At the holiday weekend's mid-point, insiders were confident this will be Hollywood's biggest Memorial Day ever. Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones will take top honors again with $61 million or more (for four days as are all of today's estimates). Some industry projections Sunday morning had Clones doing as much as $63-64 million.
Spider-Man will be a very powerful number two again with about $38.5 million.
Insomnia will awaken loudly in third place with over $26 million. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron will sprint nicely into fourth place with over $23 million. And Enough will do well enough to round out the Top Five with about $19 million.
Key films -- those grossing $500,000 or more for the four days -- are expected to crack $200 million, an increase of about 12 percent over last year's then record setting Memorial Day total of $178.5 million.
THE TOP TEN
(NOTE: Today's estimates are for the four-day Memorial Day weekend from Friday through Monday. Percentage variations are versus the previous weekend plus last week's non-holiday Monday. Estimates are also indicated parenthetically for the three-day period Friday through Sunday.)
20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm's PG rated franchise installment Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones continued to orbit in first place in its second week with an outstanding ESTIMATED $61.0 million (-33%) at 3,161 theaters (theater count unchanged; $19,298 per theater). Its cume is approximately $202.3 million. (Fox estimated its three-day gross at $48.85 million, which would give it a cume through Sunday of $190.16 million.)
Some insiders were estimating Clones' four day total to be in the $63-64 million range, which would require its three day number to be higher than the $48.85 million Fox was estimating Sunday. Monday's updated estimates could bring a higher four-day projection from Fox based on Clones' Sunday ticket sales.
Star Wars' average per theater was the highest for any film playing this weekend.
Star Wars: Episode I--The Phantom Menace took in $431.1 million in domestic theaters. Its worldwide total (domestic plus international) was $923 million.
Columbia's PG-13 sci-fi fantasy blockbuster Spider-Man was still showing powerful legs, holding on to second place in its fourth week with an enviable ESTIMATED $38.5 million (-22%) at 3,876 theaters (+261 theaters; $9,933 per theater). Its cume is approximately $336.3 million, heading for at least $400 million and quite possibly as much as $450 million in domestic theaters. (Sony estimated its three-day gross at $30.5 million, which would give it a cume through Sunday of $328.3 million.)
"3,876 is the highest print count ever. 3,750 (prints) for Shrek was the previous high that was (reached) during the course of their run," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning, noting that Spidey's 261 print increase reflected the fact that "more theaters are demanding Spider-Man."
Looking at the latest records set by Spider-Man, Blake noted, "It was the fastest to $300 million. We hit it Friday on day 22. The previous fastest to $300 million was Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace in 28 days. By Monday we will be at $336.3 million, which will make us the sixth biggest picture of all time, passing Forrest Gump, which did $329.7 million. We're one step away from the Top Five where Jurassic Park has $357 million. And it's the biggest fourth weekend gross ever for three or four days. We've broken a record in each of our first four weeks."
Alcon Entertainment's R rated thriller Insomnia arrived in third place via Warner Bros. to an eye-opening ESTIMATED $26.2 million at 2,610 theaters ($10,038 per theater). (Warners estimated its three-day gross at $21.04 million.)
"It's the largest Memorial Day weekend in Warner Bros. history," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "We have never opened up a movie (to bigger business over) Memorial Day weekend. Also, it's the largest opening in Al Pacino's career. Dick Tracy did $22 million and The Godfathers didn't open that wide and (they were) many, many years ago. This ties Robin Williams' biggest opening, which was Flubber (which opened Nov. 26, 1997 to $26.7 million)."
Focusing on the film's strong opening, Fellman said, "Insomnia is an Alcon production, distributed by Warner Bros., and financed by Fred Smith of Fed Ex. The success of our opening confirms the opportunity for counter-programming adult themed films during the competitive summer season."
