Mild ‘Mexican’ tops B.O.

Weekend grosses, including two openers, disappointing

As if to rein in any irrational exuberance over the year’s previously boffo box office, weekend grosses were topped by a ho-hum $12.1 million for DreamWorks’ “The Mexican.”

Estimated weekend perf represents a not-insubstantial 40% drop from the Julia Roberts-Brad Pitt starrer’s three-day bow of $20.1 million.

But even more telling in the weekend’s lack of B.O. wallop were the limp perfs by a pair of wide openers.

The clock’s already ticking on New Line’s Robert De Niro starrer, “15 Minutes,” after it underachieved at $10.5 million to debut in second place. And Miramax’s Kirsten Dunst-toplined “Get Over It” found that moviegoers may be over teen romancers — bowing with $4.4 million at No. 6.

Friday snowfall in some Northeast markets hurt Warner Bros.’ “See Spot Run.” But the David Arquette laffer made up lost ground Saturday and barked up a three-day estimate of $6.6 million, slipping only one notch to No. 3 in its second weekend.

Overall, grosses totaled $75.5 million, representing a 13% drop from a year ago when Disney’s “Mission to Mars” bowed at $22.9 million.

Still, distribs and exhibs have had little to complain about in 2001. Industrywide, year-to-date B.O. is up 18% over the same period last year at $1.44 billion.

Specialty pix struggle

Meanwhile, the weekend also proved tough sledding for some specialty openers.

Miramax’s quirky hairdressing-competish laffer, “Blow Dry,” whose limited release was delayed from a planned fall debut, ran cold in 157 engagements. Its $250,000 bow represents a bald per-theater average of only $1,600.

Paramount Classics’ Sigourney Weaver starrer, “Company Man,” another offbeat laffer, landed with an even louder thud. Critically panned pic took in $9,000 from 103 screens for a bored-room average of $874.

On the other hand, Lions Gates’ “The Widow of St. Pierre,” starring Juliette Binoche, grossed $70,000 from four Gotham and L.A. locations for a boffo $17,500 average and $118,000 cume. Period drama, which saw a single Gotham engagement the previous weekend, expands into more markets over the next two frames.

But a second weekend in limited release proved little help to Universal Focus’ “The Caveman’s Valentine.” Samuel L. Jackson starrer etched $191,000 in 59 theaters for a faint $3,237 average and $339,000 cume.

‘Carman’ staggers

8X Entertainment’s “Carman: the Champion,” a drama about an evangelical Christian boxer, dropped nine theaters in its second round at 223. Pic connected with only $436,613 for a glass-jawed $1,931 and $1.3 million cume.

Sony Classics — whose “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” continues to kick B.O. butt with $4.3 million in new grosses over its 13th weekend — expanded venues for biopic “Pollock” by one-third at 155 theaters. With Ed Harris toplining as the late artist Jackson Pollock, pic drew an estimated $714,645 for a medium-hued $4,611 average and $2.7 million cume.

It’s believed New Line is on the line for production costs in the mid-$40 million range on “15 Minutes.” Spokesman Steve Elzer declined to confirm that estimate but expressed optimism the media-mayhem police drama will sustain a sturdy theatrical run.

“We fully support the movie and think there will be strong word-of-mouth coming out of the weekend,” Elzer said. “We think it will hang in there.”

Miramax execs declined comment on “Get Over It,” whose negative cost is believed in the low- to mid-teens. But perf has to be a crushing disappointment, as it joins the ranks of recent young-skewing underperformers including U’s “Head Over Heels” and Warners’ “Sweet November.”

‘Hannibal’ gorges

“Hannibal,” the “Silence of the Lambs” sequel co-produced by MGM and U, swallowed another $5.7 million in domestic B.O. to swell cume to $151 million.

MGM, which is handling domestic distribution of the Anthony Hopkins-Julianne Moore starrer, offered 602 sneak previews of laffer “Hearbreakers,” set to bow March 23 in 2,400 locations.

Auds skewed 55% female and 54% over 30 for pic, which stars Gene Hackman, Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Reaction was “overwhelmingly positive,” spokeswoman Amanda Lundberg said.

MGM plans up to 1,000 additional sneaks of “Heartbreakers” this weekend. “It’s a great word-of-mouth movie, and that’s how we’re approaching it,” Lundberg said.

Wide bows set for next weekend include Paramount’s “Enemy at the Gates,” a war drama starring Jude Law and Joseph Fiennes, and Warners’ “Exit Wounds,” a Steven Seagal actioner.

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