'Ocean's,' 'Teen' follow Cruise starrer in B.O. race

Paramount’s “Vanilla Sky,” anything but a plain-vanilla Tom Cruise starrer, flew to No. 1 in its first box office outing with an estimated $25 million this weekend.

But observers will have eyes wide open in future weeks to see if challenging drama shows legs of a top Cruise vehicle. Word spread Sunday of wobbly exit scores from patrons of the Cameron Crowe-helmed pic.

Warner Bros. ensemble laffer “Ocean’s Eleven” saw a middling 40% drop in its soph sesh to finish No. 2 with an estimated $23.1 million. Third place went to Sony’s R-rated laffer “Not Another Teen Movie,” which opened at $13.1 million.

Warners’ blockbuster family fantasy, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” finished fourth with a 33% fifth-frame drop to $9.9 million. “Harry” cume flew to $253.3 million.

Industrywide, the weekend’s estimated $94 million in total B.O. repped an 11% downtick from the same frame last year, due to a weakness among perfs in the bottom half of the current top 10.

“We’re really lacking depth,” said Tom Borys, prexy at B.O. tracker ACNielsen EDI.

Record territory

In a year-to-date comparison, 2001 remains 8% ahead of last year at $7.52 billion — a bit curious in a year when there’s still no clear consensus on a single best-pic nom yet.

In fact, the industry surpassed last year’s record annual B.O. with this weekend’s grosses. Whether the year surpasses 1997′s record 1.26 billion in movie admissions depends in large part on a spate of year-end releases yet to bow. “The odds still look pretty good,” Borys said.

“Vanilla Sky” is an adaptation of an earlier Spanish film, “Abre Los Ojos” (“Open Your Eyes”).

“It’s a good opening,” Par distrib topper Wayne Lewellen observed of the “Sky” perf. But he acknowledged thick competish could cause soph sesh woes. An older-skewing pic playing best with females, distrib hopes longer-term forecast for “Sky” will improve once holiday-shopping preoccupations end.

With an estimated production cost of at least $60 million, “Sky” will be measured against the backdrop of mostly boffo results for Cruise pics. But a more telling precedent may be the downbeat perf of 1999′s “Eyes Wide Shut,” a Stanley Kubrick-helmed Cruise starrer that grossed only $55.7 million domestically.

“Sky” co-stars Penelope Cruz (“Blow”); Cruise’s then-wife Nicole Kidman (“The Others”) co-starred in “Eyes Wide.”

Sony marketing and distrib boss Jeff Blake touted “Not Just Another Teen Movie” as repping “Christmas alternative programming” like last year’s successful “Dude, Where’s My Car?” With an estimated negative cost of only $15 million, pic shouldn’t break a sweat to reach profitability in upcoming frames.

Warners distrib prexy Dan Fellman was similarly sanguine over outlook for “Ocean’s Eleven.” Steven Soderbergh-helmed caper pic — whose topliners include George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and Matt Damon — has raked in an estimated $73.3 million in only 10 days.

“Royal” court

Elsewhere this weekend, Disney marked a regal limited bow for ensemble laffer “The Royal Tenenbaums,” grossing $254,000 from five Gotham and L.A. theaters, or an eye-popping $50,814 per venue. Wes Anderson-helmed pic expands to top-25 markets Dec. 28 and wide Jan. 4.

Lion’s Gates’ Oz drama “Lantana” unspooled in a half-dozen Gotham and L.A. locations and grossed an estimated $66,000, or a strong $11,000 per venue. Anthony LaPaglia-Geoffrey Rush starrer will hold bicoastally until a Jan. 18 expansion.

IFC drama “The Business of Strangers” added 29 theaters for a total 37 and grossed $127,899, or an average $3,457. Another 25 engagements will be added next weekend.

Miramax’s “In the Bedroom” — which copped L.A. film crix best-pic kudos this weekend — grossed some $68,000 in six Gotham and L.A. playdates for a solid $11,300 per engagement. Sissy Spacek starrer expands to 50 locations on Christmas.

Distrib’s “No Man’s Land” added L.A. after a single weekend in Gotham and grossed $20,000 from cities’ combined six theaters. Perf was good for a $6,729 average and $52,000 cume.

Miramax’s “Iris” and “Pinero” each bowed in a pair of venues for one-week Academy-consideration runs; “Iris” grossed an estimated $21,000 and “Pinero” $20,000. Distrib’s “Behind the Sun” saw $47,000 from a single L.A. engagement.

Miramax was pleased with its 1,000 sneaks for romancer “Kate & Leopold,” which played to 80%-capacity auds on Friday and Saturday nights. Toplined by Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman, “K&L” unspools in about 2,500 theaters Friday.

Warners’ held 500 sneaks for Jim Carrey starrer “The Majestic,” which drew more than 50%-capacity auds in over 74% of venues. Pic is another among a full half-dozen wide openers set for the upcoming frame.

Highest profile is New Line’s “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.” But even that much-anticipated fantasy will be hard-pressed to tap as many screens as distrib might like in such a crowded sesh.

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