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Fox snares ’em

'Entrapment' nabs $21 mil; 'Election' a winner

Twentieth Century Fox’s “Entrapment” snared an impressive $20.7 million in its opening weekend, according to studio projections, enough to break the April release record of $20.4 million set by Universal’s “Life” just two weeks earlier.

But despite the Sean Connery-Catherine Zeta-Jones starrer’s solid bow, overall box office business failed to snap out of it’s pre-summer funk. Total ticket sales were estimated at roughly $62 million, down 2% from the previous weekend and up 2% from this time last year, making it the worst frame so far this year.

Adding little to the weekend’s bottom line was Sony’s teen horror-comedy “Idle Hands,” which grabbed just $1.8 million in 1,611 locations for a slim $1,117 per screen average. The tepidly-reviewed pic about a highschooler-turned-mass murderer probably suffered from the unfortunate timing of its release, less than two weeks after the Colorado school killings.

‘Election’ victory

In its second weekend in exclusives, Paramount and MTV’s dark (but non-violent) high school comedy “Election” scored high marks after expanding into eight additional major markets. The Alexander Payne-helmed pic grossed $242,000 in 14 classrooms, or $17,286 per site. Perhaps even more promising, second weekend receipts were actually up in New York and L.A., where it opened a week earlier, according to the studio.

The Matthew Broderick-Reese Witherspoon starrer’s mainstream appeal will be put to the test Friday, when it widens to roughly 800 screens.

Meanwhile, the studio’s 14-month-old specialized division, Paramount Classics, made its long-awaited debut with the gay-themed British high school drama “Get Real.” The pic grossed $55,000 in six locations (four in L.A. and two in New York) or $9,166 per screen. Predictably, “Get Real” performed better in arthouses than mainstream complexes on both coasts.

The niche arm plans a “slow and steady” platform rollout for the pic in coming weeks, according to co-president David Dinerstein.

‘Entrapment’ captures all

Auds for “Entrapment” skewed slightly male (54% to 46%) and older (60% of those in attendance were over 25). But the thriller attracted a wide range of demographic groups, including minorities, according to Tom Sherak, chairman of the 20th Domestic Film Group. Sherak said he was confident that “Entrapment” would serve as worthy counterprogramming to LucasFilm’s “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace,” which Fox will release in just over two weeks.

Among holdovers, veterans generally fared better than recent releases as Warner Bros.’ “The Matrix,” Fox’s “Never Been Kissed,” WB’s Analyze This” Buena Vista’s “10 Things I Hate About You” all enjoyed moderate dropoffs in the vicinity of 30%, whereas last week’s openers, Fox’s “Pushing Tin” and Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros.’ “Lost & Found” plummeted 64% and 58%, respectively.

Neither of the sophomore releases is likely to top $10 million domestically, which will translate into losses for their respective financiers. The shortfall will be worse for “Tin,” which cost roughly $33 million to make, than for “Lost & Found,” which was produced for a relatively modest $13 million.

Miramax and Alliance Atlantis’ sophomore “eXistenZ” also saw a big erosion of support, dropping 54% to $375,000 in 256 theaters. Cume is $1.6 million.

‘Seasons’ in the sun

In the specialized arena, Sony Pictures Classic’s “The Winslow Boy” bowed to $86,000 in six theaters in Gotham and L.A. That gives the David Mamet helmed period drama a $14,333 per screen average. October’s “Three Seasons,” which won both audience and jury prizes at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, grossed $45,000 in three theaters, or $15,000 per site.

The first American film shot entirely in Vietnam, “Three Seasons” performed particularly well in its two L.A. runs, said October distribution chief Jack Foley. While L.A. is not normally a great market for foreign language fare, the area’s large Vietnamese population may have been a factor in the strong turnout.

Miramax’s transvestite thriller “Heaven” appears headed for a quick video afterlife: It grossed just $1,500 in a single L.A. run.