A truly animated $63.5 million opening for Monsters Inc. sent the weekend box office soaring nearly 45 percent over last year.
The huge weekend was driven by Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar’s Monsters launch and also by a $20 million second place kickoff for Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures’ The One, marking the biggest opening ever for a film with Jet Li in a starring role.
Ticket sales for key films reached a summer-like total of over $143 million with business up nearly 80 percent over the previous weekend’s $79.8 million.
Insiders said with the marketplace doing so well overall, Hollywood has succeeded in extending the lucrative holiday moviegoing season into the first weekend of November. This release pattern is now virtually certain to be repeated in the future.
The weekend’s third high-profile wide opening, Paramount’s Domestic Disturbance starring John Travolta, finished third with $14.5 million, making less of a disturbance than insiders had anticipated. Based on its strong showing on Hollywood’s advance radar screen, Disturbance was expected to land in second place with $15-20 million.
THE TOP TEN
Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar Animation Studios’ G rated animated feature Monsters Inc. easily captured first place with blockbuster ticket sales of an ESTIMATED $63.5 million at 3,237 theaters ($19,600 per theater).
Monster‘s average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Monsters‘ opening compares very favorably to the Thanksgiving 1999 launch for Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story 2, which grossed $57.4 million for the three day portion (Friday-Sunday) of its five day period, benefiting from the fact that it was a holiday weekend. TS2 went on to gross $245.8 million in domestic theaters.
“It’s the largest animated (opening) in history,” Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. “It not only sets up the Christmas season, but it (shows what really can be done in) that first weekend of November where we’ve seen $40 million grosses happen time and time again. Now we’ve just brought this level to an unbelievable plateau.”
What accounts for Monsters‘ monster numbers? “The bottom line is-it’s all about a great story,” Viane explained. “There’s no question those guys made a great movie. Oren (Aviv, president of Buena Vista Pictures Marketing) and his team made the marketing work. Obviously, we were in all the right locations. You can’t do this (kind of blockbuster business) unless you’ve got seats.”
The film’s solid success shows, he added, that “If the product’s there, the audience is there.”
Where is it likely to wind up domestically? “I don’t know,” Viane replied. “The playability (is there). We saw the CinemaScores, which (were) four A-pluses and two A’s, which means the audience loves it. Obviously, there’s strong competition to fight our way through the Christmas holidays, but I think the playability and the fact that that it’s such a great story (will be very helpful). We’re going to have so much in the bank before we face real head to head competition that who knows where it goes?”
Asked about the opening weekend audience, Viane said, “It’s so unusual. We started with shows as early as 9:30 a.m. at the El Capitan (Theater in Hollywood) and at 11:30 at night we had 539 people at (that late night) show. Now you know that that’s not families. Obviously, it’s predominantly kids, but we have played through every teenage range, every 20-30-and-40 range, adult ranges. It’s everybody. You can’t do this kind of number unless you’re playing to everybody.”
Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures’ PG-13 rated sci-fi action adventure The One kicked off in second place to a much stronger than anticipated ESTIMATED $20.0 million at 2,894 theaters ($6,911 per theater).
“I think we owe (the hefty opening) to really great action and great special effects. I think the PG-13 rating allowed it to appeal to a wide audience,” Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning.
“Women in the exit surveys seemed to enjoy it as much as men because it really was not a dark picture at all. It was fun. I think this is the first time (a film with Jet Li in a starring role) has been rated PG-13. We are his biggest (opening in) a starring role. Romeo Must Die opened Mar. 22, 2000 to $18.0 million and ended up doing $56 million. That’s a nice neighborhood to be in. Kiss of the Dragon opened July 1 of this year and grossed $13.3 million. It ended up doing $37 million. Both of those were R rated. This is his first PG-13 and, I think, the first time he really had a chance to appeal to wide audiences.”
One opened to “a wide range of ages and a wide range of ethnicities, too. It really popped in the suburban malls as well as some of the urban centers and (did very well with Asian moviegoers) on the West Coast. So we really got a wide audience on this one and I think that’s what expanded it and allowed it to beat some of the estimates.
“I think the key thing is that it appealed to a wide audience-much wider than you’d normally expect in a martial arts films. We were able to break through that barrier. I think the special effects were incredible so it wasn’t (just) a plain action film. And the PG-13 rating really allowed us to break through to some new fans.”
Asked why it performed so much better than insiders had expected to see it do, Blake said, “I think people viewed this, perhaps, as a narrow film (with appeal only to) young males. While that certainly was a great audience for us, we were able to (attract a broader audience).”
