With the trilogy of Rings films representing a $300 million-plus make-it-or-break-it investment for New Line, the first film's spectacular success is clearly the best possible news for the company. Besides its box office strength, Rings also turned up on many critics' Top Ten Lists. Its four Golden Globe nominations (best picture/drama, director, original score and original song) put it on a likely track for key Oscar nominations.
Hollywood also got some help in ending the year with a bang from Ocean's Eleven in second place again with a high rolling $17.6 million. Ali opened in third place to a heavyweight $15.3 million. Jimmy Neutron finished fourth with a lively $15 million. Vanilla Sky placed fifth by the skin of its teeth, edging out Harry Potter by only about $45,000 with an unexciting $11.5 million.
The crowded holiday marketplace was also driven by very strong expansions for A Beautiful Mind and The Royal Tenenbaums and by promising platform launches for Gosford Park, Black Hawk Down and I Am Sam.
Key films--those grossing at least $500,000--took in a cork popping $164 million, up nearly 21 percent from about $136 million this time last year.
THE TOP TEN
New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated epic The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring held on to the number one spot in its second week with a golden ESTIMATED $37.35 million (-21%) at 3,359 theaters ($11,119 per theater). Its cume is approximately $154.5 million.
Lord's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in over 1,000 theaters this weekend.
"We're thrilled with these numbers and we've been thrilled since it's opened," New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. "We feel the picture's going to have not just good legs but great legs. I wouldn't think that $300 million is beyond our reach."
Warner Bros. PG-13 rated casino heist dramatic comedy Ocean's Eleven held on to second place in its third week with a still sizzling ESTIMATED $17.63 million (+20%) at 3,075 theaters (theater count unchanged; $5,733 per theater). Its cume is approximately $128.2 million, heading for $200 million in domestic theaters.
Columbia Pictures and Initial Entertainment Group's R rated drama Ali, which entered the ring Christmas Day, opened in third place to a solid ESTIMATED $15.3 million at 2,446 theaters ($62550 per theater). Its cume after six days is approximately $35.3 million.
Ali's production cost was reportedly $105 million. Columbia has the picture domestically and Initial Entertainment is releasing it internationally.
"$35 million-plus for your first six days is always a very strong start and we look to have some great weeks ahead with, certainly, the coming week and Martin Luther King weekend, the Golden Globes weekend for which Will is a nominee," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning.
"It's a very strong start that puts it among the top holiday pictures and puts us in a good position to keep on going through January and February."
Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies' G rated animated feature Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius finished fourth, down one notch in its second week with a still colorful ESTIMATED $15.0 million (+8%) at 3,151 theaters (+12 theaters; $4,760 per theater). Its cume is approximately $42.2 million.
Directed by John A. Davis, it was produced by Steve Oedekerk, Davis and Albie Hecht.
"I think the spin we were putting on this that parents weren't available pre-Christmas was in fact the case," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "As soon as they became available, it seems to really have taken off.
"It looks like business overall (for the marketplace this weekend) is going to be just huge. I think it's going to be a record weekend for the month of December. The thing is (the business) is being done by a variety of films, not by one big steamroller coming through. Lord of the Rings is very big, but it's the overall business (that's pushing the marketplace). A lot of different genre pictures are doing business now."
Paramount's R rated romantic thriller Vanilla Sky slid one slot and placed fifth by a mere $45,000 in its third week with a quiet ESTIMATED $11.5 million (-5%) at 2,744 theaters (theater count unchanged; $4,191 per theater). Its cume is approximately $66.5 million.
Warner Bros.' mega-blockbuster Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone almost came in fifth but in Sunday's estimates held on to sixth place in its seventh week with a still terrific ESTIMATED $11.46 million (+62%) at 3,186 theaters (-125 theaters; $3,595 per theater). Its cume is approximately $286.1 million, heading for the high $300 millions in domestic theaters.
Miramax's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Kate & Leopold, which debuted Christmas Day, placed seventh with a hopeful ESTIMATED $9.5 million at 2,452 theaters ($3,875 per theater). Its cume after six days is approximately $17.1 million.
