‘Summer’ calms B.O. dropof

Thanks largely to the amazing holding power of Sony and Mandalay’s “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” weekend ticket sales were off just 3% from the comparable frame last year.

The mild drop came despite the fact that business fell sharply on Friday as families and teens busied themselves with Halloween festivities.

The top 60 films grossed an aggregate of $60.3 million, compared with the $62.2 million tally in 1996 when Fox’s surprise hit “Romeo and Juliet” led the pack (and Halloween fell on Thursday).

Still, studio projections for Sunday ticket sales turned out to be overly optimistic in a number of cases. In fact, the top four pictures all brought in B.O. significantly lower than projected by distribution toppers.

At $9.4 million, “Summer” was off 6% from Sony’s $10 million estimate, while at $7.4 million, “Red Corner” was down a whopping 11% from MGM’s $8.3 million prediction.

Warner Bros.’ “The Devil’s Advocate” fell short of its Sunday estimate of $7.6 million by a relatively modest 3%, but New Line’s “Boogie Nights'” missed its mark of $5.1 million by more than 8%.

Some observers pointed to the difficulty of using historical data to predict Sunday’s returns, since Halloween has not fallen on Friday in 11 years. Others were more cynical about the inflated projections, however, noting that studios were much more accurate about films lower down on the chart.

Among specialized releases, Fox Searchlight’s “The Ice Storm” continued its slow rollout, grossing $451,606, up 38% after doubling its run from 23 to 46 playdates.

The Ang Lee-helmed drama averaged a solid $9,818. But it remains to be seen how the depiction of 1970s suburban angst will play in smaller markets.

Live’s “Critical Care” picked up an inauspicious $43,380 at 10 theaters in five top markets, or $4,380 per location. CFP’s “I Love You, I Love You Not” bowed to a modest $10,587 in six locations, or $1,765 per site.

Meanwhile, Spanish-speaking audiences flocked to two new entries in New York. Nova Creative’s “Buscando en Sueno” racked up an impressive $155,059 in 21 locations, mostly in Gotham’s outer boroughs. That calculates out to a healthy $7,384 average.

Kit Parker’s “Nuebo Yol 3” pulled in 93,143 in 10 New York screens. The sequel to the 1996 Dominican melodrama (which grossed a substantial $1.3 million domestically) earned $9,314 per site.

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