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B.O.: good ‘Friday’

'Green' has mileage as holdovers slip

For the first time since the 1986 debut of the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, a pic aimed squarely at black auds is dominating the extended frame.

New Line’s hip-hop-heavy sequel “Next Friday” smoked weekend rivals after a big Wednesday opening. The comedy racked up a studio-estimated $14.5 million on just 1,103 screens for a stellar $13,146 average. Sony’s “Stuart Little” ended its two-week win streak, coming in a distant second with $9.7 million.

Studios issued three-day estimates on Sunday, but due to the holiday, actual totals for the three- and four-day spans won’t be released until Tuesday.

Universal’s “The Hurricane,” another pic courting black auds, finished third in its initial wide weekend. The Denzel Washington starrer bobbed and weaved its way to $9.1 million. Oscar hopeful’s purse to date is $13.1 million.

Holdovers back off

The breakouts of “Next” and “Hurricane” contrasted with the retreat of many holdovers. New Line’s “Magnolia” slipped off the top 10 chart in its second week of wide release, collecting $3.3 million. Warner Bros.’ “Any Given Sunday” fell from fourth to 10th, declining a sharp 45%.

After three weeks in the top five, “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” a Paramount-Miramax co-production, stumbled a bit. Its $6 million weekend ranked was good enough for seventh. Cume is a stylish $62.6 million.

Sturdiest holdover legs by far belong to WB’s “The Green Mile,” which has defied the odds on the way to a $101.6 million cume to date. The three-hour drama featuring Tom Hanks slipped just 22% in its sixth outing.

Overall B.O. was sluggish, with estimates for top-10 pics adding up to $77.2 million, off 16% from the top 10 in the same frame a year ago. With many schools and businesses closed until Tuesday, though, strong totals were expected for Sunday and today.

The MLK holiday has quietly developed into a B.O. factor. Receipts for the 1998 and ’99 periods spiked up about 20% over the levels of previous MLK frames.

Yet few blockbusters have bowed during the span, and the weekend winners historically have been holdovers with no thematic connection with the holiday. The past four champs: “Varsity Blues,” “Titanic,” “Beverly Hills Ninja” and “12 Monkeys.”

Only in 1986, when “The Color Purple” and “Iron Eagle” held the top two spots, have two pics with black topliners appeal had this much impact.

“Next Friday” was originally slated for a Christmas release. But recording sessions for the hit soundtrack, featuring rappers Ice Cube (who a producer and star of the film), N.W.A. and Eminem, went over schedule.

‘Super’ B.O. wasn’t

With no new B.O. foes to speak of (fellow wide debut “Supernova” from MGM bowed in eighth place), “Next” had an open field. It fed off chart-topping homevid sales of the original “Friday,” which launched Chris Tucker’s career in 1995, grossing $27.5 million domestically.

With a production budget of $9.5 million, the sequel is sure to line New Line’s pockets.

“We look at it as a mini-‘Austin Powers,’ ” said New Line distrib chief David Tuckerman, alluding to another smash sequel that followed a sleeper vid hit.

Tuckerman said “Next” played well not only in core urban markets but even in suburbs without large black populations. Exit polls were to be conducted Sunday night.

“Hurricane” is helping ease Universal’s holiday headache from “Man on the Moon” and, to a lesser extent, “Snow Falling on Cedars.”

The Norman Jewison-helmed biopic about wrongly imprisoned boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter notched a solid screen average of $6,230 — higher than any wide release but “Next Friday.” Pic will likely expand from its current 1,454 sites as awards drumbeat increases.

In an arrangement similar to that on U’s “End of Days,” Beacon Pictures split “Hurricane’s” $38 million production cost and then sold off foreign rights to Disney.

Sony’s “Girl, Interrupted” went from nine screens to 1,902, totaling $8.2 million. Cume of drama starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie is $9 million.

‘Little’ still playing big

Studio’s pet remains “Stuart Little.” Part-animated pic passed $100 million during a meteoric Saturday that saw grosses jump 151% over Friday’s.

Sony distrib chief Jeff Blake now sees final cume around $140 million.

MGM’s “Supernova” supertanked, taking in just $5.7 million on 2,280 screens. Sci-fi pic has been troubled since birth light years ago.

Helmer Walter Hill (“48 HRS.”) removed his name from final cut in favor of the fictional Thomas Lee. MGM board member Francis Ford Coppola edited effects-heavy pic down to a slim 90 minutes.

Lion execs remain upbeat (while pointing out that “Supernova” belongs to an old regime, having been greenlit by former studio topper Frank Mancuso).

A handful of more limited releases showed signs of connecting.

Miramax’s “The Cider House Rules” dropped just 9%, grossing $2.8 million in 817 houses. Screen average of $3,420 is fairly routine, but cume has reached $12.1 million.

The company also relaunched “Holy Smoke” to about $30,000 in two sites. Jane Campion pic starring Harvey Keitel and Kate Winslet posted similar numbers in December during one-week Oscar qualifying run.

USA Films found favor in L.A. with “Topsy-Turvy”; the Oscar run last month yielded a paltry $9,300. But totals soared well higher in weekend relaunch. In six Gotham and L.A. sites, portrait of Gilbert & Sullivan grossed $103,541, or $17,256 on each stage.

Sony’s “The End of the Affair” dropped 16%, summoning $535,000 on 92 screens, for an average of $5,815. Ralph Fiennes-Julianne Moore starrer is slated for 650 runs on Friday.

“Titus” totaled $65,000, Fox estimates, or $3,611 in each of 18 locations. Cume of Shakespearean effort is $252,000.

“My Dog Skip” fetched $45,000 for WB in its five-screen debut. Paramount’s “Angela’s Ashes” equaled levels of first two weeks of release, scooping up $60,000 in six sites.

Most unorthodox limited run is Disney’s “Fantasia 2000,” which is about two weeks into a four-month Imax engagement. It’s the first studio feature to be shown in Imax theaters.

Full-length toon scored an estimated $2.3 million at 54 large-format sites in North America. Aided by higher average ticket price, screen average was $43,379. Pic dipped just 10% and cume is $12.6 million.

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