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WEEKEND BOXOFFICE REPORT: 'Potter,' on Record Pace, Aims to Make a Phantom Out of 'Star Wars'

26 Nov, 2001 By: Staff Reporter

Warner Bros.' Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone easily maintained the top spot at the box office and entranced audiences during theThanksgiving holiday as the fantasy-adventure kept competitors at bay by conjuring an estimated $58.55million during the three-day weekend -- and $83.5 million on the five-day frame -- to bring its 10-day cume to a stunning $188.1 million.

Potter shot past the $150 million mark Friday in a record eight days -- two days faster than Fox's StarWars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace. The Chris Columbus-directed picture tied Menace for thespeed record to the $100 million mark by doing so in five days and should cross the $200 million mark by late this week.

Buena Vista's Monsters, Inc. took the second spot as it added 188 theaters and brought in an estimated $24.5 million on the three days, up 8% from the previous weekend. The CG-animated film from Pixar has collected an estimated $192.8 million to date and should vault past the $200 million mark during the coming weekend.

The family audience was out in force during the Thanksgiving holiday as the top two films, both aimed atthat coveted demographic, generated 57% of the aggregate for the top 12 titles. The estimated cume forthe top 12 films is $145.5 million, down 13% from the comparable 2000 frame. The Hollywood Reporter projects the total for all films during the weekend in the low-to mid-$150 million range, the third-best three-day Thanksgiving weekend gross behind last year's record $176.7 million and 1999's $160 million.

Three wide releases debuted in theaters Wednesday, one more than last year, and the trio met with varying degrees of success.

In a bold counterprogramming move, Universal released the R-rated Spy Game starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt into the traditionally domain of family films. The Tony Scott-helmed Game, produced by Beacon Communications, rolled into the third spot, taking in an estimated $21.6 million on the three days and $30.5 million since its opening.

"It was a big decision to have an adult, intellectual film released during this time of the year, which istraditionally reserved for family fare, and we were successful," Universal president of distribution Nikki Rocco said. "We wanted to counterprogram the fabulous family films that were in the market and giveadults a choice. The combination of Redford and Pitt caught the attention of adults and drew them totheaters."

Buena Vista's Unbreakable debuted in the second spot during last year's Thanksgiving frame, earning $30.3 million on the three days and $46 million on the five days, but was rated PG-13 and was seen largely as a follow-up to 1999's The Sixth Sense. Both films were helmed by M. Night Shyamalan and star Bruce Willis.

Fox entered the holiday weekend with a period-piece comedy starring Martin Lawrence. Black Knightopened in the fourth slot with an estimated $11.7 million from 2,571 theaters. Set in 14th century England, the time-travel tale from New Regency Pictures has lanced an estimated $16.1 million since its Wednesday release.

Buena Vista's Out Cold debuted on the bunny slopes at the box office as the broad comedy set in theworld of snowboarding arrived in the sixth slot with an estimated $4.7 million. The ensemble feature from Spyglass Entertainment grossed about $6.9 million on the five days.

As it dominated the weekend box office, Potter chalked up the biggest first seven days of all time with$129.5 million, besting the $124.7 million accumulated by Menace. Potter also beat Buena Vista's1999 release Toy Story 2 to amass the biggest three-day and five-day totals during the Thanksgivingholiday, which stood at $57.3 million and $80.1 million, respectively.

The continued box office strength of Potter had Warners executives in good spirits. "It's great, justgreat," said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution. "And exhibitors I have spoken with told methey are already beginning to see repeat business on the film. I expect the Harry Potter phenomenon to continue through the Christmas and New Year's holidays."

Fellman noted that Columbus recently finished his first week of shooting on the second Potter feature,scheduled for release next Thanksgiving.

Regarding the estimated $20.2 million gross to date for Warners' Heist, helmed by David Mamet, Fellman noted that it is Mamet's highest-grossing film, doubling the $10.2 million brought in by 1998's The Spanish Prisoner.

In the limited-release arena, Miramax's In the Bedroom opened in four theaters Friday in New Yorkand Los Angeles and grossed an estimated $95,000. The drama starring Sissy Spacek, Marisa Tomei and Tom Wilkinson averaged a stellar $23,750 per theater. The film expands to the top 20 marketsChristmas Day.

Paramount Classics' Sidewalks of New York played in 99 locations and took in an estimated $565,000.The romantic comedy, which was helmed by and stars Edward Burns along with Heather Graham, Stanley Tucci and Rosario Dawson, averaged a promising $5,707 per theater and has grossed about$713,000 after five days.

Sony Pictures Classics' The Devil's Backbone grossed an estimated $37,377 from four venues in New York. The Spanish-language supernatural thriller, directed and written by Guillermo del Toro, averaged astrong $9,344 per theater and has taken in about $48,645 since Wednesday.

The sophomore frame of Artisan's Novocaine brought in an estimated $365,000 from 120 locales,averaging $3,042 per theater and upping its cume to about $970,000 after 10 days. The dark comedy stars Steve Martin, Helena Bonham Carter and Laura Dern.

Fox's Moulin Rouge was reissued in 45 locations and brought in an estimated $61,538, averaging aweak $1,368 per theater. The gross to date for the Nicole Kidman starrer is $56.8 million.

The top-grossing titles during the 2000 Thanksgiving frame were Universal's Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas with $52.1 million and Unbreakable.

During the week ending Nov. 22, national box office rose a scant 1% from the comparable seven-day period a year ago ($254.1 million vs. $251.3 million), while the year-to-date total maintained a 10% advantage ($7.21 billion vs. $6.53 billion), reaching the $7 billion mark five weeks earlier than any other year in box office history. Year-to-date admissions are running 6% ahead of last year's pace.

--Brian Fuson for The Hollywood Reporter

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