American Pie 2 Holds Top Spot Again

John Hamann's Weekend Wrap-Up

The summer box office continues in sleep mode this weekend, as five new releases hit the chart with little impact.

Of the new titles, only Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Summer Catch made the top six, while John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars, DreamWork's Curse of the Jade Scorpion and Touchstone's Bubble Boy barely made a blip on the box office radar. And with the number one film doing less than $15 million, the weekend looks like a car accident. How bad was it?

In the top spot for the third week in a row was American Pie 2, with a 40.7% drop compared to last week. Only two other films released this year have held the top spot for three weeks in a row, Hannibal and Spy Kids. AP2 went head-to-head with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Rush Hour 2 for a similar demographic in a crowded market and performed remarkably well, considering its second weekend's 50% drop-off. AP2 grossed $12.52 million on 3,150 screens, bringing its total to $109.3 million. Where is American Pie 2 headed? With the summer quickly ending, AP2 should get a slight bump over Labor Day and pretty much fizzle after that. At this point, I think Universal will be happy with $125 million in the kitty, with a superlative session on home video waiting in the wings.

In second this week was New Line's Rush Hour 2, with Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan. RH2 held fairly well in its fourth week, dropping 39.1% to $11.58 million, bringing its total to a very healthy $183.4 million. In a way, New Line has bet the farm on two releases this year, Rush Hour 2 and the Lord of the Rings. Last year, New Line released 14 films, compared to nine this year. The two tent-poles of 2001 are excellent bets, but even with two guaranteed $100 million-plus movies, New Line will have a tough time increasing market share compared to 2000. Next up for New Line is Bones, starring Snoop Dog, opening in October.

In third place, in a tight race for the number one spot, was Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, directed by and starring Kevin Smith. The film managed an estimated $11.02 million on 2,735 screens, for a soft screen average of $3,985. Kevin Smith's drawing power has grown as a filmmaker, and with View Askew's favorite foul-mouthed slackers on the screen, Smith's hard-core followers turned out en masse. Smith's previous top opener was Dogma, which did $8.67 million on only 1,260 screens in November of 1999. Dimension Films, the distributor of Jay and Silent Bob, tried to rope in the big opening by landing J&SB on a massive 2,735 screens, by far Smith's widest opening ever. Dimension was hoping the die-hard fans would be out in droves all over North America, but it looks like Jay and Silent Bob weren't able to draw past their small, targeted demographic. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was marketed very well, with Kevin Smith himself making a concerted effort to get the word out on his film. Smith said he was looking for an open of $10-$15 million and he got it.

What did audiences think? CinemaScores released on Friday indicate good things, as Jay and Silent Bob received an overall grade of B+. Future box office will depend on whether Jay and Silent Bob can cross over to people who are unfamiliar with the View Askew films. At Rotten Tomatoes, critics were split on Jay and Silent Bob; of 83 reviews, 42 were negative and 41 were positive.

Dimension Films has had a great year in 2001. They started off with Spy Kids in March, released Scary Movie 2 in July, and had The Others in August, which opened strongly on a small number of screens. Dimension only has five films to be released this year, compared to eight releases in 2000. Dimension's last release in 2001 is Jackie Chan's The Accidental Spy, which looks more like Operation Condor than Rush Hour 2.

<% sqlstr = "SELECT * FROM box WHERE movie like 'Others%' " sqlstr = sqlstr + " OR movie like '%Spy Kids%' OR movie like 'Scary Movie 2' OR movie like 'Jay and Silent Bob%' ORDER BY open DESC" max = 100 header = "Recent Dimension Releases" tstyle = "release" skin = "bop" x = Drawtable(sqlstr,max,header,tstyle,skin) %>

How does the number one opener this weekend doing less than $12 million compare with other films released in August? Not bad, actually. Jay and Silent Bob's debut would still put it in the top 35 August openings of all time (in the last 12 years, 182 films have opened in August). For more information on August openers, visit our Box Office Database Search Engine, located here.

