×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Jennifer Lopez's 'Criminal' Striptease: How 'Hustlers' Landed the Fiona Apple Hit

    Contrary to what you might be expecting, the number of songs by Jennifer Lopez, Lizzo and Cardi B in “Hustlers,” their newly released acting vehicle, adds up to … zero. Meanwhile, the standout music sync in a movie that’s full of them belongs to no less likely a choice than Fiona Apple. The scene in [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8

    'Game of Thrones,' 'Avengers' Win Big at 45th Annual Saturn Awards

    As Jamie Lee Curtis picked up her first trophy ever at the 45th Annual Saturn Awards Friday night, she had a good luck charm on her arm: former manager Chuck Binder, whom she said was the reason she became an actor. “I was in college and had no thought of being an actor,” Curtis told [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu star

    Box Office: 'Hustlers' Dances Toward $32 Million Opening Weekend

    “Hustlers” is eyeing the biggest opening weekend ever for STXFilms, following a Friday domestic ticket haul of $13.1 million from 3,250 theaters. If estimates hold, the stripper saga could take home around $32 million come Sunday, marking the best live-action opening of Jennifer Lopez’s career. “Hustlers” follows a group of former strip club dancers, led [...]

  • Hustlers intimacy coordinator

    Meet the Stripper Consultant Who Gave 'Hustlers' Authenticity, Dignity and Sexual Freedom

    At last week’s Toronto Film Festival premiere of “Hustlers,” an audience of Hollywood heavyweights and Canadian locals applauded as a statuesque woman strutted on stage, rocking six-inch platform heels and a pastel tie-dye bodysuit. This adoration was not for stars Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu or Keke Palmer, nor was it for the film’s acclaimed writer-director [...]

  • Kristen Stewart

    French Director Olivier Assayas Pays Tribute to Kristen Stewart at Deauville

    French director Olivier Assayas paid tribute to Kristen Stewart, whom he directed in “Clouds of Sils Maria” and “Personal Shopper,” at the Deauville American Film Festival on Friday evening. Stewart received a honorary award in Deauville before the French premiere of Benedict Andrews’s “Seberg” in which the actress stars as Jean Seberg, a French New [...]

  • Liam Gallagher: As It Was

    Film Review: 'Liam Gallagher: As It Was'

    Liam Gallagher is nearly as fascinating a rock ‘n’ roll figure as he thinks he is … which is saying a lot. After the breakup of Oasis, one of the most self-avowedly arrogant stars in pop culture found himself severely humbled, fighting to become relevant again without the help of Noel, his ex-bandmate and, for [...]

  • The Vast of Night

    Toronto Film Review: 'The Vast of Night'

    It’s the first high school basketball game of the season and all of Cayuga, N.M., population 492, is cheering on the Statesmen at the gym. Except for the town’s two brightest kids, Everett (Jake Horowitz) and Fay (Sierra McCormick), who are strolling through the empty darkness to their respective jobs as a radio DJ and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content