WEEKEND BOXOFFICE REPORT: 'Don't Say a Word' Speaks Up at No. 1; 'Zoolander' a Model No. 21 Oct, 2001 By: Staff Reporter
With three wide releases opening strongly in theatersthis weekend, and after the understandable lull at the box office following the horrific events of Sept. 11,the real story this weekend is that the American public appears ready to embrace movies again. The new films finished in the top three spots and lifted the overall box office significantly above last year's comparable frame.
20th Century Fox's Don't Say a Word took the top spot with an estimated $18 million, which was a pleasant surprise for the distributor as it was higher than the studio anticipated heading into the weekend. The Michael Douglas starrer went out the widest of the three new films with 2,803 locations.
Paramount's Zoolander, starring, directed and co-written by Ben Stiller, walked down the box officerunway in second place with an estimated $15.7 million. The male-supermodel comedy finished the frame at the high end of expectations, according to Paramount.
Landing in the third spot was Warner Bros.' Hearts in Atlantis, a drama starring Anthony Hopkins and helmed by Scott Hicks, which grossed an estimated $9.5 million. William Goldman wrote the screenplay for the film, which had a 37% jump from Friday to Saturday, the biggest increase of the three newcomers.
Paramount's Hardball took the fourth slot with an estimated $5.2 million, down 35% in its third frame, bringing its total to about $26.3 million.
Among the holdovers, Dimension's The Others continued to defy box office gravity as the Nicole Kidman starrer lost 77 theaters but took in the same gross it did last weekend -- an estimated $5.1 million to claim the fifth spot. The cume to date for the horror-thriller is roughly $87 million.
The overall box office was impressive this weekend as the Golden Dozen was up a stellar 26% from the top 12 films for the comparable frame last year. The consensus among distributors was one of cautious optimism.
"It's very encouraging; it's a terrific result," said Bruce Snyder, president of domestic distribution forFox, regarding the opening of Don't Say a Word. Of the overall box office performance this weekend, he noted: "It's a very solid weekend for the movies. America looks like it went back to the movies looking for some degree of normalcy. Even with the research, nobody really knew what theweekend would be."
Wayne Lewellen, Paramount's president of distribution, echoed similar sentiments. Regarding the opening of Zoolander, Lewellen noted that the film played best in urban markets. "Hopefully, word-of-mouth will spread, and then we'll look at bringing in additional markets," he said. The PG-13-rated comedy played slightly younger, with slightly more than 50% under age 25, and was fairly evenly split between the genders.
Likewise, Warner Bros. was very pleased with the performance of Castle Rock Entertainment's Atlantis, which marked the biggest opening ever for helmer Hicks (Snow Falling on Cedars, Shine). "I think the timing was right for the release of the film," said Dan Fellman, president ofdomestic distribution at Warner Bros. "People are getting back to their normal routines. The box office is experiencing the continued success it had prior to the horrific events on Sept. 11."
Last weekend was the lowest-grossing frame of the year with $59.5 million. Contributing to the poorperformance was Friday night's telethon to help the victims of the terrorist attacks, but there was also asignificant lack of product in the market. "It seems that now that product has returned, we're about where we were, at least for the time being," said Jeff Blake, president of worldwide marketing and distribution at Columbia Pictures.
The estimate for this weekend's Golden Dozen was $66.3 million. The Hollywood Reporter projects the total for all films this weekend to be in the high $70 million-to-low $80 million range, up from last year's $65.5 million.
The national box office for the week ending Sept. 27 was down just 3% from last year's comparable seven-day period ($80.4 million vs. $82.5 million).
The year-to-date cume is holding steady with a 10% advantage on last year at this time ($6.03 billion vs. $5.48 billion). The national box office surpassed the $6 billion mark five weeks earlier than any previous year in box office history. Estimated ticket units for the year-to-date mark a 5%increase on 2000, but the tally slipped behind 1999 for the first time this year and behind 1998 for the first time in seven weeks.
Opening strongly in limited release this weekend was Sony Pictures Classics' Va Savior (Who Knows?), which debuted Saturday and took in a two-day gross of $47,333 from three locales. The French romantic drama, with English subtitles, averaged a promising $15,778 per theater.
Access' Dinner Rush starring Danny Aiello grossed an estimated $104,000 from 52 sites, for a per-theater gross of $2,000.
Providence Entertainment's Extremedays debuted in 351 venues and grossed an estimated $601,263. The teen road-trip adventure averaged $1,713 per theater.
United Artists' Born Romantic appeared in seven locations this weekend and took home an estimated$10,000, gleaning a weak per-theater average of $1,429.
Miramax's Serendipity had sneaks Friday and Saturday that produced encouraging results, accordingto the distributor. The sneaks were at 80%-90% capacity, and the romantic comedy starring John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale and Molly Shannon scored in the mid-80% in the top two boxes -- excellent and very good -- and drew in the mid-70% for definite recommend. The distributor noted that the Peter Chelsom-helmed picture had many sellouts and drew 60% female and 40% male.