The Centennial Olympics were blamed for disappointing openings of four new pictures this weekend, including Michael Keaton's "Multiplicity." But it sure didn't hurt "Independence Day," which took in another $20.9 million.
"ID4" should hit the $200-million mark today after 21 days in release, breaking another record set by "Jurassic Park," which arrived at the $200-million benchmark in 23 days.
"There was a feeling that the Olympics would hurt the weekend's box office," said John Krier, head of Exhibitor Relations. "I'm not sure that it did, since the overall total was flat compared to last year. In all honesty, the openers just didn't show a lot of strength since they're appealing to the same audiences of other bigger movies already out there."
Columbia Pictures, which has suffered a spate of summer duds with "The Cable Guy" and "Striptease," received another blow with "Multiplicity." Studio heads were banking on the Keaton-starring, special effects-driven comedy to turn the corner for them. But it opened in seventh with $5.2 million over the weekend and a total of about $7.1 million in five days of release. It's competing for the same audience as Eddie Murphy's "The Nutty Professor," which came in fourth with $7.6 million and has amassed a cumulative $93.7 million. It should hit $100 million this week.
Columbia sources said privately over the weekend that "Multiplicity" results are more bad news for Columbia/TriStar Chairman Mark Canton, who's been on the hot seat lately. Both Columbia and TriStar have been a revolving door in recent weeks with the two studios' presidents, Marc Platt of TriStar and Lisa Henson of Columbia, as well as Columbia/TriStar Marketing President Sid Ganis jumping ship. Said one high-level source: "There is simply no one else to blame. The buck stops with Canton."
Still, "Multiplicity" hovered in the same $5-million range as other openers. Buena Vista's "Kazaam" debuted at eighth with $5 million over the weekend and a cumulative $7.1 million in five days. It was expected to perform better since Shaquille O'Neal, in his first starring role, joined the Lakers last week under a landmark $120-million, seven-year deal. He's also a member of the United States team competing in the Olympics.
MGM/UA was hoping that "Fled," its first release since being acquired last week by former owner Kirk Kerkorian and Australia's Seven Network Ltd., would launch the new era with bigger numbers. But that movie came in sixth with about $5.8 million, just behind Universal's "The Frighteners," which grossed about $6 million.
Four holdovers held steady: "Phenomenon" and "Courage Under Fire" were tied for second place at about $8 million each. "Phenomenon" has a cumulative $61.5 million in three weeks; "Courage Under Fire" has $26 million in two weeks.
"Eraser" slid to ninth with $3.5 million and has made about $87 million in five weeks. "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" pulled up in 10th with $3.3 million. Its five-week total is $84.1 million.
Miramax launched two films over the weekend, "Walking and Talking" and "Trainspotting." Both missed the top 10, but posted better per screen averages than the studio's star-driven pictures.
"Trainspotting," in particular, did "extremely well compared to the studios' openers," according to Krier. "That film is being driven on buzz from the Cannes Film Festival and a tremendous amount of publicity."
The final results of weekend estimates will be released today.