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Weekend Box Office

by Brandon Gray
August 3, 1999

Wow. Led by the phenomenal performances of The Blair Witch Project and Runaway Bride, the overall box office overcame a traditionally slower weekend to make a record-breaking $158 million. Hell, this weekend was so amazing I'm tempted to start using such cliché box office terms as "scorching" or "socko" or even "boffo."

The Blair Witch Project is certainly a candidate for most incredible opening weekend ever. This micro-budget indie picture made a mega-budget style $29.2 million from just 1,101 theaters. The marketing campaign marks the first truly successful use of the internet and one of the few to gain significant momentum from a platform release. But what I think it comes down to though is that, like Jaws or Psycho, this picture just taps into many people's basic fears. This is compounded by it being considered the first truly scary picture in years. Another reason may be that many people actually believe it's real. Since I am not a horror fan and have little interest in seeing it, I must say I don't get this phenomenon though.

Meanwhile, Runaway Bride overcame being the second Julia Roberts movie in two months, a lackluster albeit incessant ad campaign, and a treacly premise to blow away the romantic comedy opening weekend record. Playing at 3,158 theaters, it ran away with $35.1 million, handily beating previous record holder Notting Hill's $21.8 million. Sure it had no direct competition, but wow, like The Blair Witch Project, this is really unprecedented. It turns out that all Paramount had to do was make it be known that Roberts and Gere were finally back together again. That's how high demand was for a Pretty Woman reunion.

Deep Blue Sea apparently benefited from sold out Blair Witch shows as it grossed a solid $19.1 million, significantly higher than its mid-week opening suggested. The picture also must have benefited from positive word-of-mouth as it really delivered the traditional summertime thrills that audiences have been deprived of for the past few months.

The Haunting buckled under the pressure of competition and poor word-of-mouth. The cheesy remake plunged 54% to $15.3 million, and it looks like it will fall short of the $100 million mark.

Editor's Note: Articles published before 2001 were assigned and reported as box office briefings, not a full evaluation or analysis.

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