Blake pointed to the industry’s strong performance overall this weekend and said, “It’s great to be a part of sort of a kick off of the holiday season. I think it’s clear that moviegoing is still a very viable option (for the public) and if the product is there that appeals to a wide audience very clearly (it’s going to do business). I think we’ll see that will be true right through the next couple of months. We’ve got a lot riding on it with Not Another Teen Movie and Ali and Black Hawk Down getting started in limited release. So we’re betting on the next couple of months.”
Paramount’s PG-13 rated thriller Domestic Disturbance made less noise than expected, opening in third place to an ESTIMATED $14.5 million at 2,910 theaters ($4,983 per theater).
“I think this number is the result of a couple of things-one being the success of Monsters, which did a lot more business than anyone had anticipated,” Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning.
“I think to get that level of business, they (Monsters) had to play to everybody. They couldn’t just play to young kids. Certainly, the people who take the young kids are the families or older females primarily, which was our audience we thought. Monsters impacted our number. I don’t think there’s any question about it. I don’t think The One affected us as much as Monsters‘ gross did. I think the World Series had an effect, to some extent. And this war that’s going on certainly had an effect on everybody, to some extent.”
Asked who was on hand for Disturbance, Lewellen said the studio’s exit polls showed the audience was, “58 percent female and 42 percent male. The Top Two Boxes were 88 percent (excellent and very good) and the Definite Recommend was 72 percent.”
Universal and Intermedia Films’ PG-13 rated drama K-PAX fell three slots in its second week to fourth place with an okay ESTIMATED $10.66 million (-38%) at 2,545 theaters ($4,190 per theater). Its cume is approximately $32.1 million.
Warner Bros. and Columbia Pictures’ Thirteen Ghosts, a Dark Castle Entertainment production, slid three notches to fifth place in its second week with a less scary ESTIMATED $7.96 million (-48%) at 2,781 theaters ($2,862 per theater). Its cume is approximately $27.8 million.
Asked if this weekend’s strong business is a good sign that people will be going to the movies during the upcoming holiday season, Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning, “It’s great. One thing we know (is that) good movies rise to the occasion. People want to go out. They want to be entertained. I think it’s a great sign for everybody and we’re especially excited now about the prospects for Harry Potter.”
Warners’ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone opens Nov. 16. “We’re certainly going to be over 3,000 screens-probably 3,500 or something like that,” Fellman said.
Columbia’s PG-13 rated comedy drama Riding In Cars With Boys dropped two rungs in its third week to sixth place with a slower ESTIMATED $4.5 million (-25%) at 2,554 theaters (-216 theaters; $1,762 per theater). Its cume is approximately $24.8 million on its way to $35 million in domestic theaters.
20th Century Fox’s R rated thriller From Hell slipped four slots to seventh place in its third week with an anemic ESTIMATED $3.72 million (-38%) at 1,945 theaters (-389 theaters; $1,910 per theater). Its cume is approximately $25.5 million
Warner Bros. R rated police corruption drama Training Day slid three slots to eighth place in its fifth week with a quieter ESTIMATED $3.15 million (-359) at 1,805 theaters (-523 theaters; $1,745 per theater). Its cume is approximately $69.7 million, heading for $80 million in domestic theaters.
MGM and Hyde Park Entertainment’s PG-13 rated comedy Bandits fell three pegs to ninth place in its fourth weekend with a less charming ESTIMATED $3.0 million (-41%) at 2,116 theaters (-899 theaters; $1,419 per theater). Its cume is approximately $36.4 million.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Miramax’s PG-13 rated romantic comedy Serendipity, down three pegs in its fifth week with an okay ESTIMATED $2.5 million (-34%) at 1,640 theaters (-563 theaters; $1,524 per theater). Its cume is approximately $43.6 million.
This weekend also saw the arrival of USA Films’ R rated black and white drama The Man Who Wasn’t There to a muscular ESTIMATED $0.673 million at 39 theaters ($17,772 per theater). Its cume after five days is approximately $0.7 million.
“We did really well,” USA Films distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. “It’s the fifth highest platform print average ever. We’re behind Boogie Nights, Quiz Show, Fargo and The Shawshank Redemption.”
Insiders noted that Man‘s launch is all the more impressive considering its very modest marketing budget. The film’s campaign was essentially print only, with only very limited television advertising on opening day in New York and L.A.
“This gross could have been bigger except for the World Series,” Foley explained. “In New York and Phoenix clearly were affected by it. You could see the gross drop from Friday to Saturday for obvious reasons (in those markets).”
Miramax Zoe Films’ opening of its R rated French comedy Amelie got off to a very promising start with an ESTIMATED $0.14 million at 3 theaters (2 theaters in New York and 1 in Los Angeles), averaging $46,666 per theater.