Along those lines, Warners has another example of counter-programming coming with its June 7 launch of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. "That is more female obviously and this (Insomnia) is male," Fellman explained. "And then we're going to hit 'em on the nose with Scooby-Doo (a live action and animation family film opening June 14 based on the long running TV cartoon series. We're looking for a good solid summer here."
As for the strong start the summer is off to, Fellman said, "I've got a four day number of almost $200 million. It's off to a great start. The box office is running about 22 percent ahead of last year and I think we'll continue this record pace through the summer and well into the fall and Christmas. We'll have another huge year at the box office.
"Admissions are up right now by about 12 percent and I think they'll continue to grow. I think the movie business is very healthy. Exhibition has emerged from their downward spiral (and is now) healthy and flush from all these big successes."
Could this be a $10 billion year at the domestic theatrical box office? "It certainly could be," Fellman replied. "I think so. We've got a couple of other strong contenders (besides Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets opening Nov. 15). We've got the sequel to Analyze This (which again stars Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal and is called) Analyze That (opening Dec. 6. We also have a really funny -- I've seen some of it -- wonderful romantic comedy with Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant (Castle Rock Entertainment's Two Weeks Notice, opening Dec. 20), which kind of reminds me of When Harry Met Sally. It's a very well made fun movie."
DreamWorks' G rated animated feature Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron opened in fourth place to a fast paced ESTIMATED $23.3 million at 3,317 theaters ($7,024 per theater). (DreamWorks estimated its three-day gross at $17.8 million.)
Directed by Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook, it was produced by Mireille Soria and Jeffrey Katzenberg.
"We're very happy and pleased with the (three-day total of) $17.8 million," DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning. "Going into the weekend, many people (predicting the box office) had us doing about $18 million for the four days.
"I think as schools let out across the country, more of our audience becomes available and it looks good for the long term of the movie."
Weather patterns across the country over the rest of the holiday weekend will also play a part in how Spirit winds up performing. "If it rains like we think it will in a big part of the Eastern part of the country, our number could actually go up a little," he explained.
Looking at the very strong early summer box office, Tharp noted, "The industry is up 15 or 16 percent already. You have to think that this summer based on the number of high profile movies and (just) the number of movies should be up that much over last year if not more."
Last summer saw ticket sales from Memorial Day through Labor Day of about $3 billion. Including the pre-summer weeks starting in mid-May brought the total to about $3.3 billion. A 15 percent increase this summer would mean a pre-summer and summer total of about $3.8 billion.
Hollywood has on tap this summer, Tharp said, "movies that will appeal to a wide variety of people. That's how you actually increase attendance."
And looking down the road, he added, "It could literally be a $10 billion year. I think it's a real possibility." Last year Hollywood set a record with box office grosses hitting $8.4 billion. Tharp pointed out that in the coming months this year will continue to be "very crowded and there's a wide spectrum of movies from late September through the Holiday season." A number of major franchise films are due to arrive in the fourth quarter, including the next installments of James Bond, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.
Columbia's PG-13 rated thriller Enough kicked off in fifth place to a solid ESTIMATED $19.0 million at 2,623 theaters ($7,244 per theater). (Sony estimated its three-day gross at $15.0 million.)
Directed by Michael Apted, it stars Jennifer Lopez.
"It's very much in the range of Jennifer Lopez's other successful films, which include Anaconda, which opened April 11, 1997 to $16.6 million and did $65.5 million (in domestic theaters), The Cell, which opened Aug. 18, 2000 to $17.5 million and did $61.2 million and The Wedding Planner, which opened Jan. 26, 2001 to $13.5 million and did $60.4 million," Sony's Jeff Blake said.
"Clearly, this is a solid opening. It's a $40 million negative picture and if we can get to the range of these other films (starring Lopez) we'll be in great shape."
Universal and Studio Canal's PG-13 rated romantic comedy drama About a Boy, from Tribeca and Working Title, fell two slots to sixth place in its second weekend with an okay ESTIMATED $10.07 million (+5%) at 1,749 theaters (+542 theaters; $5,755 per theater). Boy, which was made for only $27 million, has a cume of approximately $22.0 million. (Insiders estimated its three-day gross at $7.6 million.)
