Hurt by crisis news reports on television Friday, the adult appeal MGM comedy failed to break into first place as insiders anticipated. Expectations were strong that Bandits would open atop the chart after its very successful sneaks a week earlier and given its high flyer power on Hollywood's advance radar screen.
Despite Bandits' strong buzz, its launch suffered from widespread fears throughout the country about possible terrorist actions this weekend as well as from television reports of anthrax scares in several states. That coverage -- which some observers have taken to calling "the CNN effect" -- appears to have resulted in many adult moviegoers, who might otherwise have bought tickets to Bandits, opting to stay home this weekend and watch the news. That cut sharply into Bandits' take -- especially on Friday -- in key markets like New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Boston.
At the same time, Warner Bros.' tough police corruption drama Training Day starring Denzel Washington held up very well and had an advantage in its strong urban appeal. Training edged out Bandits for the top spot on the chart, nailing down in its second week about $13.55 million vs. Bandits' haul of about $13.46 million.
Ticket sales for key films this weekend were up modestly from last year by about 4.4 percent, but fell about 7.4 percent from the previous weekend this year.
THE TOP TEN
Warner Bros. R rated police corruption drama Training Day continued to patrol first place in its second week with a still forceful ESTIMATED $13.55 million (-40 percent) at 2,712 theaters (theater count unchanged; $4,994 per theater). Its cume is approximately $43.6 million, heading for $75 million-plus in domestic theaters.
Training's average per theater was the highest for any film this weekend.
"We had another good weekend on Training Day ," Warner Bros. Distribution executive vice president and general sales manager Jeff Goldstein said Sunday morning. "It's only off 40 percent. That's just what you would hope for."
MGM and Hyde Park Entertainment's PG-13 rated comedy Bandits kicked off in second place to a sexy ESTIMATED $13.46 million at 3,207 theaters ($4,198 per theater).
"I think you were right when you said that," MGM worldwide theatrical marketing and distribution president Bob Levin said Sunday morning when I told him I'd predicted a first place finish for Bandits.
"We all feel that that's where we were. And then, here you are watching TV waiting for your first early matinee grosses to come in (on Friday) and, oh, there goes Bruce Willis' Good Morning America (promotional appearance). And then you flip over and Regis and Kelly are still on and then in the middle of (that show) where he's supposed to be (there was an interruption for breaking news)."
After that, he continued, "It just became an onslaught of a mixture of anthrax here, anthrax there stories and rumors, validations, news conferences and then (Attorney General John) Ashcroft every once in a while telling people there's a real serious threat for the next three days. I think that cooked up the stew because every indication was that we'd open better. In fact, every indication I think that Disney had (about Corky Romano) and every indication that Miramax had (about Iron Monkey) on their two movies is they'd open better."
Assessing what happened, Levin said, "I just think we took the severest hit by everything we measure (being) an adult comedy. Our exits say about 75 percent of the audience that showed up was over 25. We know from our sneaks (the previous weekend) that was also true. We know from everything that we're an adult movie that plays exactly to the kind of people who are most sensitive to current events versus Corky being a youth comedy and Training Day being an urban, gritty movie. So we were probably hit more than anyone."
Bandits' New York grosses were hit very hard, on Friday, Levin said, pointing out that, "We did more in those matinees in (small towns in) Texas than we did in some of the key houses in Manhattan. That's how severe Manhattan was (affected). And you know, there were other things going on (that also reflected the public's concern about going out this weekend). The Brave's game had 70 percent attendance. The Rose Bowl (UCLA vs. Washington) wasn't filled yesterday.
"And then we had these huge unexpected bumps (on Saturday vs Friday). You know, you look at a movie like this and you'd say Friday to Saturday (should be in the) 20-25 percent range in the bump. New York came back 62 percent. D.C. was 60 percent. (But) these enormous bumps were still not bumping enough to what you really need to right the ship. We saw ourselves last night probably get a number that we would have been happy getting Friday night under normal circumstances and we filled out from there. Although Saturday showed signs that it bounced back, it just didn't come back strong in volume. It came back in percentages very, very strong. But Friday was a wipe out for us."