Dimension Films' other release in the top ten is The Others, which landed in fourth this week. The Nicole Kidman horror/thriller scared up $8.57 million, dropping only 21.4% in the process. Dimension made a shrewd move adding 283 screens this week compared to last. The studio has tried like mad to generate word-of-mouth business from The Others, and the strategy has paid off; its cumulative gross now stands at $46.2 million, against a cost of $17 million.

In fifth this week and holding well was Paramount's Rat Race, which managed $8.11 million on 2,551 screens. RR was the number three film last week, beating Captain Corelli's Mandolin and American Outlaws out of the gate. With even more comedy competition entering the battle last Friday, Rat Race held very well in the face of Jay and Silent Bob, AP2 and Rush Hour 2, as it dropped only 30.4%. The screen average for Rat Race was $3,179 and its cume stands at $25.4 million against a cost of approximately $50 million.

In a tight battle for sixth on the box office chart was another new release this week, Summer Catch, starring recent box-office loser Freddie Prinze, Jr., and Matthew Lillard. Catch managed a poor $7.02 million on 2,335 screens, for a site average of $3,006. Summer Catch is released by Warner Bros, who isn't having a fun time at the movies over the last few weeks with the release of dogs such as Osmosis Jones and American Outlaws. Summer Catch is their only film in the top 12; this from the studio that releases the most films of any other over the year.

Warner Bros should know better. Freddie Prinze, Jr. hasn't had a hit since She's All That, and even a huge marketing campaign couldn't save Summer Catch from opening to less that $10 million. Unfortunately, Prinze, Jr. will still have some lasting power as he stars as Fred in WB's Scooby-Doo, opening next year. As we have seen this summer, Scooby will most likely open strong no matter who the stars are or how it's perceived critically, and sadly, Prinze, Jr. will continue to get roles. Here's his box office history:

<% sqlstr = "SELECT * FROM box WHERE movie like 'Head Over Heels' OR movie like 'Summer Catch' OR movie like'%Boys and Girls%' " sqlstr = sqlstr + " OR movie like '%Down To You%' OR movie like '%Wing Commander%' OR movie like 'She''s All That%' OR movie like '%Know What You Did Last Summer%' ORDER BY date DESC" max = 100 header = "Freddie Prinze, Jr., Releases" tstyle = "release" skin = "bop" x = Drawtable(sqlstr,max,header,tstyle,skin) %>

In seventh, the Disney feature The Princess Diaries held well. The kid flick continued to fare well grossing $6.60 million after four weeks in release. The boffo total now stands at $82.4 million.

In eighth this week is Nicolas Cage's Captain Corelli's Mandolin. After opening last week to an unenthusiastic $7.21 million, the war drama dropped 46% to $3.88 million in its second weekend. Universal Pictures probably saw Corelli as a box-office draw with a chance for Oscars, but will probably have to settle for neither. Its gross now stands at $14 million. With a production cost of only $20 million, Corelli should actually be profitable for UP, or at least a push.

Landing with a thud in ninth was John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars, from Sony Pictures. GoM generated a poor $4.01 million on 2,081 screens this week, a per-screen average of only $1,927. Sony had a tough time marketing Ghosts of Mars; the trailer and TV ad were both confusing and without a clear message as to what to expect from the film. John Carpenter has never meant huge box office to the studios; his last two films, Vampires and Escape from LA, opened to about $9 million, which has been the trend throughout his directing career.

