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B.O. repossessed

WB's 'Exorcist' re-release trails only 'Urban'

Hollywood was reminded this weekend that it’s often better to re-release the original than open a remake.

Warner Bros.’ reissue of 1973 horror pic “The Exorcist” turned the most heads this weekend. Estimated $8.5 million gross came from just 664 playdates, for a compelling average per engagement of $12,839. Just ahead of it was Sony’s “Urban Legends: Final Cut,” which won the frame with a studio-estimated $8.8 million on.

“There’s never been a movie this old that has come back to find this kind of success,” said Dan Fellman, distrib chief at Warners.

Added “Exorcist” helmer William Friedkin, “I’m thrilled with the way Warners handled it.”

Soft market

Sony distrib prexy Jeff Blake said that while $10 million was the target for the “Urban Legends” sequel, he was satisfied given the softness of the fall marketplace.

“We should be able to get to $25 million or $30 million, so we’re pleased,” he said. Original “Urban” opened the same weekend, in September 1998, to $10.5 million. It finished with $38.1 million.

Blake estimated the sequel’s negative cost at $14 million.

Overall B.O. totaled about $64 million, ACNielsen EDI estimated. That’s $10 million better than last weekend’s three-year low, but down 20% from last year’s comparable period. In 1999, “Double Jeopardy,” “Blue Streak” and “The Sixth Sense” were the top titles — a far more fertile crop than this year’s.

Fall grosses to date are off almost 30% from the 1999 season and have slipped about 1% behind for the year.

Aside from the top two pics, the other wide release of note was DreamWorks sophomore “Almost Famous.”

‘Famous’ rocks on

Cameron Crowe-helmed rocker snared $7 million, widening out from an initial run of 131 playdates.

With $10.3 million in 10 days, pic’s numbers have certainly been solid. But its fortunes remain somewhat murky, given accelerating competish in coming weeks.

“Famous” expands to 1,700-1,900 runs on Friday, vying with Disney bow “Remember the Titans.”

DreamWorks remains upbeat about the future.

“You have to get this movie into the marketplace and let people discover how good it is,” Tharp said. “We went slightly faster with the release than ‘American Beauty’ because there weren’t that many wide releases out there.”

Only other debut was Fox Searchlight’s “Woman on Top,” which finished at the bottom of the top 10 with $1.9 million.

On the limited-release scene, Fine line bowed Cannes prize-winner “Dancer in the Dark” on Saturday, a day after its New York Film Festival preem. Two-day tally on the Lars von Trier pic was $87,000 on three screens, for an average of $29,000.

Fine Line distrib chief Steven Friedlander plans to break the Bjork starrer in the top 40 markets and 100 runs on Oct. 6.

“Saving Grace” pulled in another $710,000 for Fine Line, bringing its cume to $10.8 million. “Affair of Love” added $28,000 to reach $343,000.

‘Fantasticks’ flops

MGM’s “The Fantasticks” wasn’t. Pic opened with $24,000 on six screens.

Lions Gate’s “Under Suspicion,” a remake of 1981’s “Garde A Vue” starring Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman, collected $113,000 from 18 sites in Gotham and L.A.

Universal, whose “Bring it On” is still wooing teens with $55.9 million and counting, ran 177 sneaks of Ben Stiller-Robert De Niro comedy “Meet the Parents.”

Theaters were estimated at 80-90% full, with 61% of auds aged 26-plus. About 52% were female.

Pic launches Oct. 6. It’s viewed as one of fall’s main element’s in the industry’s effort to end a two-month B.O. tailspin.

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