20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises' R rated thriller Unfaithful slid four pegs to seventh place in its third weekend with a less sexy ESTIMATED $7.8 million (-28%) at 2,401 theaters (-223 theaters; $3,255 per theater). Its cume is approximately $41.3 million. (Fox estimated its three-day gross at $6.23 million.)
Columbia's release of Revolution Studios' PG-13 rated low budget comedy The New Guy fell three slots to eighth place in its third week with a calm ESTIMATED $5.7 million (-18%) at 2,374 theaters (-313 theaters; $2,401 per theater). Its cume is approximately $24.7 million. (Sony estimated its three-day gross at $4.5 million.)
Directed by Ed Decter, it stars D.J. Qualls.
"It's a $13 million negative that looks like it's going to go north of $30 million (in domestic theaters) so it will be a very solid profitable picture for us," Sony's Jeff Blake said.
Paramount's R rated road rage drama Changing Lanes dropped three rungs to ninth place in its seventh week with a slower ESTIMATED $2.0 million (-40%) at 1,258 theaters (-900 theaters; $1,610 per theater). Its cume is approximately $64.6 million. (Insiders estimated its three-day gross at $1.6 million.)
Rounding out the Top Ten was Universal's PG-13 rated adventure spinoff The Scorpion King in association with World Wrestling Federation Entertainment and Alphaville, down three pegs in its sixth week with an uneventful ESTIMATED $1.8 million (-42%) at 1,527 theaters (-1,028 theaters; $1,205 per theater). Its cume is approximately $87.9 million, heading for $95 million or more in domestic theaters. (Insiders estimated its three-day gross at $1.2 million.)
Directed by Chuck Russell, it stars The Rock.
MEMORIAL DAY OVERVIEW -- 1982 - 2001
Looking back at Memorial Day weekends over the past two decades, it's clear that the holiday's importance to Hollywood has grown enormously.
Memorial Day began looking like a potentially big holiday in 1982 when MGM/UA's Rocky III starring Sylvester Stallone delivered a $16 million knockout punch for four days at 939 theaters ($17,055 per theater). Hollywood hadn't quite yet realized how a Wednesday opening could extend a holiday weekend's impact, so Rocky III entered the ring on a Friday (May 28).
Rocky III ran rings around everything else playing that weekend: 20th Century Fox's suspense thriller Visiting Hours ($5.3 million), Universal's action drama Conan the Barbarian ($5.2 million), Universal's comedy Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid ($4.6 million) and Fox's youth appeal comedy Porky's ($4.5 million). Key films - those grossing at least $500,000 for the four days from May 28-31 - took in $49.9 million.
Only one year later in 1983, Memorial Day box office history was being rewritten with Fox's launch of George Lucas' third Star Wars film Return of the Jedi. This time, the action got underway on Wednesday as Jedi blasted off to $30.5 million for four days (May 27-30) and $41.1 million for six days at 1,002 theaters.
Everything else playing was in a much lower orbit: Columbia's action drama Blue Thunder ($6.2 million), Paramount's romantic dance drama Flashdance ($4.7 million), Columbia's sci-fi epic Spacehunter ($4.6 million) and Orion's drama Breathless ($2.8 million). Key films grossed $61.4 million.
Jedi's Memorial Day record only lasted until 1984, one year later, when Paramount's adventure Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom from George Lucas and Steven Spielberg kicked off on a Wednesday to $33.9 million four days (May 25-28) and $42.3 million for six days at 1,687 theaters.
Nothing else came close: TriStar's drama The Natural ($6.9 million), Cannon and MGM/UA's dance film Breakin' ($4.1 million), Fox's adventure drama Romancing the Stone ($4.1 million) and Universal's youth appeal comedy 16 Candles ($2.9 million). Key films took in $67.3 million.
