A rich "Parents" opening turned the box office green after two months of lackluster grosses.
Universal's PG-13-rated comedy "Meet the Parents" met with greater success than insiders had anticipated. Rather than the $18-22 million range that many Hollywood handicappers were expecting, "Parents" opened to a sizzling ESTIMATED $29.11 million at 2,614 theaters ($11,135 per theater).
"Parents'" international release is through DreamWorks Pictures, which co-financed the film and will share equally in its success. "Parents" had the highest per-theater average for any film playing in wide release last weekend.
The film set records as the biggest October opening ever and the biggest openings ever for its stars Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller, according to a Universal spokesman. It is Universal's fourth consecutive film to open in first place, following "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps," "Bring It On" and "The Watcher."
"We're very excited," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "It's just what the marketplace needed to reinvigorate it. I knew it would be great. I just can't believe how great it is. I knew it would be big. I knew that the record breaker was not an exceedingly tremendous number (DreamWorks' animated feature 'Antz' with $17.2 million the weekend of Oct. 2-4, 1998), but I never thought it could get to this level, because it just hasn't been done in October."
Buena Vista/Disney's PG-rated football drama "Remember the Titans" from producer Jerry Bruckheimer lost one yard on the chart, placing second as it expanded in its second weekend with a still-memorable ESTIMATED $19.6 million (-6%) at 2,701 theaters (+836 theaters; $7,244 per theater). Its cume is approximately $46.2 million.
"It was our distribution strategy that we wanted to wait for the second weekend and the (Columbus Day) holiday for the smaller markets," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "It has obviously paid off quite well. On a comparison of the same theaters (from last weekend), we'll probably be off in the high teens, maybe 20% would be the highest drop. I'm thinking more like 17%. And then to be only off 6% including the new runs, that means we did the right thing.
"Now, who knows, maybe that magic ($100 million domestic theatrical) number's in our future - because we're at (over) $46 million already. You can't imagine how pleased we are about what went on, especially in a market where now you have two really, really good, crowd-pleasing movies. They love 'Meet the Parents.' They love 'Titans.' The top two hits - everybody's talking about how much they like them. When was the last time that happened? This is where two films are just doing great together. What a wonderful combination.
"It's finally looking like (the box office is) turning the corner. I'm glad to be part of it. I'm glad Universal and us have both of these pictures back to back. You know, this business needed a shot in the arm."
Driven by "Parents" and "Titans," the marketplace managed to expand to nearly $81 million this weekend. Nonetheless, it was still down from last year - although by not quite 3%. That was a far better showing than the previous weekend, when key films plunged about 28% from their levels one year earlier. This weekend's key films total was up nearly 41% over the prior weekend.
Warner Bros. and Franchise Pictures' R-rated Sylvester Stallone action adventure "Get Carter" opened in third place to a less-exciting-than-hoped-for ESTIMATED $6.73 million (2,315 theaters; $2,905 per theater).
Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning that Franchise would come out okay given that Stallone did the film for far less than his usual starring paycheck.
Fellman was particularly happy Sunday morning about the expansion of Warners' comedy "Best In Show," which went wider in its second weekend (see EXPANSIONS below), averaging $14,340 per theater at 53 runs.
"This is a big hit," Fellman said. "We open at about another 250 theaters next Friday. This movie's going to work. We have a good rollout plan. It's going to happen. We were up 69% from Friday to Saturday. It's obviously a word-of-mouth movie."
There also was more good news on the sneak preview front this weekend for Warners. "The big news for us was that last night (Saturday), we had spectacular sneak screenings on 'Pay It Forward," Fellman said, referring to the studio's drama from director Mimi Leder, starringKevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment.
"We screened it at about 350 locations. We had over 80% of the theaters at 75% to 100% capacity. Actually, 60% were at 100% capacity. We had 81% in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good). It opens Oct. 20. We're going to go somewhere between 1,500 and 1,800 theaters. We have another sneak next weekend at about 750 theaters."
