Despite all the hype, Madonna came in second best at the weekend box office.
Studio tracking studies predicting a first-place opening for Paramount's "The Next Best Thing," the romantic comedy/drama teaming the Material Girl with Rupert Everett, were wrong. Instead, top honors went for the third consecutive weekend to Warner Bros.' "The Whole Nine Yards."
Bruce Willis "Yards," the R-rated hit comedy from Warners, Morgan Creek and Franchise Pictures, held strongly in its third weekend with an estimated $7.31 million (-24%) at 2,793 theaters (-117 theaters, $2,617 per theater). Its total is approximately $38.5 million.
"Unbelievable," Warner Bros. distribution executive Jeff Goldstein said Sunday morning, delighted with how well "Yards" was holding. "We're heading into the $60 millions with the movie.
"Thing," the PG-13-rated film produced by Lakeshore Entertainment and released by Paramount, had to settle for second place with a disappointing estimated $6 million at 2,007 theaters ($2,990 per theater).
Rupert Everett & Madonna Its per-theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide release (more than 1,000 theaters) during the weekend, although it was only a few dollars more than the estimated average for "Drowning Mona."
Where "Thing" actually will wind up when the final grosses are announced Monday, however, is anyone's guess. Some distribution sources were speculating Sunday morning that it would come in lower.
"By the end of this weekend, 'My Dog Skip' or 'Drowning Mona' may outgross it," said one insider. "They ('Thing') only went up 18% Friday to Saturday. That's the way these pop star movies play. They get a much hotter crush on Friday in relation to anything else. On Sunday, it's not going to play as well as 'Skip' or 'Mona.'"
Another studio distribution executive, who observed, "They only had an 18% increase between Friday and Saturday," made the same point. "I think, clearly, the public isn't rushing out to see the movie."
Warner Bros. PG-rated family drama "My Dog Skip," from Alcon Entertainment, went wide last weekend, barking loudly in third place with an encouraging estimated $5.94 million at 2,331 theaters (+2,310 theaters, $2,548 per theater). Its total, including its first seven weeks in limited release, is approximately $6.7 million.
As is typically the case with family films, "Skip" did not look strong in studio tracking studies, which don't tend to reflect what youngsters are going to see.
"Talk about a real success story," Warner Bros. distribution executive
Jeff Goldstein said Sunday morning. "This is a movie we've really worked hard on and, it looks like we'll have a big payoff for it. It was a fairly inexpensive film to make -- I think they spent under $7 million. So it's a real success story, no question about it."
Destination Films' PG-13-rated comedy "Drowning Mona" was swimming strongly in fourth place, opening to a happy estimated $5.91 million at 1,981 theaters ($2,982 per theater).
"We're proving we can compete," Destination President Barry London said Sunday morning, very pleased with "Mona's" performance. Destination went into business last fall with the horror genre pick-up "Bats." Earlier this year, it opened its psychological thriller pick-up "Eye of the Beholder," starring Ewan McGregor and Ashley Judd, in first place.
Destination became involved in "Mona" at the script stage, working closely on the film with Neverland Films and Jersey Shore.
Asked who the film's audience was, London replied, "It was pretty even -- male, female, older and younger, which is a surprise to me. I thought it would play slightly older. Neve Campbell probably had something to do with it [bringing in a younger audience]."
USA Films' R-rated sci-fi thriller "Pitch Black" continued flying in its fifth-place orbit in its third week, holding decently with an estimated $5.02 million (-29%) at 1,903 theaters (-27 theaters, $2,637 per theater). Its total is approximately $29.7 million.
The weekend's other high-profile wide opening, Columbia's R-rated comedy "What Planet Are You From?" failed to land in the Top 10. It placed 14th with a weak estimated $3 million (see OTHER OPENINGS below).
Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies' PG-rated comedy "Snow Day" started to melt in its fourth week, falling four slots to sixth place with an estimated $5 million (-40%) at 2,717 theaters (+8 theaters, $1,840 per theater). Its total is approximately $49.2 million.