Memorial Day 1985 wasn't nearly as strong as it had been in '84. TriStar's adventure sequel Rambo: First Blood 2 starring Sylvester Stallone finished first with $25.5 million. With 2,074 theaters, it was the widest release Memorial Day had ever seen to that point.
By 1985 Hollywood was beginning to see the value of being in the Memorial Day marketplace. Unlike past years when only one big new film had opened for the long weekend, 1985 brought a Friday opening for MGM/UA's James Bond adventure A View To A Kill ($13.3 million) and a Wednesday launch for Universal's comedy Brewster's Millions ($9.6 million for four days and $11.5 million for six days). Rounding out the top five were Paramount's long running Beverly Hills Cop ($2.9 million) and Warner Bros.' comedy Police Academy 2 ($1.5 million). Key films grossed $63.6 million from May 24-27.
Memorial Day 1986 saw a big downturn in holiday ticket sales. Cannon/Warner Bros.' opening of the action adventure Cobra starring Sylvester Stallone was first with an unexciting $15.7 million at 2,131 theaters for four days.
MGM/UA's opening of its horror sequel Poltergeist II was a strong second with $12.4 million at 1,596 theaters. Others in the top five were: Paramount's Top Gun starring Tom Cruise, which had opened a week earlier ($9.4 million), TriStar's comedy Short Circuit ($5.5 million) and Universal's comedy Sweet Liberty ($3.1 million). Key films took in $51.9 million from May 23-26.
Memorial Day ticket sales snapped back to life in 1987 with Paramount's opening of Beverly Hills Cop II starring Eddie Murphy ($33.0 million for four days and $40.6 million for six days) at 2,326 theaters.
Second place went to Buena Vista's launch of Ernest Goes to Camp ($6.2 million). Others in the top five: Universal's comedy The Secret of My Success ($3.7 million), Columbia's failed comedy Ishtar ($3.4 million) and New Century's horror film The Gate ($2.9 million). Key films took in $62.2 million from May 22-25.
Memorial Day 1988 took a step backwards with Paramount's opening of Crocodile Dundee II starring Paul Hogan ($24.5 million for four days and $29.2 million for six days) at 2,837 theaters. By 1988, studios were going much wider than ever before.
TriStar's launch of Rambo III starring Sylvester Stallone was second with $16.7 million at 2,562 theaters ($21.2 million for six days). Also playing: MGM/UA's George Lucas drama Willow ($7.6 million), Orion's drama Colors ($2.4 million) and Warners' Tim Burton classic Beetlejuice ($2.0 million). Key films grossed $63.1 million from May 27-30.
Memorial Day saw big time success again in 1989 with Paramount's opening of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade from Lucas/Spielberg with $37.0 million for four days and $46.9 million for six days at 2,327 theaters.
Nothing else stood a chance: TriStar's thriller See No Evil, Hear No Evil ($6.1 million), Universal's drama Field of Dreams ($5.7 million), UA's youth comedy Road House ($5.0 million) and Warners' opening of the drama Pink Cadillac starring Clint Eastwood ($4.4 million for four days). Key films mustered $69.5 million from May 26-29.
Memorial Day 1990 brought a downturn with Universal's opening of Back to the Future Part III with $23.7 million for four days at 2,019 theaters.
Universal also occupied second place with Bird on a Wire starring Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn ($12.8 million), which had opened one week earlier.
Others in the top five: Buena Vista's blockbuster Pretty Woman ($8.2 million), Orion's comedy drama Cadillac Man starring Robin Williams ($6.5 million) and Buena Vista's opening of its action drama Fire Birds starring Nicolas Cage and Tommy Lee Jones ($6.4 million for four days). Key films took in $69.8 million from May 25-28.
Memorial Day continued to drop in 1991 with Universal's opening of Ron Howard's drama Backdraft with $15.7 million for four days at 1,852 theaters. Second place went to Buena Vista's comedy What About Bob ($11.2 million) and TriStar's opening of the drama Hudson Hawk starring Bruce Willis was third ($7.1 million for four days at 2,071 theaters).
