'Magic' & 'Chucky' scare up 1-2 finish; 'Beloved' takes fifth

The weekend’s musical B.O. theme sounded a lot like “It’s Witchcraft.”

Warner Bros.’ “Practical Magic” led the field with Universal’s “Bride of Chucky” close behind and films with fantasy elements such as “Beloved,” “What Dreams May Come” and “Urban Legend” figuring into the top 10 viewing choices.

“Practical Magic,” based on the Alice Hoffman novel, cast a $13.6 million spell according to Warner Bros. estimates. Though the subject of critical pillory, the film version warded off commercial evil in the incarnation of Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. To no one’s surprise, exit polls revealed women accounted for 68% of its audience and 62% of the crowd was older than 25. Launched in 2,652 theaters, “Magic” translated into a $4,980 average.

Lucky ‘Chucky’

“Chucky” broke the mold by making its fourth time lucky for the franchise with an $11.6 million gross. Though the weekend bridesmaid, the mood at Universal was ecstatic as the demon doll took possession of second place with a B.O. take roughly equal to its production cost. Initial studio projections reckoned that the combination of the typical horror box office arc and the World Series would mean a 10% Friday to Saturday boost. So, when business jumped by 28% the corks began to pop. The alchemic formula was a $4,930 average from 2,412 toy boxes.

The fate of Touchstone’s “Beloved” was a bit harder to discern. Debuting in fifth spot with $8.5 million, the adaptation of Toni Morrison’s Pulitizer Prize winner earned more respect than enthusiasm from reviewers and just a decent 31% Saturday boost. However, considering its weighty theme, three-hour duration and carefully considered 1,501 theater opening, its $5,660 average provided encouragement for the long run up to award season.

The frame should generate about $85 million, up 12% from a year and 14% from last weekend. That will bring the year to $5.46 billion, 10% ahead of the former record pace set in 1997.

DreamWorks’ “Antz” soldiered on in third spot with $11.3 million. Off 23% in its third weekend, the animated troop took an impressive $3,890 average from 2,903 colonies. It has grossed $51.5 million to date.

Still kicking

New Line’s “Rush Hour” was fourth in the traffic jam with a reported $8.7 million. The surprise fall high-kicker keeps on ticking with a $3,180 average from 2,724 fast lanes. Down a modest 22%, it has a gross of $110 million.

The span also saw a number of films preem in limited release and a couple of niche film expansions. The animated “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” didn’t exactly slay ‘em with $50,000 delivered from 102 chimneys. Seventh Arts’ Sundance documentary “Some Nudity Required” bared a modest $12,000 from five peep shows, Lions Gates’ “The Alarmist” rang few bells with a $9,000 gross at two venues and Gramercy’s “Reach the Rock” failed to get to its destination with a $3,300 B.O. from three theaters.

Miramax’s “The Mighty” added 120 screens and generated a $360,000 frame for the fanciful saga of two youthful misfits. But its $2,790 average was far from mirthful. However, there was genuine “Happiness” for Good Machine’s controversial drama which doubled to six theaters and a gross of $131,000.

Polygram’s saga of love after death “What Dreams May Come” ranked sixth with $6.6 million, down 40% from the prior weekend. The Robin Williams starrer averaged $2,640 from 2,506 venues. Its box office has risen to $41.3 million.

Paramount’s “A Night at the Roxbury” saw its tempo ease 36% for a seventh place finish with $3.9 million. The dance madness cleared 2,169 halls for an $1,800 average and has a $23.4 million cume.

TriStar’s “Urban Legend” indexed eighth with $3 million. Chilled by 37%, the pic scared up a $1,460 average at 2,063 haunts. Its cold cash count stands at $31 million.

MGM’s spy thriller “Ronin” carved out the ninth slot with $2.8 million. Taking a 40% slice, the film trimmed to a $1,410 average at its 1,982 assignments. It’s grossed $35.5 million to date.

Last and least in the top 10 was Touchstone’s “Holy Man” which sank 53% in its sophomore session to $2.4 million. The forcefulness of the public dismissal of Eddie Murphy’s latest has been this season’s stunner. Its 2,013 ashrams eked out an $1,190 average to inch its cume to $9 million in 10 days of release.

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