Also helping Hollywood avoid a New Year's hangover were A Beautiful Mind's mind-boggling $17 million expansion, Ocean's Eleven's new winnings of $11.8 million, Jimmy Neutron's good hold with $9.2 million and The Royal Tenenbaums' $8.8 million royal expansion.
Key films--those grossing at least $500,000--took in a sparkling total of nearly $125 million, up about 7.3 percent from $116 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 was still commanding the center ring for the third consecutive week, holding solidly with an ESTIMATED $23.0 million (-41%) at 3,381 theaters (+22 theaters; $6,803 per theater). Its cume is approximately $205.5 million, heading for $300 million.
Rings was honored Saturday night as the year's best picture in the AFI's first annual awards telecast live on CBS. Regardless of how meaningful the AFI endorsement may be in terms of Rings' Oscar prospects, New Line will have something new to trumpet in the film's ads. The most significant bellwether for the Oscars should be the Golden Globes, to be telecast Jan. 20 live on NBC.
"When you think about crapshoots [risking about $300 million to make three Rings films at once was a big one]," New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning, noting the film's tremendous success. "Everybody was betting that it was going to be a disaster. The whole industry was betting on it."
Universal, DreamWorks and Imagine Entertainment's PG- 13 rated drama A Beautiful Mind went very wide in its third week, rising six pegs to second place with a noble ESTIMATED $17.03 million at 1,853 theaters (+1,328 theaters; $9,190 per theater). Its cume is approximately $38.2 million.
Mind's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in over 1,000 theaters this weekend.
"The strategy is working fabulously," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "The best selling tool for the film is the film. This entire strategy beginning on Dec. 21 [with the film's platform release] is successful.
"What's most interesting this weekend is the fact that the head-to-heads from the 525 theaters that were open last week are actually up. Friday the head-to-heads were up three percent. For Saturday, they were up 17 percent, according to the EDI tracking. And that's phenomenal. That's something you don't see that often. The per screen average of nearly $9,200 is indicative enough of success, but it's when you look at theaters in markets that had additional runs [start this weekend], to see head-to-heads like that is really phenomenal. By the end of the week, we'll be past $40 million and that's quite a success story."
Focusing on the film's exit polls, Rocco noted, "The exit polls [this weekend] were as strong as they were originally. The only difference in the exit polls--with 95 percent in the Top Two Boxes [excellent and very good] --is that the audience is a bit younger. From the first exit polls, 75 percent of the audience was over the age of 30. It dropped down to 70 percent [this weekend]. So it's a little bit younger--not enough to make a huge difference, but what it tells us is that younger people are beginning to sample it. They're liking what they see because the exit polls are still huge.
"I don't remember the last time I've seen polls this strong and across the country. They're as strong in Dallas as they are in New York. Dallas is 99 percent in the Top Two. It suggests that it not only has life for quite some time to come, but that people really really are liking what they see. They're liking Russell Crowe. They're feeling the talent of Ron Howard. They like the idea of the storytelling. That's what happens--it all comes together."
Warner Bros. PG-13 rated casino heist dramatic comedy Ocean's Eleven slid one notch to third place in its fourth week, showing great legs with an ESTIMATED $11.77 million (-30%) at 2,770 theaters (-305 theaters; $4,247 per theater). Its cume is approximately $152.7 million, heading for $200 million in domestic theaters.
"It's a great hold," Warner Bros. distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "Ocean's is strong. It's a movie that people just want to see. It's going to have good legs. The casting is sensational. It's a fun movie. It's very entertaining. We'll be around for a while."
Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies' G rated animated feature Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius fell one rung to fourth place in its third week with a still lively ESTIMATED $9.2 million (-39%) at 3,151 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,920 per theater). Its cume is approximately $62.5 million.
Directed by John A Davis, it was produced by Steve Oedekerk, Davis and Albie Hecht.
"I think [it will get to] between $80 and $90 million," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "I looked back at what these kind of pictures have brought in after the holidays and it's $15 to $25 million additional."
Buena Vista/Touchstone's R rated drama The Royal Tenenbaums expanded in its fourth week, placing fifth with a very promising ESTIMATED $8.78 million at 751 theaters (+460 theaters; $11,686 per theater). Its cume is approximately $21.0 million.
"It's always fun to handle a film like this when you have the opportunity to nurture a film and watch it grow and expand," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "We're going to go to 900 runs this Friday [Jan. 11].
