Buena Vista/Disney's PG-rated football drama "Remember the Titans," from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, kicked off in first place with a muscular ESTIMATED $21.2 million at 1,865 theaters ($11,383 per theater).
"Titans" had the highest per-theater average for any film playing in wide release last weekend.
"Titans" marks the first $20 million-plus since the arrival of Columbia's "Hollow Man" last Aug. 4. It ranks as Denzel Washington's biggest opening, out-performing the $18.6 million that "Crimson Tide" kicked off with in May 1995.
Despite the strong performance by "Titans," key films in the marketplace continued to under-perform compared to a year earlier. Overall, the marketplace was down over 27% from last year.
Asked what accounted for "Titans'" strong launch, Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning, "I think (it was) the blend of the Disney label, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Denzel Washington. The filmmakers really delivered a product that the public loves. Our exit polls are absolutely terrific."
Viane said he was still waiting to get exit poll numbers from National Research Group, but pointed to Disney's in-house exit research done by college students in various markets. "They ranked it a 92%," he said. "They had 74% excellent and 23% very good, which is just a remarkably high number. The audience just absolutely (loved it).
"The make up last night (Saturday) was 55% male and 45% female. 49% of the groups in there last night were couples. 27% were families. To me this is the outstanding numbers - 24% were teens. Normally teens are just Friday, but they were out there again last night."
Viane applauded the studio's marketing team for its campaign on "Titans." "You've got to admit, the marketing department really made this one happen," he said. "They did a fabulous job. It was easy for me (in distribution). There was nothing out there. Everybody was dying to play our movie. We were only going to go to 2,400 (theaters) next Friday. I think that's going to be closer to 2,500 or 2,600, because we're not going to turn people down who ask this time. It's playing so well across the board. There's not a soft spot in the country. And in Canada, which is not an ethnic market and doesn't do American football, we still had a screen average there of $3,800-and-something."
Warner Bros.' reissue of its R-rated 1973 horror classic "The Exorcist" expanded in its second week, holding on to second place with a still-powerful ESTIMATED $7.43 million (-9%) at 1,150 theaters (+486 theaters; $6,457 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17.9 million. Directed by William Friedkin, "Exorcist" stars Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair and Max von Sydow.
"It was terrific," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning about the film's expansion. "We're going to have another expansion. We're going to go with a big television campaign Friday, Oct. 13. We're going to push this baby. We're going to do, maybe, $40 million (in domestic theaters).
"What's important is that it's the back-end that's going to be the most lucrative for Warners. Because of this, we're going to do a new video and a new DVD release. This reopens the opportunities for television sales worldwide. This is, let's say, a movie that did $40 million, and we're starting all over again with it. It's going to have an international release. It'll be the whole thing. It looks like it's a $100 million movie (in theatrical release worldwide).
"The DVD sales alone on this version will be enormous. Even though there's been other videos, this is going to be a collector's item for people. DVD is going to be gigantic. The pay-per-view (will be big). This starts it all over again. Every ancillary that we have will be reinstated into the marketplace."
In addition to the success of "Exorcist," Fellman was delighted with Warners' platform opening of its PG-13-rated comedy "Best in Show"(see OTHER OPENINGS below for details) at 13 theaters (2 in New York, 2 in L.A., 1 in Toronto and 8 in San Francisco).
"It did $31,000 per theater," Fellman said. "This movie is going to be a smash. It's Christopher Guest. They loved his 'Waiting For Guffman.' They loved (him in Rob Reiner's) 'This Is Spinal Tap.' His audience has been building and building from video and just hit. This is going to be a huge movie.
"We're meeting tomorrow morning, and we're going to start expanding on Friday. We'll probably get up to somewhere around 40 to 60 theaters."
DreamWorks' R-rated dramatic comedy "Almost Famous" continued to expand in its third week, holding on to third place with a solid ESTIMATED $5.6 million (-20%) at 1,635 theaters (+442 theaters; $3,402 per theater. Its cume is approximately $17.8 million, heading for about $60 million in domestic theaters.
Written and directed by Cameron Crowe ("Jerry Maguire"), "Almost" stars Billy Crudup,Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Patrick Fugit, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, Noah Taylor and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
"Famous" is being released internationally by Sony's Columbia Pictures, which co-financed the production and will share equally with DreamWorks in its success.
Columbia's R-rated horror sequel "Urban Legends: Final Cut" from Phoenix Pictures fell three pegs to fourth place in its second week with a less lively ESTIMATED $4.7 million (-45%) at 2,539 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,851 per theater). Its cume is approximately $15.0 million.
Directed by John Ottman, "Urban" stars Jennifer Morrison.
Universal and Beacon Pictures' PG-13-rated comedy "Bring It On" fell one notch to fifth place in its sixth week with a less energetic ESTIMATED $2.91 million (-32%) at 2,466 theaters (+9 theaters; $1,180 per theater). Its cume is approximately $59.6 million.
Having an investment of only about $10 million in "Bring," Universal is already in profit on the picture.
Universal's R-rated psychological thriller "The Watcher" fell one rung to sixth place in its fourth week with a quieter ESTIMATED $2.25 million (-39%) at 2,636 theaters (-141 theaters; $855 per theater). Its cume is approximately $26.0 million.
Universal reportedly picked "Watcher" up from Interlight for only $5 million, so the studio is clearly turning a profit on its investment.
USA Films' R-rated dark comedy "Nurse Betty" held on to seventh place in its fourth week with a calmer ESTIMATED $2.07 million (-36%) at 1,489 theaters (-2 theaters; $1,387 per theater). Its cume is approximately $21.0 million, heading for $25 million in domestic theaters.
"Betty" actually is owned by Universal, which acquired it as part of its takeover of PolyGram and then brought in USA to handle its domestic release.
DreamWorks PG-13-rated supernatural thriller "What Lies Beneath" held on to eighth place, still showing decent legs in its 11th week with an ESTIMATED $1.7 million (-21%) at 1,674 theaters (-145 theaters; $1,040 per theater). Its cume is approximately $150.7 million.
"Beneath" is a co-production of DreamWorks, which is releasing it domestically, and 20th Century Fox, which is distributing it internationally.
Warner Bros. and Castle Rock Entertainment's R-rated action comedy "Bait" dropped three pegs to ninth place in its third week with a dull ESTIMATED $1.68 million (-50%) at 2,010 theaters (-342 theaters; $836 per theater). Its cume is approximately $13.2 million.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Warner Bros. PG-13 sci-fi action adventure "Space Cowboys," down one orbit in its ninth week with an okay ESTIMATED $1.435 million (-33%) at 2,006 theaters (-164 theaters; $715 per theater). Its cume is approximately $87.0 million, heading for $90 million-plus in domestic theaters.
The weekend's other wide opening, Destination Films' PG-13-rated comedy drama "Beautiful," was virtually tied for 10th place with a not-so-pretty ESTIMATED $1.429 million at 646 theaters ($2,212 per theater).
OTHER OPENINGS This weekend also saw the arrival of Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated comedy "Best in Show" in 22nd place, barking loudly with an ESTIMATED $0.403 million at 13 theatres ($31,000 per theater). Its cume after 5 days is approximately $0.5 million. Directed by Christopher Guest, it stars Jennifer Coolidge, Christopher Guest and John Michael Higgins.
Sony's Screen Gems' R-rated drama "Girlfight" arrived in 25th place with a punchy ESTIMATED $0.21 million at 28 theaters ($7,500 per theater).
"A good start for 'Girlfight,'" Sony Pictures Releasing president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "We go to 200-plus runs next Friday, mainly big city multiplexes."
SNEAK PREVIEWS There were no sneak previews this weekend.
