The R-rated DreamWorks' action adventure set in ancient Rome arrived to a spectacular ESTIMATED $32.7 million at 2,938 theaters ($11,130 per theater). Its per theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide or limited release this weekend.
"It really is a great opening," DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning. "I think we're so pleased with it because it's an R-rated movie, it has a long running time and, initially, the appeal was predominately to men. All of that indicated it would be tough to get the movie to $30 million.
"The positive word of mouth helped increase Friday from $11.1 million to $13.6 million (on Saturday). On Friday, women represented about 35% of our audience, and on Saturday it jumped to about 45%. That positive word of mouth actually affected women as much if not more than men. They found out it played on an emotional level, versus what you anticipate from a movie called 'Gladiator' set in Rome in the Second Century."
Early Sunday morning, Tharp had not yet received details of the studio's exit polls but, based on preliminary information, said, "The over-25 (demographic group) is still the biggest part of our audience. But only slightly more (than the under-25s). It seemed like the date crowd did respond on Saturday night."
Looking at past big summer openings by R-rated films, Tharp said, " Air Force One" was the biggest ever at $37.2 million or so. Most of the ones above us had Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford or Mel Gibson. I think it puts Russell Crowe in rarified company there. This is the first vehicle for him that's opened to anywhere near these numbers."
Asked why DreamWorks opted to release the film this weekend, Tharp explained, "We felt this weekend we would have 100% of our primary demographic. Later in the summer is a better play time, but our thinking is we'd rather have almost 100% of our demographic now than split that primary demographic later."
Although DreamWorks is distributing "Gladiator" domestically, Universal is releasing it internationally, and the two studios are 50-50 partners, sharing equally in its success. The film reportedly cost $103 million to make.
"Gladiator" arrived via Universal in Australia last Thursday, opening to a record-setting gross of over $600,000 (A$1.03 million) at 287 theaters. Universal said its opening day success topped previous arrivals by hits like "Deep Impact", "The Mummy," "Saving Private Ryan,"" Jurassic Park:The Lost World" and "Jurassic Park."
The Australian opening, which kicked off the film's international campaign, was followed by its launch in Mexico this weekend. Most of "Gladiator's" international runs will begin later in May and continue through June.
"U-571," Universal's PG-13 World War II submarine drama, sank one notch to second place in its third week with a slower ESTIMATED $7.56 million (-40%) at 2,701 theaters (+85 theaters; $2,800 per theater). Its cume is approximately $49.4 million, heading for $60 million-plus in domestic theaters.
"There's a lot to be said this weekend, because you can't forget that we're 50% partners on 'Gladiator,'" Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "We have the number one, two and three films in the marketplace. So I feel thrilled."
Note: Based on Universal's estimates, 'The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas' came in third, slightly ahead of New Line's 'Frequency'. However, New Line's estimates for "Frequency" came in ahead of "Flintstones." Rankings here reflect the estimates reported by each of the studios on their own releases.
Focusing on "Flintstones," Rocco noted that it was up strongly on Saturday from Friday. After doing $1.37 million Friday, it jumped 118% to $2.99 million Saturday. "A 118% boost is what you want to see between a Friday and a Saturday when there is no school (vacation)," Rocco said.
"I think the 'Gladiator' number is really fabulous. So, all in all, a great weekend for the Big Globe!"
"Frequency" held on to third place in its second week with a still solid ESTIMATED $6.53 million (-28%) at 2,631 theaters (+10 theaters; $2,471 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17.8 million.
Universal's "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas," the PG-rated prequel to the 1996 "Flintstones" blockbuster, slid two pegs to fourth place in its second week with a less-animated ESTIMATED $6.31 million (-40%) at 3,050 theaters (+10 theaters; $2,070 per theater). Its cume is approximately $18.3 million.
20th Century Fox's PG-13 rated drama "Where the Heart Is" dropped one notch to fifth place in its second week with a less hearty ESTIMATED $5.0 million (-40%) at 2,439 theaters (+2 theaters; $2,050 per theater). Its cume is approximately $15.7 million.
"Heart," which cost about $15 million to make, was picked up by Fox for domestic and English-speaking territories for only $9 million.
New Line's PG-13 rated urban appeal drama "Love & Basketball" slid one notch in its third week to sixth place with a slower ESTIMATED $3.5 million (-34%) at 1,192 theaters (-53 theaters; $2,810 per theater). Its cume is approximately $19.8 million.
Made for under $10 million, "Basketball's" target audience is under-25 African-Americans.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13 rated romantic comedy "Keeping the Faith" held on to seventh place in its fourth week with a less faithful ESTIMATED $2.8 million (-37%) at 2,014 theaters (-157 theaters; $1,376 per theatre). Its cume is approximately $29.5 million.
Columbia's PG-13 drama "I Dreamed Of Africa" wasn't what moviegoers were dreaming about, opening in eighth place to a disappointing ESTIMATED $2.5 million at 2,112 theaters ($1,184 per theater).