Warner Bros.' reissue of its R-rated 1973 horror classic "The Exorcist" slid two pegs to fourth place in its third week with a still-scary $4.61 million (-36%) at 1,150 theaters (theater count unchanged; $4,009 per theater). Its cume is approximately $24.1 million, heading for $40 million in domestic theaters.
20th Century Fox's launch of its PG-rated Japanese animated feature "Digimon: The Movie" at 1,850 theaters exceeded expectations, finishing fifth with an ESTIMATED $4.1 million at 1,822 theaters ($2,250 per theater).
"If it holds in, we'll be fine," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said Sunday morning, acknowledging that the picture was not an expensive pick up for Fox. "I couldn't make heads or tails from the research at all. This could have been anywhere between $2-20 million!"
DreamWorks' R-rated dramatic comedy "Almost Famous" went wider again in its fourth week, falling three rungs to sixth place with a less-exciting ESTIMATED $3.8 million (-32%) at 2,085 theaters (+450 theaters; $1,816 per theater. Its cume is approximately $23.3 million, heading for $45-50 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 seventh place in its third week with a calm ESTIMATED $2.6 million (-41%) at 2,539 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,024 per theater). Its cume is approximately $18.2 million. Directed by John Ottman, "Urban" stars Jennifer Morrison.
Universal and Beacon Pictures' PG-13-rated comedy "Bring It On" fell three slots to eighth place in its seventh week with a less lively ESTIMATED $2.2 million (-27%) at 2,382 theaters (-84 theaters; $925 per theater). Its cume is approximately $62.4 million.
Having an investment of only about $10 million in "Bring," Universal is well into profit on the picture. Directed by Peyton Reed, "Bring" stars Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dusku, Jesse Bradford and Gabrielle Union.
DreamWorks PG-13-rated supernatural thriller "What Lies Beneath" held on to ninth place in its 12th week with an okay ESTIMATED $1.2 million (-29%) at 1,375 t eaters (-299 theaters; $851 per theater). Its cume is approximately $152.2 million.
"Beneath" is a co-production of DreamWorks, which is releasing it domestically, and 20th Century Fox, which is distributing it internationally. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, "Beneath" stars Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Rounding out the Top Ten was USA Films' R-rated dark comedy "Nurse Betty," down three pegs in its fifth week with a slower ESTIMATED $1.1 million (-48%) at 1,473 theaters (-16 theaters; $749 per theater). Its cume is approximately $22.7 million.
"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. Directed by Neil La Bute, "Betty" stars Morgan Freeman, Renee Zellweger, Chris Rock and Greg Kinnear.
"We're going to expand it on Oct. 20 in the 15 top markets," New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. "We knew this picture was going to be a word of mouth picture, so that's what we're doing."
Artisan Entertainment's controversial unrated drama "Requiem For A Dream" opened exclusively in New York, placing 25th with a sexy ESTIMATED $0.083 million at 2 theaters ($41,485 per theater). Directed by Darren Arnonofsky, "Requiem" stars Jared Leto and Ellen Burstyn.
Lions Gate's R-rated drama "Two Family House" opened in New York and L.A., placing 26th with a quiet ESTIMATED $0.032 million at 9 theaters ($3,571 per theater). Directed by Raymond De Felitta, it stars Michael Rispoli and Kelly MacDonald.
20th Century Fox and New Regency's R-rated drama "Tigerland" opened in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto, placing 27th with a calm ESTIMATED $0.021 million at 5 theaters ($5,818 per theater). Directed by Joel Schumacher, it stars Colin Farrell and Matthew Davis.
Fox Searchlight Pictures' 50th anniversary re-release of 20th Century Fox's classic "All About Eve" opened in New York, placing 30th with a solid ESTIMATED $12,340 at one theater. It opens in L.A. this Friday (Oct. 13).
"It's its 50th anniversary," Fox Searchlight distribution head Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning. "It actually opened 50 years ago this Friday in New York City at the Roxy Theater. It is a restored print."
Fox Searchlight Pictures' R-rated drama "Bootmen" opened in New York and L.A., placing 31st with a soft ESTIMATED $12,214 at 11 theaters ($1,110 per theater). Directed by Dein Perry, it stars Adam Garcia, Sophie Lee and Sam Worthington.