"I think what you have is a really smart movie and obviously a comedy that has exceptional word of mouth in the community. And it just seems to grow. It's playing extremely well week after week, so it's got its legs. Each week we broaden it to different cities in America. This Friday we'll move to 900 runs and all of that expansion is in new markets rather than more theaters in existing markets."
Pointing to Tenenbaums and last year's O Brother, Where Art Thou? , Viane noted, "If you have the time and patience and a terrific marketing campaign you can take these movies a long way. And I will say, our marketing group has done great. When you have films like this it seems everything comes together."
Columbia Pictures and Initial Entertainment Group's R rated drama Ali dropped two pegs to sixth place in its second week with a quiet ESTIMATED $7.6 million (-48%) at 2,446 theaters (theater count unchanged; $3,107 per theater). Its cume is approximately $50.1 million.
Ali's production cost was reportedly $105 million. Columbia has the picture domestically and Initial Entertainment is releasing it internationally.
Asked where Ali is going domestically, Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning, "I think we're heading for at least $80 million. We're one of the top holiday films and still hope to get a second life in the awards season."
There was, however, much better news for Columbia in connection with its platform release of Revolution Studios and Jerry Bruckheimer Films' R rated drama Black Hawk Down. Hawk, which reportedly cost $90 million, continued to soar like an eagle in its second week with a sensational ESTIMATED $0.2 million (+11%) at 4 theaters (theater count unchanged; $50,000 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.57 million.
"It's wonderful news on Black Hawk Down," Sony's Blake said. "We actually were up 11 percent. [We'll add] a few runs Jan. 11 in New York and L.A. and go wide with as many as 3,000 [theaters] on Jan. 18. We're at capacity where we are and feeling great. And certainly to be up this weekend, we're heading in a great direction."
Paramount's R rated romantic thriller Vanilla Sky tumbled two slots to seventh place in its fourth week with a dull ESTIMATED $7.4 million (-36%) at 2,842 theaters (+98 theaters; $2,604 per theater). Its cume is approximately $81.4 million.
"It's [going to be] over $90 million certainly," Paramount's Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "I don't know if it gets to $100 million or not, but it's a possibility. You never know. Frankly, this weekend I expected to take a bigger hit because of A Beautiful Mind's expansion. It's certainly the same audience." What may have worked in favor of Sky is that two other adult appeal films, The Majestic and Joe Somebody, did not turn out to be strong competition.
Miramax's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Kate & Leopold slipped one spot to eighth place in its second week with an unengaging ESTIMATED $6.7 million (-31%) at 2,467 theaters (+15 theaters; $2,715 per theater). Its cume is approximately $31.1 million.
Warner Bros.' mega-blockbuster Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone fell three rungs to ninth place in its eighth week with a less magical ESTIMATED $6.1 million (-44%) at 2,681 theaters (-505 theaters; $2,275 per theater). Its cume is approximately $300.6 million, heading for $330 million or more in domestic theaters.
"That's Warner Bros.' first $300 million movie," Warner Bros. Distribution's Dan Fellman said Sunday morning.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar Animation Studios' G rated computer animated feature Monsters, Inc. , down one notch in its tenth week with an okay ESTIMATED $4.0 million (-34%) at 1,425 theaters (-276 theaters; $2,824 per theater). Its cume is approximately $244.8 million, heading for $260-270 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Pete Docter, it was co-directed by Lee Unkrich and David Silverman and written by Andrew Stanton and Daniel Gerson.
"Somewhere in the $260 millions," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning about where Monsters could wind up domestically. "We've got holidays ahead of us still and everything looks pretty good to me."
This weekend also saw Miramax's Dimension Films open its PG-13 rated sci-fi thriller Impostor to a slow ESTIMATED $3.2 million at 1,870 theaters ($1,711 per theater).
This weekend saw Buena Vista/Disney hold 960 national sneak previews Saturday night of its PG rated family comedy Snow Dogs.
"We had an exceptional turnout last night. We sold out about 85 percent of the theaters we were in," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "It was just a really great night at the movies. We were selling out like crazy.
"The audience loved it. We got a 90 percent audience reaction, which is the excellent category [in BV's research polls conducted for it by its network of college students across the country]. Two weeks from now we open over the Martin Luther King weekend [Jan. 18-21]. We look forward to some great success on that one. I would think will be up around 2,000 theaters."
