Opening weekend B.O. biggest ever for Washington

HOLLYWOOD — Denzel Washington as rogue L.A. cop proved an arresting combo as Warner Bros.’ “Training Day” topped the box office competish with an estimated $24.2 million bow this weekend.

Perf repped topliner’s biggest opening ever, besting the $20.9 million bow for gridiron drama “Remember the Titans” in September 2000.

Miramax romancer “Serendipity” finished No. 2 in the latest sesh with an estimated $14 million debut. Action suspenser “Joy Ride” from 20th Century Fox opened in fifth place with $7.4 million and Disney family laffer “Max Keeble’s Big Move” unspooled in sixth with $5.5 million.

Weekend estimates for the latest sesh were bolstered by the prospect of strong Sunday grosses, with nearly half of U.S. and Canadian schools closed for Columbus Day Monday and many adults off from work. It wasn’t immediately clear what the impact would be as prospective moviegoers became preoccupied Sunday with television coverage of the U.S. military action in Afghanistan.

Industrywide, $93 million in estimated grosses repped a 6% uptick from the same frame a year ago, according to data from box office tracker ACNielsen EDI.

Gains were helped by sturdy soph-sesh perfs from Fox suspenser “Don’t Say a Word,” which finished No. 3 with $10 million; Paramount laffer “Zoolander,” No. 4 with $9.9 million; and Warners drama “Hearts in Atlantis,” No. 7 with $5.4 million.

EDI veep Dan Marks said the variety of openers also fueled sesh improvement. “It always helps when you have a weekend with pictures that appeal to different kinds of audiences,” he said. “It becomes a something-for-everyone kind of thing.”

In a year-to-date comparison, 2001 is now 9% ahead of the same period last year with $6.07 billion in total grosses, according to EDI data.

Despite gritty content, “Training Day” skewed 52% female and drew auds comprised 70% of moviegoers 25 and older. Pic, which cost under $50 million to make, was co-produced by Village Roadshow and Warners and the partners will split B.O. evenly.

“Day’s” preem marked the second-biggest October bow ever after Universal laffer “Meet the Parents,” which opened in the same frame last year at $28.6 million.

“The film performed extremely well in all markets, led by the biggest grosses coming from the biggest markets,” Warners distrib topper Dan Fellman said.

Topliner’s marquee value was a big reason for pic’s success, he added.

Washington capitalizes

“Denzel has an amazing ability to pick successful projects, and we all know his amazing ability,” Fellman said. “People really like to see him work.”

The Warners exec opined that the success of “Training Day” says more about the picture itself than about auds’ appetite for violent fare amid the current emotional times. “Good movies rise to the occasion,” Fellman observed.

Topliner’s appeal “sets the movie apart from anything that might be considered exploitation,” he added.

“Serendipity,” produced for an estimated $28 million, skewed 60% female, with the same percentage falling in the 21-39 age range.

“The movie started off strong,” Miramax marketing veep David Kaminow said. “And we know we have a good word of mouth movie.”

“Joy Ride” was a New Regency production for which Fox is getting only a distribution fee, as with “Don’t Say a Word.” Leelee Sobieski starrer opened to auds comprised 56% of femmes and 66% of moviegoers younger than 25.

“I’m pleased that it was sampled enough where word of mouth can have some effect,” Fox distrib prexy Bruce Snyder said.

‘Keeble’ a bit feeble

“Max Keeble,” produced for an estimated $12 million, targeted family demos. But weekend perf fell at the low end of pre-frame expectations.

Among limited bows, Sony Classic’s music docu “Grateful Dawg” grossed $15,200 in three L.A. and Bay Area theaters. That repped a solid $5,066 per venue a week before pic expands to Gotham and some other cities.

MGM was pleased with 1,000 sneaks of “Bandits,” a heist laffer starring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett. Pic — which opens wide next weekend along with Disney’s “Corky Romano” laffer — drew a core audience aged 25-34, with sneaks skewing 52% male.

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