‘Truman’ wins second term

Carrey, 'Days' debut score big despite NBA Finals

HOLLYWOOD — Despite intense competition from the fifth and sixth games of the NBA finals, North American movie theaters scored big over the weekend, led by Paramount’s “The Truman Show” and a key assist from Buena Vista’s “Six Days, Seven Nights.”

“Truman” racked up a studio-estimated $20.1 million in its second period, down 36% from its powerful debut a week earlier.

The drop would have been considerably steeper if Paramount had not added nearly 550 engagements to the film’s run.

The Peter Weir-helmed picture now looks likely to finish somewhere between $110 million and $120 million, domestically.

In second place, the romantic comedy “Six Days, Seven Nights” booked a solid $16 million in 2,550 resorts for a sunny $6,275 average.

“It looks to me like we’re off to a really good start,” said BV distribution president Phil Barlow.

Indeed, going into the weekend, many industryites had expressed skepticism about the Ivan Reitman-helmed film’s commercial prospects. For starters, reviews were mixed for the picture, which stars Harrison Ford and Anne Heche as attractive opposites stranded on a tropical island.

There also was speculation as to whether audiences would accept Heche and Ford as lovers, given the actress’ widely publicized relationship with Ellen DeGeneres. And Ford, arguably the biggest action star of the late 20th century, has had mixed success at the box office with non-action roles. His last romantic comedy outing, “Sabrina,” opened to just $5.6 million, topping out at $53.7 million.

While final exit-poll data was not available, preliminary data indicate the film is skewing slightly female, as would be expected for a romantic comedy. Viewers over 25 appeared to be outnumbering younger auds.

Teenage girls were clearly the driving force behind the opening of Sony’s high school sex comedy “Can’t Hardly Wait.” The film, which stars teen idol Jennifer Love Hewitt, picked up $8.2 million in 1,987 locations for a sturdy $4,128 average.

Apparently unscathed by Friday’s basketball game, the film got off to a strong opening day. However, instead of enjoying the usual Saturday bump, the picture actually dropped about 14% on its second, not a good sign for its long-term prospects.

However, given the decent opening and a reported negative cost of just $13 million, “Can’t Hardly Wait” can’t hardly lose in the end.

The same could not be said for MGM’s “Dirty Work,” another youth-oriented comedy making its debut over the weekend. The Norm Macdonald-starrer found just $3.6 million in 1,776 assignments for a dismal $2,027 average.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros.’ sophomore “A Perfect Murder” landed in third place, dropping just 32% to $11.2 million. After 10 days in release, the Andrew Davis-helmed thriller has amassed a $34.3 million cume.

All in all, total weekend ticket sales were expected to come in at around $90 million, a whopping 38% ahead of this time last year when Fox freshman “Speed 2: Cruise Control” led the frame to a dreary $65 million total.

It appears moviegoers are enjoying the unusually wide variety of product available at the nation’s multiplexes.

The weekend’s top-10 was notable for the absence of one picture. After a stunning six months on the chart, Paramount’s “Titanic” slipped into 11th place with slightly less than $1.2 million. The film, which is already playing discount houses in some locations, has grossed $583.8 million.

Paramount clearly would like to get the film up to $600 million theatrically before it hits videostores in September. At this point, however, some kind of a re-launch will probably be needed to achieve the goal.

A quartet of specialized films vied for upscale moviegoers’ attention over the weekend, with mixed success.

The best of the arthouse openings belonged to October’s Sundance acquisition “High Art.” The picture grossed a projected $48,500 in four theaters, three in Southern California and one in New York, or a $12,125 average per theater. The Gotham engagement, at the Angelika, was by far the most impressive at $26,600.

Less auspicious was Fox Searchlight’s period piece “Cousin Bette” with $76,600 on 14 screens (six markets), or $5,471 per site.

Gramercy’s “The Land Girls” harvested $22,500 in three plots or $7,500 per acre and Fine Line’s “Passion in the Desert” picked up a cool $36,000 in 15 dunes for a soggy $2,398 average.