Paramount's R rated military trial drama "Rules of Engagement" fell three rungs to ninth place in its fifth week with a dull ESTIMATED $2.4 million (-49%) at 2,261 theaters (-766 theaters; $1,061 per theater). Its cume is approximately $54.0 million heading for $60-65 million in domestic theaters.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Columbia's PG-13 rated dramatic comedy "28 Days," down two notches in its fourth week with a restrained ESTIMATED $2.35 million (-41%) at 2,413 theaters (-110 theaters; $974 per theater). Its cume is approximately $32.0 million, heading for $40 million in domestic theaters.
Last weekend also saw the arrival of USA Films' PG-13 rated drama "Up At The Villa," placing 20th with a calm ESTIMATED $0.33 million at 89 theaters ($3,655 per theater).
Miramax's R rated comedy "Human Traffic" kicked off in 25th place to a stop-and-go ESTIMATED $10,500 at 5 theaters (1 in New York and 4 in Los Angeles; $2,100 per theater).
"Traffic" will drive into the Top Ten markets this Friday (5/12).
Written and directed by Justin Kerrigan, it stars John Simm, Lorraine Pilkington, Shaun Parkes, Danny Dyer, Nicola Reynolds and Dean Davies.
Columbia held sneak previews Saturday night of its PG-13 rated youth appeal dance film "Center Stage" at 627 theaters.
"We probably were about half full," Sony Pictures Releasing president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning, "but really at or near capacity. Most of the suburban malls got a lot of young teenage girl business. It's really become - and I think we're marketing towards them - their show.
'Flashdance' or female 'Rocky' kind of show, as opposed to anything stuffy or artistic in the world of ballet. I think the dancing in it is great, but pointedly we've emphasized the struggle of the young girl to make it. I think that's certainly the audience that's going to respond best and the audience that showed up most at the sneaks. There's a lot of teenage girls out there. Many of them showed up last night and, hopefully, more to come next weekend."
"Stage" opens wide Friday (5/12).
On the expansion front, Paramount Classics' R-rated drama about teen suicide, "The Virgin Suicides" expanded in its third week, placing 21st with a disappointing ESTIMATED $0.3 million at 100 theaters (+71 theaters; $3,040 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.9 million.
Miramax's R-rated comedy "East Is East" went wider in its fourth week, placing 22nd with a quiet ESTIMATED $0.22 million at 61 theaters (+17 theaters; $3,524 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.9 million.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $79.13 million, down about 1.77% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $80.55 million.
This weekend's key film gross was up about 1.97% from this year's previous weekend, when key films grossed $77.60 million.
Last year, Universal's opening week of "The Mummy" was first with $43.37 million at 3,209 theaters ($13,515 per theater); and 20th Century Fox's second week of "Entrapment" was second with $12.33 million at 2,855 theaters ($4,318 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $55.7 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $40.3 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES
Based on business by key films (those grossing $500,000 or more), last weekend's top six distributors were:
DreamWorks was first with two films("Gladiator" and "The Road to El Dorado"), grossing an ESTIMATED $33.50 million or 42.3% of the market.
20th Century Fox was fourth with one film ("Where the Heart Is"), grossing an ESTIMATED $5.0 million or 6.3% of the market.
Buena Vista (Disney, Touchstone) was sixth with two films ("Keeping the Faith" and "High Fidelity"), grossing an ESTIMATED $3.59 million or 4.5% of the market.
(11)Erin Brockovich/Universal: Theaters: 1,943 (-555) Gross: $2.1 million (-42%) Average per theater: $1,080 Cume: $115.9 million
(12)Final Destination/New Line: Theaters: 1,103 (-50) Gross: $1.73 million (-27%) Average per theater: $1,564 Cume: $48.3 million
(13)Return to Me/MGM: Theaters: 1,703 (-303) Gross: $1.41 million (-39%) Average per theater: $825 Cume: $27.2 million
(14)The Road to El Dorado/DreamWorks: Theaters: 1,528 (-719) Gross: $0.8 million (-60%) Average per theater: $520 Cume: $47.7 million
(15)High Fidelity/BV/Touchstone: Theaters: 552 (-254) Gross: $0.79 million (-37%) Average per theater: $1,426 Cume: $23.3 million
(16)The Skulls/Universal: Theaters: 871 (-462) Gross: $0.67 million (-47%) Average per theater: $765 Cume: $33.6 million
(17) American Beauty/DreamWorks: Theaters: 603 (-188) Gross: $0.42 million (-38%) Average per theater: $690 Cume: $128.8 million
(18)American Psycho/Lions Gate: Theaters: 501 (-511) Gross: $0.41 million (-70%) Average per theater: $810 Cume: $13.1 million
(19)Romeo Must Die/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 453 (-256) Gross: $0.40 million (-50%) Average per theater: $885 Cume: $54.3 million
(20)UP AT THE VILLA/USA Films: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(21)The Virgin Suicides/Paramount Classics: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(22)East Is East/Miramax: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(23)Time Code/Sony/Screen Gems: Theaters: 7 (0) Gross: $0.053 million (-43%) Average per theater: $7,600 Cume: $0.2 million
(24)The Big Kahuna/Lions Gate: Theaters: 8 (0) Gross: $0.047 million (-42%) Average per theater: $5,845 Cume: $0.2 million
(25)HUMAN TRAFFIC/Miramax: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)