Dinosaurs snapped back to life this weekend as Buena Vista/Disney's "Dinosaur" kicked off to nearly $39 million.
The PG-rated, computer-animated feature, which cut short the chart-topping reign of DreamWorks' "Gladiator," set a record as the year's biggest opening with an ESTIMATED $38.6 million at 3,257 theaters ($11,860 per theater).
"Dinosaur's" per-theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide or limited release this weekend.
"I think it's great," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning.
Noting that some studios had estimated the picture as opening to even bigger numbers, Viane said, "I know some of my competitors have given me more credit than we're giving ourselves, but I'd rather see it than say it and then have to back off. If tomorrow (when actual weekend figures are released) it's a bigger number, I won't be embarrassed to tell people I was low. Every now and then, that happens."
Focusing on the film's mid-May arrival, he noted, "We have not had the opportunity to open a movie this big when it wasn't on a holiday weekend. We're not in the summer and we're not on a holiday. We'll be the first to admit that we don't have a model we're as comfortable with as we are when we're matching apples to apples."
Viane pointed out that, looking at the film's grosses market by market, he was particularly pleased that, "We're as big in the inner city as we are in the suburbs. Normally, we're a very suburban-oriented group. Our films always play well at the malls. But it doesn't matter where you are or what theater - whether you're in San Antonio or the Rio Grande Valley or up in Minneapolis - across the board these are fabulous, fabulous numbers. And so consistent. It doesn't happen often, and you just really feel great when it does."
Viane said "Dinosaur" is Disney's third-biggest animated opening ever, "Behind 'Toy Story 2,' which was Thanksgiving (with $57.4 million the weekend of Nov. 26-28, 1999), and "Lion King," which was mid-summer (with $40.9 million the weekend of June 24-26, 1994). For 'Lion King,' every day (was) a holiday, including the day we opened. We out-grossed 'Lion King' Saturday (with 'Dinosaur'). We didn't do as well as 'Lion King' on Friday. Obviously, people were either at work or in school."
DreamWorks' R-rated action adventure "Gladiator" slid one peg to second place in its third week with a still-muscular ESTIMATED $19.1 million (-23%) at 3,041 theaters (+98 theaters; $6,281 per theater). Its cume is approximately $102.5 million, heading for $175-200 million in domestic theaters.
"It continues to have incredible word-of-mouth, which is generating substantial repeat business, including women, who are now almost 50% of our audience," DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning.
"It really is encouraging. It went over the $100 million mark in 17 days, which actually is the same as 'The Mummy' last year. But 'Mummy' started out about $9 million ahead of us (from its opening weekend). This movie is holding extremely well. It's playing so well, it's unbelievable. And people are seeing this movie three and four times."
DreamWorks is distributing "Gladiator" domestically while Universal is releasing it abroad. The two studios are 50-50 partners, sharing equally in the success of "Gladiator," which reportedly cost $103 million to make.
DreamWorks also found preferred parking in third place with the high-speed arrival of its R-rated youth appeal comedy "Road Trip," opening to an ESTIMATED $15.0 million at 2,530 theaters ($5,929 per theater).
"It's off to a really good start," DreamWorks' Tharp said. "It's always great when the opening weekend of a movie grosses the movie's cost. We're very pleased with it. 'There's Something About Mary' in the summertime did about $13 million its first weekend, so this is, I think, a really good number. 'American Pie' was higher than this, but it was also in the summer, on July 9.
"Word-of-mouth is very positive. The only exit (data) I have is from the sneaks. It was 88% in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good)."
Overall, it was a terrific weekend for DreamWorks, which had two films in the Top Five, three in the Top Ten and saw "Gladiator" crack the $100 million mark.
"U-571," Universal's PG-13 World War II submarine drama, drifted down one rung to fourth place in its fifth week, still holding nicely with an ESTIMATED $4.61 million (-20%) at 2,736 theaters (-84 theaters; $1,685 per theater). Its cume is approximately $64.4 million, heading for about $75 million in domestic theaters.
"Frequency" dropped one slot to fifth place in its fourth week, continuing to hold really well with an ESTIMATED $4.3 million (-13%) at 2,202 theaters (-268 theaters; $1,953 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.3 million, heading for about $40 million in domestic theatres.
"The drops are great," New Line executive vice president, distribution David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. "It's the fourth week in the marketplace (and it's only down) 13%. That's great."
Warner Bros. and Franchise Pictures' PG-13-rated sci-fi action adventure "Battlefield Earth" plunged four orbits to sixth place in its second weekend with a weak ESTIMATED $3.83 million (-67%) at 3,304 theaters (-3 theaters; $1,159 per theater). Its cume is approximately $18.2 million heading for about $25 million.
DreamWorks' Woody Allen PG-rated comedy "Small Time Crooks" opened in seventh place - only about $30,000 behind Warners' estimate for "Battlefield" - to an encouraging ESTIMATED $3.8 million at 865 theaters ($4,393 per theater).
"'Small Time Crooks' is just fantastic," DreamWorks' Tharp said. "You expect the biggest eight to 10 markets to do business on a Woody Allen movie. But this movie played on a broader basis. We actually attracted families this weekend. This did family business. I think the rating and the comedy and Tracey Ullman helped.
"We may add a few runs for the holiday weekend. We're going to add a few on 'Road Trip' for Memorial Day weekend, and we may look at this now. Going this wide was sort of an experiment. Most of (Allen's) movies open in just a few runs. But seeing how broad it did play, we actually may add some new runs in the next few weeks."
Columbia's PG-13-rated youth appeal dance film "Center Stage" slipped two slots to eighth place in its second weekend with a quiet ESTIMATED $3.3 million (-28%) at 1,506 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,191 per theater). Its cume is approximately $9.2 million.