Rounding out the top five: MGM's opening of the now classic drama Thelma & Louise starring Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis ($6.1 million for four days at 1,179 theaters) and Fox's opening of its drama Only the Lonely ($6.0 million at 1,179 theaters for four days). Key films totaled $69.6 million from May 24-27.
Success was in the air again with Memorial Day 1992 as Warners took first place with Lethal Weapon 3 starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover ($27.6 million at 2,510 theaters). Having opened a week earlier, its 11 day cume was $70.5 million.
Fox's opening of Alien 3 starring Sigourney Weaver was second with $23.1 million for four days at 2,227 theaters. Third place went to Universal's opening of Ron Howard's drama Far and Away starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman ($12.9 million for four days at 1,583 theaters).
Rounding out the top five: Buena Vista's opening of the comedy Encino Man starring Brendan Fraser ($9.9 million for four days at 2,050 theaters); and TriStar's blockbuster thriller Basic Instinct starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone ($3.2 million). Key films accounted for $93.5 million from May 22-25, marking the first time the Memorial Day marketplace expanded within reach of $100 million.
Memorial Day 1993 brought yet another TriStar action adventure opening starring Sylvester Stallone - Cliffhanger with $20.5 million for four days at 2,333 theaters. Second place went to Warners' opening of the comedy Made in America starring Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson ($11.8 million for four days at 2,048 theaters).
Warners' comedy Dave was third ($8.9 million), followed by Buena Vista's opening of the youth appeal drama Super Mario Bros. ($8.5 million for four days at 2,081 theaters) and Fox's comedy sequel Hot Shots! Part Deux ($8.2 million). Key films retreated to $88.1 million from May 28-31.
Memorial Day ticket sales were on the rise again in 1994 with Universal's launch of its comedy The Flintstones with $37.2 million for four days at 2,498 theaters. Warners' second weekend of Maverick starring Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster and James Garner was second ($18.6 million. Paramount's opening of Beverly Hills Cop III starring Eddie Murphy was third with $15.3 million for four days and $18.8 million for six days at 2,748 theaters.
Also in the top five: Buena Vista's drama When a Man Loves a Woman ($7.0 million) and Miramax's suspense thriller The Crow ($6.6 million). Key films were once again pushing $100 million -- with $95.2 million from May 27-30.
The marketplace expanded over Memorial Day 1995 although there wasn't as much action in first place. Universal's dramatic comedy Casper opened atop the chart with $22.1 million for four days at 2,714 theaters. Fox's second weekend of Die Hard with a Vengeance starring Bruce Willis was second with $19.0 million. Paramount's opening of Braveheart starring Mel Gibson took third place with $12.9 million for four days and $15.6 million for six days at 2,035 theaters.
Rounding out the top five: Buena Vista's drama Crimson Tide ($12.8 million) and Sony's comedy drama Forget Paris starring Billy Crystal and Debra Winger ($7.7 million). Key films cracked $100 million for the first time with $112.0 million for May 26-29.
Memorial Day 1996 really brought the holiday weekend into its own as Paramount launched Mission: Impossible to $56.8 million for four days and $74.9 million for six days (including Tuesday night previews) at 3,012 theaters. It was the widest release ever for a Memorial Day opening.
Warners' disaster drama Twister was a solid second with $38.0 million in its third weekend. Buena Vista's comedy Spy Hard opened in third place with $10.4 million for four days. Universal's family film Flipper was fourth with $5.4 million. Fifth place went to Fox's drama The Truth About Cats and Dogs ($2.7 million). Key films collected $124.99 million from May 24-27.
What was big in '96 looked smaller a year later as Memorial Day 1997 saw Universal's opening of Steven Spielberg's The Lost World: Jurassic Park to $92.7 million at 3,281 theaters for four days (including its Thursday night previews).
