U.S. retaliation apparently keeps auds from filmgoing

HOLLYWOOD — Many would-be moviegoers stayed home to watch coverage of the U.S bombing of Afghanistan on TV, it seems.

Distribs had penciled in more robust Sunday grosses than usual in projecting three-day box office early Sunday morning. Then, the military campaign commenced.

Normally, distribs assume Sunday box office will roughly equal a picture’s Friday grosses. But they pumped up Sunday estimates this weekend because half the nation’s schoolkids and many working adults were off Monday for Columbus Day and thus seemed more likely to go to the movies than usual Sunday night.

The attack on Afghanistan turned all such calculations into so much fuzzy math, however.

Warner Bros.’ Denzel Washington starrer “Training Day,” the weekend’s top performer, actually grossed just under $22.6 million in its opening weekend. Distrib had estimated rogue-cop drama would arrest $24.2 million through Sunday.

Miramax romancer “Serendipity” bowed in second with $13.3 million — $700,000 less than originally estimated for the weekend. Twentieth Century Fox’s “Don’t Say a Word” suspenser was off $200,000 at $9.8 million and Par’s “Zoolander” $400,000 at $9.5 million.

But not all distribs fell into the Columbus Day trap. Fox’s “Joy Ride” suspenser and Disney’s “Max Keeble’s Big Move” family laffer each managed to finish within $100,000 of their opening-weekend estimates at $7.3 million and $5.4 million, respectively, in fifth and sixth places.

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