Moviegoers accepted the mission of seeing Paramount's "Mission: Impossible 2" over Memorial Day weekend.
"M:I-2's four-day gross of an estimated $71.8 million at 3,653 theaters ($19,655 per theater) is 26.4 percent bigger than the first "Mission's" $56.8 million. It puts "M:I-2" into the record books as the second-biggest Memorial Day weekend opening ever.
The biggest Memorial Day opening, Universal and Amblin's 1997 launch of "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," did $90.2 million for four days (May 23-26), but opened on a Friday. "M:I-2's" Wednesday kick off diverted $21 million of ticket sales into Wednesday and Thursday, which might otherwise have bulked up its gross for Friday through Monday.
The sequel's estimated six-day cume (Wednesday-Monday) of $92.8 million is 23.9 percent bigger than the original's $74.9 million, which also included Tuesday night previews. "M:I-2" is on track to wind up with $200-250 million in domestic theaters.
With "M:I-2" leading the pack, it was a record-setting Memorial Day at the box office. Key films - those grossing at least $500,000 for the four days - grossed about $179.5 million, up 25.6 percent from the old record of $142.9 million set May 23-26, 1997, when "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" opened.
"It's number two, behind 'Jurassic Park' (in terms of Memorial Day openings)," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Monday morning. "It's difficult to compare, of course, because they opened on a Friday. We had $21 million on Wednesday and Thursday. If you put that on top of the $71.8 million, we'd be in the $93 million range, where the 'Jurassic' number was $90 million. Again, you can't say, obviously, that you would have picked up all that Wednesday and Thursday gross through the weekend. It's hard to compare that to the 'Jurassic' opening. (What's really important) is the ultimate gross and what you retain. That's the name of the game."
Although Paramount held Tuesday night previews before opening the first "Mission," it chose not to do previews this time around. "One of the reasons we didn't do the previews was because the grosses would have had an asterisk beside it (indicating it was) a six-and-a-half-day number or a four-and-a-half-day number," Lewellen said. "Did it cost us money? I don't think so. You can say, well, they didn't come Tuesday night and they didn't get in Wednesday or whatever. But, ultimately, to the bottom line - no, I don't think it hurt us."
Rainy weather in parts of the East and mid-West on Sunday helped ticket sales in general. "I know there were several baseball games (rained out), and even the Indy 500 was delayed," Lewellen said. "I know the golf tournament in Ohio was delayed until today. They didn't even finish it yesterday. So there was some rain back East, in the North East, particularly."
Where is it heading? "I expect to finish the first seven days in the high $90 millions -- $96-98 million, something like that," Lewellen replied. "The Tuesday figure should be $4.4 million to $5.7 million. If we get that, we're looking at, basically, $96-98 million for the first seven days. That would put it over $100 million on Wednesday (May 31). With a $100 million first week, you have to think it's going to get to $200 million."
The sequel film begins its international release through Paramount and UIP in Australia later this week. "Tom Cruise is down there," Lewellen said. "He went there over the weekend to promote the film."
Given its likely domestic performance and its strong international appeal with Cruise, "M:I-2" should wind up with $300-350 million in international theaters. That would give it a worldwide cume of $500 million to $600 million, an increase over the original's worldwide total of anywhere from 7.5 percent on the low end to 29 percent on the high end.
The PG-13-rated action adventure sequel got off to a sizzling start last Wednesday with $12.5 million at a record-setting 3,653 theaters ($3,422 per theater). It took in another $8.5 million Thursday ($2,327 per theater), down just 32 percent from Wednesday. The original "Mission" had dropped 46 percent from Wednesday to Thursday -- $11.8 million vs. $6.3 million.
Looking at other daily grosses for "M:I-2" vs. "Mission" shows: Friday -- $16.5 million vs. $13.1 million; Saturday -- $22.1 million vs. $16.7 million; Sunday -- $19.2 million vs. $15.6 million; and Monday - an estimated $14.0 million vs. $11.4 million. Paramount is estimating that its Tuesday gross will be in the $4.4-5.7 million range. The original's Tuesday gross was $4.1 million.
"M:I-2" went into the record books as the fourth-biggest Wednesday opening ever - behind 20th Century Fox's "Star Wars: Episode One - the Phantom Menace" with $28.5 million; Fox's "Independence Day" with $17.4 million; and Columbia's "Men In Black" with $14 million. "M:I-2" is the second-biggest Wednesday opening ever in the month of May, following ""Phantom Menace."
Not surprisingly, "M:I-2's" per-theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide or limited release this weekend.
(NOTE: All of today's weekend estimates are for the four-day period from Friday through Monday. Percentage drops are calculated against the previous three-day weekend plus Monday.)
