‘Evita,’ ‘Flynt’ reign atop exclusive runs

Exclusive cry for 'Evita,' 'Flynt'

A musical based on the life of an Argentine dictator’s wife and a biopic about a pornographer’s legal troubles remain the two hottest tickets among a spate of year-end limited releases.

Buena Vista’s “Evita” still dominated the exclusive marketplace over the weekend, after expanding from two to 22 runs in the top 21 markets and racking up an astounding $1.1 million – or $50,000 per situation – according to studio estimates. The Madonna starrer has grossed $2.26 million since its Christmas Day release.

Also going strong is Sony’s “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” which enjoyed a 15% increase over its previous weekend haul while remaining in the same 16 theaters. With a $600,000 gross, the Woody Harrelson-Courtney Love drama averaged a sensational $37,500 per site.

Both films appear poised to do big business when they expand Friday. “Flynt” will expose itself on 1,200 screens while “Evita” will appear on 750 balconies.

Meanwhile, two films widely hailed as top Oscar contenders enjoyed slight upsurges at the weekend box office.

‘Shine’ brighter

Fine Line’s “Shine” shined 6% brighter than the previous weekend, playing to $1.7 million in 207 recital halls, or $8,212 per concert. The Scott Hicks film has cumed $6.25 million to date. At the same time, vital signs for Miramax’s “The English Patient” were up 5% to $2.8 million in 582 doctors’ offices. Now in its eighth week, the Anthony Minghella-helmed romance has earned $28.1 million.

Four other pictures are doing well in specialized settings, but for various reasons may have a harder time breaking through to mainstream auds.

Castle Rock’s “Hamlet” continues to do near-capacity business in single runs in New York, L.A. and Toronto. Off just 6% to $85,500, or $28,500 per stage, the Kenneth Branagh-helmed adaptation has cumed $342,000 after 12 days. Still, the question remains how a four-hour Shakespeare movie will play in suburban multiplexes.

‘Mother’s’ load

Paramount’s “Mother” delivered $155,000 in seven locations for a $22,143 average; cume to date on the Debbie Reynolds starrer is $522,000. Despite a loyal following and critical favor, director Albert Brooks has yet make a movie that’s grossed more than $20 million.

Gramercy’s “A Portrait of a Lady” painted $111,900 on seven canvases for a $15,986 average. The Jane Campion adaptation of Henry James’ novel has cumed $357,700 since it debuted Christmas Eve. But so far “Portrait” doesn’t appear to be catching on the way Campion’s $40 million grosser “The Piano” did.

Miramax’s “Everyone Says I Love You” returned to theaters a month after its one-week Oscar-qualifying run. In three L.A. theaters the Woody Allen-helmed musical grossed $56,500, or $18,833 per room. Allen has yet to have a box office success since “Hannah and Her Sisters” in 1986.

Fox’s “The Crucible,” which was largely passed over for year-end accolades, grossed $1.4 million on 346 screens, or $4,190 per screen. Cume is $4.8 million.

The prospects look somewhat bleak for Sony and Castle Rock’s “Some Mother’s Son,” which picked up $90,000 in 14 theaters, or $6,429 per screen; and Gramercy’s “I’m Not Rappaport” with $21,400 in three theaters, or $7,128 per site.

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