×

Jedi masters $200 mil mark

U's 'Notting Hill' counters with $28 mil

“Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” soared deep into box office hyperspace over the Memorial Day weekend, grossing an estimated $64.8 million in four days and flying past the $200 million mark in a record-breaking 13 days.

But “Menace” wasn’t the only heavenly body in the holiday theatrical firmament. The starpower of Julia Roberts helped propel Universal’s “Notting Hill” to a dazzling $27.8 million bow, the biggest opening ever for a romantic comedy.

The pic, with its core audience of older females and couples, proved perfect counterprogramming to the young-male and family-driven “Star Wars” prequel.

“Notting Hill’s” auspicious debut put smiles on the faces of Universal execs who have emerged from a nearly two-year box office drought with back-to-back hits, following the success of “The Mummy.”

Despite direct competition for young viewers from “Star Wars,” “The Mummy” dropped a moderate 28% (percentage drops compare the Friday-Sunday portion of the holiday weekend with the previous three-day frame) to $12.7 million, bringing its cume to $117.1 million.

Largely on the strength of those three pics, overall ticket sales for the four-day weekend was on track to total $140 million, up about 4% from the holiday frame a year earlier. The tally fell short of a Memorial Day record, however. That honor still belongs to the May 23-26, 1997 weekend when the debut of “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” pushed the total to a dino-sized $148 million.

‘Floor’ fizzles

Feeling left out of the Memorial Day festivities was Sony’s “The Thirteenth Floor.” The $18 million virtual reality thriller, produced by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s Centropolis Entertainment, bowed to a disappointing $4.3 million in 1,815 locations.

After “Menace’s” spectacular opening, some industryites feared the sci-fi adventure would fade quickly, as did “Lost World” and “Godzilla” in 1997 and 1998, respectively. But judging by “Menace’s” modest 23% drop, the fourth installment of the space epic looks increasingly likely to top $400 million in its domestic run, despite the last minute onslaught of a hype-backlash, negative reviews and the disappointment of some die-hard “Star Wars” fans.

Mid-week numbers for “Menace” should improve in relation to weekend grosses as more school-aged kids start their summer vacations. And the pic faces little competition for moviegoers or shelf space until June 11, when New Line’s “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” opens.

Buena Vista’s R-rated thriller “Instinct,” which debuts Friday, appeals to a considerably older audience than the PG-rated “Menace.” When the studio offered sneak previews of the Anthony Hopkins-Cuba Gooding Jr. starrer on 1,100 screens Saturday, 85% of those in attendance audiences were over 25. Gender-wise, auds were split almost evenly.

At Saturday night screenings of “Notting Hill,” on the other hand, women outnumbered men 68%-32%, according to exit polls. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed were 30 years old or over.

Star power

A majority of respondents indicated Roberts was their main reason for attending, once again securing the actress’ position as Hollywood’s No. 1 female star — and one of just a handful who, given the right role, can guarantee a big opening weekend.

If the studio’s three-day estimate of $22.2 million holds, “Notting Hill” would be Roberts’ biggest opening ever, topping the $21.7 million three-day debut of Sony’s in 1997 hit “My Best Friends Wedding.” That film also paid off as a counterprogramming gamble, opening against Warner Bros.’ “Batman and Robin.”

The previous three-day romantic comedy opening record was $21.9 million for New Line’s 1998 Adam Sandler starrer, “The Wedding Singer.”

“Notting Hill’s” terrific opening also kicks off Universal’s relationship with Working Title Films, the British production unit whose films had previously been distributed by Polygram.

Universal continues to fine tune the remainder of its summer schedule, which consists of three additional comedies: “American Pie,” “Mystery Men” and “Bowfinger.”

Less than a week after it told exhibitors it had moved “Bowfinger’s” release to Aug. 27, the studio has shifted the date to Aug. 13. Studio distribution prexy Nikki Rocco said U hopes to complete special effects work on “Mystery Men” in time to open that film on July 30, a week ahead of its current slot.

Strong slate

Top 10 holdovers generally fared well over the holiday weekend: All had projected dropoffs of under 30%, with the exception of Fox Searchlight’s “William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which was down 39%.

But landing in 11th place for the weekend was DreamWorks’ sophomore “The Love Letter” which plummeted 60% to $1.3 million. With a 10-day cume of $5 million, the $10 million budgeted pic should struggle to a domestic gross of $8 million.

In the arthouse arena, Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Loss of Sexual Innocence” opened to a so-so $50,600 in five locations (four in L.A., one in Gotham). The Mike Figgis-helmed drama, which the specialized distribber launched with its typically frugal approach, averaged $10,120 in four days.

Meanwhile, Fine Line’s “Besieged” pulled in $155,000 in 44 locations in New York, L.A. and Toronto, or $3,523 per screen. The pic expands to 150-200 theaters in the top 25 markets on June 11.

More Film

  • Jennifer Lopez Owen Wilson

    Jennifer Lopez-Owen Wilson Film 'Marry Me' Moves Back to Universal From STX

    The Jennifer Lopez-Owen Wilson romantic comedy “Marry Me” has moved from STX back to its original home, Universal Pictures. STX previously took over the project in April. Kat Coiro is directing from a script written by John Rogers and Tami Sagher, with a rewrite by Harper Dill. Colombian singer/rapper Maluma has joined the cast and [...]

  • Austin Butler to Star as Elvis

    Austin Butler to Star as Elvis in Baz Luhrmann's Biopic

    Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic has found its king of rock ‘n’ roll. After numerous screen tests, Austin Butler has been tapped to play Elvis Presley in Luhrmann’s next feature film for Warner Bros. The studio tested with a handful of actors in full hair and make-up at the end of June to see who [...]

  • 'The King's Man' Trailer Debuts With

    'The King's Man' Trailer Showcases Secret Service's Origins

    Disney is promising plenty of sword-fighting, gunplay and devastation in its first teaser trailer for the Fox spy comedy prequel “The King’s Man.” The studio unveiled a first look Monday that sets the stage for an origin story of the private British  intelligence service, portrayed in the two previous films in the franchise: 2014’s “Kingsman: The [...]

  • Emma Stone Damien Chazelle Babylon

    Emma Stone Eyes Damien Chazelle's Next Film 'Babylon'

    “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle is heading back to Hollywood for his next feature film “Babylon,” and Emma Stone is in early talks to star. Sources say Chazelle has met with a handful of suitors over the past couple weeks, and Paramount and Lionsgate are both vying to land the project. While Chazelle previously [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez

    2019 Imagen Awards Nominations: Jennifer Lopez, Antonio Banderas and More

    Jennifer Lopez and Antonion Banderas are among this year’s Imagen Awards nominees, which span a range of categories including informational programming, on-air advertising, outstanding individual performances and prime time programming in film and television. The Imagen awards were first established in 1985 upon recommendation from TV veteran Normal Lear in an effort to recognize more [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content