There was a huge battle over the weekend between Titanic and Pierce Brosnan’s second James Bond installment, Tomorrow Never Dies, and while Titanic ultimately took the edge, it likely wasn’t enough to put a dent in the huge production and marketing costs of James Cameron’s epic three hour film.
Titanic opened with an impressive $28 million, good enough for the second biggest December of all time, but as you know, December is not a traditionally great month for movie releases. Up until last weekend’s release of Scream 2 ($39 million), only one December movie had ever broken the teens (Beavis and Butthead Do America’s $20.9 million). The Titanic opening was also the best opening ever for a 3-hour film ever, but given the soaring budget of Titanic and the inability to screen the film very many times each day due to its runtime, Titanic will have considerable difficulty breaking even on its $200 million budget (plus millions more in marketing). Cameron probably should have acceded to studio executives’ demands to edit out an hour Titanic to boost its long-term prospects. Like most blockbusters, Titanic can expect to see 40 or 50 percent drops in subsequent weeks, and end up with around $150 million at the box office, good but not enough to put the most expensive movie of all time in the black.
Unfortunately, the careers of the talented Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio may forever be linked to this box-office disappointment. With only The Man in the Iron Mask ahead for DiCaprio, 1994’s Oscar nominee’s career may stall, while Winslet will be reduced to eye candy in generic action pics.
The 18th Bond installment Tomorrow Never Dies came in second place over the the weekend with $25 million, and should be headed toward a $100 million plus domestic run, more in line with its $125 million budget (given the popularity of Bond internationally, it should triple its box-office gross and end up as the biggest international hit of the year, before it’s all said and done). After the success of Tomorrow and Golden Eye, Brosnan has rejuvenated the Bond franchise; it’s unlikely anyone will come along as well suited to the character as the former star of “Remington Steele.”
In at number three, Scream 2 added another $13 million to bring its total to $55 million. The Wes Craven franchise will probably run for years. Neve Campbell has a long and successful career ahead of her.
In at number four was Mouse Hunt, the directorial debut of Gore Verbinski. The $6 million gross, however, probably won’t do much to escalate his career. Rounding out the top five, Robin Williams Flubber made $4 million to bring that movie’s total to a tepid $64 million. I’m sure it’s just a temporary hiccup in the box-office career of one of the most successful stars of the decade.
In limited release, Good Will Hunting — also starring Robin Williams — continued to perform modestly, expanding to 11 theaters and adding $18,000 per location. There’s been a lot of buzz about up-and-comers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, although it’s unlikely that Affleck will ever top his performance in Mallrats. (Kevin Smith 4 Ever!)