Buena Vista leads race as B.O. hits record

September was a big B.O. winner, setting a record for the month with $463 million. That amounted to a stunning 26% rise in box office from last year’s former benchmark and an impressive 22% rise in admissions.

Buena Vista handily took the 30-day market share with a $113.5 million B.O. and 24.5% slice of the pie.

But the frame was more than just a one or two-hit marketplace.

The surprising strength of “Stigmata,” coupled with “The Thomas Crown Affair” holdover biz provided MGM with a slight edge over Universal and Paramount for second place.

‘Sense’ sizzles

In addition to corralling one quarter of the moviegoing dollars, Disney also had the top-grossing title with “The Sixth Sense,” one of the few leading pics that was a summer carryover.

Conversely, niche and specialized biz for September was dominated by continued strong performance by films that opened during the summer. Some notable standouts included Trimark/Motion’s lesbian romantic comedy “Better Than Chocolate” and Eros Entertainment’s Hindi import “Taal” (“Rhythm”), which is approaching a record on the ethnic circuit with a $2 million cume.

Admissions rose to approximately 93.3 million, fueled increasingly by an upswing among twenty- and thirtysomething crowds. That group will continue to set the pace in October, which is light on both teen and family appeal product. The latter sector — despite the recent appearance of studio divisions catering to kids and parents — remains largely a Disney domain.

Following “The Sixth Sense,” the month’s top performers (in descending order) were: MGM’s “Stigmata,” Sony’s “Blue Streak,” Paramount’s “Double Jeopardy,” Universal’s “For Love of the Game,” Paramount’s “Runaway Bride,” Buena Vista’s “The 13th Warrior,” Universal’s “Bowfinger,” Artisan’s “Stir of Echoes,” and MGM’s “The Thomas Crown Affair.”

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