Moviegoing's Much More Than a 'Scream'


While the battle for the hearts and leisure dollars of young women was being fought between "Scream 3" and Leonardo DiCaprio's new film "The Beach," two less-heralded kids' movies, "Snow Day" and "The Tigger Movie," were making quietly impressive debuts.

Even though its second-weekend take fell by more than half, "Scream 3" still had enough vocal power to remain No. 1 with $16.4 million estimated on 3,467 screens and a something-to-shout-about 10-day total of more than $57 million, running slightly ahead of "Scream 2."

"The Beach" had a solid, if unspectacular, debut estimated at $15 million in 2,546 theaters, bringing in mostly women under 25 (older patrons must have been scared away by the mostly negative reviews). As his follow-up to "Titanic" and "The Man in the Iron Mask," DiCaprio chose a less commercially obvious vehicle (though he did request his full $20-million fee). "The Beach" looks to go down the same moderate path as two other recent Fox releases with expensive stars, "The Fight Club," starring Brad Pitt, and "Anna and the King" with Jodie Foster--though "The Beach" was less expensive than either of those.

The weekend's other two arrivals, Paramount's release of the Nickelodeon film "Snow Day" and Disney's animated "The Tigger Movie," zeroed in on their demographics and came up winners. Both were high-concept family films and easy to sell to the target audience, particularly on cost-efficient cable outlets, notably Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel.

"The amazing thing about this business is that [family] films just come in and consistently overperform at the box office," says Disney distribution executive Chuck Viane. "People are there waiting for them."

The low-budget ($15-million) "Tigger" pulled in the under-12 crowd that had already seen "Stuart Little" and "Toy Story 2" more times than their parents could count and were ready for something new. First weekend was nothing to pooh-pooh--$9.2 million in 2,723 theaters for a fourth-place finish.

"Snow Day" did even better, tapping into every schoolkid's daydream and landing "The Tigger" audience's slightly older brothers and sisters. "Day" made hay with an ambitious estimate of $14.8 million on 2,664 screens, which is more than the film actually cost.

The remaining movies in the top 10 were showing signs of battle fatigue. The slate will be wiped clean over the President's Day weekend with the arrival of a slew of new national releases, the women's comedy-drama "Hanging Up," the Bruce Willis comedy "The Whole Nine Yards," the sci-fi thriller "Pitch Black" and the Wall Street drama "The Boiler Room." The only survivors are likely to be the major Academy Award nominees, due to be revealed Tuesday.

According to Exhibitor Relations, however, there was just enough new blood for the top 12 films to amass an estimated $75.4 million, just ahead of last week's $72.1 million.

Still hanging out in the top five is "The Hurricane," which fell a modest 27% over the weekend to an estimated $3.5 million on 2,150 screens for a feisty total to date of just over $42 million. "The Green Mile" was still in the pink with an estimated $3 million in its 10th weekend on 2,012 screens and a sizzling total of close to $125 million. Next was "Next Friday," still rapping to the tune of $2.8 million and approaching $50 million. Then came "Stuart Little," still vital though wounded by "Tigger" and "Snow Day," squeaking to $2.7 million or so in 2,351 houses for total of $132 million, the second-best performer of the past holiday season.

The remaining two films in the top 10, "Galaxy Quest" and "Eye of the Beholder" are fading, though both have acquitted themselves well. "Galaxy" is in 1,589 theaters for an estimated $2.2 million weekend and almost $66 million after two months in release. The third weekend for "Eye of the Beholder" was estimated at $2.1 million on 1,583 screens and $15 million so far.

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