Fright night at B.O.

No. 1 'Summer' defies Halloween drought

Sony and Mandalay’s slasher pic “I Know What You Did Last Summer” braved a spooky Halloween night to scare up an estimated $10 million, walking off with the top B.O. spot for a third consecutive weekend.

The frame was less kind to MGM’s China-set courtroom thriller “Red Corner,” which opened in second with an estimated $8.3 million.

U.S. theaters were virtual ghost towns Friday, with all of the top 10 holdovers — except “Summer” —experiencing drops of 50% or more from the previous Friday. “Summer,” which apparently figured in some teens’ fright-night plans, was down just 39%. But business bounced back Saturday and distributors were optimistic that Sunday’s business would go a long way toward making up for Friday’s poor showing. That would be consistent with box office performance over the Oct. 31, 1986, weekend, the last time Halloween fell on Friday.

Total ticket sales appeared likely to come in at around $60 million, a decline of about 4% from this time last year and 10% from last weekend. It was the first weekend this season to drop in comparison to 1996.

Meanwhile, New Line’s “Boogie Nights” penetrated the top 10 for the first time, grossing an estimated $5.1 million, after expanding from 124 to 907 orgies. While the take was in line with studio expectations, according to a New Line spokesman, the porn industry epic is clearly losing steam as it expands into smaller markets.

Certainly no one could fault the picture’s marketing campaign or its platform distribution strategy; both have worked with clockwork precision to build interest among young, upscale audiences.

But despite critical acclaim and the press attention for star Mark Wahlberg and director Paul Thomas Anderson, the picture appears to be traveling a similar trajectory to Sony’s 1996 disappointment, “The People vs. Larry Flynt.” “Flynt,” which grossed $5.3 million after its expansion from 16 to 1,200 theaters, eventually topped out at just over $20 million.

Like “Flynt,” “Boogie Nights” is attracting mainly young males, some of whom may be expecting a sexy, light-hearted send-up of the ’70s as opposed to a dark ensemble drama.

Rysher and Paramount’s Dennis Quaid-Danny Glover actioner “Switchback” opened to little fanfare, grossing just $3 million in 1,128 locations. That gave screenwriter Jeb Stuart’s directorial debut (originally titled “Going West”) a per-screen average of $2,660.

Live’s “Critical Care” arrived in poor condition, grossing just $45,000 in 10 theaters in L.A., Boston, New York, Seattle and Minneapolis. The Sidney Lumet-helmed health-care satire averaged a sickly $4,500 per hospital room.

Sony’s “The Wind in the Willows” opened to $67,000 in 65 theaters in New York and L.A., for a mole-sized $1,031 average. The live-action retelling of the children’s classic, which stars members of the Monty Python’s Flying Circus cast, was released in major overseas territories several years ago.

Legacy’s “Grizzly Mountain” grossed an estimated $108,000 in 142 matinee-only engagements. That gives the family pic, which marks the return of Dan Haggerty to the genre he mined as TV’s “Grizzly Adams,” a tame $760 per-screen average.

Banner’s “Telling Lies in America” picked up $45,000 after expanding from 17 to 29 locations. Average: $1,552; cume: $126,000.

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