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'Panic' leads weekend b.o. as figures keep record pace

10 Apr, 2002 By: Brian Fuson

The box office in North America, while relatively cool compared with the past several weekends -- two of which racked up gains of more than 60 percent each on the comparable periods a year ago -- was still far from cold as the weekend managed an increase of 16 percent on 2001. The total for the 117 films tracked by The Hollywood Reporter was $110.6 million -- marking the eighth consecutive up weekend.

Since the beginning of the year, of the first 14 weekends in 2002, 13 frames have generated more than $100 million each. Last year five of the first 14 weekends grossed a total of more than $100 million each, a testament to the solid product and strong performances from this year's slate.

As a result of the boon at the box office of late, the year-to-date total at the national box office is running 16 percent ahead of last year's record pace. Equally if not more impressive, estimated admissions are in step with the box office and have risen nearly 12 percent for the year-to-date.

Amidst three new wide releases hitting the marketplace this weekend, Sony's Panic Room shut out the competition as it secured the top spot for the second weekend, taking in $18.2 million -- down a moderate 39 percent from its debut. The Jodie Foster starrer has locked up $58.5 million in 10 days.

Panic Room's main competition came from a newcomer from 20th Century Fox, High Crimes, starring Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman. The thriller grabbed the second slot with a solid debut of $14 million. The Carl Franklin-helmed picture from New Regency received strong marks in exit polls as a robust 91 percent graded the film favorably, according to CinemaScore.com, which should help generate positive word-of-mouth in weeks to come.

Not surprisingly, females were the biggest contingent for High Crimes, comprising 57 percent of the audience. The PG-13-rated film played older as 69 percent were 35 years of age or more. The stars of High Crimes were the main draw, as each gleaned 62 percent in the polls as the main reason for attending by moviegoers.

Artisan's National Lampoon's Van Wilder debuted in the sixth slot with $7.3 million from 2,022 theaters. The R-rated comedy about a college student who tries not to graduate, was rated favorably by only 75 percent of those polled. Males outnumbered females with 61 percent, and the bulk of the audience was under 25 years of age with 67 percent. The genre was the main reason audiences came to see the film, according to CinemaScore.com.

The only other wide release this weekend was Buena Vista's Big Trouble, which came in for a landing in the ninth slot with a dismal $3.5 million in its debut. The ensemble comedy, featuring Tim Allen and Rene Russo, was in trouble early as the film's original release date was bumped after Sept. 11 due to a story line that includes a bomb on a plane.

Big Trouble was graded positively by 74 percent of those attending, according to exit polls conducted by CinemaScore. The audience was fairly evenly divided between men and women, and the PG-13-rated film hit most age demographics -- 39 percent were over 39; 16 percent were between 25 and 34, and 45 percent were under 25 years of age.

Family films continued to heat up the box office as Fox's Ice Age chilled in the third slot with $13.6 million -- down a scant 25 percent in its fourth weekend despite losing 133 locations. The CGI-animated comedy, which carries a PG rating, has grossed $140.7 million in 24 days.

Buena Vista's The Rookie held up well in its sophomore frame as it ran home with $11.7 million, off a slim 27 percent from its debut. The G-rated drama, which is based on a true story and stars Dennis Quaid, has scored $34.9 million after 10 days in release.

The two strongest contenders for best picture at last month's Oscars remained in the top 12. Oscar winner A Beautiful Mind, from Universal, was 10th with $2.6 million, upping its cume to $165 million, while New Line's The Lord of the Rings was 12th with $1.7 million, raising its total to an epic $304.1 million.

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