Hot Summer for Sony

John Hamann's Weekend Wrap-Up

July 3-7, 2002

It's no fun being an illegal alien.

After launching the summer movie season with the record-breaking Spider-Man, Sony Pictures has now released two films back-to-back with great success, Mr. Deeds with Adam Sandler, and now Men in Black II, with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. What do these three films have in common? Huge built-in audiences. US Independence Day was another victorious weekend at the box office for movie studios, as summer 2002 continues its white-hot run. Sony is proving itself as the studio to beat this year, and it has a few more cards yet to be played before the summer is out. So, with all of this, why is a $54 million open for MIIB going to be considered a disappointment?

Much has been made of the lucrative Independence Day weekend, and this weekend looks to be the champion of all of them. Last year, Cats & Dogs underwhelmed the moviegoing world, posting only a $21.7 million opening over the July 4th weekend last year (the holiday landed on a Wednesday) and grossed $35.7 million in its first five days. In 2000, July 4th was a Tuesday, and didn't have much of an effect on box office (The Perfect Storm had a $9 million Tuesday). In 1999, the Fourth landed on a Sunday, and may have hurt box office more than helped. Wild Wild West and South Park both performed below expectations ($27.6 million and $14.77 million respectively). In 1998, July 4th landed on an even worse day, Saturday, which led to a softer than expected weekend for Armageddon ($36.1 million open). In fact, in 1998, all films in the top ten except one were down on Saturday compared to their Friday gross; last week, only two films were down percentage-wise on Saturday compared to Friday. So this year, Sony execs knew the holiday was falling on a good day for box office (Thursday) and released one of their huge tent-pole films for the Independence Day weekend. The question is, did it work? The answer, surprisingly, is no. It didn't.

MIIB should have behaved like a power sequel; good examples would be Austin Powers 2 or Lost World: Jurassic Park. With effective marketing and distribution, a film like this belongs with the top ten openers of all time, and should be at least as big as last summer's Rush Hour 2. To put it simply, it failed to live up to its pedigree. What happened?

<% sqlstr = "SELECT * FROM box WHERE" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Austin Powers II:The Spy Who Shagged Me ' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Lost World, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Jurassic Park III' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Rush Hour 2' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Mummy Returns, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'American Pie 2' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Toy Story 2' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Batman Returns'" sqlstr = sqlstr + " ORDER BY open DESC" max = 100 header = "Power Sequel Chart" tstyle = "release" skin = "bop" x = Drawtable(sqlstr,max,header,tstyle,skin) %>

Men in Black II is the number-one flick this weekend, but the star-studded sequel could only come up with $54.1 million over the three-day portion of its five-day weekend, where it took in a total of $90 million. When a film grosses $54 million in three days, using the phrase "could only come up with" may seem silly. But no matter what it "only" came up with, there were still dollars left on the table, and in this case, quite a few dollars. MIIB seemed to be growing into a perfect storm at the box office, where all the components of a big opening are put into play, but the film still did not achieve those standards. The audience was built in, the running time was less than 90 minutes, the film had star power up the ying-yang, and the venue count was through the roof. All these things should have converged into one of the biggest openings ever. So, again, why did it end up only the 20th biggest open of all time?

There could be a few factors. Buzz has never been good for this film. MIIB was one of those films (probably the biggest of "those" films) to be rushed into production before the potential SAG strike in 2001. In fact, MIIB hung over the quasi-strike, with some of the film finished before, and some set to shoot after the looming strike was over. Hence, the film seems rushed and short at only 88 minutes. Although reviews mean little to a film like this, it didn't do completely well in the review category. Only 40 of 98 reviews at Rotten Tomatoes were positive, and with the film opening on a Wednesday and having a longer lead-in to the all-important Friday-to-Sunday section of the weekend, word-of-mouth might have had more time to seethe across North America. The original film was much more beloved by film fans and reviewers combined; that film had only three negative reviews out of a possible 24. Because the original MIB opened in 1997, daily box-office data is somewhat tougher to find. For the original film, we do know that its Thursday gross was pretty much even with the Wednesday gross. For the sequel, the Thursday gross ($17.14 million) was down from the $19 million Wednesday it enjoyed, although this is attributed to the fact that July 4th fell on the Thursday this year, when families have other commitments than going to the movies. Friday's gross was $19.98 million, surprisingly up slightly from its Wednesday release. For sequels, a drop from the opening day gross is expected, as the want-to-see factor for the core audience is expected to be bigger on the Wednesday than on the Friday (or even, as the case is here).

MIIB does come close to a few records at least. The estimated $19.0 million Wednesday (The Hollywood Reporter had it pegged at $18.4 million) ties with Jurassic Park III for the second-biggest Wednesday opening after the Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, which grossed $28.5 million on its opening Wednesday in 1999. As for opening weekends, MIIB did beat the original; that film grossed $84.13 million over its five-day open and $51 million over the Friday-to-Sunday frame. When actual numbers come out tomorrow, I certainly hope the tally doesn't dip below the original's opening weekend take. MIIB couldn't take the July crown from another film with a built-in audience, Planet of the Apes; that film grossed $68.5 million in late July of last year.

Second spot went to another Sony film and last week's champ, Mr. Deeds. Deeds was in a good position going into its second weekend. The Adam Sandler flick had already grossed $37.2 million in its opening weekend, and was hoping to avoid the sophomore slump in its second weekend due to the national holiday. The plan didn't work; Deeds grossed only $18.8 million over the three-day portion of the weekend, giving it a 49% drop, which isn't great for an Adam Sandler flick. Little Nicky and Big Daddy chucked large in their second weekends, both dropping an expected 52%, but The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer dropped less than 45% in their follow-up weekends. The two-week total for Deeds stands at $74 million. Look for Deeds to break $100 million in the next couple of weekends.