"We're starting out well--not necessarily out of the gate huge, but that wasn't necessarily the plan," Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow said Sunday morning. "If you look back at Miss Congeniality, which last Christmas started at a similar level and just kept hanging in there. I think Kate & Leopold's an incredibly satisfying picture for the audience. In the exit surveys, it got 80 percents in the Top Two Boxes and 70 percents in Definite Recommend.
"There's a nice consistency to the picture in terms of its performance. It started out Tuesday and grew a little bit Wednesday and a little bit Thursday. Each day was going up. And with us being the only romantic comedy for several weeks, I think we're going to hang in there and be around a lot longer than people may think. With this start, I think we're going to stay in the race for a while."
Universal, DreamWorks and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13 rated drama A Beautiful Mind went wide in its second week, coming in eighth with an impressive ESTIMATED $7.24 million at 525 theaters (+514 theaters; $13,785 per theater). Its cume is approximately $13.2 million.
"We're very excited," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "Not only is it critically acclaimed and has 16 Golden Globe nominations, but we have exit polls that jumped off the page--95 percent in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good). And it was higher for older females. So that's an endorsement from the public (as well as the critics)."
Pointing to the film's limited release at this point, Rocco noted, "I think that the numbers in 525 playdates are phenomenal. It's just amazing. The numbers are very strong all over the country, not just in New York and L.A."
Looking ahead, Rocco said Mind will expand Jan. 4 with an additional 1,600 playdates.
Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar Animation Studios' G rated computer animated feature Monsters, Inc. was still showing strong legs in its ninth week, holding on to ninth place with an ESTIMATED $6.5 million (+71%) at 1,701 theaters (-396 theaters; $3,828 per theater). Its cume is approximately $238.3 million, heading for $250-270 million in domestic theaters.
"To be able to be in the marketplace nine weeks, it's about the strength of the movie," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "There's no question about it. This is just one of those that people love to come back and see. It's one of the few comedies out there. We have two comedies (Viane's comments about the success of The Royal Tenenbaums are in the EXPANSIONS section below) and they're both doing extremely well."
Asked where Monsters is heading, Viane replied, "There's no question in my mind now that it easily surpasses $250 million. After that, I'm not sure. I think we breeze by $250 million because I think we'll be at $240 million by New Year's Day, if I'm right, and then the following weekend is historically one of the better weekends. So we're probably at $247 or 248 million by the time we play out the weekdays. So $260-something or $270 million. I honestly don't know. I'm getting very excited because at $245 million we pass Toy Story 2."
Rounding out the Top Ten was Warner Bros. and Castle Rock Entertainment's PG rated drama The Majestic, down two pegs in its second week with a disappointing ESTIMATED $5.65 million (+15%) at 2,361 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,391 per theater). Its cume is approximately $15.8 million.
This weekend also saw Miramax's Christmas Day launch of its R rated drama The Shipping News to a hopeful ESTIMATED $1.2 million at 186 theaters ($6,450 per theater). Its cume after six days is approximately $2.1 million.
"Shipping News had some tough reviews, but like Lasse's other two pictures, Chocolat and Cider House Rules, the audience responds to his pictures in ways that maybe some critics don't," Miramax's David Kaminow said Sunday morning. "The expansion on Jan. 18 may be a little slower than initially planned, but we have total confidence in the picture from an audience standpoint and we're going to hang in there."
USA Films' R rated whodunit Gosford Park, which opened Wednesday, got off to a rousing start in platform release with a delicious ESTIMATED $0.24 million at 9 theaters ($26,869 per theater). Its cume after five days is approximately $0.37 million.
Revolution Studios and Jerry Bruckheimer Films' R rated drama Black Hawk Down, a Columbia Pictures release, enjoyed a high flying start in platform release with an ESTIMATED $0.18 million at 4 theaters ($45,500 per theater). The film's production cost was reportedly about $90 million.
"That's basically $15,000 a day, which is absolute near capacity," Sony's Jeff Blake said Sunday morning, referring to the film's six day cume.
"It's a very hot start, similar actually to last year's Traffic, which also opened with four runs on Dec. 30 for an average of $46,000 apiece. So it's very, very similar. They certainly went on to be that hot commercial picture coming out of January and the one recognized for many nominations. And with our really unbelievable reviews so far and this kind of start, we hope to have a very similar thing happen to us. This start certainly matches theirs."
