Of mice and men, Sony prefers mice.
After the weekend turned in by “Stuart Little,” who can blame them? Pic easily won the frame with a studio-estimated $15.4 million, stomping fellow wide debuts “Bicentennial Man” and “Anna and the King,” and leaving three-week champ “Toy Story 2” in third place.
“Stuart” succeeded where recent non-animated Sony efforts failed. It’s studio’s first bid at a blockbuster since summer’s “Big Daddy,” and it’s the first weekend win in three months.
Studio’s market share this year has shriveled to about 8.5% in the wake of disappointments including “Random Hearts” and “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.”
Sony distrib chief Jeff Blake is stumping hard for long-term playability of “Stuart Little,” a key to the $103 million film’s profit potential.
“Prior to the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, it’s hard to open a film with all the distractions,” Blake said. “To do this well shows we’re playing to all audiences. And we’ll have great weeks to come. It just keeps getting bigger from here.”
Fox takes its lumps
Indeed, most films will enjoy the traditional holiday B.O. stocking stuffer. But with “Anna,” budgeted at about $75 million, Fox may be looking at a lump of coal.
“I just hope its business is in front of it,” said Tom Sherak, chairman of Fox’s domestic film group.
Most B.O. watchers theorized that auds didn’t buy chemistry of pic’s leads, Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat. Other factors include length of 2 hours 27 minutes, and competing memory of two previous live-action versions of the same story, “Anna and the King of Siam” and “The King and I.”
Like “Stuart,” Warner Bros.’ “The Green Mile,” also boasts major mouse screen time. Dropoff in drama’s second weekend was a respectable 30%, enough to keep it in second place. Cume is now $36.5 million.
Final ‘Mile’ marker
Even after pivotal second frame, final cume of Tom Hanks starrer is anybody’s guess. Three-hour running time is main handicap. In past three decades, only two films of that duration — “Titanic” and “Dances With Wolves” — have passed the $100 million mark domestically.
Warners’ Dan Fellman likens “Mile” to another Castle Rock release, “A Few Good Men,” which bowed the same December weekend in 1992. Despite a weaker second weekend, Fellman pointed out, that pic went on to gross $141 million.
“The weekday numbers this time of year get stronger every day, so we’re going to see a nice holiday bump,” Fellman said.
Though knocked out of the top spot, Disney occupied Nos. 3-5, the first time this year that the same studio has held three of the top five positions.
“Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo” gave up just 32% of its little black book in Week 2, the second best retention among top titles. And even in retreat, “Toy Story 2” breezed by the $150 million mark and still looks to be a big year-end factor. Remember, original “Toy” enjoyed its best three-day frame over Christmas, a full month after its then-record Thanksgiving debut.
‘Man’ is no ‘Mrs.’
But Mouse House’s “Bicentennial Man,” which reunites helmer Chris Columbus and star Robin Williams, hardly looks like a repeat of the tandem’s last collaboration, “Mrs. Doubtfire.” If estimate of $8.3 million holds up, it’s one of Williams’ worst wide debuts as a top-tier star.
“Jakob the Liar” managed just $2.1 million for Sony in September, but before that the poorest Williams launch came on “Toys” in ’92. Even the disappointing “Father’s Day,” “What Dreams May Come” and “Jack” had better bows.
“Bicentennial” also taints Sony’s weekend a bit, as it and Disney split the pic’s hefty production costs, with Sony retaining foreign rights.
Industrywide, receipts should total $79.5 million for the frame, ACNielsen EDI estimates. That’s about flat with the same period a year ago.
‘Magnolia’ B.O. blooms
Limited bows were limited and varied. New Line’s “Magnolia” dominated the category with $184,000 on seven screens for a fragrant $26,286 average.
Crix are mixed about helmer P.T. Anderson’s many-plotted pic, which plays two minutes longer than “Titanic.” But Ten Best lists and award noms could prove a boost, as may beefy supporting perf from Tom Cruise that was originally billed as just a cameo.
Anderson’s previous pic, “Boogie Nights,” grossed $26.4 million. But New Line distrib chief David Tuckerman said debut result means any number is possible.
“This exceeded our highest expectation,” he said. On Jan. 7, “Magnolia” will add between 1,200 and 1,400 runs.
USA’s “Topsy-Turvy,” from Brit director Mike Leigh, totaled $29,891 on two screens, or about $14,945 apiece. L.A. site was just a one-week Oscar qualifier, but Gotham run will continue until pic expands Jan. 14.
New York Film Critics Circle tapped “Topsy,” a Victorian chronicle of musical pioneers Gilbert and Sullivan, as best pic of 1999.
“The Emperor and the Assassin” collected $44,492 for Sony Classics, or $6,356 in each of its seven venues. Epic from Chen Kaige, Chinese director of “Farewell My Concubine,” didn’t measure up to two current releases from Sony Classics, “All About My Mother” and “Sweet and Lowdown.” But execs of the art-film Sony arm only gave estimates for “Emperor.”
“Mother,” helmed by Pedro Almodovar, expands to about 95 runs on Wednesday, and Woody Allen’s “Sweet” will add about a dozen. Allen pic really widens out Jan. 21.
Miramax sees 250 screens for “The Cider House Rules” come Christmas. For the weekend, it did $330,000 on 37 screens.
Disney’s “Cradle Will Rock” posted $71,000 in eight sites and Warners’ “Liberty Heights” passed the $1 million mark with a $250,500 frame on 42 screens. Barry Levinson-lensed drama expands to 100 runs next weekend.
With Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on Saturday, figures over next two weekends will be skewed. In addition, release schedule is hectic.
Wide bows over next few days include “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Galaxy Quest,” “Man on the Moon” and “Any Given Sunday.” Limited launches await “Girl Interrupted,” “Angela’s Ashes,” “Snow Falling on Cedars,” “Play It To The Bone” and “Titus.”