Buena Vista/Disney's PG-rated computer animated feature "Dinosaur" was second in its second weekend with a still-sizable estimated $33.5 million (-20 percent) at 3,302 theaters (+45 theaters; $10,145 per theater). Its cume is approximately $81.9 million, heading for $170-200 million in domestic theaters.
Buena Vista/Touchstone and Spyglass Entertainment's PG-13-rated action comedy "Shanghai Noon," the only other wide opening this weekend, got off to an encouraging start in third place with an estimated $19.5 million at 2,711 theaters ($7,193 per theater).
"We're extremely happy," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Monday morning. "For us, we broke a couple of records. We have never launched a movie to an opening as big as 'Shanghai.' Our Memorial Day record up until now has been 'Horse Whisperer' at $14.5 million. So this one makes us feel really good, as well as the fact that 'Dinosaur' just continues to roll. And now that some serious school vacations are ahead of us, we're feeling really good about it.
"I think this is just a fabulous weekend for the industry - to think that we can go five movies deep (all well over $10 million). I think that is just sensational. My records show that we're 25 percent ahead of the biggest Memorial Day weekend on record and 30 percent ahead of last year. I've got to think the industry is very healthy when you can have five movies doing it like this."
Viane added that, "I am so excited about 'Shanghai' because everybody questioned whether it was the right thing to do (to open it against 'M-I:2'). I think any time you can launch a movie to this number and have the entire summer play time ahead of you with the (film's) playability, you can be nothing but happy. This has been a very good weekend for our guys because this weekend helped break our old record. It's not an industry record, but inside the company, we had never done $400 million (in grosses) this fast. I think we beat our old record by 11 days (that was set) back in '96."
Asked how he felt about "Dinosaur" not doing as much for the four-day weekend as it opened to for three days the prior weekend, Viane replied, "The problem is - and as much as I would have loved to have done that, too - there's no history. That's the problem. There has never been a major family movie that has launched at this t me. So nobody knew what to expect.
"My feeling (is that) the top three movies are all PG or PG-13. When I went to the movies this weekend, there were family units at 'Shanghai,' there were family units at 'Dinosaur' and there were family units at 'Mission.' In some respects, we were certainly all competitive and yet, I think, we all did as well, if not better, than could have been expected. I think these five movies have to be ecstatic over what's just happened. If this doesn't launch the summer, I don't know what will. This is fabulous."
Focusing on "Dinosaur," Viane pointed out, "Today we will be somewhere between $8-9 million. It will break the all-time Monday record, which was 'Lion King' at $6.6 million. It's not comparable, because it was a June Monday, but in the summer every day's a holiday. All I know is, it's been an awful nice weekend."
DreamWorks' R-rated action adventure "Gladiator" took fourth place, showing very good legs in its fourth week despite the strength of "M:I-2," with an estimated $17.3 million (-11 percent) at 3,188 theaters (+147 theaters; $5,427 per theater). Its cume is approximately $127.2 million, heading for $175-200 million in domestic theaters.
"Gladiator" is half owned by Universal, which is releasing it internationally.
DreamWorks' R-rated youth appeal comedy "Road Trip" was fifth, sliding two pegs in its second week with a still lively estimated $14.0 million (-12 percent) at 2,631 theaters (+101 theaters; $5,321 per theater). Its cume is approximately $35.8 million.
DreamWorks' Woody Allen PG-rated comedy "Small Time Crooks" rose one rung to sixth place in its second week, holding impressively with an estimated $3.9 million (-8 percent) at 870 theaters (+5 theaters; $4,483 per theater). Its cume is approximately $8.9 million.
New Line's "Frequency" dropped two slots to seventh place in its fifth week, still holding well with an estimated $3.8 million (-23 percent) at 1,803 theaters (-399 theaters; $2,108 per theater). Its cume is approximately $35.3 million, heading for about $40 million in domestic theaters.
"U-571," Universal's PG-13 World War II submarine drama, fell four rungs to eighth place in its sixth week with a slower estimated $3.19 million (-37 percent) at 2,043 theaters (-693 theaters; $1,560 per theater). Its cume is approximately $68.9 million, heading for about $75 million in domestic theaters.
Columbia's PG-13-rated youth appeal dance film "Center Stage" slipped one slot to ninth place in its third weekend with a calm estimated $2.8 million (-21 percent) at 1,506 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,859 per theater). Its cume is approximately $12.9 million.
Rounding out the Top Ten was 20th Century Fox's PG-13-rated drama "Where the Heart Is," down one notch in its fifth week with a low pressure estimated $2.0 million (-35 percent) at 1,372 theaters (-775 theaters; $1,458 per theater). Its cume is approximately $28.6 million.