Dimension Films' R-rated thriller "Reindeer Games" tumbled four slots to seventh place in its second week with an unhappy estimated $4.80 million (-41%) at 2,204 theaters (theater count unchanged, $2,177 per theater). Its total is approximately $15.1 million.
Paramount's R-rated comedy-drama "Wonder Boys" added theaters in its second week but still fell one slot to eighth place with a dull estimated $4.15 million (-29%) at 1,504 theaters (+251 theaters, $2,759 per theater). Its total is approximately $11.5 million.
There was a close race for ninth place between the two leading Oscar nominees for Best Picture. Odds makers in Las Vegas and Mexico last week were calling Miramax's "The Cider House Rules" and DreamWorks' "American Beauty" both even-money bets.
DreamWorks' R-rated drama "American Beauty," a major Oscar contender with eight nominations, including Best Picture, held on to ninth place in its 25th week with a still-solid estimated $4.10 million (-11%) at 1,339 theaters (+16 theaters, $3,062 per theater). Its total is approximately $93.1 million.
"Beauty" was honored with five major awards by the Association of London Film Critics on Thursday. Its wins included best film, actor, actress, director and screenplay. The same evening, the film received a record 14 BAFTA nominations (from the British Academy of Film & Television Arts).
Miramax's PG-13-rated drama "The Cider House Rules," also a leading Oscar contender with seven nominations, including Best Picture, came in 10th in its 12th week, holding strongly with an estimated $4.05 million (even) at 1,496 theaters (+150 theaters, $2,707 per theater). Its total is approximately $37.2 million.
"It's amazing," Miramax Senior Vice President, Marketing, David Kaminow said Sunday morning. "By the time the (Oscars are announced) on Mar. 26, we'll have more than doubled our box office from between nominations and the actual Oscars. I think it's fantastic."
Last weekend also saw MGM's opening of the urban appeal R-rated comedy "3 Strikes" from Absolute Entertainment and Motion Picture Corp. of America, in a tie for 12th place (with Buena Vista/Disney's "The Tigger Movie") with an OK estimated $3.60 million at 678 theaters ($5,310 per theater). Its total after five days is approximately $4.5 million.
Written and directed by D.J. Pooh, it stars Brian Hooks.
"It's an MGM Distribution Co. release," an MGM official said Sunday morning. "It's not a negative pick-up, it's a distribution deal. Brad Krevoy's MPCA and Absolute Entertainment made it."
Unlike a negative pick-up, where studios put up money in return for distribution rights, the "3 Strikes" deal is a rent-a-system distribution arrangement. MGM reportedly is receiving 15% of the film-rental fee for its expertise in putting the film in theaters. The studio did not pay anything to get the film and did not pay for its prints and advertising costs.
Columbia's launch of its R-rated comedy "What Planet Are You From?" crashed in 14th place with an estimated $3 million at 2,248 theaters ($1,335 per theater).
Artisan Entertainment's R-rated dark "Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai" opened in 27th place with an OK estimated $0.18 million at 15 theaters ($11,930 per theater).
USA Films R-rated drama "Agnes Browne" went into limited release, placing 32nd with an unexciting estimated $0.050 million at 21 theaters ($2,387 per theater).
Last weekend saw no national sneak previews.
On the expansion front, last weekend saw Fox Searchlight go wider with its Oscar contender "Boys Don't Cry," a nominee for Best Actress (Hilary Swank) and Best Supporting Actress (Chloe Sevigny), placing 23rd in its 22nd week with a solid estimated $0.50 million at 183 theaters (+81 theaters, $2,732 per theater). Its total is approximately $5.5 million.
USA Films PG-rated suspense drama reissue "Rear Window" widened in its seventh week, placing 28th with an OK estimated $0.15 million at 24 theaters (+2 theaters, $6,025 per theatre). Its total is approximately $1 million.
