Simple Plan," "For Love of the Game"), who is now supposedly the front-runner for the job.
One thing's for certain: "Spider-Man," one of the most highly anticipated films in memory, is now on the fast track at Columbia Pictures. The studio wants to release the film in summer 2001, and that means a director is expected to be hired soon -- perhaps within a few weeks. At long last, Marvel Comics' biggest franchise property will get his big-budget Hollywood makeover, a privilege that, until now, has been afforded only to characters from rival DC Comics (home of Batman and Superman).
"Spider-Man definitely has the potential to be a very successful franchise," says Mirko Parlevliet, creator of the Spider-Man Hype! Web site (www.spidermanhype.com), launched in March 1999 when years of legal battles over Spidey's theatrical rights ended and Marvel and Columbia struck a deal to make the movie.
"Unlike Batman and Superman, Spider-Man is a character many people can identify with," Parlevliet adds. "Peter Parker [the web-slinger's secret identity] is a teen-ager who is always picked on for the wrong reasons." He says Spidey is more realistic and down-to-earth than his DC rivals, a positive role model and a "fun guy" to chill out with. "How can you identify with a millionaire orphan or an alien with superpowers?"
For the record, this won't be the first live-action adaptation of the arachnid-man. There was a short-lived TV series in the late 1970s starring Nicholas Hammond as a pudgy Peter Parker. The show featured neato special-effects tricks, like tilting the camera sideways while Hammond crawled across the side of a wall. There also was a Japanese "Spider-Man" teleseries in the late 1970s, in which the web slinger drove around in a cool racecar. And the infamous Cannon Group proposed a Spider-Man movie during the 1980s but, thankfully, did not follow through. There have also been numerous cartoon series over the years.
The current Spider-Man project began as Cameron's brainchild; he wanted to make the movie immediately after "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." Cameron wrote a lengthy Spidey treatment and Carolco obtained the theatrical rights to the character -- or so it thought. Pretty soon it seemed like everyone in Tinseltown was suing to get a piece of the Peter Parker pie.
By the time Sony/Columbia emerged as the Spidey legal sweepstakes winner, Cameron had signed an exclusive deal with Fox that basically barred him from directing the superflick. However, Sony got the rights to Cameron's treatment, and screenwriter David Koepp ("The Lost World") was hired to fashion a screenplay out of The King of the World's outline.
For the record, the following names have been linked to "Spider-Man" since 1993:
James Cameron, Ron Howard, Tim Burton, Ridley Scott, David Fincher, Chris Columbus, Jan De Bont, Stephen Sommers, Ivan Reitman, Barry Sonnenfeld, Sam Raimi, the Wachowski brothers, Terry Gilliam and Robert Rodriguez, in no particular order, have been rumored to direct.
Charlie Sheen, Corin Nemec ("Parker Lewis Can't Lose"), Michael Biehn ("Aliens," "Terminator"), Bruce Campbell ("Army of Darkness"), Jason Patric, Leonardo DiCaprio, Owen Wilson, Jim Carrey and Australian actor Heath Ledger ("10 Things I Hate About You") have all been rumored to star as Peter Parker/Spidey.
In the villain department, Jack Nicholson has been pegged as Spider-Man's arch nemesis, the Green Goblin, while Arnold Schwarzenegger could play either Doctor Octopus or Venom, according to the rumor mill. There hasn't been much talk about who might play Peter's girlfriend, Mary Jane, or his editor at the Daily Bugle, the hot-headed J. Jonah Jameson.
David Mamet, if you believe the latest word, has been secretly hired by Columbia to revamp David Koepp's screenplay.
For the uninitiated, "Spider-Man" (the comic book) is the story of Peter Parker, a high school whiz kid who is bitten by a radioactive spider during a biology experiment. The bite gives Peter some nifty powers, like the ability to walk on walls, and enhanced strength and agility, plus a "spider sense" that enables him to detect danger.
Peter is also a gifted inventor; he creates wrist-mounted "web-shooters" that spray a sticky compound resembling a spider's web, from which he swings from skyscraper to skyscraper. Peter dons a Spider-Man suit and greedily uses his powers for personal gain (he becomes quite a celebrity) until his uncle is killed by robbers and he re-dedicates his life to fighting crime. Peter becomes a newspaper photographer, using a well-placed, timer-activated camera to snap pictures of himself (as Spider-Man) in action.
One major issue that remains to be decided is whether Columbia's film will be based on the old-school, idealistic Spidey comics of the 1960s, or one of several more recent incarnations, such as comics guru Todd McFarlane's dark, moody version.
"I'd prefer to see Spider-Man done old school," said Rob Worley, Webmaster of the Comics 2 Film Web site (www.comics2film.com), which tracks (what else?) comic books optioned by Hollywood. "The thing that made Spider-Man great (the thing that current writers of the comic have forgotten) is that the character, under the mask, was so relatable. Peter Parker is an Everyman. He's not some square-jawed, iron-willed vision of perfection. He's a kid who has all the normal problems that a regular young man has, in addition to the monkey wrench of having the great power that he feels compelled to use responsibly."
Now it remains to be seen whether Spidey can escape the curse -- real or imagined -- that has plagued film adaptations of other Marvel Comics franchises in the 1990s.
Witness "Captain America," a 1992 film version of Marvel's Nazi-fighting hero, starring Matt Salinger. In this barely watchable, low-budget film (which was widely advertised for a theatrical release, then instead went straight-to-video), the Cap's evil foe Red Skull is inexplicably Italian, not German, and the villain wears an embarrassing rubber mask.
Then there is "The Fantastic Four," a $2 million epic shot by Roger Corman's (say no more) Concorde Pictures, and then suddenly shelved before release when Marvel cut a new deal with 20th Century Fox wherein Chris Columbus was to direct a new megabudget version.
"I have a sentimental attachment to The Fantastic Four, and I was heartbroken to think it might appear only as a low-budget quickie," Marvel godfather Stan Lee told Entertainment Weekly. That was way back in 1994. There has been nary a peep about the film since.
Rights have been acquired and screenplays have been written for film versions of The Incredible Hulk and Silver Surfer, two Marvel properties with amazing potential, but both have landed in development hell.
So far, the only Marvel property to get a (fairly) big-budget film adaptation is New Line's "Blade" (1998) starring Wesley Snipes. New Line is currently developing an Iron Man movie, with Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott ("The Mask of Zorro") writing the screenplay and Tom Cruise supposedly interested in the starring role as reclusive billionaire/inventor/superhero Tony Stark.
Worley says one reason that Marvel's film adaptations have mostly been low-budget has to do with poor licensing decisions made by the comic book company that gave Marvel little say in the way the movies were made.
"I recall readi g a letter from Stan Lee [in a comics trade magazine] around the time the low-budget Fantastic Four movie was due to come out. Lee said fans asked him all the time why Marvel movies sucked. He promised fans that it was due to bad negotiating on Marvel's part and ... no movies would be made from that point forward without Marvel having a say in things. So Marvel sold off their movie rights, cheap, to filmmakers who didn't get it."
Now all fanboys' eyes will be on Fox's "X-Men," due out this summer from director Brian Singer and starring Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, Halle Berry and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
"In the past, it seemed the low-budget constraints hurt Marvel's superhero adaptations," says Parlevliet. The X-Men film, he says, will be Marvel's big test. "If it succeeds, the film will set the stage for many similar projects in the future. There really is no such thing as a Marvel curse. It's just hard to adapt a comic book and make it believable on the big screen."