Weekend Box Office

by Brandon Gray
July 19, 1999

Eyes Wide Shut opened with a solid $21.7 million from 2,411 theaters, $1.1 million less than Warner Bros.' $22.8 million estimate. It was below Tom Cruise's average, and it didn't match the hype. It was even less than The General's Daughter's $22.3 million, which had much less hype and lower star power. Mixed word-of-mouth and an increasingly crowded marketplace will likely keep it from reaching the $100 million mark.

The Saturday bump up was 5.7%, quite low for an adult appeal picture. It has been suggested that the JFK Jr. incident contributed to this. I would like this to be the case, because that would mean my $26.5 million prediction was closer to the actual demand. However, I don't think many adults cared enough to be glued to the TV all day. If they did, then why didn't such pictures as The General's Daughter and Notting Hill suffer too? I think what really happened was that Eyes Wide Shut had a strong core audience who had to see it opening day, resulting in that low Saturday bump up.

The picture does have promising overseas prospects though, and it should end up being profitable if Warner Bros.' reported $65 million budget is accurate. I find it suspect though, given how long it took to shoot and how the Cruises' probably took up $25 million or more of it alone.

This third Cruise/Kidman collaboration is also their third to post less than expected numbers. They first worked together on Days of Thunder, which grossed $82.7 million in 1990. Though that was a solid performance, it was seen as a disappointment because of its budget and Cruise's previous hits. Their second picture and first with Kidman's name above the title, Far and Away, came after a long hiatus for Cruise. It was a miss by his lofty standards, grossing $58.9 million.

Now I don't want the preceding to be taken as an attack on Eyes Wide Shut. I received some email from people thinking I was attacking the Wild Wild West two weeks ago, so I would like to curb any email regarding my Eyes Wide Shut analysis. In both instances, I've merely reported on their box office performances realistically, and have made no mention of their quality. I will admit that I have no intention of seeing Wild Wild West because it looks like crap and because I'm not a Fresh Prince fan. I will see probably Eyes Wide Shut though.

Meanwhile, The Blair Witch Project had by far the most impressive opening of the weekend. The hype and the buzz proved to be amazingly effective as the picture grossed $1.5 million from just 27 theaters. That's an astounding $56,002 per theater average. Distributor Artisan paid $1 million for the rights to the $25,000 picture. Combine that with a low budget campaign that's letting the internet and media do the bulk of the advertising, and this could become one of the most profitable pictures of the year.

Lake Placid got in there right before The Haunting and Deep Blue Sea and made its money, enjoying an $11 million opening. It will likely fade quickly though. I tried to see it this weekend, but it was surprisingly sold out, probably because it was only on one screen. So I saw American Pie instead. It was the sort of movie where you miss many of the lines because the audience is laughing so loudly. That's why it was a bit surprising that it fell 28% to $13.6 million. Though solid, I expected a stronger hold. It still has a shot at $100 million and will be very profitable for Universal.

The Wood scored with its urban demographic, making $8.5 million from 1,191 theaters. Its $7,150 per theater average was second only to Eyes Wide Shut among the top ten. The picture should also be profitable as it cost just $6 million to produce and had a light, though focused, marketing campaign.

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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New MPAA Ratings Added