Nearly half the weekend’s box office gold went to Austin Powers in Goldmember.
Goldmember scored a record setting $71.5 million for the weekend and averaged $19,776 per theater, the most for any wide release playing this weekend. Its four day cume is $75 million, including $3.5 million in preview ticket sales last Thursday at about 2,400 theaters.
The weekend’s other big opening was much smaller, but equally dazzling — Focus Features’ launch of The Kid Stays In the Picture, the true story of legendary Hollywood producer and studio executive Robert Evans. Kid kicked off at 4 theaters in New York and Los Angeles to a sizzling $88,799 or $22,200 per theater, the weekend’s biggest per theater average for any film in the marketplace.
“We’ve gotten 23 out of 25 excellent reviews, which is quite a remarkable number,” Evans told me Sunday morning from New York. “I was down at the theater and the demographics are interesting — from 16 to 80. There were kids there who were 16, 17 and 18 years old. And each (showing) has gotten applause at the end. People are saying they’re going to go back to see it again. Yesterday (the gross) was much bigger than Friday.”
For more of my conversation with Evans, please see the “Other Openings” report below.
Last weekend’s top two films both held well despite Goldmember‘s tremendous opening. The Road To Perdition finished second, off only 29 percent with $11 million. Stuart Little 2 was a close third, also down just 29 percent with $10.7 million.
The weekend’s other wide opening, The Country Bears had nothing to laugh about in sixth place with $5.2 million.
Key films — those grossing $500,000 or more — took in $144.8 million, down nearly 3 percent from last year’s $149.1 million.
THE TOP TEN
New Line’s PG-13 rated comedy sequel Austin Powers in opened powerfully in first place to an ESTIMATED $71.45 million at 3,613 theaters ($19,776 per theater). Its cume after four days (including previews last Thursday night) is approximately $75.0 million.
Goldmember‘s average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
“It’s the biggest July opening ever,” New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. “It beats Planet of the Apes (which this weekend last year set a new July opening record with $68.5 million). It’s the biggest comedy opening ever. It beats Rush Hour 2, which was $67.4 million (the weekend of Aug. 3-5, 2001). It’s the biggest New Line opening ever (again beating Rush Hour 2). It’s the biggest Mike Myers opening ever (beating $54.9 million for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me the weekend of June 11-13, 1999). It’s the seventh highest all time opener and the fourth biggest three day opener.”
Why did Goldmember do so well? “I think you have a comedic genius in Mike Myers,” Tuckerman replied. “You’ve got a terrific director (in Jay Roach) who knows what to do with comedy. This is the funniest one (in the franchise so far). The beginning part of it with the cameos (by superstars) — the audience just gasps.
“We still have 9/11 hanging over our heads. The economy’s in the toilet. People want to laugh. People want to go someplace for two hours and just laugh and forget about everything. This picture would have been enormous anyway, but I just think they want to go someplace and have a good time for two hours and not worry about the economy and the 9/11 stuff. Its the right picture at the right time.”
Another factor in the film’s favor was New Line’s choice of what turned out to be the perfect release date. “We had experience (with this timing) last year with Rush Hour 2. Basically, this picture’s going to run through August. Our experience showed us there’s still summer dollars in August. We got (past) most of the really big, glossy high grossing pictures from the beginning of the summer and this sort of leaves (Goldmember) by itself. We were the third highest profile film of the summer going in — after Spider-Man and after Star Wars.”
Goldmember will also benefit from the fact that neither of the two highest profile August openings are comedies. Buena Vista/Touchstone’s Signs, directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Mel Gibson, opens Aug. 2 and is a supernatural thriller. Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures’ XXX, directed by Rob Cohen and starring Vin Diesel, opens Aug. 9 and is an action adventure espionage thriller.
DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox’s R rated adult appeal drama The Road To Perdition, which ended up placing first last weekend after a down-to-the-wire race with Stuart 2, dropped one slot to second place in its third week, holding very well with an ESTIMATED $11.0 million (-29%) at 2,250 theaters (+91 theaters; $4,897 per theater). Its cume is approximately $65.6 million.
Columbia’s PG rated family comedy sequel Stuart Little 2 slid one peg to third place in its second weekend, also showing good legs with an ESTIMATED $10.7 million (-29%) at 3,282 theaters (+27 theaters; $3,260 per theater). Its cume is approximately $34.8 million.
