Making ‘Mary’

Fox comedy finally hits No. 1 in 8th week

There’s something unprecedented about “There’s Something About Mary.”

After working its way up the box office chart for more than seven weeks, the 20th Century Fox comedy landed at No. 1 for the first time over the Labor Day frame, with a studio-projected four-day take of $11.5 million.

The feat, unheard of for a wide-release picture, further underscores the broad and lasting appeal of the Cameron Diaz-Ben Stiller starrer. While the rest of the summer blockbusters have wilted in the late summer heat, “Mary” continues to defy gravity like Diaz’s bangs in the picture’s now-famous hair gel scene.

“It has gotten into the movie culture,” said Tom Sherak, chairman of 20th Domestic Film Group and a longtime “Mary” champion. “People who have seen it are seeing it again. People who haven’t seen it yet have heard so much about it, that when they get around to seeing a picture, this is the one they pick.”

More screens

Fox added 154 theaters to the picture’s run this week, and continues to support the film with revised TV and print ad campaigns, Sherak said.

The Peter and Bobby Farrelly-helmed comedy has amassed a solid $130.9 million, and will likely top $160 million domestically, making it the third highest grossing film of the summer.

According to Fox, “Mary’s” ticket sales for the Friday-Sunday portion of the weekend were up 7% from the previous three-day frame. Even if the $11.5 million four-day projection proves overly optimistic — rival distribution execs predicted a finish of between $10.5 million and $11 million for “Mary” — there was no doubt the pic would finish ahead of last weekend’s champ, “Blade.”

Now in its fourth week, New Line’s Wesley Snipes vampire actioner was off 25% to $10.4 million. The pic has cumed $49.2 million, and appears on track to finish with between $60 million and $70 million.

The weekend’s only newcomer, Sony’s Jean-Claude Van Damme starrer “Knock Off,” opened in fourth place with $5.6 million. Kicking off in 1,800 theaters, the pic, helmed by Hong Kong action auteur Tsui Hark (“Double Team”) averaged $3,111 per battle.

The opening was in line with Van Damme’s recent outings.

Last year’s “Double Team,” in which the Muscles from Brussels starred with NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman, tipped off to $5 million.

In 1996, “Maximum Risk” and “The Quest” opened to $5.6 million and $7 million, respectively. All three films opened on three-day weekends.

Sony Pictures Releasing president Jeff Blake said he expected “Knock Off” — which the studio acquired from indie production and foreign sales company MDP — to finish in the vicinity of “Maximum Risk’s” $14.5 million final domestic cume.

‘Ryan’ still hot

Third place went to Paramount and DreamWorks’ “Saving Private Ryan,” down 16% to $8.6 million. After 46 days in release, the Steven Spielberg war drama has cumed $166.6 million. Miramax’s disco-era drama “54” stumbled badly in its second week on the dance floor. Off 52%, the Ryan Phillipe starrer grossed $4 million, bringing its cume to $13 million.

Last weekend’s other opener, Warner Bros. “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” actually held better despite its dismal opening. The Frankie Lymon biopic dropped 29% to $3.6 million, putting it in seventh for the weekend.

Among top specialized releases, Gramercy’s dark sex drama “Your Friends and Neighbors” continued to outgun Miramax’s considerably lighter romantic comedy “Next Stop Wonderland.”

“Neighbors” grossed $1.4 million after widening its scope from 45 to 229 theaters. That gives the Neil LaBute-helmed pic a virile $6,120 per screen average. Total so far is $2.5 million.

“Wonderland” pulled in $800,000 after jumping from 69 to 224 locations, or $3,571 per site. The Brad Anderson-helmed pic has cumed $1.5 million to date.

Overall business was off considerably from last year’s Labor Day weekend, which fell almost a week earlier. Ticket sales were expected to total about $77 million, down from 1997 when holdovers “G.I. Jane,” “Money Talks” and “Air Force One,” along with newcomer “Hoodlum,” drove the weekend to a $96 million finish.

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