A lack of new wide openers coupled with the traditional post-Thanksgiving slump sent weekend box office into a tailspin, with total projected ticket sales falling to their lowest level in more than two years.
Buena Vista front runner “Flubber” dipped 56%, to $11.8 million, according to studio estimates, while other top-10 holdovers, including Fox’s “Alien Resurrection” and “Anastasia,” saw dropoffs of more than 60%.
The weekend’s one bright spot was the limited bow of Miramax’s much-anticipated “Good Will Hunting,” which zeroed in on a projected $260,000 in seven theaters — four in New York and three in L.A. That gave the Gus Van Sant-helmed drama a spectacular $37,100 per-screen average.
The first post-Turkey Day frame historically is a lackluster one, but the absence of any new offerings made the period especially dreary. Overall receipts are likely to come in just under $50 million, 14% below last year at this time, when Universal’s “Daylight” bowed to $10 million. If projections hold, it will be the worst showing since Sept. 15, 1995.
As for “Hunting,” in New York’s Sony Lincoln Square alone, where the Matt Damon-Robin Williams starrer is playing on two screens, the pic took in a hefty $85,000. Exit polls for the film also looked promising, according to David Kaminow, Miramax senior VP of marketing. “One hundred percent of the audience rated the film either excellent or very good, and 90% said they would definitely recommend it,” Kaminow said.
While saying he expected favorable reviews and critical kudos to help propel the film’s national release, Kaminow said positive word of mouth would be the picture’s most potent ally. “This movie is its own best friend,” he surmised.
“Hunting” will remain in its two-city exclusive run until Christmas Day, when it expands to about 200 runs in the top 25 markets.
In other limited release news, Trimark’s “Eve’s Bayou” grossed an estimated $868,000 in 636 theaters, or $1,365 per site. The Samuel Jackson starrer has cumed $12.4 million to date, making it the highest-grossing Stateside specialized film released this year. The Kasi Lemmons-helmed period piece surpassed Miramax’s “Chasing Amy,” which topped out at $12 million.
Based on its second weekend performance, “Flubber” seems to have cemented its place as the only picture released during the Thanksgiving period that is likely to be a significant force by Christmas.
“Flubber” now appears to be following a similar trajectory to BV’s 1996 Thanksgiving hit “101 Dalmatians” — albeit at a significantly lower altitude. On Saturday, the “The Absent-Minded Professor” remake was down about 49% from the Saturday of its opening weekend. “Dalmatians,” which went on to amass $136.2 million domestically, fell 51% over the equivalent period, according to Buena Vista distribution president Phil Barlow.
“Flubber’s” initial weekend take was 20% lower than that of “Dalmatians,” so if the pattern holds, the new picture should finish somewhere around $109 million. However, “Flubber” faces more competition for family audiences between now and Christmas.
Last year, no pictures primarily targeting young kids opened after “Dalmatians.” This year, Fox’s “Home Alone 3,” DreamWorks’ “Mouse Hunt” and Disney’s “Mr. Magoo” head into theaters over the next three weekends.