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'Monsters' Helps Elevate Fall Box Office 14% to New Record

19 Nov, 2001 By: Staff Reporter

Thanks largely to the considerable clout of Buena Vista's Monsters, Inc., national box office for the fall season rose to a record $1.19 billion, up an impressive 14% from last year's $1.04 billion.

Autumn's record revenue bested by 6% the previous high for the season -- the $1.12 billion racked up in 1999 -- and marked the fourth consecutive year the fall session surpassed $1 billion.

The season's top-grossing film was Monsters, even though the CG-animated film from Pixar had a scant 14 days of accumulated grosses under its box office bed, fewest among the season's 10 most attended films. Monsters also earned a place in the record books by surpassing New Line's 1998 release Rush Hour to become the highest-grossing fall film.

As the industry heads into the crucial year-end holiday period, year-to-date national box office holds a solid 11% advantage on the 2000 pace, which translates to a robust $670 million surplus. National box office is on track to top $8 billion on the year for the first time in history, and admissions have a shot at topping 1998's 1.48 billion, the highest count since 1959.

While the autumn box office reached record heights, ticket units could notch only the fourth-best fall tally on record with an estimated 208.9 million as slightly higher ticket prices weakened box office gains. The good news was that admissions rose 10% from last year's 189.4 million, and the season total returned to the plus side of the 200 million mark. Last year marked the first time in five years that ticket units slipped below 200 million during fall.

The highest number of autumn admissions was recorded in 1998, when Rush Hour, Buena Vista's The Waterboy and DreamWorks' Antz played in theaters and 222.8 million ticket units were tallied. This year's admissions total was 6% lower than 1998's record.

The autumn box office season usually runs 10 weeks but can be 11, beginning after Labor Day and ending before the Thanksgiving holiday week. The inclusive dates for this year's 10-week season were Sept. 7-Nov. 15.

With the tragic events of Sept. 11, it was a fall season unlike any other. While audience interest in movies understandably waned during the early part of the season as all of America mourned and attempted to deal with the tragedy, moviegoers returned to theaters en masse during the latter part.

The strength of this year's fall box office season was spread fairly evenly through the rankings, with much of the potency coming from films lower on the box office ladder. Aside from Monsters, no other film grossed more than $100 million during the season. In 2000, two films crossed that mark in autumn.

This year's aggregate for the season's 10 highest-grossing films was $541.5 million, only 1% higher than last year's total but a weak 9% lower than the $597.9 million racked up in 1999. That season boasted six films that grossed more than $50 million each, as opposed to only three in that category this year.

As it locked up the top spot for the autumn box office season, Monsters took in a stunning $133.6 million in U.S.-Canadian grosses, followed by Warner Bros.' Training Day with $73.3 million. Fox's Don't Say a Word took show with $54 million. Miramax's Serendipity garnered $46.3 million to place fourth, followed by Paramount's Zoolander with $44.1 million.

Next was Universal's K-PAX ($42.2 million), with MGM's Bandits ($39 million) in seventh and Paramount's Hardball ($38.5 million) in eighth. The ninth slot was haunted by Warners' Thirteen Ghosts ($35.5 million), and Dimension's The Others ($35 million of its $61.5 million total) took 10th.

--Brian Fuson for The Hollywood Reporter

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