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'Blue Streak' tops 'Game' at B.O.; 'Beauty' bloom rosy

Columbia’s debuting Martin Lawrence action-comedy “Blue Streak” led the weekend box office with an estimated $19.2 million; Kevin Costner’s third time at the plate, Universal’s freshman “For Love of the Game,” came in second, reporting $14 million.

New releases, including a dynamic limited launch for DreamWorks’ darkly comic “American Beauty,” dominated the span.

“Blue Streak, in which Lawrence plays a thief masquerading as a cop, was hot out of the box Friday. Pic had a sufficient head start on the competition to take the weekend B.O. crown though it only rose 12% on Saturday. “Streak” preemed in 2,735 theaters with a hefty theater average of $7,020. Pic ranked as the second biggest September opener behind “Rush Hour,” which bowed with a $33 million weekend last year.

“Game,” a blend of baseball and romance, had the sort of opening power that should equal the actor’s box office in “Bull Durham” and “Field of Dreams.” It touched all the bases with skill, generating a solid $4,950 average from 2,829 ball parks.

Industry expectations for a buoyant frame boiled down to appealing product whose strength was centered with wildly different viewing segments. “Streak” prevailed thanks to a more youthful core, but the sporting yarn could wind up with a better record as it’s drawing women of all ages. Both films stood in sharp contrast to the spate of supernatural thrillers that prevailed during late summer screen time.

DreamWorks debuted its giddy, macabre tale “American Beauty” to great reviews and near capacity biz, grossing $840,000 from 16 screens in five markets. The contemporary suburban nightmare pic enjoyed a jaw-dropping $52,500 average, which propelled it to 11th place overall. Pic opened Wednesday in three cities, bringing its cume to $1 million, and will expand next weekend to 30-40 markets on a limited basis.

Eternal ‘Sixth’ is third

Slipping into third spot was Hollywood Pictures/Spyglass Entertainment’s “The Sixth Sense,” which seems commercially eternal, adding $11.2 million to its already considerable war chest. The Bruce Willis vehicle dipped just 32% in its seventh week, maintaining a commanding $4,020 average from 2,788 seances. Advancing to $213.3 million, it now ranks as the year’s second biggest grosser.

In its second weekend, MGM’s religious chiller “Stigmata” saw its appeal cut in half to $9 million, which landed it fourth overall. The shocking hijinx generated a $3,100 average at 2,901 confessionals. Pic’s 10-day cume is $32.7 million.

Beating record pace

Weekend business expanded by roughly 3% from seven days earlier and was 2% better than the comparable period in 1998. The three-day period should wind up grossing roughly $79 million. The year’s cume hit $5.4 billion, about 7% ahead of the former record pace of 1998.

The sophomore frame of Artisan’s spooky “Stir of Echoes” dimmed 33% to rank fifth with $3.9 million. The shadowy yarn scared up a $2,010 average at 1,943 haunts. It’s grossed $11.8 million in its first 10 days in theaters.

Leggy ‘Bride’

Paramount’s long-limned “Runaway Bride” was sixth with $2.6 million. The commercially leggy pic held up well in the crowded marketplace, ebbing a comparatively modest 32%. The Julia Roberts-Richard Gere romantic comedy escaped with an $1,090 average from 2,384 venues. Cume to date is $144.2 million.

Also holding well was MGM’s “The Thomas Crown Affair” in seventh spot with $2 million. The romantic caper receded 26% in 1,658 heists for a $1,200 average. Cume is $64.3 million.

Trimark’s French import “Romance” was tops among limited launches with $48,000 from three C-spots. The sexy, serious romp had an eye-catching $18,400 opening. Down a notch with $45,000 at seven locales was Hollywood Pictures’ “Breakfast of Champions,” based upon Kurt Vonnegut’s hallucinatory vision of small town USA. USA Films’ “Sugar Town,” a distaff view of success gone sour in the entertainment industry, earned $40,000 on seven.

Also debuting in the niches was the Miramax docu “Get Bruce” on comedy writer Bruce Vilanch with $22,000 at four; USA Films’ oft-delayed French saga “Lucie Aubrac,” with a solid single of $18,000; and a dull $8,000 for Legacy’s reissue of the 1980 shocker “Caligula” on two screens. The Gotham solo of Goldwyn’s sexual charged “Splendor” failed to spark with a $4,000 B.O.

‘Bow’ breaking

Other top 10 fare was limping badly. Universal’s “Bowfinger” fell 53% to $1.7 million to nab eighth spot. The Hollywood insider comedy sank to a $840 average at 2,023 unspooling and a $63.2 million cume.

Touchstone’s Viking adventure “The 13th Warrior followed in ninth with $1.5 million. Off 50% for the frame, it managed a $770 average from 1,969 expeditions. Pic has grossed $29.3 million to date.

Warner Bros./Castle Rock’s “Mickey Blue Eyes” winked $1.2 million to close out the frame’s top 10. The Hugh Grant mob romance averaged $760 from 1,530 pastarias, slipping 46% from last weekend. Cume is $32.2 million.