20th Century Fox's PG-13-rated drama "Where the Heart Is" fell two notches to ninth place in its fourth week with a softer ESTIMATED $2.9 million (-29%) at 2,155 theaters (-256 theaters; $1,346 per theater). Its cume is approximately $25.8 million.
"Heart," which cost about $15 million to make, was picked up by Fox for domestic and English speaking territories for only $9 million.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Universal's "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas," the PG-rated prequel to the 1996 "Flintstones" blockbuster, down five rocks in its fourth week with a calm ESTIMATED $2.5 million (-46%) at 2,692 theaters (-433 theaters; $928 per theater). Its cume is approximately $27.8 million, heading for about $35 million in domestic theaters.
There were no other significant openings this weekend.
Buena Vista/Touchstone held sneak previews of its PG-13 rated action comedy "Shanghai Noon" at 1,230 theaters Saturday night.
Disney said the sneaks played to 76% capacity with 40% of the performances sold out. Those on hand scored it 91% in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good).
"Shanghai" opens May 26 at about 2,700-2,800 theaters.
On the expansion front, Lions Gate Films' R-rated dark comedy "The Big Kahuna" widened in its fourth week, placing 18th with an unexciting ESTIMATED $0.74 million at 309 theaters (+288 theaters; $2,390 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.1 million.
Paramount Classics' R-rated drama about teen suicide, "The Virgin Suicides" added a few theaters in its fifth week, placing 21st (in a tie with "I Dreamed Of Africa") with a soft ESTIMATED $0.43 million (-29%) at 275 theaters (+5 theaters; $1,565 per theater). Its cume is approximately $2.4 million.
USA Films' PG-13-rated drama "Up At The Villa" went wider in its third week, placing 24th with a calm ESTIMATED $0.25 million (-5%) at 109 theaters (+22 theaters; $2,324 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.1 million.
Miramax's R-rated comedy "East Is East" added a few theaters in its sixth week, placing 25th with a quiet ESTIMATED $0.19 million (-6%) at 66 theaters (+3 theaters; $2,900 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.5 million.
Miramax Films' R-rated contemporary version of "Hamlet" began expanding in its second week, placing 27th with an encouraging ESTIMATED $0.099 million at 13 theaters (+9 theaters; $7,631 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.2 million.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $108.75 million, up about 4.37% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $104.20 million.
This weekend's key film gross was up about 34.87% from this year's previous weekend, when key films grossed $80.63 million.
Last year, 20th Century Fox's opening week of "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace - Episode One" was first with $64.81 million at 2,970 theaters ($21,822 per theater); and Universal's third week of "The Mummy" was second with $13.79 million at 3,276 theaters ($4,210 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $78.6 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $57.7 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES
Based on business by key films (those grossing $500,000 or more), last weekend's top six distributors were:
Buena Vista (Disney and Touchstone) was first with two films("Dinosaur" and "Keeping the Faith"), grossing an ESTIMATED $39.8 million or 36.6% of the market.
Warner Bros. was sixth with one film ("Battlefield Earth"), grossing an ESTIMATED $3.83 million or 3.5% of the market.
(11)Screwed/Universal: Theaters: 1,761 (+2) Gross: $1.77 million (-47%) Average per theater: $1,005 Cume: $6.1 million
(12)Love & Basketball/New Line: Theaters: 833 (-214) Gross: $1.57 million (-19%) Average per theater: $1,885 Cume: $21.9 million
(13)Rules of Engagement/Paramount: Theaters: 1,062 (-556) Gross: $1.18 million (-33%) Average per theater: $1,106 Cume: $58.5 million
(14)Erin Brockovich/Universal: Theaters: 947 (-544) Gross: $1.11 million (-35%) Average per theater: $1,175 Cume: $120.2 million
(15)Held Up/Trimark: Theaters: 679 (-9) Gross: $1.1 million (-42%) (tie) Average per theater: $1,620 Cume: $3.5 million
(16)Keeping the Faith/Buena Vista: Theaters: 842 (-727) Gross: $1.1 million (-42%) (tie) Average per theater: $1,305 Cume: $34.0 million
(17)Final Destination/New Line: Theaters: 944 (0) Gross: $0.73 million (-35%) Average per theater: $1,114 Cume: $49.4 million
(18)The Big Kahuna/Lions Gate: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(19)Return to Me/MGM: Theaters: 733 (-470) Gross: $0.71 million (-38%) Average per theater: $965 Cume: $30.1 million
(20)28 Days/Columbia: Theaters: 778 (-977) Gross: $0.66 million (-55%) Average per theater: $850 Cume: $35.5 million
(21)I Dreamed Of Africa/Columbia: Theaters: 700 (-1,412) Gross: $0.43 million (-71%) (tie) Average per theater: $620 Cume: $5.9 million
(21)The Virgin Suicides/Paramount Classics: (see EXPANSIONS above) (tie)
(23)The Skulls/Universal: Theaters: 305 (-270) Gross: $0.3 million (-35%) Average per theater: $985 Cume: $34.7 million
(24)Up At The Villa/USA Films: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(25)East Is East/Miramax: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(26)The Road to El Dorado/DreamWorks: Theaters: 451 (-576) Gross: $0.17 million (-84%) Average per theater: $375 Cume: $49.5 million
(27)Hamlet/Miramax: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(28)Time Code/Sony/Screen Gems: Theaters: 42 (0) Gross: $0.08 million (-37%) Average per theater: $1,905 Cume: $0.5 million
(29)Human Traffic/Miramax: (see EXPANSIONS above)