It was, however, a far cry from a year ago when Hannibal bit off $58 million in ticket sales. Also driving this weekend were slimmer launches for Big Fat Liar with nearly $12 million and Rollerball with $9 million.
Although Hollywood faced competition this weekend from television coverage of the Olympics starting with Friday's opening ceremonies, most distributors felt it didn't hurt business as much as the lack of powerhouse new product did. Together, this weekend's top six films grossed about $57 million compared to the $58 million Hannibal did on its own last year.
Key films--those grossing $500,000 or more--did nearly $98 million, down nearly 20 percent from last year's $122.8 million. Business was up just over 2 percent from last weekend of this year when key films grossed $95.6 million.
THE TOP TEN
Warner Bros. and Bel-Air Entertainment's R rated terrorist action adventure Collateral Damage kicked off to a chart topping ESTIMATED $15.18 million at 2,824 theaters ($5,375 per theater).
Collateral had been set to opening last October, but its release was delayed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks amid concerns about how the public would react to a film about terrorism. Its first place opening now to a combative although not blockbuster sized gross of just over $15 million suggests Warners picked the right time to bring Collateral into the marketplace and that it took the right approach in its marketing. Given its story, the film could easily have wound up sitting on the shelf for many more months and having much less of a theatrical impact.
Collateral's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
"We had a terrific weekend," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "It's obviously good to be Number One. We had a solid box office accompanied by encouraging data. The exits were good. It drew mostly males. Sixty-two percent of the audience was male and of the four (demographic) quadrants, 39 percent were over 25 and 25 percent were females over 25. What was interesting was that women liked the movie as much as men did.
"We've got a holiday weekend coming up next week, so we'll get a little extra bump (in ticket sales over four days). Hopefully, we'll hang in there and based on the exits I think we probably have a good shot."
Applauding Collateral's marketing launch, Fellman emphasized that, "(Warner Bros. theatrical marketing president) Dawn Taubin and her marketing team did a great job in preparing the materials and opening the movie in the Number One position."
As for the Olympics' impact, Fellman said, "I think the Olympics definitely hurt everybody on Friday and a little bit on Saturday. You can just look at the numbers Friday night and see how much it dropped. The industry was 41 percent down last Friday on the 18 pictures that I tracked.
"It was not a great weekend. I think there's no question that we have a little bit of an Olympics situation there. But we'll make it up during the week. That seems to be what happens generally. I think that based on the tracking it looked like it was going to be a more competitive weekend for us."
Universal's PG rated family comedy Big Fat Liar opened with smiles in second place to an ESTIMATED $11.74 million at 2,531 theaters ($4,640 per theater).
"We're very happy with our opening," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "The picture obviously has won over families as their choice for entertainment. The weekend business was really very good considering that overall everybody was concerned about the Olympics. It didn't deter people from going to the movies.
"The driving force of the picture was the fact that it offered comic and family entertainment. Frankie Muniz and Amanda Bynes are big TV stars and kids relate to that. Our exit polls were incredibly strong for our target audience, which is kids."
Asked what impact the Olympics had in general on the weekend, Rocco replied, "From what I can see, really not much. If you look at the drop from last year, it was driven by our own movie Hannibal (co-financed by Universal, which released it internationally, and MGM, which distributed it domestically) which opened to $58 million. But a $96 million weekend (this year) says that people are watching the Olympics, but they're doing it in their own time and it's not interfering with their out-of-the-home entertainment choices."
Liar should be nicely profitable for Universal, Rocco observed, because, "This picture was a very inexpensive film to make (and only cost) somewhere around $15 million. It's going to be a very profitable film for the studio, which is another reason why we're very excited."
MGM's PG-13 rated action adventure remake Rollerball debuted in third place to a low gear ESTIMATED $9.02 million at 2,762 theaters ($3,267 per theater).
Rollerball was originally set to open last fall. Its release was delayed to enable McTiernan to recut the picture and target it to 12- to 15-year-old boys.
Revolution Studios and Jerry Bruckheimer Films' R rated drama Black Hawk Down slid three slots to fourth place in its seventh week of release via Columbia Pictures, still showing good legs with an ESTIMATED $8.0 million (-28%) at 2,964 theaters -179 theaters; $2,699 per theater). Its cume is approximately $86.7 million, heading for $115-125 million and quite possibly more in domestic theaters depending on how well it does in Tuesday's Oscar nominations.
"I think it's a great position to be in with the Academy nominations coming Tuesday," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "We should be in excess of $87 million by Tuesday. We have high hopes for some nominations to power us even further than what we've accomplished so far. I think the normal course would be probably to be at $100 million prior to the last weekend of the month or, at least, during the last weekend of the month, worst case scenario, and with a little luck on Tuesday maybe we'll even get there a little quicker."
What was the Olympics' effect on the weekend? "I think Friday was noticeably lower," Blake said. "I think Saturday looked better, but I think there's definitely some effect. But you never know for sure. Your best answer as to why a weekend is down is always first to look at the movie releases. Last year you had Hannibal opening to $58 million, which is the top six (films) combined this weekend. There's no question, I think, that the Olympics had some impact, but the surest bet is always to look at the movie competition first."
Buena Vista/Disney's PG rated family comedy Snow Dogs, fell four pegs to fifth place, starting to melt in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $6.7 million (-34%) at 2,454 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,741 per theater). Its cume is approximately $59.5 million, heading for $75 million or more.
