Aaliyah's <i>Queen</I> Rules Weekend Box Office25 Feb, 2002 By: Brian Fuson
Warner Bros.' Queen of the Damned, starring the late Aaliyah and Stuart Townsend, sunk its teeth into the top spot on its debut at the box office with an estimated $15.2 million during what is shaping up to be a record post-Presidents Day weekend in North America.
The previous weekend's box office champ, New Line's John Q., held up strongly on its sophomore outing as it landed in second place with an estimated $12.5 million, slipping a relatively slim 38 percent from the first three days of/ the four-day holiday weekend. The Denzel Washington starrer has billed an estimate of a solid $39.9 million in 10 days.
The third spot went to Universal's Dragonfly, which was co-produced with Spyglass Entertainment and stars Kevin Costner. The supernatural thriller, helmed by Tom Shadyac, scared up a moderate estimate of $10.4 million on its debut.
Buena Vista's animated Return to Never Land hooked the fourth slot with an estimated $9 million, down a scant 24 percent from its opening weekend. The G-rated sequel to Peter Pan held up well as it continued to bring in the family audience, raising its cume to an estimated $27.2 million after 10 days in release.
The same cannot be said for Paramount's Crossroads, which took a precipitous 51percent drop during its sophomore weekend. The coming-of-age drama — the film debut of pop singing sensation Britney Spears — took in an estimated $7.1 million, moving its total to about $26.3 million in 10 days. The young female demographic that delivered a moderate opening weekend failed to materialize in the film's sophomore outing.
This year's Oscar contenders for best picture took advantage of their higher profiles in the marketplace. The four films still in release — Universal's A Beautiful Mind, New Line's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Miramax's In the Bedroom and USA Films' Gosford Park — continued to spin their clout into box office gold to varying degrees.
Overall it was a solid weekend at the box office as the estimate for the top 12 films was up nearly 15percent from the post-Presidents Day weekend a year ago. The total for all films this weekend should top the $100 million mark -- the first time that level has been reached during the comparable period. The previous high for the post-Presidents Day weekend was $91.1 million, recorded in 1997 when 20th Century Fox had two Star Wars reissues in the marketplace — Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.
Thanks to solid returns at the box office during the past two weekends, neither of which was measurably affected by the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, the year-to-date national box office has crossed the $1 billion mark and is virtually tied with last year's record pace.
Also noteworthy this weekend, Sony's Black Hawk Down crossed the $100 million mark Saturday, becoming the 19th film released in 2001 to do so.
Executives at Warner Bros. said the opening-weekend box office for Queen, co-produced with Village Roadshow, was on target with their prerelease projections. "We had a terrific weekend; we're very pleased," said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros. "It's certainly a difficult film to market under the tragic circumstances of Aaliyah's death," Fellman said, commenting on the delicate task of marketing the film with appropriate sensitivity following the untimely death of the film's star.
According to Fellman, the audience was predominately ethnic, with the largest portion being females under age 25, and Aaliyah was the film's top draw. Fellman also noted that the opening gross for the R-rated film, based on the novel by Anne Rice, was a company best for a three-day weekend in February.
The PG-13 rated Dragonfly attracted a slightly older crowd — the majority being 35 and older — that was more female, according to the studio. "This is a very respectable opening," Universal Pictures distribution president Nikki Rocco said. "Knowing that Tom Shadyac was very passionate about the project, we're very pleased that this is one of the top films during another record-breaking weekend."
Rocco said that based on audience reactions and exit polls, in which females responded the most favorably, Dragonfly should have legs at the box office in coming weeks.
Other films in the top 10 included Universal's Big Fat Liar in the sixth slot with an estimated $6.7 million, down a slim 23 percent from a week ago, upping its cume to about $33.6 million. A Beautiful Mind was seventh with an estimated $5.2 million, slipping a respectable 36 percent, advancing its total to $132.6 million.
MGM's Hart's War took a sharp 41 percent drop on its sophomore frame, bringing in an estimated $4.6 million, moving its cume to about $13.9 million after 10 days, followed by Fox Searchlight's Super Troopers, which grossed an estimated $3.9 million. The total for the ultralow-budget comedy is $12.5 million.
Warner Bros.' Collateral Damage was 10th with an estimated $3.73 million, down a bleak 56percent in its third weekend but after losing 414 theaters. The Arnold Schwarzenegger starrer has a cume of about $34.5 million.
In the world of limited releases David Keith Co.'s Sex With Strangers debuted in one location and grossed a promising $11,000. The documentary, directed by Joe and Harry Gantz, follows swingers across the country.
Paramount Classics' Mean Machine scored in six locations as the comedy-drama, based on the 1974 film The Longest Yard, pulled in an estimated $18,000. The per-theater average was $3,000.
Palm's Scratch took in an estimated $8,092 in its second weekend in two locations, averaging $4,046 per theater. The hip-hop documentary expands next weekend and has collected about $26,675 to date.
The estimate for this weekend's top 12 films is nearly $86 million. The Hollywood Reporter projects the total for all films to be in the low to mid-$100 million range, up from last year's $90.6 million.
For the week ending Feb. 21, the national box office was up 12 percent from the comparable seven-day period a year ago ($197.2 million vs. $175.1 million), while the year-to-date total squeaked ahead of last year by a mere 1 percent ($1.13 billion vs. $1.12 billion). Estimated admissions for the year to date are down 3 percent from last year.