Looking ahead, Blake said, "We may add a handful of runs in New York and L.A. on Jan. 11. Jan. 18 we'll go up to approximately 3,000 runs."
Lions Gate Films' R rated drama Monster's Ball opened Wednesday in platform release to a hopeful ESTIMATED $0.11 million at 7 theaters ($15,285 per theater). Its cume after five days is approximately $0.15 million.
"The picture's going to open in San Francisco and Chicago on Jan. 25," Lions Gate president Tom Ortenberg said Sunday morning. "We want to get open in those two cities for Academy consideration while people still have a chance to vote. There are still sizable numbers of Academy members in those cities. And we're going to go out wide to about 400 screens on Feb. 8 (just prior to the announcement of Oscar nominations on Feb. 12)."
New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated drama I Am Sam opened in platform release to a spirited ESTIMATED $0.038 million at 2 theaters ($19,000 per theater).
"I Am Sam is off to a promising start," New Line's David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. "$19,000 per screen in thee two towns (New York and L.A.) is pretty good considering all the really great films that are out there (in the crowded holiday marketplace). So we're real happy with that. Sam is going to expand Jan. 25 to 1,000 to 1,200 screens."
Warner Bros.' PG-13 World War II drama Charlotte Gray opened in platform release to a hopeful ESTIMATED $0.035 million at 5 theaters ($7,000 per theater).
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend saw Buena Vista/Touchstone's R rated drama The Royal Tenenbaums go wider in its third week with a glittering ESTIMATED $5.08 million at 291 theaters (+251 theaters; $17,444 per theater). Its cume is approximately $8.2 million.
"We're expanding to approximately 800 runs this Friday," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "It's wonderful the way the picture's performing. I really think the key to this one is that it's a very accessible comedy and the market, quite honestly, is lacking comedy for Christmas and this is filling the void. I think we're very lucky and very timely."
Miramax's R rated Oscar contender drama In the Bedroom expanded Christmas Day in its fifth week to the Top 20 markets with a very encouraging ESTIMATED $0.83 million at 103 theaters (+97 theaters; $8,000 per theater. Its cume is approximately $1.9 million.
"In the Bedroom with the reviews and the acclaim from critics groups and the Golden Globes really took fire this weekend in its expansion," Miramax's David Kaminow said Sunday morning. "I think that one's only going to get better."
United Artists' R rated Bosnian war drama No Man's Land, an MGM release, went wider in its fourth week with an okay ESTIMATED $0.058 million at 17 theaters (+3 theaters; $3,430 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.2 million.
Written and directed by Danis Tanovic, it won the best screenplay award in Cannes last May and was a hit at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals. Land is Bosnia's first official Oscar entry.
Universal's international division reported that its American Pie 2 enjoyed strong holiday business. In Brazil, American Pie 2 held well in its second weekend with a two day gross of approximately $0.4 on 160 screens, flat with its opening weekend and tied for first place with Monsters, Inc. American Pie 2's cume in Brazil is $1.3 million after only 9 days, already equaling the original American Pie's total gross in Brazil.
In Australia, American Pie 2 grossed $0.56 million on 218 playdates, up 2% over last weekend. The film, which ranked fifth, has a 25 day cume Down Under of $6.1 million.
In Spain, American Pie 2 grossed $0.38 million on 285 screens for two days, up 2% over last weekend and placed third behind week two of Lord of the Rings and week three of Harry Potter. In 25 days, American Pie 2 has grossed $6.3 million in Spain, already passing the original American Pie's total gross of $5.9 million.
American Pie 2's international cume is now $125 million. With five countries still to open, including Argentina (Jan. 10) and Mexico (Jan. 11).
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $164.17 million, up about 20.89 per cent from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $135.8 million.
This weekend's key film gross was up about 30.03 percent from $126.26 million for the previous weekend of this year.
Last year, Fox's second week of Cast Away was first with $40.04 million at 2,929 theaters ($13,670 per theater); and Paramount's third week of What Women Want was second with $26.41 million at 3,046 theaters ($8,670 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $66.4 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $55.0 million.