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October 05, 1999

'Kings' can't beat apathy at boxoffice; grosses sag

HR 100-feature index falls 5% below '98 level

By Roger Cels
The Hollywood Reporter

"Double Jeopardy" and "Three Kings" provided solid leadership, but the weekend boxoffice war ultimately was lost in the trenches.

Receipts generated by the 100 features tracked by The Hollywood Reporter in North America came to $85.9 million, a decline of 5% from the comparable period in 1998. The domestic marketplace had not sustained such a year-to-year shortfall in three months.

Paramount's "Double Jeopardy" held on to the top spot in its second weekend, easing an encouraging 26% to $17 million. Warner Bros.' "Three Kings" opened in a close second at $15.8 million, a performance that met prerelease expectations based on indications of audience interest.

Fox's teen romantic comedy "Drive Me Crazy" debuted in sixth place with an acceptable $6.8 million. Sony's "Elmo in Grouchland" and Buena Vista's "Mystery, Alaska" were disappointments, opening to $3.25 million and $3.1 million, respectively, which placed them in the eighth and ninth slots overall.

"Three Kings," not surprisingly, has the best shot at success going forward. In surveys conducted by CinemaScore Friday night, 85% of moviegoers rated the George Clooney-Mark Wahlberg wartime saga favorably, a grade that points to upbeat word of mouth. Demographics were also in order, with the various age brackets evenly represented, and males holding a manageable lead over females.

"Crazy" was not as fortunate, earning only a 74% positive review from filmgoers. Young females comprised the critical mass for the Melissa Joan Hart-Stephen Collins yarn.

The best marketplace response was reserved for "Mystery, Alaska," which garnered a 90% thumbs-up in the survey. The comedy starring Russell Crowe and Burt Reynolds has little hope of capitalizing on those positive notices, however, given its lackluster debut and less-than-reliable older audience base.

DreamWorks' "American Beauty" finished in third place, returning $8.2 million from only 706 theaters. The dark comedy starring Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening has earned $18.4 million in two-and-a-half weeks of limited issue, and looks to become an increasingly important boxoffice component as it moves into wider release on Friday.

Sony's "Blue Streak" was next at $8 million, off 36% in its third weekend. The Martin Lawrence comedy has collected $47.7 million.

Buena Vista's durable "The Sixth Sense" completed the top 5 with $7 million, a slim 16% decline in its ninth outing. The thriller starring Bruce Willis stands at $234.5 million.

Universal's "For Love of the Game" ground out $3.5 million in its third inning, falling another 44%. The baseball yarn starring Kevin Costner and Kelly Preston has scored $28.4 million, which is well below expectations based on the big names and budgets involved.

MGM's "Stigmata" rounded out the top 10 at $2.4 million, sliding 49% in its fourth foray.

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