B.O.’s Labor’s lost

Dull summer frame closes down from '99

Universal’s “Bring It On” repeated as B.O. champ over the extended Labor Day weekend, grossing a studio-estimated $14.5 million.

But given the frame’s mediocrity, capping an unusually soft backend of summer, maybe the title should have been “Bring a Yawn.”

Summer 2000 closed with its sixth straight frame in the red compared with 1999. It still wound up as the No. 2 summer of all time, barely edging 1998, but the lack of dynamic titles and the troubles of exhibitors made it an anxious season for most distribs. (See story, page 1.)

The Labor Day frame won’t ease any of those worries. While the Beacon Pictures co-venture “Bring It On” certainly has outperformed, with a 10-day cume of $37 million, nothing else exceeded $10 million.

New Line’s “The Cell” and Warner Bros.’ “Space Cowboys” finished a distant second and third, respectively.

ACNielsen EDI estimated the total business at $98 million, off 17% from the $117.5 million recorded last weekend. Year-to-date, the B.O. is clinging to an edge of less than 1% over 1999.

Only debuts during this notorious dumping-ground weekend were Miramax’s “Highlander: Endgame” and Destination Films’ “Whipped.” Neither made a dent, with “Highlander” snagging $6.4 million and “Whipped” managing just $2.7 million and failing to reach the top 10.

The news won’t get much brighter from here for the two newbies. Labor Day releases tend to have dismal midweek numbers, as kids return to school and adults end vacations.

Averaging $6,095 per engagement during its sophomore outing, “Bring it On” has more than recouped its $10 million production cost. Cheerleading comedy starring Kirsten Dunst buoyed U’s spirits after a seventh-place finish in the summer market-share race.

Elsewhere on the big board, “Space Cowboys” continued its unlikely crawl to $100 million. With a four-day span compared with the prior three-day, Clint Eastwood blue-plate special saw business spike 27%. Cume of $74.2 million has far exceeded projections, and should go at least $20 million higher.

DreamWorks’ “What Lies Beneath” and Par’s “The Original Kings of Comedy” both showed some legs. “Beneath” gained 2% from last weekend, posting $6.2 million to reach $137.5 million overall.

“Kings” rebounded in its third weekend after a tepid sophomore frame. MTV Films production added an estimated $5.9 million, flat compared with last weekend’s gross.

Though it didn’t quite crack the top 10, “Saving Grace” transcended its specialized roots admirably for Fine Line. Stoner comedy added more than 500 runs, reaching 875. Weekend tally of $2.9 million brings cume to $6.7 million and subdued September marketplace should allow plenty more playtime.

Original 255 playdates, Fine Line’s Steven Friedlander noted, gained 22% over the prior weekend.

“An Affair of Love,” also from Fine Line, collected $99,000, or $8,250 in each of its 12 sites.

Still the limited-release standard-bearer, the Shooting Gallery’s “Croupier” kept up its remarkable pace, grossing another $290,000 to boost its cume to $5.3 million.

“Titanic Town,” also from Shooting Gallery, brought in $37,000 from 16 screens.

“Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire,” distribbed by IDP, grossed an estimated $72,000 to reach $92,000.

Paramount Classics’ “Girl on the Bridge” inched closer to the vaunted $1 million mark. Knife-throwing love story added $187,000 to its $841,000 total. Same distrib’s “Sunshine” remains on 82 screens, with a cume through Monday put at $5.7 million.

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