The Eminem-starring feature film “8 Mile” definitely crossed over to the right side of the box office tracks for its debut this weekend. The Universal film, which was directed by Curtis Hanson and produced by Imagine Entertainment, cranked up the volume with a stunning estimated take of $54.5 million.
The sterling debut of “8 Mile” surpassed industry expectations by a wide margin. Most observers thought the film would open in the $35 million-to-low $40 million range. The debut of the film coincided with the success of its Shady/Interscope soundtrack, which sold 702,000 copies in its first week of release, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and bowed on top of The Billboard 200.
Executives at Universal are understandably upbeat about the debut of “8 Mile.” “The results certainly exceeded our expectations,” Universal Pictures distribution president Nikki Rocco said. “It has much to do with the fact that Eminem is a superstar, the critics embraced it so brilliantly, and [producer] Brian Grazer and Curtis Hanson delivered a powerful and inspiring film. Coupled with the outstanding job by production and marketing, we couldn’t be more proud of the outcome.”
The $54.5 million opening of “8 Mile” ranks as the fifth biggest of all time among November releases. Other records set by the film that are worthy of note: It was the second biggest opening for an R-rated feature, behind MGM’s “Hannibal” ($58 million); the second best for Imagine after “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” ($55.1 million); and was the fifth biggest to date for 2002.
Further demonstrating the film’s power was the low number of theaters it opened in, relative to its gross. The 2,470 venues occupied by “8 Mile” averaged a staggering $22,065 per theater. Of the top-25 openings in box office history, of which the drama is presently ranked 20th, only one other film debuted in less than 3,000 theaters, and that one was in 2,970 sites, which makes the theater count for “8 Mile” the lowest among that esteemed group by far.