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Mr. Deeds Spanks Hey Arnold

1 Jul, 2002 By: Brian Fuson

Sony's Mr. Deeds went to town at the box office in North America this weekend as the Adam Sandler starrer inherited an estimated $37.6 million on its debut to easily take the top spot.

The opening for the Steven Brill-helmed romantic comedy proved to be the third best ever for Sandler, after Sony's Big Daddy ($41.5 million) and Buena Vista's The Waterboy ($39.4 million). It was a far cry from his last outing, New Line's Little Nicky, which debuted with $16.1 million and topped out at $39.5 million.

Unlike last weekend's close race for No. 1, where a slim $400,000 separated the top two pictures, there wasn't a film within $15 million of Mr. Deeds.

The only other wide release was Paramount's Hey Arnold! The Movie, an animated feature based on the hit Nickelodeon television show. In the face of a crowded family marketplace, with Buena Vista's Lilo & Stitch and Warner Bros. Pictures' Scooby-Doo having staked out their respective turf, the PG-rated Hey Arnold! could only muster an unpromising gross of an estimated $6 million and place sixth.

The two films that contended for the top spot last weekend switched places this session and the gap between them rose to around $600,000. The animated PG-rated Lilo & Stitch held onto the No. 2 spot for the second consecutive weekend, grossing an estimated $22.2 million, down a respectable 37 percent, upping its cume to around $77.8 million after 10 days.

20th Century Fox's Minority Report slipped from first place into third with an estimated take of $21.6 million, off a moderate 39 percent on its sophomore frame. The Tom Cruise starrer, helmed by Steven Spielberg and co-produced by DreamWorks, has collected roughly $73.5 million since its release 10 days ago.

The PG-rated Scooby-Doo scared up an estimated $12.2 million to grab the fourth slot. The live-action/CGI film was off 50 percent in its third weekend and has garnered an estimated $123.8 million to date.

Universal's The Bourne Identity was in the fifth slot and took the lowest week-to-week drop of the top films. The Matt Damon starrer grossed an estimated $10.8 million, slipping 28 percent in its third session, raising its cume to approximately $72.5 million.

Paramount's The Sum of All Fears became the fifth film released this year and the second of the summer to cross the $100 million mark as the Ben Affleck starrer pulled in an estimated $4.8 million to place seventh. The action-thriller has amassed an estimated $105.3 million.

Executives at Sony were understandably in good spirits over the debut of Mr. Deeds, considering that the film received predominantly poor reviews. "We were hoping for a $30 million-plus opening and to be in the high 30's is great," said Jeff Blake, president of worldwide marketing and distribution. "The Adam Sandler business is a great business to be in," he said. Sony will be releasing Sandler's next three pictures.

Regarding the poor reviews, Blake said, "The audience was mainly teenagers and young adults, and with them, Adam is four stars – the reviews didn't matter. The romantic comedy theme also attracted couples in their twenties and thirties, and there were fewer really young moviegoers." The distributor should be in the black fairly soon on Deeds as the picture cost a relatively low $55 million.

The clearly disappointing performance of Hey Arnold! at the boxoffice had executives at Paramount wondering what happened. "The research indicated the film would do substantially better then this," said Wayne Lewellen, president of distribution. "As to why it didn't do better, we're really not sure yet. But we will be looking into it," he added.

Still, while the opening was lower than anticipated, Lewellen remained upbeat. "Certainly we're disappointed in the opening, but the financial impact will not be that great because in the end we will make money on this picture, just not as much as we'd hoped." The estimated negative cost on Hey Arnold! was in the $5 million area – which is ultra-low by Hollywood standards.

On the whole, it was a solid weekend at the boxoffice as the estimated total for the top 12 films came to $131.9 million, up 12 percent from the comparable frame a year ago when Warner Bros.' A.I. Artificial Intelligence ($29.4 million) was the top film. The Hollywood Reporter projects the total for all films this weekend to be in the high $130 million-to-low $140 million range, up from last year's $126.5 million.

For the week ending June 27, the national box office was up a strong 17 percent from the comparable seven-day period last year ($255.5 million vs. $218.3 million). The year-to-date total is holding steady with a nearly 20 percent improvement on 2001 ($4.41 billion vs. $3.68 billion). Estimated admissions have followed suit as the year-to-date total is up by 15 percent in comparison to last year at this time.

There were several new films entering the market in limited release this weekend. Lions Gate's Lovely & Amazing had the most promising start of the group as the comedy racked up an estimated $96,000 from eight locations in Los Angeles and New York. The film, starring Brenda Blethyn, Catherine Keener and Emily Mortimer, averaged a solid $12,000 per theater. The film expands to roughly 125 runs on July 19.

UA's Pumpkin was also in eight venues in Los Angeles and New York and pulled in an estimated $30,000. The romantic teen comedy from American Zoetrope, which stars Christina Ricci, averaged $3,750 per theater.

Fox's The First $20 Million is Always the Hardest fell woefully short of its title with an estimated $2,354 from two locations, averaging a dismal $1,177 per theater.

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