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October 04, 1999

Full 'Jeopardy' houses beat 'Three Kings' hand

'Beauty' plays third on a slack weekend

Brian Fuson
The Hollywood Reporter

Paramount's "Double Jeopardy" caught industry pundits by surprise this weekend as it stole the thunder in a crowded marketplace and held the top spot for the second consecutive frame with an estimated $17.2 million. The Tommy Lee Jones-Ashley Judd starrer has garnered roughly $47.4 million in 10 days.

The odds-on favorite going into the weekend was Warner Bros.' "Three Kings," a well-reviewed action-thriller starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube. It debuted with an estimated $16.3 million to place second.

DreamWorks' "American Beauty" moved up into the third slot with an estimated $8.1 million, followed by Sony's "Blue Streak" with roughly $8 million and Buena Vista's "The Sixth Sense" with around $7.2 million in the fifth spot.

In all, four films debuted in wide release this weekend. 20th Century Fox's "Drive Me Crazy," a romantic-comedy starring Melissa Joan Hart and Adrian Grenier, parked in the sixth spot with an estimated $7.1 million. Fox noted the $8 million budgeted picture drew 72% definite recommends and the audience was comprised of mostly young females.

Not faring quite so well was Sony's "The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland," a family film from Jim Henson Prods., which took in an estimated $3.3 million and placed eighth. The distributor indicated that "Elmo" may hold up well since there will not be another family film in the marketplace for the next four weeks.

Buena Vista's "Mystery Alaska" was skating on thin ice in its opening weekend as the hockey-set comedy could only score a mediocre $3.1 million and net the ninth spot. MGM's "Stigmata" filled the tenth slot with an estimated $2.3 million.

In limited release, Miramax's "Happy, Texas" went out in eight theaters and pulled in an estimated $69,320. The comedy, starring Jeremy Northam, Steve Zahn and William H. Macy, averaged a moderate $8,665 per theater. The distributor's "Guinevere" added theaters this weekend, bringing the count to 31, and grossed around $102,637. The romantic-drama averaged a soft $3,311 per theater and has collected an estimated $187,490 to date.

The debut of USA Film's "Plunkett & Macleane" went almost unnoticed this weekend as the action-drama arrived in 475 theaters and looted an estimated $232,092. The 18th century set film, starring Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller and Liv Tyler, could only muster a dismal $489 per-theater average.

In taking the top spot, Paramount added 377 theaters to "Double Jeopardy's" run, bringing the total count to 2,884 locations. The studio credits strong word of mouth for the film's staying power, and noted that it performed best in the heartland.

By contrast, Warner Bros.' "Three Kings" played very upscale and outperformed "Jeopardy" in the big cities. "I think it's the best reviewed movie of the year," said Dan Fellman, WB president of domestic distribution. "We're going to have to wait until the second weekend to see if word of mouth kicks in." Fellman added that the David O. Russell-helmed picture had strong exit polls and the majority of the audience was 25 and older.

The boxoffice debut of "Three Kings" marks the second biggest opening for George Clooney after Warner Bros.' "Batman & Robin" ($42.9 million), and is the third best opening in October.

"American Beauty" added 277 theaters this weekend, upping the count to 706. DreamWorks had anticipated running the film in 1,000 theaters this weekend but held off, preferring to lay the groundwork in upcoming markets with its screening program. Jim Tharp, head of distribution, told The Hollywood Reporter that the screening program was very successful in other markets and DreamWorks wanted to prepare the new areas before releasing the film wider. "Beauty's" theater count should be in the area of 1,200-1,300 Friday.

Overall, depending on how the numbers play out today, this could be the first time in 12 weekends that this year's boxoffice total registered lower than last year's comparable frame. A year ago, there were three films that topped $10 million each: DreamWorks' "Antz" ($17.2 million); PolyGram's "What Dreams May Come" ($15.8 million); and New Line's "Rush Hour" ($14.5 million).

The estimate for the weekend's Golden Dozen is $78.2 million, down 5% from the top 12 films for the comparable period a year ago. The Hollywood Reporter projects the total for all films this weekend to be in the mid-to-high $80 million range, down slightly from last year's $90.7 million.

For the week ending Sept. 30, the national boxoffice was up 7% from the corresponding period a year ago ($109.4 million vs. $101.9 million). The year-to-date cume now stands at a 9% advantage over last year, which translates to roughly $470 million ($5.53 billion vs. $5.06 billion).

As it tracked down the No. 1 position, "Double Jeopardy" dropped a scant 26% in its second frame, with the Bruce Beresford-directed film averaging $5,964 per theater. "Three Kings" averaged $5,540 per theater from 2,942 venues.

In the third spot, "American Beauty" continued to carry a high per-theater average with $11,473, and has taken in roughly $18.3 million to date.

"Blue Streak" slipped a moderate 36% in its third weekend, averaging $2,925 per theater from 2,735 sites, bringing its cume to approximately $47.7 million.

The long-legged "Sixth Sense" persevered in defying boxoffice gravity as it dropped a mere 15% in its ninth weekend. The supernatural thriller was in 2,821 venues, averaging $2,552 per theater, upping its total to around $234.7 million.

"Drive Me Crazy" averaged $3,195 per theater from 2,222 locations as it drove into the sixth slot.

Universal's "For the Love of the Game" was seventh with an estimated $3.4 million as the baseball-themed romantic-drama slipped a discouraging 47% in its third frame. The Kevin Costner-starrer averaged $1,159 per theater from 2,933 houses, raising its cume to about $28.3 million.

In the eighth slot, "Elmo in Grouchland" averaged $2,727 per theater from 1,210 situations, followed by "Mystery, Alaska," which had 1,673 venues and averaged $1,853 per theater.

MGM's supernatural thriller "Stigmata" rounded out the tenth slot, averaging $1,125 per theater from 2,045 locations, amassing a total of approximately $44.3 million.

Two newcomers last weekend, Sony's "Jakob the Liar" and Buena Vista's "Mumford," both dropped out of the top 10 in their second weekends in release.

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