‘Party’ on, fans declare

This is one party that hasn’t lost its steam.

“House Party 3” is still bringing in the fans, opening on top Wednesday with a gross of approximately $ 1,070,000 in 800 theaters.

The hip-hop sequel bested its closest rival, Fox’s “Mrs. Doubtfire,” by 51%. At the same time, the film was in 1,545 fewer playdates with a single day per engagement average of $ 1,338.

“Even we’re surprised,” admitted New Line distribution/marketing president Mitchell Goldman. “Our test screenings had been excellent but there was simply no way to know that it would be going into the weekend so strong.”

The Wednesday gross is especially potent in light of several other mitigating factors. Recent performance by sequels in the marketplace has been generally lackluster and Goldman said he’s tired of seemingly endlessly references to “House Party” as a worn-out franchise.

In fact, industry tracking has been quite strong for the picture and its first-day box office bodes well for the film to finish first or second during the upcoming Martin Luther King holiday weekend. Traditionally, Wednesday pre-holiday openers have soft first days with the public putting off seeing a picture until the weekend. With $ 1.1 million in the till, it’s also a safe bet that the picture already is demonstrating an appeal outside of its target audience.

The first day of the third outing for the Kid ‘n Play series performed about 50% better than the second installment and was a sliver behind the first picture.

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