“Amelie expands to the top 40 markets on Nov. 9 with about 50 runs,” Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow said Sunday morning, very pleased with the film’s platform launch
This weekend saw 20th Century Fox hold 500 well attended national sneak previews Friday night of its PG-13 rated romantic comedy Shallow Hal, opening wide this Friday (Nov. 9).
“Friday night we sneaked Shallow Hal in 500 theaters in the U.S. and Canada,” Fox distribution executive vice president Rick Myerson said Sunday morning. “We had between 90-95 percent fill-ups. The audience was evenly distributed between men and women and they seemed to equally like it exactly the same. 99 percent fell into the top two categories, very good and excellent. And it looks exciting for this weekend.”
On the expansion front this weekend saw New Line Cinema go wider in its second week with its R rated drama Life as a House, building nicely with an ESTIMATED $0.674 million at 88 theaters (+59 theaters; $7,670 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.1 million
Directed by Irwin Winkler, it stars Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas.
“The screen average for last week was only $9,000, so it didn’t drop that much on us and we’re pretty happy,” New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. “We’re going to go to 1,200 screens Friday (Nov. 9).”
Fox Searchlight’s R rated animated feature Waking Life added theaters in its third week with a still promising ESTIMATED $0.27 million at 57 theaters (+31 theaters; $4,790 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.75 million.
Written and directed by Richard Linklater, Life is a likely candidate in the new best animated feature Oscar category.
“The film is still playing as a sophisticated city film,” Fox Searchlight distribution president Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning. “It’s very modest in the multiplexes in the suburban areas. But, most importantly, many of our runs went up this weekend in the second weekend in the new regional markets that we opened last week. So it’s very, very encouraging.
“In cities such as Denver, San Diego and Seattle actually went up. It’s a word of mouth film amongst college students and young people, who get their information from alternative media.”
The film will continue to widen, he said, “on Nov. 9 and 16. We’ll get up to about 75 markets and 120 or 125 screens going into Thanksgiving. We won’t go much deeper than that because it really is an art film. But we’re very pleased with how it’s been able to penetrate the market. In the first four markets-New York, L.A., Toronto and Chicago-it’s held extremely well.”
Universal International reported Sunday morning that American Pie 2 opened strongly in Italy this weekend to between $2.6-$2.8 million. The studio said Pie 2‘s launch is 17 percent bigger than Cast Away, 27 percent ahead of Meet the Parents and 100 percent more than the original American Pie. Universal was still receiving details early Sunday morning of its grosses in Italy, but said it appeared that between Pie 2 and Bridget Jones’s Diary it had that country’s top two films for the weekend.
In France there were solid second weekend ticket sales for Pie 2. Its 14-day cume there is $10.8 million, putting it 70 percent ahead of The Mummy Returns and 72 percent ahead of Jurassic Park 3. This weekend, Pie 2 should pass American Pie‘s total gross in France of $11.2 million.
In Germany Pie 2 ranked fourth in its fifth week with a three day gross of $0.8 million, down 20 percent. Its cume is $28.7 million. Pie 2 is the second highest grossing American film in Germany this year, behind What Women Want with $35.3 million.
In the U.K. Pie 2 enjoyed a two day gross of $1 million on 410 screens, placing second behind the opening of The Others, which grossed $1.8 million on 373 screens. Pie 2‘s 23 day cume of $22.1 million is 48 percent ahead of American Pie
Pie 2‘s international cume is now approximately $88 million with 20 countries yet to open.
Universal also reported Sunday that The Fast and the Furious held well in second place in its third week in Germany and Austria. In Germany the film grossed $0.95 million on 463 screens, down only 14%. It ranked second to the opening of Swordfish with $1.3 million on 483 screens. In Austria, Fast grossed $92,000 on 58 screens, also finishing second to the opening of Swordfish (with $0.15 on 54 screens).
Fast‘s international cume is approximately $53 million with seven countries still to open.
Universal’s release of Bridget Jones’s Diary, which Universal and Miramax co-financed, passed $190 million at the international box office this weekend.
Key films-those grossing more than $500,000 — took in approximately $143.27 million, up about 44.93 per cent from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $98.85 million.
This weekend’s key film gross was up about 79.84 percent from last weekend of this year, when key films took in approximately $79.84 million.
Last year, Columbia’s opening week of Charlie’s Angels was first with $40.13 million at 3,037 theaters ($13,213 per theater); and Universal’s fifth week of Meet the Parents was second with $12.64 million at 2,672 theaters ($4,730 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $52.7 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $83.5 million.