Paramount isn’t exactly dubbing “Rules of Engagement” a 21st century “Titanic.” But the pic held off four debuts and stood strong in a blah frame, which is more than many B.O. pundits expected.
With a studio-estimated $10.9 million for the weekend and $30.6 million to date, two-time weekend winner “Rules” is the highest grosser in decades for vet helmer William Friedkin. (Profit-wise, however, if it performs as expected and reaches $50-55 million domestically, it will rely on ancillary markets to make money.) Pic’s 27% sophomore decline was slimmer than that of “Erin Brockovich” and most other 2000 weekend winners.
Meanwhile, B.O. bridesmaid “28 Days” used star Sandra Bullock to draw female auds. Sony distrib chief Jeff Blake called it a “pretty good opening,” considering the seriocomic plot about a woman going through drug and alcohol rehab.
Over at the Mouse House, “Keeping the Faith” had balanced appeal, and the religious-themed comedy starring Jenna Elfman, Ben Stiller and Edward Norton (who also directed) took in $8.2 million. Pic’s total, adjusted for number of playdates, roughly equaled that of Disney’s other middle-of-the-commercial-road comedy, “High Fidelity.”
Disney distrib prexy Chuck Viane remained buoyant about “Faith’s” prospects, especially with many schools closing this week for Easter and Passover. He also noted exit polls had higher scores for “Faith” than for past Mouse House releases “Phenomenon” and “While You Were Sleeping,” both of which took months to roll up grosses of $104.6 million and $81.1 million, respectively.
“Rules” conquered both pretenders to the throne by appealing to a much older and more male demo. Par distrib chief Wayne Lewellen said pic’s scant drop resulted from healthy skepticism by older auds, especially those in smaller markets.
“People in that kind of area usually wait to go the second week, after someone justifies their going by spreading the word of mouth,” he said.
Impulse ticket purchases were scarce in any part of the country. ACNielsen EDI estimated $83 million in overall grosses, almost exactly the same as last year’s comparable frame.
Counterbalancing bows by “28 Days” and “Faith” were launches of Lions Gate’s “American Psycho” and USA Films’ “Where the Money Is.”
“Psycho” managed a respectable average of $3,964 in each of its 1,236 engagements, but seventh-place showing was a bit soft. Ever since Sundance, auds have been split about the ultra-dark, blood-soaked pic, which initially got slapped with an NC-17 rating.
But Tom Ortenberg, co-head of Lions Gate, said controversy proved irrelevant during the opening weekend.
“Given the state of independent film in America, we’re thrilled we were able to open this kind of edgy film in the commercial marketplace,” he said.
“Money,” starring Paul Newman and Linda Fiorentino, opened overdrawn, with $2.7 million take failing to earn a spot in the top 10.
Comings and goings of the 200-plus releases thus far in 2000 make “Brockovich” all the more noteworthy.
The Julia Roberts drama should become the first $100 million pic of the year on Tuesday, Universal estimates.
On the limited-release front, Miramax’s “East is East” bowed to $52,000 from four theaters, two in L.A. and two in Gotham. On Friday, comedy about Pakistani family living in England will expand to 25-30 sites.
Nearing the end of its unorthodox large-format run, “Fantasia 2000” saw receipts rise 8%, for a U.S. weekend tally of $1.4 million. Cume from 52 locations is $42.5 million. Following four-month large-format stint, feature toon will come out June 16 in 35mm in standard megaplexes.
Fox Searchlight’s “Boys Don’t Cry” is in decline, but should pass $11 million this week. Despite losing 102 theaters — almost one-third of its total — drama pulled in another $357,200.
This B.O. spring has undoubtedly been sleepy. At the end of winter, overall grosses were up 10% from the same point a year earlier. Thanks to a succession of so-so frames, tally is now just 7% ahead.
But a glimpse at the slate over the next four weeks, with pics such as “U-571,” “Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas,” “Gladiator” and “Battlefield Earth,” suggests another redemptive summer is nearly at hand.