"Heart," which cost about $15 million to make, was picked up by Fox for domestic and English speaking territories for only $9 million.
OTHER OPENINGS Paramount Classics' PG-13-rated drama "Passion of Mind" opened poorly in 24th place to an estimated $0.2 million at 104 theaters ($1,940 per theater).
Lions Gate Films' launched its R-rated erotic comedy "8 1/2 Women," placing 27th with a soft estimated $0.052 million at 15 theaters ($3,440 per theater).
SNEAK PREVIEWS This weekend saw no national sneak previews.
EXPANSIONS On the expansion front, Miramax's R-rated comedy "East Is East" went wider in its seventh week, placing 21st with a quiet estimated $0.39 million at 154 theaters (+88 theaters; $2,550 per theater). Its cume is approximately $2.0 million.
Miramax Films' R-rated contemporary version of "Hamlet" added a few theaters in its third week, placing 26th with an encouraging estimated $0.13 million (+13 percent) at 19 theaters (+6 theaters; $6,785 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.4 million.
WEEKEND COMPARISONS Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $179.52 million for four days, up about 31.92 percent from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $136.08 million for four days.
This weekend's key film gross for four days cannot be compared to this year's previous weekend, which was a non-holiday, three-day weekend.
Last year, 20th Century Fox's second week of "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace - Episode One" was first with $66.90 million at 3,023 theaters ($22,132 per theater); and Universal's opening week of "Notting Hill" was second with $27.69 million at 2,747 theaters ($10,080 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $94.6 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $105.3 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES Based on business by key films (those grossing $500,000 or more), last weekend's top six distributors were:
Universal was fourth with three films ("U-571," "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas" and "Erin Brockovich"), grossing an estimated $5.99 million or 3.3 percent of the market.
New Line was fifth with two films ("Frequency" and "Love & Basketball"), grossing an estimated $4.75 million or 2.6 percent of the market.
Sony Pictures Releasing (Columbia, TriStar, Screen Gems) was sixth with one film ("Center Stage"), grossing an estimated $2.8 million or 1.6 percent of the market.
ADDITIONAL ESTIMATES (11)The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas/Universal: Theaters: 1,491 (-1,201) Gross: $1.66 million (-40 percent) Average per theater: $1,110 Cume: $30.1 million
(12)Battlefield Earth/Warner Bros./Franchise Pictures: Theaters: 2,587 (-720) Gross: $1.24 million (-71 percent) Average per theater: $480 Cume: $20.5 million
(13)Erin Brockovich/Universal: Theaters: 800 (-152) Gross: $1.15 million (-5 percent) Average per theater: $1,440 Cume: $121.6 million
(14)Rules of Engagement/Paramount: Theaters: 793 (-269) Gross: $1.07 million (-16 percent) Average per theater: $1,345 Cume: $59.9 million
(15)Love & Basketball/New Line: Theaters: 540 (-293) Gross: $0.95 million (-29 percent) Average per theater: $1,759 Cume: $25.4 million
(16)Keeping the Faith/Buena Vista: Theaters: 377 (-465) Gross: $0.61 million (-48 percent) Average per theater: $1,616 Cume: $34.9 million
(17)The Big Kahuna/Lions Gate: Theaters: 309 (0) Gross: $0.53 million (-38 percent)(tie) Average per theater: $1,720 Cume: $1.9 million
(17)Held Up/Trimark: Theaters: 420 (-259) Gross: $0.53 million (-64 percent) (tie) Average per theater: $1,260 Cume: $4.2 million
(19)Screwed/Universal: Theaters: 804 (-957) Gross: $0.43 million (-77 percent) Average per theater: $530 Cume: $6.8 million
(20)The Road to El Dorado/DreamWorks: Theaters: 602 (+151) Gross: $0.42 million (sub-run) Average per theater: $695 Cume: $50.0 million
(22)East Is East/Miramax: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(22)The Virgin Suicides/Paramount Classics: Theaters: 197 (-78) Gross: $0.35 million (-37 percent) Average per theater: $1,795 Cume: $3.0 million
(23) Up At The Villa/USA Films: Theaters: 108 (-1) Gross: $0.3 million (+1 percent) Average per theater: $2,785 Cume: $1.5 million
(24)Passion of Mind/Paramount Classics: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(25)The Skulls/Universal: Theaters: 182 (-123) Gross: $0.19 million (-45 percent) Average per theater: $1,020 Cume: $35.0 million
(26)Hamlet/Miramax: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(27)8 1/2 WOMEN/Lions Gate Films: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)