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Hip-hop cops tops

'Exit' enters with $19 mil; Par's 'Enemy' 2nd

HOLLYWOOD — Warner Bros.’ “Exit Wounds” rode topliner Steve Seagal’s comeback and the sudden marquee draw of rapper DMX to an estimated $19 million and the top spot at the weekend box office.

Perf follows DMX’s year-ago thesp debut in “Romeo Must Die,” also helmed by “Exit Wounds” director Andrzej Bartkowiak. Police actioner, playing in 2,830 theaters, also represents Seagal’s best opening ever, outdistancing the $14 million debut for 1992’s “Under Siege.”

“Steven does a good job,” producer Joel Silver stressed, “(but) this just proved the power of this thing called hip-hop, which is not just urban, not just African American and not just about music. It’s across the board.”

No. 2 on the weekend was Paramount’s “Enemy at the Gates,” a World War II drama about the Nazis’ siege of Stalingrad that grossed an estimated $13.6 million.

Meanwhile, two specialty pics platformed to crossover commercial success reached the magical $100 million threshold for domestic B.O. this weekend.

Sony Classics’ martial-arts fantasy, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” kicked in another estimated $4.1 million in sixth place to reach $100.3 million. And USA Films’ “Traffic” cornered $3.4 million in ninth place for a total $102.5 million.

“It’s a lofty point of view,” USA distrib chief Jack Foley quipped of the rarefied $100 million “Traffic” plateau. “It’s really totally amazing.”

Sony Classics co-prexy Michael Barker credited “special marketing techniques” for the boffo perf of subtitled “Crouching Tiger,” a record success among foreign-language releases. Success in early niche marketing to young males, women and art auds laid the foundation for later broadening to other demos, Barker said.

Among specialty bows, Newmarket’s Guy Pearce starrer, “Memento,” grossed $236,697 from 11 Gotham and L.A. theaters for a memorable $21,518 average. Curiously, Newmarket — producer on DreamWorks’ continuing “The Mexican” — has been forced to self-distrib the amnesia-victim thriller in the absence of majors’ interest in well-reviewed “Memento.”

“The Mexican” finished No. 3 in its third frame, with $8.1 million in estimated three-day B.O. That boosted cume for the Brad Pitt-Julia Roberts starrer to $50.9 million.

Elsewhere, time is quickly winding down on New Line’s “15 Minutes.” The Robert De Niro-toplined police drama dropped a precipitous 59% from its opening frame at $4.4 million.

By contrast, Miramax’s “Get Over It” was off a slim 27% at $3 million. But that Kirsten Dunst starrer still dropped from the top 10 due to a dismal debut the week before.

Total weekend B.O., at $86.2 million, was down almost 7% over the same frame in 2000, when Universal’s “Erin Brockavich” topped B.O. competish with $28.1 million. In a year-to-date comparison, industrywide B.O. for 2001 is still 16% ahead of the same period last year at $1.55 billion.

“Exit Wounds” marks Silver’s sixth consecutive No. 1 opening for Warners, which saw its best March bow ever.

“This is a wonderful comeback for Steven,” Warners distrib prexy Dan Fellman said. Other members of the ensemble cast include ex-athlete Isaiah Washington and leading femme Jill Hennessy from TV’s “Law & Order.”

Auds for the Village Roadshow co-prod were almost evenly split between men and women. “And women gave it an ‘A,’ as well as men,” Fellman cheered.

Paramount vice chairman Rob Friedman said the studio will try to expand its Jude Law-Joseph Fiennes starrer “Enemy at the Gates” by “a couple hundred” engagements after bowing pic in a cautious 1,509 locations.

“It’s a sophisticated movie, and it’s a film that we thought initially would not play in small towns,” Friedman said. Mandalay Pictures led production on “Enemy” in a co-prod arrangement with Paramount. The producer partially financed the pic through foreign pre-sales, including a substantial German contribution.

Exit surveys show “Enemy” auds skewed 60%-40% male, with half older than 25. Older demos were slightly more bullish in pic ratings, which were consistently strong from all auds, Friedman said.

Among limited openers, Warners’ “The Dish,” an offbeat laffer starring Sam Neill, beamed into six theaters in Gotham, L.A. and Toronto for $72,000 and a stellar $12,000 average. Pic, which revolves around an Aussie satellite dish used by NASA to coordinate the 1969 moonwalk, opened Wednesday and boasts a five-day cume of $88,000.

Indian distrib Eros’ first-ever English-language release, “American Desi,” opened Friday with an estimated $306,000 from 38 locations for a strong $8,053 average. The cross-cultural romantic comedy will be looking to add engagements incrementally over the next few frames.

Sony Classics’ Jackson Pollock biopic “Pollock” added 63 theaters at 218 and grossed an estimated $723,392 for a $3,318 average.

Busy frame ahead

Wide bows set for the upcoming frame include MGM laffer “Heartbreakers,” Farrelly Brothers-produced “Say It Isn’t So” from 20th Century Fox, Disney time-warp comedy “Just Visiting” and urban laffer “The Brothers” from Sony Screen Gems.

Execs at MGM — whose “Hannibal” gulped another $3.7 million at No. 7 its sixth week — liked what they saw in a second weekend of sneak previews for “Heartbreakers.”

Some 1,000 sneaks of the Jennifer Love Hewitt-Sigourney Weaver-Gene Hackman starrer won 945 “excellent” or “very good” ratings, with 68% of patrons promising a “definite recommend,” execs said. Theaters were 75% full, with auds skewing 56% female and 58% over 25.

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