Weekend Box Office

by Brandon Gray
April 11, 2000

Three pictures starting with the letter "r," each appealing to different demographics and each representing the first of their respective genres in quite some time, entered the marketplace to mixed results.

Playing to the strengths of stars Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson, Rules of Engagement invaded a whopping 3,155 theaters, engaging a decent $15 million. Paramount timed it well, as it was the first military drama since last summer's The General's Daughter and given the relative paucity of ponderous spectacles in the marketplace. This had the studio and many analysts expecting a start in at least the high teens for the $60 million production. However, this was clearly out of the question since the subject matter was not going to appeal to women or the younger demos that are key to blockbuster-sized openings.

The returns for Return to Me bode well for David Duchovny's bid to transition from The X-Files to a movie career. The romantic comedy opened with $7.8 million from 2,007 theaters. Solid, given its relatively low budget, low key promotional campaign and that the audience it primarily appeals to (adult women), tends to to not rush out on the first weekend. That and a 96% approval rating should contribute to a leggy run. It certainly benefited from being the first of its genre in five months (The Bachelor was the last one). More importantly, though, the ad campaign scored with old-fashioned humor and warmth, and MGM was able to build up a decent amount of buzz through two sneak previews.

David Arquette's first major outing as star, Ready to Rumble wasn't with a paltry, Pauly Shore-ish $5.3 million from 2,585 theaters. Being the first silly comedy since Deuce Bigalow and the current wrestling craze were in its favor. But the ad campaign lacked laughs and wasn't aggressive enough. Little appeal to women and a focus on the waning WCW as opposed to the WWF contributed to the failure as well.

Black and White tried to mix it up with both urban and artsy-fartsy audiences, but generated mostly indifference as it grossed just $3 million its first five days.

Last weekend played the complimentary demographics game a tad more successfully.

The Road to El Dorado didn't exactly strike gold given its $95-million budget and its exceptionally wide 3,218-theater release, but its $12.8 million opening was well above average for a family picture this time of year. It held up fairly well in its second outing with $9.1 million.

The Skulls snagged $11 million, appealing directly to teens. Rather strong given the cheese factor, the unproven WB cast and the direct competition from the likes of Romeo Must Die and Final Destination. Staying true to its genre though, it fell 41% to $6.5 million.

$6.4 million may seem rather paltry in these days of the uber-openings, but it was solid for High Fidelity's first weekend. Mostly appealing to men old enough to have experienced the '80s, the comedy played at 1,183 theaters and scored the highest average of the top ten that weekend. In fact, it was John Cusack's second best opening as top-billed star behind another of his quirky retro-comedies, Grosse Pointe Blank and its $6.9 million in April 1997. Fidelity continued to get decent play in its second frame, dropping 34% to $4.2 million.

Erin Brockovich finally gave up pole position after a phenomenal three-week run. It dropped just 28% for a still strong $9.8 million. It will likely cross the century mark by next Tuesday. Sleeper hit Final Destination continued to defy the usually precipitous drops of its genre, as it was down just 28% to $3.8 million and $33.9 million to date.

Overall box office totaled $85.1 million, down 4% from last weekend, but up 1% over the same frame last year when The Matrix topped the chart in its second outing with $22.6 million en route to a $171.4 million total.

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