“Down 29 percent — you can’t ask for much better than that,” Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. “The mid-week business was very strong last week where — even though we were slightly behind Road To Perdition (for the weekend) as we are this weekend — the seven day numbers were substantially higher (for Stuart 2).”
That was, of course, exactly what happened with Buena Vista/Disney’s animated Lilo & Stitch when it opened against 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks’ Minority Report earlier this summer. While Minority took the weekend by a small lead, Lilo ended up out-grossing it for the full week.
“We’re experiencing very much (with Stuart 2) the kind of ride that Disney gets,” Blake said.
Asked where Stuart 2 is heading, Blake replied, “That’s why we certainly hope for more than the usual. So it’s a little hard to say at this point. We’re still hoping that it keeps adding up in an above average manner. Normally, you’d look at this and say, ‘Well, maybe about $75 million (in domestic theaters).’ But we’re still hoping for more.”
Reflecting on the marketplace and looking ahead to August, Blake observed, “Anybody who thought the summer is over is crazy. It’s going to keep coming, I think — straight through XXX (Aug. 9 at 3,500-plus theaters), as far as we’re concerned.”
Columbia’s PG-13 rated blockbuster sequel Men In Black II fell one notch to fourth place in its fourth week with an okay ESTIMATED $8.7 million (-40%) at 3,542 theaters (-99 theaters; $2,456 per theater). Its cume is approximately $173.6 million.
“Heading to $200 million, it looks like,” Sony’s Jeff Blake said. “And, by the way, the international openings continue to be magnificent. We were six for six with number one openings in countries this weekend. I don’t think it has not opened number one anywhere so far.”
Paramount and Intermedia Films’ PG-13 rated Russian submarine drama K-19: The Widowmaker went to a watery grave, dropping one fathom to fifth place in its second weekend with a hopeless ESTIMATED $7.33 million (-43%) at 2,830 theaters (+2 theaters; $2,588 per theater). Its cume is approximately $25.0 million.
Buena Vista/Disney’s G rated family comedy The Country Bears kicked off slowly in sixth place to an ESTIMATED $5.2 million at 2,553 theaters ($2,042 per theater).
Directed by Peter Hastings, it stars Christopher Walken.
Columbia and New Line’s PG-13 rated comedy Mr. Deeds slid one rung to seventh place in its fifth week with a quiet ESTIMATED $4.2 million (-43%) at 2,309 theaters (-514 theaters; $1,819 per theater). Deeds, which was made for only $55 million, has a cume of approximately $116.1 million, heading for $125 million in domestic theaters.
Buena Vista/Touchstone and Spyglass Entertainment’s Reign Of Fire dropped three pegs to eighth place in its third week with a cold ESTIMATED $3.3 million (-54%) at 2,005 theaters (-624 theaters; $1,665 per theater). Its cume is approximately $36.3 million.
20th Century Fox and DreamWorks’ PG-13 rated sci-fi fantasy thriller Minority Report rose two slots to ninth place in its sixth week with a calm ESTIMATED $3.1 million (-30%) at 1,365 theaters (-307 theaters; $2,293 per theater). Its cume is approximately $123.4 million, heading for $135 million in domestic theaters.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Gold Circle Films and HBO’s PG rated romantic comedy hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding in its 15th week via IFC Films, which continued to widen and show incredibly good legs with an ESTIMATED $3.0 million (+16%) at 569 theaters (+39 theaters; $5,290 per theater). Its cume is approximately $35.4 million, heading for $50 million or more in domestic theaters.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Focus Features’ R rated The Kid Stays in the Picture, the “unbelievable true tale of Robert Evans,” to an outstanding ESTIMATED $88,799 at 4 theaters ($22,200 per theater). Produced and directed by Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein and produced by Graydon Carter, Kid is based on the book by Robert Evans.
“It’s great,” Focus Features distribution head Jack Foley said Sunday morning. “It’s at four theaters — two in New York and two in L.A. The Regent and the Sunset (in L.A.) and the Angelika and the Lincoln Plaza (in N.Y.). We looked at how we rank against the art film openings of the summer. This print average is the biggest among any art film opening, whether it’s Lovely & Amazing, The Importance of Being Earnest, Tadpole and the like.” Although Kid has been called a documentary in some articles and reviews, it’s really its own new form of movie. Nonetheless, compared to the industry’s most successful documentaries it also ranks among the all-time biggest openings.
