B.O. goes Judd, thud

'Jeopardy' tops with $23 mil; 'Jakob,' 'Mumford' sputter

Marketplace competition posed no peril to Paramount’s “Double Jeopardy,” which handily led the weekend box office with an estimated $23.7 million. The frame also saw excellent results for DreamWorks’ first wave expansion of “American Beauty.” So much for the good news.

The span’s flip side included an underwhelming response to the national launches of Columbia’s “Jakob the Liar” and Touchstone’s “Mumford.”

“Double Jeopardy,” the Ashley Judd-Tommy Lee Jones thriller, went out in 2,547 theaters and returned with a hefty per-playdate average of $9,310.

“It’s sort of an unconventional film for women,” said “Double Jeopardy” producer Leonard Goldberg. “Ashley has the kind of role you associate with men. And the women in the audience really connect to this feisty character and get very emotionally involved. We knew from the buzz that the picture would do well, but the response has truly exceeded our expectations.”

Debuting in eighth with $2.2 million was Columbia’s remake of 1975 Oscar foreign nominee “Jakob the Liar.” The World War II holocaust saga had more hope on screen than off with a $1,830 average at 1,200 movie ghettos for the Robin Williams vehicle.

Also debuting with soft numbers was Touchstone’s offbeat comedy “Mumford,” directed by Lawrence Kasdan, with $2 million. The yarn of a small town interloper had a near mute $1,310 bow from 1,452 quiet bergs.

Everything came up rosy for DreamWorks’ “American Beauty” as it expanded from 16 to 429 theaters and finished fifth with $6 million. The contempo black comedy expanded 600% at the box office, playing strong across the board. The film, which will expand in existing markets and add a few others, had a hefty $13,990 average for a $7.4 million B.O. after 12 days in the multiplex.

The three-day span showed a slight 2% boost from seven days earlier and should bring in roughly $82 million. It was up a modest 6% from the comparable 1998 frame. Year to date B.O. climbed to $5.56 billion, still 7% better than last year’s former record pace setter.

Following “Stigmata,” and “Blue Streak,” “Jeopardy” marks the third consecutive week of big openers with increasingly larger opening salvos. Columbia’s second weekend of “Blue Streak” took a 31% hit to finish second with a $13.2 million gross. The Martin Lawrence action hijinx pic accelerated to 2,735 locations and managed a $4,830 theater average. In its first 10 days in release, the pic has a $37.7 million cume.

Hollywood Pictures/Spyglass Entertainment’s “The Sixth Sense” held third with $8.5 million. It’s segued into fall remarkably and dipped just 23% from last weekend. The psychic thriller generated a $3,060 average from 2,791 close contacts. It’s grossed $225.1 million to date.

Universal’s “For Love of the Game” slid to fourth in the standings with $6.6 million. The Kevin Costner baseball romance was losing its fan base rapidly, sinking 49% from its opening drive. Pic had a $2,310 average at 2,854 stadiums. Its 10-day cume is $23.2 million.

Limited preems were a pale shade of “Beauty.” New Line’s droll romance “Dog Park” curbed no better than a dreary $170,000. It bowed at 512 kennels for a $330 average. Debuting at 504 sites, Independent Artists’ Dennis Rodman actioner “Simon Sez” was slow on response with a $136,000 B.O. That translated into only a $270 average.

Still casting a spell in sixth was MGM’s “Stigmata” with a $4.3 million frame. The “Exorcist”-style thriller ebbed 53% for a $1,520 average at 2,854 interventions, bringing its cume to $40.2 million.

Artisan’s “Stir of Echoes” trod similar unhallowed ground in seventh with $2.3 million. Declining 47%, the psychic malevolence eked out a $1,210 average from 1,897 encounters. It’s grossed $15.6 million to date.

Regional and exclusive pics preemed with good to disappointing results. MGM’s oft-delayed inspirational historic saga “One Man’s Hero” went out on 52 screens and grossed $90,000 for a $1,730 average. Miramax’s U.S. indie pickup “Guinevere,” a story of cross-generational love, had fair results with a $55,000 B.O. from 10 screens. Stratosphere’s German import “Bandits” had a light haul of $5,000 for three convenience cinemas.

Paramount’s “Runaway Bride” married $1.6 million. Down 39% for the span, it escaped with an $830 average at 1,870 showers as its domestic cume climbed to $146.5 million.

Fox’s “Star Wars: Episode 1 –The Phantom Menace” added another $750,000 and, combined with its international B.O., ballooned to an $800 million global gross — the fourth biggest worldwide performer of all-time.