Buena Vista/Touchstone and Spyglass Entertainment's PG-13 rated adventure The Count of Monte Cristo dropped two notches to sixth place in its third week with a less swashbuckling ESTIMATED $6.3 million (-27%) at 2,199 theaters (-12 theaters; $2,878 per theater). Its cume is approximately $32.2 million.
Universal, DreamWorks and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13 rated Oscar contender drama A Beautiful Mind, which was fifth last week, tied for seventh place in its eighth week with a still solid ESTIMATED $5.84 million (-31%) at 2,220 theaters (-30 theaters; $2,630 per theater). Its cume is approximately $112.8 million.
Warner Bros. and Pandora's PG rated youth appeal drama A Walk To Remember, which was third last week, was virtually tied for seventh place in its third week with a dull ESTIMATED $5.77 million (-35%) at 2,311 theaters (-109 theaters; $2,125 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.5 million.
Sony's Screen Gems and Lakeshore Entertainment's PG-13 supernatural thriller The Mothman Prophecies slipped three spots to ninth place in its third week with a less thrilling ESTIMATED $4.9 million (-33%) at 2,275 theaters (-56 theaters; $2,154 per theater). Its cume is approximately $28.0 million.
Mothman was reportedly made for $42 million by Lakeshore and picked up by Screen Gems for domestic release for about $15 million.
Rounding out the Top Ten was New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated drama I Am Sam in its seventh week, holding okay with an ESTIMATED $4.53 million (-28%) at 1,450 theaters (+147 theaters; $3,121 per theater). Its cume is approximately $23.7 million.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Lot 47 Films' R rated comedy Scotland, PA to a bleak ESTIMATED $0.044 million at 17 theaters ($2,580 per theater).
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend Lions Gate Films' R rated drama Monster's Ball, which has been generating an Oscar buzz, added theaters in its seventh week with a strong ESTIMATED $2.3 million at 341 theaters (+312 theaters; $6,745 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.9 million.
"We'll be adding about 150 theaters this coming week so we'll be up to about 500 screens," Lions Gate president Tom Ortenberg said Sunday morning.
USA Films' R rated whodunit Gosford Park, a likely Oscar contender, continued to widen in its seventh week with an okay ESTIMATED $1.73 million (-27%) at 837 theaters (+37 theaters; $2,070 per theater). Its cume is approximately $21.9 million.
Miramax's R rated Oscar contender drama In the Bedroom widened in its 12th week with a still hopeful ESTIMATED $1.65 million (-10%) at 737 theaters (+188 theaters; $2,238 per theater. Its cume is approximately $19.2 million.
Universal's R rated fantasy thriller Brotherhood of the Wolf expanded in its fifth week to a slow ESTIMATED $1.15 million (-40%) at 405 theaters (+12 theaters; $2,835 per theater). Its cume is approximately $8.6 million.
Directed by Christopher Gans, it stars Samuel Le Bihan.
Miramax Zoe Films' R rated Oscar contending French comedy Amélie widened in its 15th week with a calm ESTIMATED $0.7 million (-10%) at 303 theaters (+30 theaters; $2,310 per theater. Its cume is approximately $24.6 million.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, it stars Audrey Tautou.
Fine Line's R rated drama Storytelling expanded in its second week to an unexciting ESTIMATED $0.14 million at 38 theaters (+33 theaters; $3,700 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.3 million.
Miramax's R rated romantic comedy Italian for Beginners widened in its fourth week to a still encouraging ESTIMATED $0.13 million (-7%) at 15 theaters (+1 theater; $8,800 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.5 million.
Directed by Lone Scherfig, it stars Anders Berthelsen.
TriStar's PG-13 rated Japanese animated feature Metropolis widened in its third week with a still lively ESTIMATED $0.064 million (-19%) at 13 theaters (+1 theater; $4,960 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.3 million.
Miramax's R rated drama The Son's Room widened in its third week with an okay ESTIMATED $0.046 million at 7 theaters (+2 theaters; $6,571 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.1 million.
Universal's international division reported that Spy Game opened well in the Netherlands last Thursday, grossing in its first day $69,000 on 68 screens. The studio noted that the opening day's business was at the same level as The Peacemaker and only 8 percent less than The Fast and the Furious, putting Spy Game on track for a successful run in the Netherlands.
Spy Game is in its third weekend in Australia, where it placed fourth again with grossed $0.35 million on 191 screens. Its cume after 17 days is $2.6 million.
Universal, which has also released the film in Belgium and Switzerland, has an international total of $4.5 million for Spy Game. After a total of 12 weeks of international release, the film's cume via Universal and other distributors is now $60 million.
Long Time Dead in its fourth week in the U.K. grossed $80,000 on 81 screens. Its cume after 23 days is $2.4 million.
D-Tox opened in Mexico Friday, placing second to the second week of Ocean's Eleven. Universal said that with reports of grosses still coming in its weekend estimate for D-Tox is $0.3 million on 150 screens.
Pie 2, which is still playing in several countries, has an overall international cume of $137.3 million.
Key films--those grossing more than $500,000--took in approximately $97.79 million, down about 19.53 percent from last year when they totaled $122.77 million.
Key films were up approximately 2.29 percent from the previous weekend of this year when they grossed $95.57 million.
Last year, MGM's opening week of Hannibal was first with $58.0 million at 3,230 theaters ($17,958 per theater); and Sony's third week of The Wedding Planner was second with $7.7 million at 2,726 theaters ($2,828 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $65.7 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $26.9 million.