'Sense' slips to second; 'Stir' in mix

MGM’s “Stigmata” terrified the domestic box office with an estimated $19.3 million over the weekend. The frame also included two other freshman pics, which bowed to mixed results, some strong holdover titles and a couple of hot sneak previews that bolstered overall business.

“Stigmata,” a religious-themed chiller involving a rosary with apocalyptic power, stormed into the marketplace with a significant lead on summer B.O. phenom “The Sixth Sense,” from Hollywood Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment. “Stigmata” had a modest Friday to Saturday boost of 4% with the studio optimistically predicting minimal Sunday erosion. However, even with a more precipitous descent, the film has a lock on the top spot; the horror saga debuted in 2,899 confessionals with an ominous per theater average of $6,660.

“Sense” weathered both competition and seasonal filmgoing erosion better than any other film in the marketpace, receding just 26% to land in the second spot. Pic continued with a potent $6,120 average at 2,782 theaters and finished the span with a $198.2 cume. It will cross the $200 mil mark on Tuesday.

Ranking third was Artisan’s incoming “Stir of Echoes” with a reported $6.2 million. Yet another supernatural thriller, it faired reasonably well in its debut in 1,888 locations that translated into a $3,280 average.

Also premiering nationally was fledgling distrib International Artists unromantic comedy “Love Stinks,” which finished out of the money with a $1 million frame. Despite an aggressive campaign, sneaks and a solid promotional push, the yarn failed to spark commercially; it averaged just $780 from 1,325 engagements.

Weekend biz should ascend to roughly $77 million, a whopping 44% increase from 1998. Through Sunday, the year’s box office rose to $5.33 billion, almost 7% better than the comparable cume at this point one year ago.

Paramount’s “Runaway Bride” continued to show its legs in fourth position with a $3.9 million frame. The Julia Roberts-Richard Gere romantic comedy dipped 42% and taxied to a $1,400 average in 2,773 hangars. It has grossed $140.5 million to date.

Universal’s “Bowfinger” came in fifth with $3.7 million. The saga of a Hollywood outsider who beats the odds received a major assist from studio previews of its Kevin Costner baseball romance “For Love of the Game.” The Steve Martin-Eddie Murphy pic ebbed 36% for a $1,510 average at 2,452 marquees. It’s amassed a cume of $60.5 million.

“Game” hit a long drive in Saturday sneaks, scoring 94% favorable or recommend in exit polls per Universal. Company distribution prez Nikki Rocco said about 71% of the screenings were at near capacity levels and that, in addition to the film’s presumed older audience appeal, scored exceptionally well with young women.

Playing to comparable strength, Columbia’s “Blue Streak” action-comedy with Martin Lawrence unspooled at 828 theaters in Saturday sneaks with an 88% thumbs up from exit surveys. Its strongest auds were young males.

Touchstone’s swashbuckling “The 13th Warrior” was sixth with a $2.9 million gross. The tale of a bygone Viking adventurer succumbed by 57% at 2,283 outposts for a 1,250 average. It has a $26.7 million B.O. cume.

Also reporting a $2.9 million frame was MGM’s smooth romantic thriller “The Thomas Crown Affair.” The art heist caper snatched a $1,570 average from 1,849 exhibition galleries. Down 38% for the frame, The Brosnan-Russo pairing has earned $61.5 million.

New product in specialized and niche sectors was headed by Artisan/Shooting Gallery’s “The Minus Man.” It ventured out on five screens with a $30,000 take. Fox Searchlight’s “Best Laid Plans” mined a similar audience and garnered $24,000, also at five stops and $20,000 from a 17 print break of “White Boys.”

Also debuting was Miramax’s oft-postponed thriller “B Monkey” with $18,400 at five venues. USA Films’ award winner “Black Cat, White Cat” had a tuneful $15,000 from two screens after filching $150,000 via Odeon in Canada. Weekend B.O. for Zeitgeist’s Indian import drama of independence “Earth” were unavailable Sunday.

Warner Bros./Castle Rock’s “Mickey Blue Eyes” finished eighth with $2.3 million. The mob comedy slipped 48% for an $1,140 average From 1,975 offers many couldn’t refuse. It’s grossed $30.3 million to date.

Warner Bros.’ second weekend of “Chill Factor” saw its B.O. temperature cool 58% to $1.9 million and position nine. The yarn of accidental heroes had an icy $740 average at 2,558 deep freezes bringing its cume to $9.6 million.

Artisan’s durable sleeper “The Blair Witch Project” completed the top 10 With $1.6 million. Off 51% for the Session, the spooky saga staked out an $830 average from 1,937 haunts. It’s scared up a chilling $136.2 million gross.

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