'Antz,' 'Rush Hour' reign

October box office smashed all previous records for the month, ascending to $454.7 million for the month to shatter both prior B.O. and attendance benchmarks. Revenues topped former heights — set last year — by 19% and surpassed 1993 admission levels by 7.5%.

The frame was rife with surprises that included unusually strong showings for DreamWorks’ “Antz” and Warner Bros.’ “Practical Magic” and very poor B.O. for the likes of “Holy Man” and “Beloved” from Buena Vista as well as Warner Bros.’ seasonal actioner “Soldier.”

New Line edged out DreamWorks at the wire for the October market share crown, but the latter had the month’s top individual performer with the animated “Antz,” the sole family-entertainment entity during the frame. New Line’s slate totaled $75.7 million for 16.6% of the big picture, which was 0.5% better than its closest competitor.

Ticket sales for the period rose to an estimated 94.7 million, a rise of 13% from 1997 and the first time October sales have exceeded 90 million. The strongest performing films were dramas and genre fare, with comedies and family films virtually absent from the scene.

Upscale niche fare was also at low ebb with the exception of Good Machine/Behaviour’s “Happiness” and Alliance’s “It’s Your Turn, Laura Cadieux” in Canada. Miramax’s initial platform of the Italian “Life Is Beautiful” bodes well for expansion through the holiday season. However, current movies look to be fading fast and will likely disappear once the Thanksgiving titles start to roll out.

Following “Antz,” the month’s top performing movies (in descending order) were New Line’s “Rush Hour,” Polygram’s “What Dreams May Come,” Warner Bros.’ “Practical Magic,” Paramount’s “A Night at the Roxbury,” Universal’s “Bride of Chucky,” MGM’s “Ronin,” Sony’s “Urban Legend,” Buena Vista’s “Beloved” and New Line’s “Pleasantville.”

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