Fox Searchlight Pictures' PG-13-rated dramatic comedy "The Closer You Get" widened in its second week, placing 33rd with a quiet estimated $0.040 million (-7%) at 14 theaters (+4 theaters, $2,857 per theater). Its total is approximately $0.1 million.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend - took in approximately $77.92 million, up about 4.06% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $74.88 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down about 6.82% from last weekend, when key films grossed $83.62 million.
Last year, Warner Bros.' opening week of "Analyze This" was first with $18.38 million at 2,518 theaters ($7,301 per theater), and Sony's opening week of "Cruel Intentions" was second with $13.02 million at 2,312 theaters ($5,632 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $31.4 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $13.3 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES
Based on business by key films, last weekend's top six distributors were the following:
Destination Films was fifth with one film ("Drowning Mona") grossing an estimated $5.91 million or 7.6% of the market.
USA Films was sixth with one film ("Pitch Black") grossing an estimated $5.02 million or 6.4% of the market.
(11) "Hanging Up"/Columbia Theaters: 2,618 (0) Gross: $3.80 million (-49%) Average per theater: $1,451 Total: $31.6 million
(12) "The Tigger Movie"/Buena Vista/Disney Theaters: 2,646 (-172) Gross: $3.60 million (-43%) (tie) Average per theater: $1,355 Total: $35.5 million
(12) "3 Strikes"/MGM (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(14) "What Planet Are You From?"/Columbia (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(15) "Scream 3"/Dimension Theaters: 1,826 (-1,273) Gross: $2.90 million (-42%) Average per theater: $1,588 Total: $82.2 million
(16) "Boiler Room"/New Line Theaters: 1,004 (-331) Gross: $1.80 million (-42%) Average per theater: $1,793 Total: $13.8 million
(17) "The Beach"/20th Century Fox Theaters: 1,493 (-1,031) Gross: $1.60 million (-51%) Average per theater: $1,072 Total: $37.9 million
(18) "Fantasia 2000"/BV/Disney Theaters: 54 (0) (all IMAX) Gross: $1.50 million (domestic) (-8%) Average per theater: $27,079 Total: $28.9 million (domestic)
(19) "The Sixth Sense"/BV/Touchstone Theaters: 759 (-233) Gross: $1.19 million (-23%) Average per theater: $1,570 Total: $285.5 million
(20) "The Green Mile"/Castle Rock/Warner Bros. Theaters: 1,097 (-649) Gross: $1.09 million (-44%) Average per theater: $989 Total: $133 million
(21) "Next Friday"/New Line Theaters: 547 (-491) Gross: $0.55 million (-54%) Average per theater: $1,005 Total: $55 million
(22) "The Hurricane"/Universal Theaters: 589 (-757) Gross: $0.52 million (-59%) Average per theater: $885 Total: $49 million
(23) "Boys Don't Cry"/Fox Searchlight (see EXPANSIONS above)
(24) "Stuart Little"/Columbia Theaters: 733 (-567) Gross: $0.45 million (-58%) Average per theater: $614 Total: $136.9 million
(25) "Galaxy Quest"/DreamWorks Theaters: 525 (-292) Gross: $0.38 million (-48%) Average per theater: $730 Total: $69.6 million
(26) "Topsy-Turvy"/USA Films Theatres: 137 (-66) Gross: $0.28 million (-27%) Average per theatre: $2,020 Total: $5.0 million
(27) "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai"/Artisan (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(28) "Rear Window"/USA Films (see EXPANSIONS above)
(29) "Being John Malkovich"/USA Films Theaters: 95 (-40) Gross: $0.12 million (-26%) Average per theater: $1,245 Total: $22.2 million
(30) "Snow Falling on Cedars"/Universal Theaters: 187 (-112) Gross: $0.10 million (-34%) Average per theater: $535 Total: $14.2 million
(31) "End of Days"/Universal Theaters: 137 (-60) Gross: $0.085 million (-25%) Average per theater: $620 Total: $66.9 million
(32) "Agnes Browne"/USA Films (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(33) "The Closer You Get"/Fox Searchlight (see EXPANSIONS above)