On the expansion front this weekend Miramax's R rated Oscar contender drama In the Bedroom widened in its seventh week with a still encouraging ESTIMATED $1.7 million at 207 theaters (+104 theaters; $8,200 per theater. Its cume is approximately $4.3 million.
USA Films' R rated whodunit Gosford Park expanded in its second week with a tremendous ESTIMATED $1.53 million at 131 theaters (+122 theaters; $11,687 per theater]. Its cume is approximately $2.2 million.
"It worked splendidly everywhere," USA Films distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "The new markets [were great]. The suburbs rocked. The regular runs that we had last week continued to hold beautifully. Some of them were up over last week and some of them were [only] down one percent from last week. It's just doing wonderfully with the [potential] of important recognition at the Golden Globes and with Academy nominations, if that happens, God knows where this will go!"
Audiences are liking the film very much, Foley explained: "We did some more [exit polls] yesterday out in the suburbs and in some of the new markets. They were very strong. It's consistent with people over 35 and males and females liking it a lot with very high scores. But the fact is that aside from those statistics, the way the film has continued to do business--to see the jumps from Friday to Saturday--[indicates there is] really good word of mouth on the film, which should carry it for a while [and that] is the best news."
Foley said USA will expand Gosford Park's U.S. release to a total of about 500 theaters this Friday [Jan. 11]. "We'll see how that goes and if it's as good as this weekend I would plan to do something [in the way of additional expansion] as early as Jan. 18 for the Golden Globe weekend, which is also the Martin Luther King holiday [on Monday, Jan. 21] or no later than the following weekend, particularly depending on how well we do with the Golden Globes. It's very exciting."
Miramax's R rated drama The Shipping News went wider in its second week with an uneventful ESTIMATED $1.2 million at 213 theaters (+27 theaters; $5,600 per theater). Its cume is approximately $4.3 million.
Universal's R rated drama Mulholland Drive expanded in its 13th week with an unlucky ESTIMATED $0.15 million at 77 theaters (+34 theaters; $2,005 per theater). Its cume is approximately $5.8 million.
Lions Gate Films' R rated drama Monster's Ball added a theater in its second week of platform release with a hopeful ESTIMATED $0.14 million (+27%) at 8 theaters (+1 theater; $17,500 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.4 million.
"We open San Francisco Jan. 25, Chicago on Feb. 1 and then go nationwide Feb. 8, the weekend before the Oscar nominations," Lions Gate president Tom Ortenberg said Sunday morning.
Universal's international division reported that its total gross for the year 2001 was $1.06 billion, putting the studio in second place to Warner Bros. with an international total of $1.2 billion. Buena Vista International ranks third with $1.04 billion for the year.
Universal noted that only those three studios reached the $1 billion mark in 2001. Universal was the first to do so, crossing $1 billion in November, benefiting from five films that grossed over $100 million. Included were The Mummy Returns with $228 million, Bridget Jones's Diary with $208.5 million, Jurassic Park III with $183 million, Hannibal with $135 million [excluding about $50 million more from Japan and Eastern Europe, where Universal did not have rights to the film] and American Pie 2 with $125 million.
Pie 2 continued to do strong business in Brazil in its third weekend with a Friday through Saturday gross of approximately $0.3 million on 160 screens. It ranked second to the opening of Lord of the Rings. Pie 2's cume in Brazil is now $2.1 million, an increase of 62 percent over the total there for the first American Pie.
In Australia, Pie 2 grossed $0.29 million with 160 playdates this weekend, ranking seventh in its fifth week. Its 32 day cume Down Under is $6.5 million.
In Spain, Pie 2 in its fifth week grossed $0.2 million on 255 screens for Friday and Saturday. It ranked sixth and has a 32 day cume of $7.0 million, an increase of 19 percent over than original film's gross there.
Universal said it still has five 5 countries in which to open Pie 2, including Argentina Jan. 10 and Mexico Jan. 11.
Key films--those grossing more than $500,000--took in approximately $124.56 million, up about 7.31 per cent from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $116.07 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down about 23.75 percent from $163.34 million for the previous weekend.
Last year, Fox's third week of Cast Away was first with $22.22 million at 2,948 theaters ($7,538 per theater); and Paramount's fourth week of What Women Want was second with $15.56 million at 3,052 theaters ($5,097 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $37.8 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $40.0 million.