Looking ahead, Levin noted, "We have strong word of mouth and I think we're, for the time being, into a new world of movie marketing, distribution and opening and that can be uprighted by any change in what the public needs to know and how they respond to it. I think this is a sign of that. It's like we all understand (the effect of) blizzards or earthquakes -- 'Oh, L.A. had an earthquake so no one went to the movies.' Or, 'Oh, the mid-west got wiped out (by a blizzard).' This is like a self-selecting blizzard. You can get out of the house if you want to, but you don't want to.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13 rated comedy Corky Romano opened in third place to an encouraging ESTIMATED $9.3 million at 2,062 theaters ($4,510 per theater). The film reportedly only cost $11 million to produce.
"Bob Simonds is probably one of those producers who has more films that get into profit than anybody else," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "He makes them for a price. He makes them for an audience obviously. And he did very well because what I'm seeing in the CinemaScore is that he got an A from the teens under 21 for males and an A- for females and everything else was a B, which I think just goes to show you how much people are dying for comedy out there right now."
Given the film's low production cost, Viane laughed, "It'll take me about another week to turn this picture into a profit (position). With the studios having tough times like everybody else, it's nice to know you can walk one into a profit real quick and follow up with Monsters, Inc. and do the same thing."
Miramax's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Serendipity fell two pegs to fourth place in its second week with a still attractive ESTIMATED $9.0 million (-32 percent) at 2,603 theaters (+2 theaters; $3,458 per theater). Its cume is approximately $26.6 million.
"It was a great hold for us and we're real happy," Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow, said Sunday morning. "It does seem to be the right movie for now. It's really the only romantic comedy that's still out there. We'll face a little competition this weekend from Riding In Cars With Boys, but there's room for both of us."
20th Century Fox's release of Regency Enterprises and Village Roadshow Pictures' R rated thriller Don't Say a Word fell two rungs to fifth in its third week with an okay ESTIMATED $6.78 million (-31 percent) at 2,728 theaters (-114 theaters; $2,485 per theater). Its cume is approximately $41.8 million, heading for a domestic theatrical gross in the mid-$60 millions.
"The 31 percent drop bodes well," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said Sunday morning. "It had the best bump from Friday to Saturday. I think Don't Say A Word's kind of gotten its own place in the market right now. (It was) up 60 percent from Friday to Saturday. Nothing's near that except for (Disney's kid appeal) Max Keeble in terms of percentage pop. So I think Don't Say A Word has found a groove even with Training Day and Bandits opening. I think it's going to be around."
Miramax's PG-13 rated martial arts adventure Iron Monkey opened in sixth place to a brassy ESTIMATED $6 million at 1,225 theaters ($4,898 per theater).
Directed by Yuen Wo Ping, it stars Yu Rong-Guang.
"This is one of those movies that you do because it's a labor of love," Miramax's David Kaminow said Sunday morning, referring to the company's release of the well regarded 1993 Hong Kong film which has never had a U.S. theatrical release.
"It's a labor of love for the company -- like when we restored El Cid and Belle De Jour and things of that nature. This is really sort of, as we like to say, a gift for moviegoers who appreciate that sort of undiscovered gems. These movies are modestly profitable. It's not about that, it's really about the cinematic aspects of it all. We're working on a Cinema Paradiso restoration, as well. This seems to be something that we're going to start focus on in addition to our other (releases), just having these restorations and bringing back movies that the public may not be that aware of and that from a cinematic standpoint are of some importance."
Paramount and Village Roadshow Pictures' PG-13 youth appeal comedy Zoolander slipped three slots to seventh place in its third week with a less funny ESTIMATED $5.1 million (-46 percent) at 2,522 theaters (+2 theaters; $2,022 per theater). Its cume is approximately $35.8 million, heading for $45 million in domestic theaters.
20th Century Fox and Regency's R rated thriller Joy Ride fell three pegs to eighth place in its second week with an unexciting ESTIMATED $4.87 million (-34 percent) at 2,522 theaters (+25 theaters; $1,931 per theater). Its cume is approximately $14.7 million, heading for $25 million in domestic theaters.
