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It's Christmas in August at the Box Office; Summer Records Fall as Temperatures Rise

15 Aug, 2001 By: Staff Reporter

It's Christmas in August at the box office as a late-summer surge of frenzied moviegoing more akin to the year-end ticket-buying season is rewriting the record books. Last week's seven-day gross was the biggest weekly haul of 2001 and capped anunprecedented eight-week winning streak of $200 million-plus totals.

During the week ending Aug. 9, national boxoffice registered a stunning $267.4 million seven-day total(Friday-Thursday). The frame also boasted the biggest nonholiday three-day weekend in history ($171.9 million). The box office fireworks are all the more impressive considering that they areexploding late -- toward the middle of August, a traditionally lackluster time at the multiplex.

The weekly cume marks the fourth-biggest seven-day total on record. The three weeks that surpass it all fell near the Christmas holiday. The biggest week in box office history occurred last year ($289.2 million), when Fox's Cast Away and Paramount's What Women Want topped the charts.

Runners-up are Christmas week 1998 ($288.9 million), when Universal's Patch Adams was the top film, and Christmas 1997 ($276.6 million), when Paramount's Titanic was steaming through theaters.

After the stellar $45.1 million debut of Universal's American Pie 2 and the solid $33.1 million sophomore frame of New Line's Rush Hour 2, the current week ending Thursday should make it nine consecutive seven-day periods in which cumulative box office grosses have surpassed the $200 millionmark.

The previous record for consecutive $200 million-plus weeks was set during summer 2000, when the season strung together six consecutive such frames.

Thanks to the late-summer rally, this season is positioned to mount a challenge to the championshipsummer of 1999, which racked up a record-high $2.86 billion in gross receipts and 553.6 million ticket units from Memorial Day-Labor Day, the long-standing industry measure of the summer boxoffice season.

This summer's boxoffice is running nearly 9% ahead of last year's pace and 6% ahead of the record 1999 summer. If box office for the rest of summer 2001 only matches the comparable 1999 period, thiswill be the first summer ever to surpass the $3 billion mark.

In terms of admissions, this summer holds a 5% advantage on last year's comparable period but lags 2% behind summer 1999. But if the box office continues to perform at a solid level, this season has a shot at making up the ticket deficit and overtaking summer 1999.

Looking at previous August moviegoing patterns, there have never been two separate weeks during the same month in which grosses surpassed $200 million -- let alone at the levels racked up this summer.

The record 1999 season, which featured the late-summer release of Buena Vista's blockbuster The Sixth Sense, had one week in which grosses exceeded $200 million -- the week beginning Aug. 6 pulled in $238.6 million.

The kind of grosses racked up in theaters during the past weekend, when receipts totaled $158.8 million, usually are reserved for earlier in the summer -- around Memorial Day, the July Fourth holiday and even late July. Rarely do such high-grossing weekends occur in the middle of August. The August weekend that comes closest occurred in 1999, when the three-day frame beginning Aug. 6 racked up$153.8 million.

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