B.O. ANALYSIS: Dinosaur Rules Weekend

Dinosaurs snapped back to life this weekend as Buena Vista/Disney’s “Dinosaur” kicked off to nearly $39 million.

The PG-rated, computer-animated feature, which cut short the chart-topping reign of DreamWorks’ “Gladiator,” set a record as the year’s biggest opening with an estimated $38.6 million at 3,257 theaters ($11,860 per theater).

Dinosaur’s” per-theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide or limited release this weekend.

“I think it’s great,” Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning.

Noting that some studios had estimated the picture as opening to even bigger numbers, Viane said, “I know some of my competitors have given me more credit than we’re giving ourselves, but I’d rather see it than say it and then have to back off. If tomorrow (when actual weekend figures are released) it’s a bigger number, I won’t be embarrassed to tell people I was low. Every now and then, that happens.”

Focusing on the film’s mid-May arrival, he noted, “We have not had the opportunity to open a movie this big when it wasn’t on a holiday weekend. We’re not in the summer and we’re not on a holiday. We’ll be the first to admit that we don’t have a model we’re as comfortable with as we are when we’re matching apples to apples.”

Viane pointed out that, looking at the film’s grosses market by market, he was particularly pleased that, “We’re as big in the inner city as we are in the suburbs. Normally, we’re a very suburban-oriented group. Our films always play well at the malls. But it doesn’t matter where you are or what theater – whether you’re in San Antonio or the Rio Grande Valley or up in Minneapolis – across the board these are fabulous, fabulous numbers. And so consistent. It doesn’t happen often, and you just really feel great when it does.”

Viane said “Dinosaur” is Disney’s third-biggest animated opening ever, “Behind ‘Toy Story 2,’ which was Thanksgiving (with $57.4 million the weekend of Nov. 26-28, 1999), and “Lion King,” which was mid-summer (with $40.9 million the weekend of June 24-26, 1994). For ‘Lion King,’ every day (was) a holiday, including the day we opened. We out-grossed ‘Lion King‘ Saturday (with ‘Dinosaur‘). We didn’t do as well as ‘Lion King‘ on Friday. Obviously, people were either at work or in school.”

DreamWorks’ R-rated action adventure “Gladiator” slid one peg to second place in its third week with a still-muscular estimated $19.1 million (-23 percent) at 3,041 theaters (+98 theaters; $6,281 per theater). Its cume is approximately $102.5 million, heading for $175-200 million in domestic theaters.

“It continues to have incredible word-of-mouth, which is generating substantial repeat business, including women, who are now almost 50 percent of our audience,” DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning.

“It really is encouraging. It went over the $100 million mark in 17 days, which actually is the same as ‘The Mummy‘ last year. But ‘Mummy‘ started out about $9 million ahead of us (from its opening weekend). This movie is holding extremely well. It’s playing so well, it’s unbelievable. And people are seeing this movie three and four times.”

DreamWorks is distributing “Gladiator” domestically while Universal is releasing it abroad. The two studios are 50-50 partners, sharing equally in the success of “Gladiator,” which reportedly cost $103 million to make.

DreamWorks also found preferred parking in third place with the high-speed arrival of its R-rated youth appeal comedy “Road Trip,” opening to an estimated $15.0 million at 2,530 theaters ($5,929 per theater).

“It’s off to a really good start,” DreamWorks’ Tharp said. “It’s always great when the opening weekend of a movie grosses the movie’s cost. We’re very pleased with it. ‘There’s Something About Mary‘ in the summertime did about $13 million its first weekend, so this is, I think, a really good number. ‘American Pie‘ was higher than this, but it was also in the summer, on July 9.

“Word-of-mouth is very positive. The only exit (data) I have is from the sneaks. It was 88 percent in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good).”

Overall, it was a terrific weekend for DreamWorks, which had two films in the Top Five, three in the Top Ten and saw “Gladiator” crack the $100 million mark.

“U-571,” Universal’s PG-13 World War II submarine drama, drifted down one rung to fourth place in its fifth week, still holding nicely with an estimated $4.61 million (-20 percent) at 2,736 theaters (-84 theaters; $1,685 per theater). Its cume is approximately $64.4 million, heading for about $75 million in domestic theaters.

“Frequency” dropped one slot to fifth place in its fourth week, continuing to hold really well with an estimated $4.3 million (-13 percent) at 2,202 theaters (-268 theaters; $1,953 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.3 million, heading for about $40 million in domestic theaters.

“The drops are great,” New Line executive vice president, distribution David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. “It’s the fourth week in the marketplace (and it’s only down) 13 percent. That’s great.”

Warner Bros. and Franchise Pictures’ PG-13-rated sci-fi action adventure “Battlefield Earth” plunged four orbits to sixth place in its second weekend with a weak estimated $3.83 million (-67 percent) at 3,304 theaters (-3 theaters; $1,159 per theater). Its cume is approximately $18.2 million heading for about $25 million.

DreamWorks’ Woody Allen PG-rated comedy “Small Time Crooks” opened in seventh place – only about $30,000 behind Warners’ estimate for “Battlefield” – to an encouraging estimated $3.8 million at 865 theaters ($4,393 per theater).

