‘Face/Off’ still has some fight left on Sunday

Paramount’s “Face/Off” emerged the uncontested winner of the weekend B.O. bout against Buena Vista’s “Hercules.”

“Face/Off” did strong business Sunday, making it clear that Saturday’s heavyweight chompfest had a sizable effect on the John Woo actioner. The picture wound up with $23.4 million, 3% better than the studio’s Sunday prediction.

The Nicolas Cage/John Travolta starrer pulled in about $7.5 million Sunday, down just 9% from its Saturday take of $8.2 million. That’s an extremely small drop-off, especially for an adult-oriented picture.

“It shows the impact of the fight on Saturday’s business or extremely strong word of mouth,” said Wayne Lewellen, Par president of distribution. “It’s probably a combination of both.”

By comparison, Par’s megahit “Forrest Gump” dropped 14% from Saturday to Sunday on its opening weekend, noted Lewellen.

Less promising, however, was the fact that “Face/Off’s” Sunday’s gross fell short of Friday’s $7,738,000 take.

While early tracking on “Face/Off” was relatively low, audience interest escalated late last week after Paramount aired new TV spots that better explained the film’s storyline.

Paramount plans to expand “Face/Off’s” run slightly this week, and then add an additional 200 to 300 theaters on July 11.

“Hercules” picked up $21.5 million in its first wide weekend, exactly as BV had projected. Unaffected by the fight, the kidpic saw a 15% drop from Saturday to Sunday.

“Herc’s” per-screen average of $7,470 is the lowest of any traditional Disney animated feature in the past five years. In contrast, “Aladdin” bowed with $17,065 per bazaar; “The Lion King” roared to $16,027 per den, “Pocahontas” paddled to $11,483 per stream and even “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” rang up a slightly higher $7,613 average.

Exhibitors agreed the Holyfield-Tyson fight left its teethmarks on Saturday attendance.

“A lot of the action pictures, including ‘Speed 2’ and ‘Lost World,’

actually went down Saturday from Friday in many theaters,” said Chan Woods, exec VP and head film buyer for Pacific Theatres. “On the other hand, ‘Hercules’ and ‘Best Friends Wedding’ did well Saturday.”

Saturday’s total for all pictures was up just 13% from Friday. By comparison, during the equivalent weekend last year, Saturday saw a 48% bump over Friday.

Weekend ticket sales for the top 60 films came to $98.2 million, down almost 7% from last year’s $105.3 million haul.

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