Warners' opening of the drama Addicted to Love was a distant second with $11.4 million for four days at 2,007 theaters. Sony's sci-fi drama The Fifth Element was third ($8.0 million), followed by New Line's comedy Austin Powers ($5.6 million) and Paramount's drama Breakdown ($5.4 million). Key films did a hefty $142.9 million from May 23-26.
Memorial Day 1998 saw the marketplace contract again as Sony's Godzilla opened in first place with $55.7 million for four days and $74.3 million for six days at 3,310 theaters. Paramount's sci-fi disaster drama Deep Impact was second with $19.4 million in its third weekend.
Buena Vista's drama The Horse Whisperer starring Robert Redford and Kristin Scott Thomas was third with $14.5 million in its second weekend. Also in the top five: Fox's satire Bullworth starring Warren Beatty ($10.5 million) and Warners' animated feature Quest for Camelot ($6.3 million). Key films grossed $128.97 million from May 22-25.
Memorial Day 1999 was topped by Fox's Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace from George Lucas with $66.9 million for four days at 3,023 theaters, bringing its cume to $207.1 million for 13 days.
Second place went to Universal's opening of its romantic comedy drama Notting Hill starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant ($27.7 million for four days at 2,747 theaters). Universal also took third place with The Mummy ($12.9 million). Rounding out the top five: Fox's romantic thriller Entrapment ($7.2 million) and Sony's opening of its sci-fi thriller The Thirteenth Floor ($4.3 million for four days at 1,815 theaters). Key films took in $136.1 million from May 28-31.
Memorial Day 2000 saw even bigger business than the previous year as Paramount's Mission: Impossible 2 opened to $70.8 million for four days at 3,653 theaters and a six day cume of $91.8 million.
Second place went to Buena Vista/Disney's first wide weekend for its animated feature Dinosaur ($32.0 million at 3,302 theaters). Buena Vista also took third place with Touchstone's action drama Shanghai Noon starring Jackie Chan ($19.6 million). Rounding out the top five: DreamWorks' epic Gladiator ($17.1 million) and DreamWorks' youth appeal comedy Road Trip ($13.5 million for four days at 1,815 theaters). Key films took in a record setting Memorial weekend total of $175.9 million from May 26-29.
Memorial Day 2001 went into the history books as the holiday weekend's biggest ever at the time, led by Buena Vista/ Touchstone's launch of Pearl Harbor with $75.2 million for four days at 3,214 theaters.
Second place went to DreamWorks' second weekend of its animated feature Shrek ($55.2 million at 3,623 theaters). Universal finished third with its action adventure The Mummy Returns starring Brendan Fraser ($19.0 million). Rounding out the top five: Columbia's epic A Knight's Tale ($9.1 million) and Franchise Films and Warner Bros.' drama Angel Eyes ($6.2 million). Key films took in a record setting Memorial weekend total of $178.5 million from May 25-28.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Miramax's PG rated comedy The Importance of Being Earnest to an encouraging ESTIMATED $0.53 million at 38 theaters ($13,809 per theater). (Miramax estimated its three-day gross at $0.37 million.)
United Artists' R rated drama CQ, released through MGM Distribution Co., arrived to a hopeful ESTIMATED $51,000 at 7 theaters in New York and Los Angeles ($7,286 per theater). (MGM estimated its three-day gross at $40,000.)
This weekend saw no national sneak previews.
On the expansion front this weekend there was no significant activity to report.
Key films--those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $200.16 million for the four-day holiday weekend, up about 12.13 percent from last year when they totaled $178.48 million for four days.
Key films for this four-day holiday weekend cannot be compared to the previous weekend of this year, which was a normal three-day weekend.
Last year, Buena Vista/Touchstone's opening week of Pearl Harbor was first with $75.18 million for four days at 3,214 theaters ($23,391 per theater); and DreamWorks' second week of Shrek was second with $55.22 million for four days at 3,623 theaters ($15,240 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $130.4 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $99.5 million.