<% sqlstr = "SELECT * FROM box WHERE movie like 'John Carpenter''s%' OR movie like '%Village of the Damned%' OR movie like '%Memoirs of an Invisible Man%' " sqlstr = sqlstr + " OR movie like '%Escape From L%' OR movie like '%Ghosts of Mars%' ORDER BY open DESC" max = 100 header = "John Carpenter Releases" tstyle = "release" skin = "bop" x = Drawtable(sqlstr,max,header,tstyle,skin) %>

Ghosts of Mars is just another flop in a tough year for Sony Pictures. It is one of their worst openings of the year so far:

<% sqlstr = "SELECT * FROM box WHERE movie like '%Ghosts of Mars%' OR movie like '%Final Fantasy%' OR movie like 'Baby Boy' " sqlstr = sqlstr + " OR movie like '%Animal, The%' OR movie like '%Knight''s Tale%' OR movie like '%Forsaken, The%' OR movie like '%Joe Dirt%' " sqlstr = sqlstr + " OR movie like '%Tomcats%' OR movie like '%Tailor of Panama%' OR movie like 'Brothers, The%' OR movie like '%Wedding Planner, The%' " sqlstr = sqlstr + " OR movie like '%Snatch%' ORDER BY open DESC" max = 100 header = "Recent Sony Releases" tstyle = "release" skin = "bop" x = Drawtable(sqlstr,max,header,tstyle,skin) %>

Planet of the Apes fell to tenth this week, after dropping 50%. PotA did $3.59 million in its fifth week, bringing its total to $167.84 million. When dividing the opening weekend against the total gross, PotA ends up with a multiplier of less than 2.5. This trend only drives home the point that the studios are pushing these huge films before and during opening weekend, and then leaving them to die. Unfortunately, this strategy is working, leaving Joe Movie-Goer with very big, but very bad films.

Usually this column ends at ten, but we still haven't hit all of this week's new releases; two of the five didn't make the top ten. Woody Allen's Curse of the Jade Scorpion stumbled into 11th this week, with a gross of $2.5 million on 903 screens. Jade Scorpion had a screen average of $2,769. Box office-wise, Woody Allen has some of the same problems as John Carpenter. Woody's films are always tough to market and the target audience is small and getting smaller. DreamWorks seemed to know that Jade Scorpion wasn't a winner, as last year they opened Small Time Crooks in May with way more promotion and marketing. Compared to his other films, Curse of the Jade Scorpion fits right in, maybe slightly under his average.

<% sqlstr = "SELECT * FROM box WHERE movie like '%Curse of the Jade Scorpion%' OR movie like '%Small Time Crooks%' OR movie like 'Celebrity' OR movie like '%Husbands and Wives%' " sqlstr = sqlstr + " OR movie like '%Deconstructing Harry%' OR movie like '%Crimes and Misdemeanors%' OR movie like '%Bullets Over Broadway%' ORDER BY open DESC" max = 100 header = "Woody Allen Releases" tstyle = "release" skin = "bop" x = Drawtable(sqlstr,max,header,tstyle,skin) %>

Lastly and out of the top 12 this week was our final new release, Touchstone's Bubble Boy, the troubled comedy about the boy in the bubble who goes on a road trip (What? This didn't work? I am shocked!). Bubble Boy ended up with only $2 million on 1,605 screens. Personally, I thought the TV ad worked, but Touchstone seemed to start their marketing a couple of weeks too early. In addition, unlike The Fast and the Furious, negative press dug a hole for this film; Furious seemed to excel from its negative press, but Bubble Boy could not. The movie-going public is a fickle audience, as off-color jokes from Jay and Silent Bob sell tickets, whereas the off-color premise in Bubble Boy did not.

The top 12 looked bad, didn't it? But actually, compared to the same weekend last year, when Bring It On and The Art of War opened, total box office was up 8.1% this year, generating receipts of $81.737 million compared to $75.117 million last year.

Next week, two more films aimed at the 18-25 demographic hit the market. Jeepers Creepers, an old-school horror film from MGM, and "O," the troubled-teen flick from Miramax, go head-to-head, chasing a very similar dollar.

Top 10 for Weekend of August 24-26, 2001
Number of Sites
Change in Sites from Last
Estimated Gross ($)
Cumulative Gross ($)
American Pie 2
Rush Hour 2
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
The Others
Rat Race
Summer Catch
The Princess Diaries
Captain Corelli's Mandolin
John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars
Planet of the Apes



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