Buena Vista/Disney's PG rated comedy Max Keeble's Big Move slipped three rungs to ninth place in its second week with a slow ESTIMATED $4.0 million (-26 percent) at 2,045 theaters ($1,956 per theater). Its cume is approximately $10.9 million.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Warner Bros. and Castle Rock Entertainment's third week of the PG-13 rated drama Hearts In Atlantis, which was seventh a week earlier, with a quiet ESTIMATED $2.79 million (-45 percent) at 2,010 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,386 per theater). Its cume is approximately $20.7 million, heading for $25 million in domestic theaters.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Universal's R rated drama Mulholland Drive. to a very promising ESTIMATED $0.71 million at 68 theaters ($10,412 per theater). Its cume after five days is approximately $0.79 million.
Paramount Classics' R rated drama My First Mister arrived to a soft ESTIMATED $0.1 million at 33 theaters ($3,182 per theater).
This weekend saw no national sneak previews.
There was no significant action on the expansion front this weekend.
Universal International reported Sunday morning that it enjoyed a strong opening this weekend in the U.K. for American Pie 2 this weekend. Pie 2 placed first by a huge margin with a 50 percent market share. For Friday-Saturday, the film took in $5.6 million in the U.K. and with Sunday's grosses still to come, it looms as one of the country's biggest opening weekends this year. Universal said Pie 2 is running 30 percent ahead of Jurassic Park III, 103 percent ahead of Pearl Harbor and 173 percent ahead of the original American Pie.
In Germany, Pie 2 held on to the top spot on the chart for the third week in a row with a three-day gross of $2.4 million. Its 17 day cume in Germany is $21.7 million, which the studio said is 25 percent ahead of Pearl Harbor, 45 percent ahead of the first American Pie, 68 percent ahead of Jurassic Park III and 66 percent ahead of The Mummy Returns.
In Austria, Pie 2 was No. 1 in its third week with a two day gross of $0.22 million, putting it 282 percent ahead of this weekend's opening of America's Sweethearts. After 16 days in theaters, Pie 2's cume in Austria is $2.4 million, which is the same as Pearl Harbor, 50 percent bigger than The Mummy Returns and 148 percent bigger than Jurassic Park III.
Overall, Pie 2 was the top grossing film at the international box office this weekend. Its international box office total to date is $38 million with 30 countries representing about 65 percent of the international market still to open.
"We are thrilled with the fantastic opening of American Pie 2 in the UK and its continued amazing performance in Germany and Austria," Randy Greenberg, senior vice president, international theatrical marketing & distribution for Universal Pictures, said Sunday morning. "Audiences around the globe have embraced these characters again and are going to the movies to laugh."
Universal also reported that in Spain this weekend The Fast and the Furious enjoyed a two day gross of $0.57 million, down only 7 percent from its opening the previous weekend. Fast was third in the market, behind the sixth week of The Others and the opening of Moulin Rouge. Fast's nine-day cume is $2 million.
In its fifth week in the U.K. Fast had a two-day gross of $0.28 million. Its cume after 30 days in the U.K. is $8.8 million. In Australia, Fast's fourth weekend gross was $0.3 million with a 25 day cume of $4.7 million. The film's international cume is $35 million with 18 countries still to open.
Universal's release of Bridget Jones's Diary ranked fourth in its eighth week Down Under with a two day gross of $0.326 million, down only 14 percent, and a 51-day cume of $18.8 million. Bridget passed $155 million at the international box office this weekend with 10 countries still to open.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $80.38 million, up about 4.41 per cent from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $76.98 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down about 7.43 percent from last weekend of this year, when key films took in approximately $86.82 million.
Last year, Universal's second week of Meet the Parents was first with $21.17 million at 2,615 theaters ($8,095 per theater); and Buena Vista's third week of Remember the Titans was second with $13.06 million at 2,726 theaters ($4,790 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $34.3 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $27.0 million.