Once again, there were dark clouds drifting across Hollywood's advance radar screen. Columbia's Riding in Cars with Boys, which looked like it would be parking in first place, wound up second with about $10.8 million, a car length behind Hell's $11.3 million.
DreamWorks' The Last Castle, which seemed likely to fly its flag higher on the chart, only managed to open in fifth place with $7.1 million.
Ticket sales for key films this weekend were up nearly 7 percent from last year but were basically flat with the previous weekend this year. Insiders attributed the lackluster showing to too much product opening in a marketplace that is not expanding this fall the way it did during the summer.
THE TOP TEN
20th Century Fox's R rated thriller From Hell kicked off to a bloody good ESTIMATED $11.33 million at 2,305 theaters ($4,913 per theater).
Hell's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
"Against this competition and [given] the marketplace, I feel very damn good about it. Riding in Cars and Last Castle had big movie stars and I'm very glad to be in that boat," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said Sunday morning. "Halloween's still to come and I think the picture's positioned for the holiday. We should be fine."
Columbia's PG-13 rated comedy drama Riding in Cars with Boys opened in second place to a high octane ESTIMATED $10.8 million at 2,770 theaters ($3,899 per theater).
"Drew's movies usually tend to hold," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "So we certainly hope that's the case here. We got very nice exit polls from women of all ages. We hope what's happened to her movies in the past happens here. Never Been Kissed opened April 9, 1999, to $11.8 million and did $55.4 million and Ever After opened July 31, 1998, to $8.5 million and did $65.6 million. So as the female audience, in particular, continues to sample the movie, hopefully we'll be able to hold in there."
Reflecting on the overall marketplace, Blake noted, "I think the question is, 'Why isn't the market in general higher? Or why aren't anybody's movies higher?' I certainly think we've got the biggest factor very close to home and that's the volume of product. If the market isn't going to expand, for whatever reason--and it's only expanding slightly, if at all--I don't think you can be opening three or four movies every week in September and October, which is what we've done for the last month and are going to continue to do for the next couple of weeks."
In fact, looking ahead to next year it seems that 2002 is already crammed with product on many weekends. "You've got to think about that," Blake said. "It's one thing to do it in the summer when the market continually expands. It seems [there is] almost no limit. But certainly that's not what's happening this fall, for whatever reasons. I think we've got a solid opening, given the marketplace. But you're going to need to find a way for there to be more to go around for everybody to be happy in opening three or four [movies] a week."
Asked about what insiders called the strong tracking on Cars that suggested it would open number one, Blake replied, "You never know though. Whenever you're dealing with adult females--we had our young female audience and they certainly did turn out--the tracking is always a little tricky because they're the most vulnerable to wait. It ended up pretty close and the young male audience [which went to see From Hell] tends to be more reliable. In a close race, you're always a little better off with the younger males."
Warner Bros. R rated police corruption drama Training Day slid two slots to third place in its third week with a still respectable ESTIMATED $9.5 million (-29%) at 2,503 theaters (-109 theaters; $3,650 per theater). Its cume is approximately $57.5 million, heading for the $80 millions in domestic theaters.
"It continues to play well at the box office," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "After two first place finishes, dropping only 29 percent in the third week is pretty good. Denzel's performance is credited in the press as outstanding and the film has now created a lot of word of mouth, which is turning into strong box office. That's what you kind of hope for when you have a movie like this. We will be over $60 million at the end of three weeks."
MGM and Hyde Park Entertainment's PG-13 rated comedy Bandits fell two pegs to fourth place in its second weekend with a still engaging ESTIMATED $8.43 million (-35%) at 3,207 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,627 per theater). Its cume is approximately $25.0 million.
DreamWorks' R rated military prison drama The Last Castle opened in fifth place to a restrained ESTIMATED $7.1 million at 2,262 theaters ($3,142 per theater).
"Certainly, this opening is disappointing," DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning. "It's impossible to know the impact of recent events on this specific movie."
Insiders said that the tracking had suggested Castle would open to better ticket sales than it did. "We were hoping to do $10 million based on the tracking," Tharp said. "I think the tracking fluctuates from day to day. I think there's a lot of uncertainty. That's just an opinion."
Tharp explained that people seem uncertain about what they're going to do in terms of weekend moviegoing when they're asked ahead about their plans. "You certainly get that [impression] by looking at the tracking and what they eventually do. [By the time the weekend gets here] there's some other news flash. The adult area seems to be more impacted than the under-25 area."
Asked who was on hand to see Castle, Tharp replied, "More than 70 percent were 25 and over: 53 percent male, 47 percent female. The movie received above average ratings and recommend scores."
