The Perfect Storm, based on the true story of a fishing crew battling a behemoth tempest, grossed $41.7 million, debuting at No. 1 this weekend, reported the Associated Press on Sunday.
The movie’s gross almost doubled that of Mel Gibson’s Revolutionary War spectacle The Patriot, which took in $21.7 million Friday to Sunday to finish at No. 2.
Chicken Run, an animated feature, starring Mel Gibson’s voice, came in at No. 3 with $12.8 million.
The weekend’s other big release, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, opened to a disappointing $6.6 million for fifth place, reported AP.
The overall box office was good news for Hollywood. After three slumping weekends that put the industry behind last summer’s record revenues, the top 12 films this weekend grossed $121.8 million, up 5.3 percent over the same period in 1999.
There also was a prospect that for the five-day weekend through Tuesday, the industry could approach the $198.3 million Fourth of July record set in 1996, when Independence Day opened.
The prediction made by critics, that the Forth of July weekend could save the box office, was true.
With three big movies premiering, the Fourth of July had been viewed as the pivotal weekend for Hollywood’s summer season, when studios rake in about 40 percent of their revenue.
As late as last week, industry observers figured the box-office crown would be a tossup between The Perfect Storm and The Patriot.
“I’m surprised by the disparity between the grosses for Perfect Storm and Patriot, ” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks movie-ticket sales. “I didn’t think there would be that wide of a gap.”
Some speculate that The Patriot may have been hurt by its R rating and 2:40 running time, half-an-hour longer than The Perfect Storm, rated PG-13. As a period piece, The Patriot also had a tough battle against the digital wizardry that created the striking wave action in The Perfect Storm.
“It was a really cutting-edge effort,” said Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., which released The Perfect Storm. “It was the first time anyone’s been able to generate those kinds of effects on water.”
Co-starring Mark Wahlberg and Diane Lane, The Perfect Storm was the third-highest grossing movie ever to open over Fourth of July weekend, behind Men in Black and Independence Day, which debuted with about $50 million each.
“Perfect Storm is the more traditional Fourth of July, big special-effects roller-coaster ride,” said Dean Devlin, a producer of The Patriot. “I’m just happy we weathered the storm. I was really worried they would wipe us out.”
The Patriot broke a stigma in Hollywood that movie-goers aren’t interested in the American Revolution, Devlin said. The last such film, Al Pacino’s Revolution, was a flop in 1985.
“I don’t think people are sitting around saying they can’t wait for the next movie about the American Revolution,” Devlin said. “But I definitely think we have broken that curse.”
Meanwhile, Following Chicken Run is Me, Myself & Irene, which grossed $12 million this weekend. Rocky and Bullwinkle rested at fifth place, while Shaft shifted down to No. 6 with a $6.5 million gross this week. Big Momma’s House rested at No. 7 with $5.5 million, Gone in 8 (oops!) 60 seconds is at No. 8 with $5 million.
Surprisingly, Mission: Impossible 2 is still hanging on and at No. 9 this week with a $4.8 million week.
Finally, the Gladiator fights it tough by holding on with $2.4 million at No. 10—albawaba.com (various sources).
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)