Par's 'Jeopardy' edges Col romancer with $13.6 mil

It was another tight race at the weekend box office, with Paramount’s thriller “Double Jeopardy” edging out Columbia’s romancer “Random Hearts” for the top spot. “Jeopardy” earned $13.6 million in its third weekend, and “Hearts” arrived in theaters with a studio estimated $13.1 mil.

“Jeopardy” continued to hold exceedingly well, dipping just 20% in its third foray. The revenge tale was still buoyant with a $4,650 average at 2,913 courtrooms. With a cume of $65.8 million, the Ashley Judd-Tommy Lee Jones starrer looks likely to hit $100 million.

Director Sydney Pollack’s “Hearts,” starring Harrison Ford and Kristen Scott Thomas, played to the hankie crowd, which has been underserved of late. It held a slight lead Friday, but its 31% B.O. bump on Saturday wasn’t enough to sidestep “Jeopardy.” At least initially, its older audience seemed undeterred by underwhelming reviews, ringing up a $4,860 per-theater average. Pic bowed at 2,697 playdates.

In its second weekend, Warner Bros.’ action-adventure “Three Kings” ranked third with an $11.7 million B.O take, and the unusual combo of pyro thrills and political commentary was off only 26% from its opening weekend. The wartime saga averaged $3,980 on 2,942 battlefronts and has grossed $32.4 million in 10 days.

Rising 2% from last weekend, the frame was up 21% from last year’s comparable holiday period; the Columbus Day long weekend should generate roughly $92 million. The year-to-date B.O. haul reached $5.82 billion, 8% better than the pace established one year ago.

‘Beauty’ mark

DreamWorks continued to expand its critically praised “American Beauty,” which placed fourth overall with $9.2 million; the addition of 520 sites resulted in a 13% B.O. boost and had an excellent $7,500 average at 1,226 sites. Pic’s cume is $30.8 million.

Paramount’s ugly duckling comedy “Superstar” bowed with $9 million to nab fifth place. Molly Shannon’s “Saturday Night Live” alter ego Mary Katherine Gallagher grabbed a $4,630 average at 1,943 locations.

Limited and exclusive freshmen provided a couple of very strong launches, including Artisan’s “The Limey.” Tale of a Brit thug who arrives on U.S. turf for some overdue revenge took in $180,000 at 17 hits for a $10,600 average.

Fox Searchlight’s “Boys Don’t Cry” also scored, grabbing $66,000 from two Gotham venues. Based on the true gender-bending story of Brandon Teena, pic expands in New York and opens in L.A. next weekend.

Other bows included a Gotham solo date for Fine Line’s “Julian Donkey-Boy,” Harmony Korine’s Dogma 95 drama, and Spanish Oscar nominee “The Grandfather,” via Miramax, on two New York screens. Pics grossed an estimated $12,500 and $11,500, respectively.

Miramax also added 31 engagements to its Sundance-acquired comedy “Happy, Texas,” which saw a 122% upturn with a $160,000 frame and a $4,100 average.

Still scary

Hollywood Pictures/Spyglass Entertainment’s “The Sixth Sense” slipped 13% to rank sixth with $6.1 million. The spooky sensation averaged $2,190 at 2,784 exorcisms; pic’s grossed $242.7 million.

Columbia’s action-comedy “Blue Streak” shifted into seventh place with $5.5 million. The Martin Lawrence vehicle decelerated 31% and geared up to a $2,040 average from 2,691 speedways; cume is $55 million.

On the road in eighth was Fox’s teen romance “Drive Me Crazy” with a $3.7 million B.O. Dropping 46% in its second weekend, the zitgeist pic averaged $1,660 in 2,234 excursions; ten-day tally is $11.5 million.

Universal”s “For Love of the Game” tied for ninth in the batting order with $2.1 million. Slipping 39% in the standings, it caught an $870 average in 2,414 leagues; pic has scored a $31.5 million gross.

Also ninth with $2.1 million in its sophomore outing was Columbia’s Henson Creature Shop “The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland.” Pic fell 35% for a $1,740 average from 1,210 ash cans; gross is $6.1 million.

In Canada, Alliance’s kid lit classic “Jacob Two-Two” was shelved with about $30,000 from 32 reporting engagements for a $940 average.

Frame was light on new releases, but strong holds over the Columbus Day holiday span provided a slight boost from last year. The respite in marketplace competition is only temporary as distribs begin to ramp up for the upcoming holiday corridor beginning next weekend.

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