Talking to Robert Evans Sunday morning, I asked him how to best describe Kid. “I don’t know what you would call the picture, quite frankly,” Evans replied. “It’s not a documentary. It really isn’t. If anything, you could call it a ‘performance piece.’ That’s what it really is. Graydon Carter originally wanted to call it a ‘performance piece.’ I didn’t like it because it sounded pompous. But he says it’s not now because that’s what it is.”
Evans has been watching audiences seeing the film at the theaters in New York where it’s playing. “You can’t hear a sound in the theater, except when the laughs come,” he said. “No one gets up to (go to the rest rooms).”
To launch the picture, Evans pointed out, Focus did not have the kind of multi-million dollar marketing budget that studios routinely spend to open wide releases. Much of the promotional job depended on free publicity in the media, which Evans has been doing non-stop this summer.
“I’ve been working tirelessly on it,” he noted. “I’m the one person in the picture and I’ve got to do it. They’re looking upon this as a break-through new form of film. It really has no category to put it under. One thing you can say is it’s an original. There hasn’t been anything made like this and that’s one of the things that’s attractive about it.”
Pointing to some of the many articles that have been written about Kid, Evans said, “The L.A. Times on Friday had two pieces on me. And the Sunday New York Times last week had a big piece and this week has a big piece. Last week was in the Styles section. This week’s is in Arts & Leisure — a whole page. That you can’t buy. And we have many other things coming out (in the media), too.”
Looking at Kid‘s impressive first weekend business, Foley observed, “This has opened as a splendid art film opening. The demographics we’re seeing in the theater range from seniors down to teenagers and people in their early 20s. It’s males and females evenly across the board. It’s got to be a response to all the hard work that Bob Evans has done on the film along with Bret (Morgen) and Nanette (Burstein) as well as the amazing publicity job (by Focus).
“This is the same weekend as Austin Powers and (we’ve achieved) a $22,000 print average. We had real (discussions at Focus) about whether this was the way to go or not, but this dispels all the myths about the summer — that art films shouldn’t go in the summer and shouldn’t open up against a monster event film like Austin Powers. It dispels all the myths. It broke all the rules and set new standards — just like Bob Evans‘ legacy.”
Asked how Focus will expand the film’s release, Foley said, “Right now, we’re going to hold tight this next week. We’ll probably go one run more in Los Angeles in Orange County. Then on Aug. 16 we’re going to go into 10 additional markets. The way the reviews are coming in — because they’re all splendid — we might ramp that number up a bit. What we were trying to do is launch ourselves in between what looked to be formidable competition (in the specialized distribution world), but that seems to be waning.
“So if I can fill in that spot on Aug. 16, I will and will then build from there (with) a new wave to finish out the summer. And then there’s a whole opportunity that we can exploit for Labor Day weekend for expansion and just keep riding into September. If the film continues to open at this level, it is going to be a real smash art film success.”
The company’s plan, Foley said, “is to remain conservative and just let it sit there and continue to do what it’s doing and prove to exhibition that this is a vitally important commercial film for them. It’s astounding. One of the really good things is that the Regent in Westwood (in L.A.) is going to probably do around $20,000 for the weekend.
“As far as breaking ground there, this is up there with the Monsoon Wedding opening. So Westwood is showing itself to be very, very serious (in terms of responding to specialized films). In fact, it’s going to out-gross the Lincoln Plaza (in New York).”
Paramount Classics’ R rated crime comedy Who Is Cletis Tout? kicked off poorly to an ESTIMATED $70,000 at 18 theaters ($3,893 per theater).
Sony Pictures Classics’ PG rated comedy Happy Times arrived to an unhappy ESTIMATED $31,000 at 6 theaters ($5,177 per theater).
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend Lions Gate Films’ R rated comedy Lovely & Amazing went wider in its fifth week with a neither lovely nor amazing ESTIMATED $0.5 million at 165 theaters (+55 theaters; $3,280 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.7 million.
Miramax’s PG-13 romantic comedy Tadpole expanded in its second week with a not very sexy ESTIMATED $0.28 million at 40 theaters (+34 theaters; $6,875 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.4 million.
Key films — those grossing more than $500,000 — took in approximately $144.79 million, down 2.89 percent from last year when they totaled $149.09 million.
Key films were up about 25.29 percent from the previous weekend of this year when they grossed $115.56 million.
Last year, 20th Century Fox’s opening week of Planet of the Apes was first with $68.53 million at 3,500 theaters ($19,581 per theater); and Universal’s second week of Jurassic Park III was second with $22.54 million at 3,439 theaters ($6,555 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $91.0 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $82.5 million.