‘Small Time Crooks‘ is just fantastic,” DreamWorks’ Tharp said. “You expect the biggest eight to 10 markets to do business on a Woody Allen movie. But this movie played on a broader basis. We actually attracted families this weekend. This did family business. I think the rating and the comedy and Tracey Ullman helped.

“We may add a few runs for the holiday weekend. We’re going to add a few on ‘Road Trip‘ for Memorial Day weekend, and we may look at this now. Going this wide was sort of an experiment. Most of (Allen’s) movies open in just a few runs. But seeing how broad it did play, we actually may add some new runs in the next few weeks.”

Columbia’s PG-13-rated youth appeal dance film “Center Stage” slipped two slots to eighth place in its second weekend with a quiet estimated $3.3 million (-28 percent) at 1,506 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,191 per theater). Its cume is approximately $9.2 million.

20th Century Fox’s PG-13-rated drama “Where the Heart Is” fell two notches to ninth place in its fourth week with a softer estimated $2.9 million (-29 percent) at 2,155 theaters (-256 theaters; $1,346 per theater). Its cume is approximately $25.8 million.

“Heart,” which cost about $15 million to make, was picked up by Fox for domestic and English speaking territories for only $9 million.

Rounding out the Top Ten was Universal’s “The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas,” the PG-rated prequel to the 1996 “Flintstones” blockbuster, down five rocks in its fourth week with a calm estimated $2.5 million (-46 percent) at 2,692 theaters (-433 theaters; $928 per theater). Its cume is approximately $27.8 million, heading for about $35 million in domestic theaters.

HOLLYWOOD, May 24, 2000 – If you’re planning on seeing “Mission: Impossible 2” today, you can forget it. There’s no such movie.

Say what? After all, aren’t there billboards all over North America officially proclaiming today — May 24 — as opening day for the new Tom Cruise movie?

Right, but those billboards are for “M:I-2,” or as it’s more properly identified, The Movie Formerly Known As “Mission: Im ossible 2.”

Confused? Well, we were too. So, we called the folks at Paramount, who started the confusion by telling everyone that the flick’s title is “M:I-2.” That’s the way it’s listed in all the studio’s promotional materials, that’s what’s it’s called in all the trailers, and on all the posters. In other words, says Paramount, “M:I-2” supposedly isn’t an acronym for “Mission: Impossible 2,” but just a catchy title in its own right.

So, what led Paramount to drop complete words from the title? Were they all caught up in the mad rush to come up with the next hip-sounding Hollywood acronym (Let’s see, there was “T2,” “ID4,” “MiB” etc. Of course, each of those movies had real titles, too: “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” “Independence Day” and “Men in Black.”

Paramount spokeswoman Susan Indri says the studio’s not trying to be trendy.

“That’s the name of the movie,” Indri tells Hollywood.com. “But people have referred to it both ways.”

OK, but are you trying to distance this flick from its 1996 predecessor? (“Mission,” er, “M:I-2” helmer John Woo’s a big-name director, and this film’s supposedly a world apart from Brian DePalma’s original.)

“Not at all,” Indri says. “It’s a sequel. Everyone knows that.” And then, apparently disinterested in this discussion topic, she placed the telephone on its receiver.

But that doesn’t exactly clarify matters. And adding to the confusion is this: At the beginning of “M:I-2,” the movie’s own main title card — the traditional arbiter for what a movie’s for-the-record-books title — reads, yes, “Mission: Impossible II.” And, yes, make note of the Roman numeral. Where did that come from? So, to sum up: A movie that should only have one name now has three: “M:I-2,” “Mission: Impossible 2” and “Mission: Impossible II.”

Just take a look at the news stand, and it’s apparent that everyone is befuddled as to what this film’s real name is. US magazine is calling the thing “Mission: Impossible 2,” People magazine and The Associated Press are siding with “M:I-2.” called it “M:I-2” in its latest issue; the Associated Press is calling it “M:I-2.” (As for Hollywood.com, we were calling it “Mission: Impossible 2” until Tuesday, when we were informed that it’s “M:I-2,” stupid, even on the first reference.)

Even Paramount can’t keep its story straight. On its Web site, the movie is, yes, referred to as “M:I-2,” except, um, for the part about a “Mission: Impossible 2” (sheesh) sweepstakes.

There are some, however, who believe all this confusion-making is a stroke of brilliance.

“If you look at it from a marketing perspective, you can see that it’s a nice angle,” BenDavid Grabinski, a filmmaker who runs an unofficial Web site (http://www.angelfire.com/az/ScarabNET/miindex.html) about “M:I-2” (or whatever it’s called), tells Hollywood.com.

“You have this nice small acronym that looks great on a poster. But also, Paramount wants this film to be looked at as a separate entity from the original. They don’t want you to look at this is a sequel to the Brian De Palma film, they want you to see this as a John frickin’ Woo film with all that that entails,” Grabinski adds.

“But then again, it might confuse some people.”

You can say that again.