With $1 bil in sight ‘Titanic’ takes a dip

7% drop keeps it $10 mil ahead of 'Singer'

After a record-shattering 10 consecutive weekends, “Titanic” dipped below the $20 million mark for the first time since its Dec. 19 release, grossing a studio-estimated $19.6 million. The Paramount-20th Century Fox co-production has now cumed an eye-popping $427 million domestically and is rapidly approaching the $1 billion mark worldwide.

The blockbuster, which was off just 7% from the previous weekend, remained more than $10 million ahead of its nearest competitor. New Line’s romantic comedy, “The Wedding Singer” played bridesmaid for the third straight weekend, dropping 26% to $9 million.

Largely on the strength of “Titanic’s” phenomenal staying power, overall business remained unseasonably brisk, although it fell short of last year’s record levels. Total ticket sales for films grossing $500,000 or more were estimated at about $72 million, down 8% from the comparable 1997 frame when “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Donnie Brasco” pushed the tally to $78.2 million.

The weekend’s four wide newcomers all failed to put up much of a fight. Best among the crop was New Line’s “Dark City,” which landed in fourth place with a $5.5 million debut. The futuristic thriller, directed by “The Crow’s” Alex Proyas, bowed in 1,754 locations for a $3,136 average.

BV’s “Krippendorf’s Tribe” marched into seventh place with $3.2 million in 1,529 huts, giving the Richard Dreyfuss/Jenna Elfman starrer a $2,039 average.

Live’s “Caught Up” opened to $2.4 million, tying October’s “The Apostle” for 10th place. In 713 hardtops, the suspense thriller, starring Bokeem Woodbine, Cynda Williams, Snoop Doggy Dog and LL Cool J, averaged $3,366.

Meanwhile, Universal’s “Kissing a Fool” landed in 12th place with $2.2 million in 1,742 sites, or $1,263 per playdate.

Among limited openers, Lakeshore and Paramount’s “The Real Blonde” picked up $77,000 in 10 theaters in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. That’s a $7,700 average for the Tom DiCillo-helmed satire, which stars Matthew Modine and Catherine Keener.

Much less auspicious was BV’s “Burn Hollywood Burn: An Alan Smithee Film,” which managed only an anonymous $31,000 in 19 situations in nine top markets.

Falling off sharply were Warner Bros.’ “Sphere” and Miramax’s “Senseless,” which both plummeted 51% from the previous weekend.

With a three-day take of $3.8 million and a cume of $32.4 million, the costly undersea thriller “Sphere” now looks as though it will wash ashore at just under $40 million.

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