EXPANSIONS There were no significant expansions outside the Top Ten this weekend.
WEEKEND COMPARISONS Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $57.90 million, down about 27.59% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $79.97 million. This weekend's key film gross was up about 3.29% from this year's previous weekend when key films grossed $56.06 million.
Last year, Paramount's second week of "Double Jeopardy" was first with $17.02 million at 2,884 theaters ($5,901 per theater); and Warner Bros.' opening week of "Three Kings" was second with $15.85 million at 2,942 theaters ($5,387 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $32.8 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $28.6 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 ("Remember the Titans" and "Coyote Ugly"), grossing an ESTIMATED $21.73 million or 37.5% of the market.
Sony Pictures Releasing (Columbia and TriStar) was fifth with one film ("Urban Legends: Final Cut"), grossing an ESTIMATED $4.7 million or 8.1% of the market.
USA Films was sixth with one film ("Nurse Betty"), grossing an ESTIMATED $2.1 million or 3.6% of the market.
ADDITIONAL ESTIMATES (11)BEAUTIFUL/Destination: (see TOP 10 above)
(12)Woman On Top/Fox Searchlight: Theaters: 1,086 (+1) Gross: $1.1 million (-45%) Average per theater: $1,019 Cume: $3.8 million
(13)The Cell/New Line: Theaters: 1,423 (-480) Gross: $0.98 million (-39%) Average per theater: $685 Cume: $58.9 million
(14)Scary Movie/Dimension Films: Theaters: 1,253 (-425) Gross: $0.83 million (-36%) Average per theater: $665 Cume: $155.2 million
(15)The Original Kings of Comedy/Paramount: Theaters: 1,049 (-33) Gross: $0.78 million (-29%) Average per theater: $745 Cume: $36.6 million
(16)Nutty Professor II: The Klumps/Universal: Theaters: 1,083 (-127) Gross: $0.64 million (-48%) Average per theater: $590 Cume: $120.8 million
(17)The Replacements/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 1,156 (-209) Gross: $0.63 million (-44%) Average per theater: $550 Cume: $43.4 million
(18)Coyote Ugly/BV/Touchstone: Theaters: 725 (-158) Gross: $0.53 million (-34%) Average per theater: $734 Cume: $58.5 million
(19)Duets/Buena Vista: Theaters: 577 (-6) Gross: $0.46 million (-50%) Average per theater: $802 Cume: $4.3 million
(20)Saving Grace/Fine Line: Theaters: 632 (-74) Gross: $0.45 million (-35%) Average per theater: $715 Cume: $11.5 million
(21)The Art of War/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 720 (-365) Gross: $0.43 million (-48%) Average per theater: $600 Cume: $29.5 million
(22)BEST IN SHOW/Warner Bros.: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(23)Autumn in New York/MGM: Theaters: 827 (-355) Gross: $0.38 million (-45%) Average per theater: $455 Cume: $37.1 million
(24)Gladiator/DreamWorks: Theaters: 407 (-115) Gross: $0.28 million (-32%) Average per theater: $685 Cume: $186.1 million
(25)GIRLFIGHT/Screen Gems: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(26)Dancer in the Dark/Fine Line Theaters: 3 (0) Gross: $0.11 million (+20%) Average per theater: $36,708 Cume: $0.25 million
(27)Under Suspicion/Lions Gate: Theaters: 19 (0) Gross: $0.046 million (-58%) Average per theater: $2,445 Cume: $0.2 million
(28)Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle/Universal: Theaters: 128 (-37) Gross: $0.045 million (-29%) Average per theater: $355 Cume: $26.0 million
(29)Into the Arms of Strangers/Warner Bros: Theaters: 5 (0) Gross: $0.015 million (-46%) Average per theater: $2,984 Cume: $0.1 million
(31)The Fantasticks/MGM/United Artists: Theaters: 6 (0) Gross: $0.008 million (-65%) Average per theater: $1,391 Cume: $0.040 million