Warner Bros. held sneak previews this weekend at 350 theaters of its PG-13 rated drama "Pay It Forward."
For details, see Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman's comments in the Top Ten films report above.
On the expansion front, Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated comedy "Best in Show" went wider in its second week, placing 13th with an impressive ESTIMATED $0.76 million at 53 theatres (+40 theaters; $14,340 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.4 million.
For additional details, see Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman's comments in the Top Ten films report above.
Fine Line's R-rated drama "Dancer in the Dark" went wider in its third week, placing 16th with a calm ESTIMATED $0.54 million at 111 theaters (+108 theaters; $4,865 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.9 million.
Sony's Screen Gems' R-rated drama "Girlfight" expanded in it second week, placing 18th place with a quiet ESTIMATED $0.53 million at 253 theaters (+225 theaters; $2,075 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.8 million.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $80.70 million, down about 2.73% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $82.97 million.
This weekend's key film gross was up about 40.83% from this year's previous weekend when key films grossed $57.30 million.
Last year, Paramount's third week of "Double Jeopardy" was first with $13.54 million at 2,913 theaters ($4,649 per theater); and Sony's opening week of "Random Hearts" was second with $12.01 million at 2,697 theaters ($4,825 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $26.5 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $48.7 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 second with one film ("Remember the Titans"), grossing an ESTIMATED $19.6 million or 24.3% of the market.
20th Century Fox was fifth with one film ("Digimon: The Movie"), grossing an ESTIMATED $4.1 million or 5.1% of the market.
Sony Pictures Releasing (Columbia and TriStar) was sixth with one film ("Urban Legends: Final Cut"), grossing an ESTIMATED $2.6 million or 3.2% of the market.
(11)The Watcher/Universal: Theaters: 1,749 (-887) Gross: $1.11 million (-51%) Average per theater: $635 Cume: $27.8 million
(12)Space Cowboys/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 1,503 (-503) Gross: $0.9 million (-36%) Average per theater: $599 Cume: $88.3 million
(13)Best in Show/Warner Bros.: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(14)Bait/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 1,026 (-984) Gross: $0.68 million (-61%) Average per theater: $658 Cume: $14.5 million
(15)Beautiful/Destination: Theaters: 646 (0) Gross: $0.61 million (-56%) Average per theater: $950 Cume: $2.5 million
(16)Dancer in the Dark/Fine Line: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(17) The Cell/New Line: Theaters: 774 (-649) Gross: $0.53 million (-49%) Average per theater: $680 Cume: $60.0 million
(18)Girlfight/Screen Gems/Sony: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(19)The Original Kings of Comedy/Paramount: Theaters: 912 (-137) Gross: $0.49 million (-36%) Average per theater: $540 Cume: $37.3 million
(20)Nutty Professor II: The Klumps/Universal: Theaters: 792 (-293) Gross: $0.43 million (-37%) Average per theater: $540 Cume: $121.4 million
(21)Scary Movie/Dimension Films: Theaters: 761 (-492) Gross: $0.42 million (-49%) Average per theater: $545 Cume: $155.7 million
(22)Woman On Top/Fox Searchlight: Theaters: 590 (-496) Gross: $0.33 million (-70%) Average per theater: $553 Cume: $4.5 million
(23)BAMBOOZLED/New Line: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(24)Gladiator/DreamWorks: Theaters: 249 (-158) Gross: $0.17 million (-37%) Average per theater: $895 Cume: $186.4 million
(25)REQUIEM FOR A DREAM/Artisan: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(26) TWO FAMILY HOUSE/Lions Gate: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(27)TIGERLAND/Fox: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(28)Into the Arms of Strangers/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 6 (+1) Gross: $0.020 million (+18%) Average per theater: $3,367 Cume: $0.13 million
(29)Under Suspicion/Lions Gate: Theaters: 15 (-4) Gross: $0.019 million (-60%) Average per theater: $1,290 Cume: $0.2 million
(30)ALL ABOUT EVE/Fox Searchlight (reissue): (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(31)BOOTMEN/Fox Searchlight: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)