Auds feel B.O. ‘Rush’ once again

'Ronin,' 'Urban Legend' spin solid numbers

Traffic remained extremely heavy for New Line’s “Rush Hour” over the weekend, as the kick-and-shtick pic grossed a freeway-clogging $21.1 million in its second outing, according to studio estimates.

Off a moderate 36% from its powerful debut, the Jackie Chan-Chris Tucker action comedy has cumed a terrific $63.9 million in its first 10 days, and appears on track to finish at about $125 million domestically.

Two wide newcomers, the MGM espionage thriller “Ronin” and Phoenix and Sony’s teen horror pic “Urban Legend,” both bowed to solid numbers, but posed no real challenge to “Rush.”

Among limited releases, Fine Line’s John Waters-helmed comedy “Pecker” picked up $584,000 in 183 locations, or $3,195 per site.

In second place, “Ronin” racked up a studio-projected $13 million in 2,487 locations or $5,227 per as-signment. The debut was at the upper end of what most observers had predicted.

Spy throwback

Director John Frankenheimer’s low-tech thriller got rave reviews from key critics in several markets, including New York and L.A., who saw it as a throwback to the spare spy pics of the ’60s and ’70s. But the film fared reasonably well even in markets like Dallas, where critics were considerably less appreciative.

Predictably, the film’s audiences skewed heavily toward older moviegoers: 70% of those attending were over 25 years old.

Males outnumbered females by a margin of 3 to 2, according to exit polls.

The opening was the highest ever for a film headlining Robert De Niro, who, despite a half-dozen Oscar nominations and critical acclaim, has never been a huge box office draw. (“Cape Fear” bowed to $10.3 million, and “Casino” drew $8.3 million in its first three days.)

MGM worldwide distribution president Larry Gleason said he was optimistic that younger audiences, who were preoccupied with seeing “Rush Hour” and “Urban Legend” this weekend, would catch up with “Ronin” in coming weeks.

Sticking around

“Ronin” faces no direct competition for the adult action audience until Oct. 23, when Warner Bros. opens the Kurt Russell starrer “Soldier.” “The film has a real chance to run,” Gleason said.

But even if it does prove to have strong legs, “Ronin” is unlikely to become the much-needed home run for the beleaguered MGM, which has no more at-bats this year.

At No. 3, Sony’s “Urban Legend” scared up $11 million in 2,257 haunted houses, or $4,874 per site. The film, which stars Jared Leto and Alicia Witt, attracted slightly more women than men.

The film was produced by “I Know What You Did Last Summer” producer Neil Moritz, who clearly has a handle on the post-“Scream” horror sensibility. With a production budget of just $14 million, the film should be a solid money-maker for Phoenix and Sony.

Despite massive flooding in South Florida and New Orleans, national ticket sales for the weekend appeared on track to total about $74 million, up 3% from the equivalent frame a year ago.

Among holdovers, Universal’s sophomore “One True Thing” dropped a moderate 32% to $4.5 million, tying for fourth place with Fox’s tenacious summer hit “There’s Something About Mary.” “Mary,” now in its 11th week of release, has cumed a stunning $152.5 million.

Not surprisingly, Fine Line’s “Pecker” played well in traditional John Waters strongholds such as New York, L.A., San Francisco and his hometown of Baltimore. But Fine Line distribution chief Steven Friedlander noted that the comedy also worked in some markets where the director’s brand of humor has not historically worked, including Louisville, Toronto, Vancouver and several college markets.

“It’s a kinder, gentler John Waters,” said Friedlander. “This picture has a chance to grow.”

In exclusives, Gramercy’s “Clay Pigeons” shot down $166,000 in 19 theaters in eight markets, for an $8,724 average. Sony’s Southern period piece “Shadrach” got buried with just $17,200 in four runs in L.A. and New York, or $4,300 per plot.

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