Record bow helps B.O. up, but slightly shy of '99 high

A record Labor Day weekend bow of $15.8 million for United Artists/American Zoetrope’s horror pic “Jeepers Creepers” had distribs smelling a sequel.

“We’re already in talks,” allowed MGM/UA distrib and marketing prexy Bob Levin. “We’re very interested in doing a sequel for a picture like this that performs so well.”

Distrib and co-prod partner Zoetrope hope to snag helmer Victor Salva (“Powder”) to lens a sequel to “Jeepers,” whose supernatural killer sniffs his victims to find good body parts to consume.

“It’s just a good old-fashioned horror picture,” Levin enthused.

Half of pic’s patrons were under age 21 with auds evenly split male-female. Bow repped MGM/UA’s fourth No. 1 opening this year.

On “Jeepers,” distrib paid $2.5 million for all North American rights. That’s less than might be expected with pic’s negative cost at an estimated $10 million, but Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope thus secured a wide domestic opening to kick-start foreign sales in a high-profile way.

‘Rush Hour 2′ is second

No. 2 on the frame — for the fourth consecutive weekend — was New Line’s action comedy “Rush Hour 2″ — with an estimated $11.8 million over four days — and Universal’s laffer “American Pie 2″ was No. 3 with $11.7 million.

As for the “Jeepers” record, R-rated pic’s four-day perf outpaced a previous mark of $9.8 million set by Miramax horror pic “The Crow: City of Angels” in 1996. Last year, frame’s top opener was Miramax fantasy “Highlander: End Game,” which grossed $6.2 million.

Industrywide, weekend hit $118 million, an 11% uptick from the same frame a year ago and a new industry record. Adjusting for ticket-price increases, EDI estimates 2001 fell just short of breaking an admissions record set in 1999.

“We finished strongly,” observed Tom Boyrs, prexy at B.O. tracker ACNielsen EDI. “Labor Day was a nice exclamation point to the summer.”

The only other opener over summer’s final frame — “O,” Lions Gate’s modern telling of “Othello” — finished in seventh place with an estimated $6.9 million.

Distrib covered only a fraction of an estimated $4 million negative cost to pick up the domestic rights. Release was delayed over concerns about youth-violence content.

Marketing challenge

“We’re very happy with the (opening) number,” Lions Gate distrib topper Tom Ortenberg said. “It’s a challenging movie from some pretty incredible source material that sends the summer out on a very intelligent level.”

Pic played evenly above and below age 25 with auds running 50% male.

Miramax’s “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” seemed unable to build on a core constituency for helmer Kevin Smith (“Clerks,” “Dogma”), as laffer grossed an estimated $6.4 million to mark a 50% fall-off from its opening frame. That repped the biggest Monday-to-Sunday drop among this weekend’s top-10 pics.

In the specialty market, seniors love story “Innocence” from Fireworks/IDP courted an estimated $61,174 over four days from a half-dozen L.A. and Gotham theaters for a frame-best $10,126 per venue and a $128,158 cume.

“Tortilla Soup,” a Goldwyn/IDP laffer, stirred up $925,109 from 220 engagements for a more tepid $4,205 average and a spicy $1.8 million cume.

Fox Searchlight suspenser “The Deep End” dove into another 118 locations for a total 326 and came up with $1.7 million, or a solid $5,330 per site as cume swam to $4.7 million.

‘Ghost’ gross

United Artists’ black comedy “Ghost World” unspooled in another 17 theaters for a total 81 and grossed $539,000 or a fleshy $6,654 per location and a $3.2 million cume.

Miramax’s “Apocalypse Now Redux,” an extended version of the Coppola classic, grossed $500,000 from 81 playdates for a sturdy $6,172 per theater and a $2.7 million cume.

Fine Line’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” measured $300,000 in adding 31 locations for a total 101, for an average $2,970 per venue and a $2.3 million cume.

Artisan’s mob laffer “Made” made another $330,000 from 182 playdates for a $1,813 average and a $4.6 million cume.

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