‘Ryan,’ ‘Stella’ find grooves

Auds reup for Hanks pic; 'Avengers,' frosh falter as 'Mary' stretches legs

Paramount’s and DreamWorks’ “Saving Private Ryan” remained the nation’s top-ranking film for a fourth consecutive weekend, despite incursions from four new wide releases. The Tom Hanks starrer requisitioned $12.9 million in 2,654 command posts for a solid $4,861 average, according to studio projections.

Among the newcomers, 20th Century Fox’s “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” turned in the strongest performance, picking up an impressive $11.8 million to finish second. Warner Bros.’ “The Avengers” landed in third with a disappointing $10.7 million.

“Saving Private Ryan” owes a significant portion of its continued success to repeat business, according to DreamWorks distribution chief Jim Tharp. Despite the film’s nearly three-hour running time and gut-wrenching violence, a recent study showed nearly one-fifth of those attending “Ryan” had seen it before.

Ryan tops $125 mil

After a four-week tour of duty, the combat drama has cumed $125.8 million. Given its current trajectory, “Ryan” should battle its way to about $180 million domestically.

“Stella,” which stars Angela Bassett and newcomer Taye Diggs, made its money in just 1,393 theaters. The Kevin Sullivan-helmed film, based on the Terry McMillan novel about an affair between a middle-aged woman and a 20-year-old man, averaged a groovy $8,471 per rendezvous.

“I’m in heaven,” said 20th Domestic Film Group chairman Tom Sherak of the opening.

The romantic drama scored a direct hit with its core audience of older black females, according to exit polls. About 80% of those in attendance were black, while females outnumbered males 70% to 30%, and those 25 or older accounted for 70% of the audience.

But Sherak noted that moviegoers in all demographic groups gave the film extremely high marks. About 97% of young black men surveyed said they would definitely recommend the film to others, while 86% of young white women concurred.

The film narrowly outperformed the first three days of “Waiting To Exhale” (also based on a McMillan bestseller), which opened on Christmas weekend 1995. “Stella” is also on track to top the $11.2 million debut of Fox’s similarly targeted 1997 film “Soul Food.”

On a less promising note, the picture saw an increase of just 6% Saturday over Friday, which doesn’t bode especially well for its long-term prospects.

Crowds shy from ‘Avengers’

Considerably less impressive was the opening of Warner Bros.’ costly actioner “The Avengers,” which grossed $10.7 million in 2,466 spots. That gave the bigscreen adaptation of the campy ’60s British TV show a $4,339 per screen average.

Ticket sales for the Ralph Fiennes-Uma Thurman starrer remained virtually flat Saturday compared to Friday, which indicates the picture will likely fade quickly.

Two other freshman wide releases failed to make the Top 10: Polygram’s “Return to Paradise” grossed a disappointing $2.4 million in 965 theaters, or $2,487 per site, and Miramax’s kidpic sequel, “Air Bud: Golden Receiver,” scored $2.5 million in 1,669 attempts for a $1,503 average.

Hardest hit among Top-10 holdovers were last weekend’s wide entries, Par’s “Snake Eyes” and Miramax’s “Halloween: H20,” which plummeted 47% and 48% respectively.

More ‘Mary’ momentum

Meanwhile, Fox’s “There’s Something About Mary” continues its astonishing run, dropping just 6% to $9.1 million in 2,201 theaters. The Cameron Diaz comedy has grossed $91.6 million and appears poised to finish with more than $130 million.

Among limited newcomers, Fox Searchlight’s “Slums of Beverly Hills” grossed $130,000 in seven locations in New York, L.A. and Orange County. That gives the Tamara Jenkins-helmed pic an auspicious $18,571 average. Miramax’s reissue of the 1966 Catherine Deneuve starrer “The Young Girls of Rochefort” picked up $10,000 at New York’s Film Forum.

Although the weekend marked the first time since early May that no film grossed over $15 million, solid holdover performances helped theatrical business remain vibrant. Total ticket sales were estimated at about $103 million, up a hefty 19% from the comparable weekend a year ago when “Cop Land” led the field at $13.5 million.

Four new wide releases will jump into the fray Friday: New Line’s “Blade,” Sony’s “Dance With Me,” WB’s “Wrongfully Accused” and MTV/Paramount’s “Dead Man on Campus.”

Box office results should begin to cool off over the next few weeks, as students begin returning to school.

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety