‘Mex’ numero uno

Actioner's bow a $20 mil fiesta; 'Spot' hot

DreamWorks’ “The Mexican” made like a pinata with “Hannibal,” and Warner Bros.’ “See Spot Run” also took a bite out of the MGM/Universal co-production, which slipped to third place after three weekends of topping all domestic grosses.

“The Mexican,” a south-of-the-border hijinks actioner starring Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt, nabbed the No. 1 spot in the latest frame with an estimated bow of $20.3 million.

DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said the three-day estimate was “conservative” based on an anticipated snowstorm on the East Coast and widespread rainstorms elsewhere. But weekend perf, though shy of a personal best for either Roberts or Pitt, came in at the high end of projections, he said.

“We’re very happy with this,” Tharp said. “This started out to be a small movie when we first read the script. Then you had (Roberts) and (Pitt) and James Gandolfini, and you’ve got something much bigger.”

Boffo box office came despite mixed reviews. Pic pairs its topliners romantically but keeps them apart for much of pic. Also, Roberts plays a shriller sort of heroine than usual.

“It was a different sort of role for her, different than some (critics) expected,” Tharp observed. “That’s what turned them off and resulted in some negative reviews, though of course some were very positive as well.”

“See Spot Run,” a co-prod in which Village Roadshow split $15 million in production costs 50-50 with Warners, opened at No. 2 with an estimated $10.2 million in weekend B.O.

“We’re thrilled,” Warners distrib prexy Dan Fellman said. “Parents and kids alike love this movie.”

Auds also gave a “spectacular” response to a trailer of Warners’ upcoming “Harry Potter” movie that played with “See Spot Run,” Fellman said.

Meanwhile, news arrives of the year’s first big theatrical casualty, as 20th Century Fox distrib boss Bruce Snyder confirmed that the studio’s corporate parents will take a charge in their next quarterly results for “Monkeybone.”

The Brendan Fraser starrer, a live action and animation mix produced at more than $70 million, took in only $1 million in its second weekend after opening at a paltry $2.6 million. Cume through 10 days is a disastrous $4.3 million.

“It’s being written down,” Snyder said. “There’s not much more to say about it.”

Industrywide, the weekend left little to complain about.

The weekend, at $88.5 million in total grosses, was 7% ahead of the same frame last year when Paramount’s “The Next Best Thing” topped a weak crop of openers with $5.9 million. In year-to-date totals, 2001 is now 21% ahead of the same period last year with $1.34 billion in industry B.O.

Meanwhile, Warners’ second-week numbers with the Kevin Costner/Kurt Russell starrer “3,000 Miles to Graceland” were again underwhelming at $3 million. The No. 9 perf brings actioner’s cume to a downbeat $12.2 million, but studio bore none of pic’s production costs as a for-fee distributor for producer Franchise Pictures.

“Hannibal,” while falling from the top spot, gobbled up an additional $10.1 million over the weekend. “Silence of the Lambs” sequel pushed domestic cume to $142.8 million.

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