‘Eye’ catches weak B.O.

U's 'Hurricane' puts up a fight

On Super Bowl weekend, the box office winner is often in the eye of the beholder.

Even the word “winner” should be used loosely during this bleak frame that’s widely known as a dumping ground for weak releases. This year proved even more grim than usual, partly due to snow and ice in the East. Overall business dipped 12% from a year ago to about $64 million, according to ACNielsen EDI.

But don’t expect Destination Films to be downbeat. Would-be mini-major claimed a qualified weekend victory with the Ashley Judd thriller “Eye of the Beholder,” which grossed an estimated $6.2 million in its debut.

Universal’s “The Hurricane” and New Line’s “Next Friday” followed close behind with $6 million apiece.

Lowest Bowl champ since ’97

Besides the narrow margin — and the chance that today’s actual totals could shuffle the order — “Eye” is also is the lowest Super Bowl weekend champ since 1997. “Jerry Maguire,” perhaps in sympathy with the outgunned New England Patriots, mustered just $5.9 million that year.

“We felt this weekend would be the best opportunity because it’s not so congested,” Destination prexy Barry London said. He added that women, not the key football demo, comprised 60% of the pic’s audience.

If the weekend numbers hold up, they’ll provide a pleasant distraction for the troubled Destination, whose last release was “Bats” on Oct. 22. “Eye” was acquired from Behaviour about a year ago amid the Judd buzz on “Double Jeopardy.” That Paramount fall release has so far grossed $115 million domestically.

Destination plunges forward

London confirmed that Destination is in aggressive talks with investors about “recapitalizing” the company. He declined to specify whether the new money would take a stake or, as widely rumored, buy out the company.

“There’s a lot of speculation out there but none of it is real yet,” London said.

Speculation is a polite synonym for what U’s Nikki Rocco called Destination’s estimate. The distrib chief insisted “Hurricane” was the real winner. But even if the Denzel Washington biopic fails to snare the top spot, its scant 8% drop is keeping U’s spirits up.

“The picture obviously got a boost from the Golden Globes and people are just now discovering it,” Rocco said.

‘Hurricane’ holds on

Though “Hurricane” is hanging in with a $31.2 million cume, another U pic’s title read like a question for which critics and movie auds had a ready answer.

“Isn’t She Great?” Uh, no.

Pic starring Bette Midler and Nathan Lane finished 16th in its debut frame with $1.3 million. At least “Great’s” average of $1,733 on each of 750 screens was competitive.

Though making no claim to the top spot with “Next Friday,” New Line pointed to its successful expansion into five Canadian markets. Those 44 new screens reported averages roughly double the U.S. level of the three-week-old comedy sequel. Cume is up to $39.8 million.

Elsewhere on the big board, “Play it to the Bone” and Par’s “Angela’s Ashes” both dropped off the top 10 chart after making a cameo last weekend in their wide expansions.

‘Angela’ sags

“Angela” couldn’t translate bestseller book status to the screen, grossing $1.8 million on 611 screens, a drop of 44% from last weekend. “Bone” bagged $1.7 million, off 52%, to bring its cume to $6.2 million.

Disney was able to shrug off “Bone” with two brighter B.O. results.

“Toy Story 2” reappeared on the chart in its 11th frame. Pixar-animated pic did $2.4 million and finds its cume of $234.4 million within half a million of “Beverly Hills Cop,” the No. 19 all-time title.

“Fantasia 2000” saw its cume after a month of release hit $21 million on just 75 worldwide Imax screens. Its 54 North American houses reported a take of $1.9 million, down 6%, for a healthy screen average of $35,570.

But Mouse House subsid Miramax’s “Down to You” continued its downward trajectory. Its decline of 47% was steep given the depressed numbers of last weekend; it was nearly double the dips of other top films.

‘Green,’ ‘Stuart’ stay up there

Warner Bros. enjoyed yet another week in the top 5, as “The Green Mile” registered $4.1 million, not far behind No. 4 “Stuart Little,” which grabbed $4.8 million for Sony. “Mile’s” cume is a striking $115.2 million, despite the pic’s three-hour length and its lack of awards or even a single weekend at No. 1.

Warners is also nurturing two smaller pics, “My Dog Skip” and “The Big Tease.”

“Skip” scored $107,000 in 30 sites, boosting its total to $301,000. WB distrib chief Dan Fellman said the family film will be launched on about 1,800 screens on March 3.

“Tease,” a mockumentary about hairdressers, coiffed $32,000 on four screens in its debut.

Another limited bow, Fine Line’s “The Cup,” took in $35,107 from two Gotham and two L.A. venues. Pic, which first screened last year at Cannes, chronicles the soccer jones of Tibetan Buddhist monks living in northern India.

Fox Searchlight got an 88% bump on “Boys Don’t Cry” thanks to lead actress Hillary Swank’s Golden Globe win. In 17th weekend, pic racked up $150,000 on 34 screens.

Same distrib’s “Titus” lost just 6% of auds, collecting $138,000 in 18 theaters.

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