<% sqlstr = "SELECT * FROM box WHERE" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Enough' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'New Guy, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Spider-Man' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Sweetest Thing, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Panic Room' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Resident Evil' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Slackers' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Mothman Prophecies, The'" sqlstr = sqlstr + " ORDER BY open DESC" max = 100 header = "Sony Chart" tstyle = "release" skin = "bop" x = Drawtable(sqlstr,max,header,tstyle,skin) %>

Third spot goes to 20th Century Fox and Like Mike, the new basketball film for kids starring Lil' Bow Wow and a bevy of basketball stars. For the three-day portion of the weekend, Like Mike grossed an impressive $13.05 million from 2,410 screens, good for a three-day average of $5,415. Over the five-day portion of the weekend, Mike found $20.1 million. The live-action kids/teens film has been a winning genre in 2001 and 2002, as quite a few flicks targeted at this demo have been successful. They make for easy decisions at studios; these films are often low-budget and even moderate grosses mean profits for the studio suits. Like Mike will most likely make its budget back by the end of next weekend. The kids seem to like it; CinemaScores for the under-21 crowd were As from males and A-minuses from females. Check out the chart below for more info on recent live-action kids/teens flicks.

<% sqlstr = "SELECT * FROM box WHERE" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Clockstoppers' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Rookie, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Big Fat Liar' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Crossroads' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Snow Dogs' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Princess Diaries, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Disney''s The Kid'" sqlstr = sqlstr + " ORDER BY open DESC" max = 100 header = "Chart: Live action kids/teens flicks" tstyle = "release" skin = "bop" x = Drawtable(sqlstr,max,header,tstyle,skin) %>

Fourth spot belongs to Lilo & Stitch this weekend, even after much was made of the competition coming from The Powerpuff Girls and Like Mike; the two openers aimed at the L&S demographic. L&S grossed $12.72 million in its third weekend, down 41%, which isn't great, considering the 37% drop the film saw last weekend. Its total now stands at $103.1 million, making it the 6th film this year to cross the once-magic $100 million mark. With a whole package of films opening next weekend, it will be interesting to see where Lilo ends up in the pack.

Fifth this week (at least until actuals come out tomorrow) goes to Minority Report, the much-talked-about and lauded film from Cruise and Spielberg. Minority Report continues to stay pretty much even with Lilo & Stitch, which must needle Disney a little; usually, the kids' flicks have much better legs than the more adult fare. Minority Report grossed $12.4 million from 2,729 screens, good for a still-decent venue average of $4,544. The should-have-been-bigger blockbuster dropped 42.5% compared to last weekend and has now grossed $96.8 million through its three-week run. It should break the $100 million mark in the next few days.

Sixth is a bit of a surprise, as The Bourne Identity had a great weekend. The Matt Damon spy flick grossed $9.11 million this weekend, dropping only 19%, giving it the best hold in the top ten. Through its fourth weekend, the Doug Liman-directed film has now grossed $89.1 million, and should make it past the $100 million mark with another good hold next weekend.

Seventh this week is reserved for Scooby Doo, the part live-action, part CGI flick from Warner Bros. Scooby continues to be a wilting daisy, dropping 43% this week, grossing $7.03 million. This is the best hold so far for the Saturday morning send-up. The total for Scooby now has hit $137.5 million.

Eighth is The Sum of All Fears, as it continues to hold onto its spot in the top ten after six weeks on the chart. The Ben Affleck film grossed $3.75 million over the three-day portion of the weekend, and has now raised its total to $111.9 million.

Ninth this week goes to the big disappointment of the opening trio, The Powerpuff Girls. PPG could only muster $3.56 million in the three-day portion of its opening weekend, and $6.1 million over the five-day holiday set. Debuting on 2,340 screens, the venue average ends up at a weak $1,521. Luckily for Warner Bros., the budget here isn't too intense, standing at only $25 million. Still, what once looked like an easy $25 million profit for the studio now looks like at least a $15 million loss. What happened? The marketing for the PPG couldn't push the film into the pop-culture world and left the studio with only the young female demographic. It seems that the Marketing Department didn't quite know how to handle this film, and it shows in the empty theaters across North America.

Tenth spot goes to Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Ya-Ya grossed $2.85 million in its 5th weekend, bringing its total up to $61 million.

For the three-day portion of the weekend, box office was way up compared to last year. Over the July 6-8 weekend in 2001, the top ten grossed $114.92 million, with Cats & Dogs leading the way and Scary Movie 2 not far behind. Last year, openers only managed $55.52 million, versus the $70.71 million debut for MIIB, Like Mike and The Powerpuff Girls. The top ten estimates this year tally to $137.37 million, which is a powerful 16.3% increase this year over last.

Next weekend should be very interesting. We get four oddball films that include Halloween: Resurrection (How many is that?), The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, Tom Hanks playing a hit-man in Road to Perdition, and a war against dragons in Reign of Fire. Watch for heavy marketing from the studios, as a clear favorite for next weekend is yet to be seen.

Top 12 for Weekend of July 5-7, 2002
Number of Sites
Change in Sites from Last
Estimated Gross ($)
Cumulative Gross ($)
Men in Black II
Mr. Deeds
No change
Like Mike
Lilo & Stitch
No change
Minority Report
The Bourne Identity
The Sum of All Fears
The Powerpuff Girls Movie
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood



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