'American' steals third

Warner Bros.’ political actioner “Three Kings” went toe-to-toe with Paramount’s thriller “Double Jeopardy” at the weekend box office. When the dust cleared, “Jeopardy” had the edge, leading the frame with a $17.2 million gross compared to the $16.3 million “Kings” crowned in its debut.

“Double Jeopardy,” a cat-and-mouse yarn with female appeal, held well in its second weekend, dipping 23% for an estimated $17.2 million. The Ashley Judd-Tommy Lee Jones starrer came back with a $6,030 per-theater average at 2,884 jury boxes. Ten-day cume is $47.4 million.

The critically lauded “Three Kings” grossed in the mid-range of industry tracking with a solid $16.3 million launch. The saga of Desert Storm soldiers who become quasi-Robin Hoods laid siege to a $5,540 average from 2,942 bunkers. “Kings” had an OK 29% Friday to Saturday B.O. boost. Strong exit polls indicated that it was playing to an older-than-expected crowd. It should sustain against upcoming competition if the muscular tale can draw young males and attract female viewers.

DreamWorks added 277 theaters for its critical darling “American Beauty” and finished third with $8.1 million. The arch tale of contemporary suburban life saw a buoyant 36% boost, maintaining a solid $11,420 average from 709 rose beds. Though its strongest response continues to be urban and upscale, pic is definitely gaining momentum in smaller centers; about 500 playdates will be added next weekend. Cume is $18.3 million.

Columbia’s “Blue Streak” flagged 36% to finish fourth with $8 million. The Martin Lawrence action comedy cruised to a $2,930 average at 2,734 raceways. It crossed the weekend wire with a $47.7 million B.O. record.

‘Sixth’ in fifth

Hollywood Pics/Spyglass Entertainment’s “The Sixth Sense” remained sturdiest among holdovers with a 15% drop in fifth place and a $7.2 million span. The year’s surprise blockbuster maintained a $2,550 average at 2,821 encounters. Cume is a haunting $234.7 million.

Fox’s teen comedy “Driving Me Crazy” maneuvered into sixth with a $6.4 million first lap. The romantic hijinx fared well but fell short of a cure for acne with a $3,200 average at 2,222 proms, but the low-budget pic is an easy recouper nonetheless.

Also preeming was Columbia’s “Elmo in Grouchland,” which grumbled up $3.3 million for slot eight. The furry Sesame Street fugitive emerged from 1,200 trash cans for a fair family average share of $2,730.

Hollywood Pictures’ small town hockey opus “Mystery, Alaska” placed ninth with a reported $3.1 million. It flexed a flabby $1,850 average at 1,673 rinks.

12% B.O. boost overall

The B.O. might of the marketplace leaders and the continued strong expansion of “American Beauty” carried the frame, boosting biz 12% from last weekend. Weekend biz climbed to about $90 million, expanding 12% from last weekend but off 8% from the comparable 1998 frame. Box office for the year rose to $5.63 billion, 7.5% ahead of last year’s former record pace.

Last week’s freshmen — Columbia’s “Jakob the Liar” and Touchstone’s “Mumford” — sank slightly more than 50% to $1 million and $900,000, respectively.

USA Films debuted its period adventure “Plunkett and Macleane” to a rather lively $240,000 with a limited wide 475 theater exposure. The larkish view of bygone highwaymen nabbed a sturdy $5,050 average.

Miramax ‘Happy’

Miramax’s Sundance-acquired offbeat comedy “Happy, Texas” smiled with a $69,000 B.O. from eight venues, an $8,670 average. The company expanded its bittersweet romance “Guinevere” from 10 to 31 screens and saw its gross rise 87% to $102,000. Lions Gate’s single Gotham screen release of cyberpunk pic “New Rose Hotel” occupied an estimated $6,000.

Also figuring in the top 10 was Universal’s baseball romance “For Love of the Game,” with $3.4 million in position seven. Off 47% this weekend, pic emerged from 2,933 dugouts with an $1,160 average. Cume is $28.2 million.

MGM’s “Stigmata” was 10th with $2.3 million. The religious chiller fell 51% for an $1,130 average at 2,045 cathedrals. It’s grossed $44.2 million to date.

Remstar bowed Richard Attenborough’s true life saga “Grey Owl” at 70 Canadian sites to $210,000. Pierce Brosnan stars as the 1930s Native American conservationist who was, in reality, an Englishman in buckskin. It averaged $3,000 and has yet to acquire U.S. distribution.

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