Miramax's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Serendipity fell two pegs to sixth place in its third week with an okay ESTIMATED $5.8 million (-34%) at 2,610 theaters (+7 theaters; $2,222 per theater). Its cume is approximately $34.8 million.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13 rated comedy Corky Romano slipped four notches to seventh place in its second week with a slow ESTIMATED $5.3 million (-41%) at 2,094 theaters (+32 theaters; $2,509 per theater). Made for only about $11 million, its cume is approximately $16.1 million.
20th Century Fox's release of Regency Enterprises and Village Roadshow Pictures' R rated thriller Don't Say A Word fell three rungs to eighth place in its fourth week with a quiet ESTIMATED $4.4 million (-30%) at 2,260 theaters (-469 theaters; $1,946 per theater). Its cume is approximately $48.1 million, heading for a domestic theatrical gross of $65 million.
Paramount and Village Roadshow Pictures' PG-13 youth appeal comedy Zoolander dropped two slots to ninth place in its fourth week with a dull ESTIMATED $3.3 million (-34%) at 2,285 theaters (-237 theaters; $1,444 per theater). Its cume is approximately $40.2 million, heading for $45 million in domestic theaters.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Miramax's PG-13 rated martial arts adventure Iron Monkey, which opened in sixth place the previous week, with a softer ESTIMATED $3.2 million (-47%) at 1,236 theaters (+10 theaters; $2,591 per theater). Its cume is approximately $10.8 million.
Directed by Yuen Wo Ping, it stars Yu Rong-Guang.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Fox Searchlight's R rated animated feature Waking Life to a very lively ESTIMATED $0.088 million at four theaters ($22,000 per theater) in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and Chicago. Its cume, reflecting five days for the film's run in New York, is approximately $0.094 million.
"We're very pleased," Fox Searchlight distribution president Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning. "It's a very particular small art film, so I'm thrilled. We have the biggest limited opening of the fall, in fact on a screen average basis it's the biggest [limited] opening since our film The Deep End back in August. We will be expanding this week to an additional 14 cities to about 27 screens."
This weekend saw no national sneak previews.
On the expansion front this weekend Universal's R rated drama Mulholland Drive went wider in its second weekend with an okay ESTIMATED $1.0 million at 247 theaters (+181 theaters; $4,056 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.9 million.
Paramount Classics' R rated drama My First Mister widened in its second week to a weak ESTIMATED $0.14 million at 89 theaters (+56 theaters; $1,580 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.3 million.
Universal International reported Sunday morning that The Fast and the Furious enjoyed first place openings in Germany and Austria this weekend.
American Pie 2 kicked off in the top spot in France last Wednesday, grossing an outstanding $1.2 million on 495 screens on its first day. Universal said this is 400 percent bigger than the original American Pie opened to and more than it grossed in its first week. Pie 2's opening in France is Universal's second biggest opening of 2001 behind Jurassic Park 3. The studio said its weekend figures from France were still being collected Sunday morning and would be reported Monday.
Pie 2 also finished in first place in the U.K. for the second consecutive week with a two day gross of $2.8 million. Its nine day cume in the U.K. is $13.3 million, running about 90 percent ahead of American Pie.
In its fourth week in Germany, Pie 2 slid to second place behind the opening of The Fast and the Furious. After 23 days, Pie 2's cume is $25M, making it Universal's top grossing film in Germany this year.
In Austria, Pie 2 also slipped to second place in its fourth week. Its cume is $2.6 million, making it Universal's highest grossing film in Austria this year.
Pie 2's international cume is now $58 million, with 28 countries to still to open.
Bridget Jones's Diary opened strongly in first place in Italy last Friday. Its two-day gross there was $0.268 million on 38 screens.
In Japan, Bridget has been enjoying great success. Now in its fifth week, it continues in the top five with a 28-day cume of $13 million.
In France, Bridget is being distributed by Studio Canal, and opened atop the chart last week, grossing $5.1 million for its first week in theaters.
Bridget passed $165 million at the international box office this weekend and still has five countries to open.
Key films--those grossing more than $500,000--took in approximately $79.9 million, up about 6.78 per cent from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $74.83 million.
This weekend's key film gross was up a marginal 0.05 percent from last weekend of this year, when key films took in approximately $79.87 million.
Last year, Universal's third week of Meet the Parents was first with $16.02 million at 2,619 theaters ($6,115 per theater); and Fox's opening week of Bedazzled was second with $13.11 million at 2,568 theaters ($5,104 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $29.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $22.1 million.