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WEEKEND BOXOFFICE REPORT: Next-Gen 'Musketeer' Captures No. 1; 'Two Can Play That Game' Scores No. 2

10 Sep, 2001 By: Staff Reporter

The sizzling pace of late summer has carried over intoearly fall at the North American box office as new wide releases took the top three spots during the weekend and combined with holdovers to generate what could be a record post-Labor Day frame.

Universal's The Musketeer took center stage as the swashbuckler debuted with an estimated $10.7 million. The Peter Hyams-helmed picture is a fresh take on the Alexandre Dumas classic, blendingperiod swordplay with Hong Kong-style action choreography.

Rolling into the second spot was Sony's Two Can Play That Game. The Mark Brown-helmed romantic comedy opened strongly with an estimated $8.3 million from 1,297 theaters, translating to aper-theater average of $6,399 -- highest among this weekend's Golden Dozen.

It was a close race for the third spot as, according to estimates, a slim $10,000 made the difference between two contenders. Although it came out slightly ahead to claim the show position, Warner Bros.' Rock Star hit a sour note at the box office on its debut as the Mark Wahlberg-Jennifer Aniston starrer rocked a modest $6.18 million. Helmed by Stephen Herek, the comedy-drama about an everymanmusician whose dreams come true when he hits the big time played best in college markets and among the 18-35 age group, while 55% of the audience was female.

The previous weekend's box office champ, MGM's Jeepers Creepers, arrived in the fourth slot during its sophomore outing with an estimated $6.17 million, down 53% from the first three days of the four-day Labor Day frame. The scarefest has collected an estimated $24.3 million after 10 days.

But the weekend's best news was that the market performed solidly compared with previouspost-Labor Day frames and could well score a record take. The estimated total for this weekend's Golden Dozen rose an impressive 39% from the total for the top 12 films during the comparable 2000 frame.

The highest-grossing post-Labor Day weekend to date occurred in 1999, when MGM's Stigmata debuted with $18.3 million and the total for all films reached $76 million. The Hollywood Reporter projects the total for all films this weekend in the mid- to high-$70 million range.

Other highlights include New Line's Rush Hour 2 crossing the $200 million mark Thursday night. Following the weekend, total box office for the action-comedy stands at an estimated $206.1 million, a company high. The cume surpasses another successful sequel for the distributor, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, which grossed $205.8 million domestically.

Universal was thrilled with the opening of Musketeer, which the distributor acquired with Miramax in a partnership, splitting the cost and box office grosses from North America and the United Kingdom50-50. The adventure film was picked up for a relatively modest $7.5 million.

"We capitalized on the fact that we had a fabulous trailer that played most of the summer with American Pie 2," Universal Pictures president of distribution Nikki Rocco said. Universal had a film in the top spot during the comparable weekend last year with another modestly acquired film, The Watcher.

"It's a good date to put something in the market," Rocco said. "It's much less competitive than summer and has proved to be successful for us." Males composed 56% of Musketeer's audience, and 57% of patrons were younger than 25 for the PG-13 rated film.

Likewise, Sony was pleased with the performance of Game, which carried a negative cost of $6 million and appears to be profitable for the distributor. The romantic comedy drew primarily young black adult couples, which composed more than 75% of the audience. "It's a fun battle-of-the-sexes comedy that we hope will broaden out," Columbia Pictures president of worldwide marketing anddistribution Jeff Blake said.

Warner Bros. was disappointed with the debut of Star, produced by Bel Air Entertainment, but remains hopeful that it will generate positive word-of-mouth and stay in theaters a while. "I was certainly hoping for more; however, the exits were strong and very supportive of Mark Wahlberg'sperformance," Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman said.

In the limited-release arena, Paramount Classics' Our Lady of the Assassins generated an estimated $55,044 from a slim four venues, averaging a promising $13,761 per theater. The Spanish-language film, helmed by Barbet Schroeder, was met with predominantly favorable reviews and will roll outslowly, the distributor said.

Artisan's Soul Survivors did not fare as well as the thriller debuted with an estimated $1.1 millionfrom 601 theaters. The per-theater average for the Steve Carpenter-directed film was a discouraging $1,830.

The estimate for the Golden Dozen is nearly $63 million, topping the total for all films during last year'scomparable weekend. Watcher was the top film then with $9.1 million, followed by USA Films'Nurse Betty with $7.1 million.

During the week ending Sept. 6, national box office rose 14% from the comparable seven-day period a year ago ($139.1 million vs. $121.9 million). The year-to-date total holds a nearly 10% advantage on last year's pace ($5.76 billion vs. $5.24 billion). Year-to-date admissions are holding steady with a 5%improvement on the 2000 pace.

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