Stone Scores; Carrey Fumbles at Holiday Box Office

At the holiday weekend box office, Oliver Stone‘s homage to football scored, while Jim Carrey‘s homage to Andy Kaufman fumbled.

Director Stone‘s “Any Given Sunday,” released by Warner Bros. and starring Al Pacino, and Cameron Diaz, was No. 1, grossing $14.2 million Friday through Sunday, studio estimates say. The film opened Wednesday in 2,505 theaters and averaged $5,669 per screen over the weekend, and has pulled in an estimated $21.3 million in its first five days.

But perhaps the biggest story of the weekend was all the money “Man on the Moon” didn’t pull in. The Andy Kaufman biopic, starring Jim Carrey as the late “Taxi” comedian, is not expected to earn more than about $9 million for the Friday-Sunday weekend and $13.8 million for the week. (Like the Stone film, “Man on the Moon” opened Wednesday.)

“I think we pretty much expected this, given the fact that it’s different from any other Jim Carrey movie and given the challenge of the material,” Universal Vice President Jeff Sakson said today. “We didn’t expect it to be No. 1 in its opening weekend, but we believe it will grow based on word of mouth.”

Man on the Moon” does indeed have lots of room to grow–it bowed in a (relatively) lowly sixth place. And if Universal wasn’t expecting “Man on the Moon” to open big dollarwise, it certainly opened the film big theaterwise–putting it up on 2,079 venues where it averaged $4,329 per screen.

The real star of the weekend, meanwhile, might just be the No. 2 finisher. “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” released on Christmas Day by Paramount and Miramax and boasting the Oscar-winning talents of Matt Damon (cast against type as an opportunistic serial killer), Gwyneth Paltrow and director Anthony Minghella (“The English Patient“), wrapped up the second spot with an estimated $13.8 million at 2,307 theaters, for an average of $5,982 per screen. That tidy sum was accumulated in just two days.

“If you look at the two-day figures [Saturday and Sunday], we are No. 1, and we are thrilled with that,” Blaise Noto, Paramount’s vice president of worldwide publicity, said today.

“We expect it to do even better next week as word-of-mouth spreads, because this film delivers what it promises and the reviews have been great across the country, averaging three to five stars. And now we’ve got a whole week of uninterrupted holiday playing time,” Noto said.

Not unexpectedly, Warners–the studio behind “Any Given Sunday“–refused to yield a yard.

“This is the biggest opening weekend ever for an Oliver Stone film,” Warner Bros. distribution president Dan Fellman said this morning. “Before this, his biggest was ‘Natural Born Killers,’ had about $11 million in its first weekend in 1993. We love this movie and we expected it to do well, so we are not surprised at the critical and commercial response.”

The kiddie pics “Toy Story 2” and “Stuart Little” continued to perform well at the box office and were tied for the No. 3 spot. In its sixth week of release, Disney’s “Toy” posted $12.5 million, up 3 percent over last weekend. “Toy” continued to play in an impressive 3,151 theaters, averaging $3,967 per screen. Its cumulative gross is now an estimated $179.7 million.

Columbia’s “Stuart Little,” which was last weekend’s No. 1 flick, also grossed an estimated $12.5 million, a drop-off of 17 percent. The movie, which features the voice of Michael J. Fox as author E.B. White’s famed talking mouse, averaged $4,310 per screen in 2,900 theaters. That film has now grossed approximately $40.2 million in two weeks.

“It’s looking like one of the season’s hits,” said Jeff Blake, Columbia president of worldwide distribution. “The kids’ pictures are not favored over Christmas weekend because families with children are staying home, so we’re very pleased. We expect [Stuart Little‘s grosses] to be up next week, because the kids are out of school.”

Warner Bros. “The Green Mile,” starring Tom Hanks, earned just over $9 million for the weekend, according to estimates, edging out “Man on the Moon” by just $40,000 for No. 5. Experts said “Mile” and “Man on the Moon” could flip-flop in the ranks by the time actual ticket-sales numbers are calculated.

The Green Mile,” adapted from Stephen King’s series of novellas about a death-row inmate gifted with miraculous healing powers, has grossed an estimated $52.8 million in three weeks of release. At 2,875 theaters, it averaged about $3,144 per screen, a 29 percent drop compared to last weekend, when the film was No. 2 at the box office.

The bottom half of the Christmas weekend Top 10 was occupied by comedies and family fare. Disney’s “Bicentennial Man,” starring Robin Williams, dropped two places to No. 7 in its second weekend. On the upside, the critically panned robot saga held its own, grossing an estimated $8.3 million for the second weekend in a row. The movie averaged $3,000 per screen in 2,767 theaters. Its overall take stands at $22.5 million.

In addition to “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” one other film was given a wide release on Christmas Day. Dreamworks’ “Galaxy Quest,” a knowing spoof of “Star Trek,” came in at No. 8 in the weekend box office race. The film, starring Tim Allen as a Shatner-esque sci-fi icon, bowed in 2,412 theaters and grossed $8.1 million over Saturday and Sunday, for an average of $3,358 per screen.

With surprisingly strong legs, the R-rated Disney-backed comedy “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo” stood firm in the Top 10 for the third straight weekend despite its no-star cast (led by “Saturday Night Live” alumnus Rob Schneider as a bumbling male prostitute). “Deuce” earned an estimated $6.2 million at 2,162 theaters, for an average of 2,868 per screen. The low-budget feature has now grossed $35.4 million.

Rounding out the Top 10 was 20th Century Fox’s “Anna and the King,” starring Jodie Foster and Hong Kong star Chow Yun-Fat. The film dropped four notches in its second weekend, grossing $4.1 million at 2,140 theaters, averaging 2,196 per screen. “Anna” has now grossed $13.5 million in two weeks.

Several films that had been Top 10 mainstays were eliminated from contention during the Christmas weekend. The latest James Bond actioneer “The World Is Not Enough” slipped four places to No. 11; Tim Burton‘s “Sleepy Hollow” fell two notches to No. 12; and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s would-be comeback vehicle, the apocalyptic thriller “End of Days,” slipped five places to No. 13. The latter film has earned just $60.8 million after five weeks.

Estimates released by Exhibitor Relations Co., the box-office tracking firm, indicate that movie attendance for the top-grossing features declined about 27 percent compared to Christmas 1998. Although the actual ticket sales figures won’t be tallied until Monday, it appears that the box-office total won’t surpass last year’s record of $147.5 million, as some experts had predicted.


Five films were released this week in limited runs–the better to qualify for the Academy Awards. Sony’s “Girl, Interrupted,” with Winona Ryder as a patient in a women’s mental hospital, opened Tuesday in nine theaters, earning an estimated $206,000 for the week. Universal’s “Snow Falling on Cedars,” a thriller starring Ethan Hawke, opened Wednesday in three theaters and grossed $49,000 through Sunday. Paramount’s “Angela’s Ashes,” based on author Frank McCourt’s best-selling memoir, earned $60,000 in six theaters since opening on Christmas. Fox Searchlight’s “Titus,” starring Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange, bowed in two theaters and made $25,000 over the weekend. Disney’s “Play it to the Bone,” starring Woody Harrelson and Antonio Banderas, opened in one theater and grossed $3,660 for the Saturday-Sunday period.