It was a healthy Presidents Day weekend at the North American box office with the three-day Friday-to-Sunday figures (final four-day figures will emerge on Tuesday) proclaiming $15m apiece for both SPE's Hanging Up and Warner Bros' The Whole Nine Yards (pictured).
Meanwhile Paramount/Nickelodeon Movies' Snow Day showed legs with a second weekend take of $11.4m. Other openers included USA Films' sci-fi thriller Pitch Black, an Interscope Communications movie greenlit in the last days of the PolyGram regime, which opened with an impressive $11.1m; and New Line's Boiler Room - a Sundance 2000 premiere - which opened with a respectable $6.8m.
Hanging Up, essentially a drama with humour which SPE has been marketing as an all-out comedy, hit its target audience of women. The third movie to be directed by Diane Keaton (after Heaven and Unstrung Heroes), it stars Meg Ryan, Lisa Kudrow and Keaton herself as three sisters coming to terms with the imminent death of their father (Walter Matthau). Delia Ephron co-scripted her own semi-autobiographical novel with sister Nora Ephron; Nora produced, Delia executive produced.
Kudrow was not the only star of hit TV show Friends with a hit movie over the weekend. Courteney Cox Arquette is a lead in Scream 3 which dropped to number five this weekend, while The Whole Nine Yards teamed Bruce Willis and their Friends cast mate Matthew Perry. Willis, whose brother David produced the film, plays a gangster who moves into a suburban neighbourhood next door to mild-mannered Perry in the comedy directed by Jonathan Lynn. Its big opening marks the first big-budget hit for Franchise Pictures, the production and financing company run by Elie Samaha and Andrew Stevens which this year alone will release Battlefield: Earth, Get Carter and The Art Of War through its eight-picture output deal with Morgan Creek and Warner Bros. Franchise itself handles international distribution.
In the wake of the Oscar nominations, several multiple nominees roared back into the top ten. DreamWorks SKG presciently relaunched American Beauty onto 1,287 screens last Friday and the film took $5.3m, upping its total to $80.1m. It is now destined to gross well in excess of $100m domestically. Box office giant The Green Mile was up marginally on its last weekend's take of $3.1m to $3.2m this weekend following its Best Picture Oscar nomination. And Miramax Films' surprise Best Picture nominee The Cider House Rules took $3m, doubling its gross from last weekend on about the same number of screens (857). Miramax plans to put the film onto 1,600 screens next weekend.
The new movies and Oscar nominees took a chunk of attention away from other movies in the marketplace. Both Scream 3 and The Beach tumbled about 45% and both dropped under the $10m mark.
ESTIMATED TOP TEN US (FEB 18-20)
Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross
1 tied (-) Hanging Up (Columbia) Columbia TriStar $15m
1 tied (-) The Whole Nine Yards (Warner Bros) Franchise Pictures $15m
3 (3) Snow Day (Paramount) UIP $11.4m
4 (-) Pitch Black (USA Films) Universal Pictures International $11.1m
5 (1) Scream 3 (Miramax Films) Miramax International $9m
6 (3) The Tigger Movie (Buena Vista) BVI $8m
7 (2) The Beach (20th Century Fox) 20th Century Fox $7m
8 (-) Boiler Room (New Line) New Line International $6.8m
9 (re) American Beauty (DreamWorks SKG) UIP $5.3m
10 (6) The Green Mile (Warner Bros) Universal $3.2m
* estimated totals not available at time of going to press