It's no "Lion King," but Disney's "Pocahontas" is queen for the day, with the studio estimating the animated film brought in $30.5 million in 2,569 locations during its first weekend in wide release.
Competitors suggest "Pocahontas' " final figures, to be announced today, will be closer to $28 million, but the early estimates show Disney's newest topping "Batman Forever."
The third bat flick could not sustain the lofty heights of its first weekend, dropping more than 40% to $28.1 million on more 4,000 screens (about 2,900 locations). Still, like a bat out of Gotham it swooped past $100 million Sunday--its 10th day of release--to $105.5 million, making it the year's first release to top $100 million. That's one day off the pace of box-office champ "Jurassic Park." Both "Lion King's" $40.9-million opening last summer and "Batman Forever's" $52.8-million debut last week set up "Pocahontas" for a bit of a fall. Even a best performing film would inevitably end up a bit short.
Industry observers had pegged "Pocahontas" to start in the mid-$30-million range, buying into Disney's mean, lean selling machine. The reality check, it seems, is that men--both young and old--make up half the audience. The under 20-year-olds in particular favored "Batman Forever" or "Congo." So it's a testament to the strength of the female audience that "Pocahontas" could open strongly.
"There's no question we were strong female, in every age range," says Dick Cook, president of marketing and distribution at Disney.
"Pocahontas" has grossed $35 million since it opened in a handful of theaters last week. Cook is betting on big midweek business now that schools are out and the fact that there won't be much for girls through the July 4 period, which he says could be the biggest grossing weekend of the year.
The consensus is that "Judge Dredd," "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" and "Apollo 13" will carve up the guy pie. All three films open Friday. That will impact significantly on "Batman" and more so on the likes of "Congo" and "Die Hard," which will sacrifice screens to the newer arrivals.
Though it was a steep drop to third, "Congo" held much stronger than anticipated despite a 28% drop, with about $7.7 million on 2,676 screens, bringing its total take to almost $58 million.
Next in line it is "The Bridges of Madison County," which is playing best to the older audience, with $5.9 million and $46 million to date.
"Pocahontas" took its biggest bite out of "Casper's" hide. The friendly ghost evaporated to $4.4 million on 2,551 screens and is now at the $75-million level. "Braveheart" continues a strong hold, with only a 3% drop to $4 million and $47 million since Memorial Day. "Crimson Tide" brought up the rear with $3 million, lifting the submarine drama to $81 million.
"Forget Paris" jumped 13% to $1.9 million, but that was largely due to what Columbia/Tri-Star is registering as 95% attendance at its 600 sneak previews of "First Knight," which was paired with "Paris." Those figures indicate strong date-night potential for "Knight," a new version of the King Arthur tale starring Sean Connery, Richard Gere and Julia Ormond that's opening July 7.
In 10th place, steady as they go, is "While You Were Sleeping" which grossed around $1.5 million for just over $70 million to date.