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WEEKEND BOXOFFICE REPORT: 'Training Day' Is Lesson No. 1 for Washington, Warners; 'Serendipity' Bubbles Up to No. 2

8 Oct, 2001 By: Staff Reporter

Warner Bros.' Training Day made a dramaticentrance in the top spot during its rookie weekend at the box office as the Denzel Washington starrer pulled in an estimated $24.2 million during the Columbus Day frame.

The weekend gross for the Antoine Fuqua-helmed picture marks the biggest October opening for Warner Bros. and the second-biggest of the month among all studios, after Universal's Meet theParents, which debuted with $28.6 million during the first three days of last year's Columbus Day frame. It also marks a personal best for Washington, topping Buena Vista's Remember the Titans, which bowed with $20.9 million.

Not to be left on the sidelines, Miramax's Serendipity, a romantic comedy starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale, landed in the second spot with a solid $14 million during its debut weekend. Theone-two punch from Training and Serendipity should help take the Columbus Day weekend to a new high, topping the $99.4 million gross racked up in 1999.

The previous weekend's box office champ, Fox's Don't Say a Word, slipped to the third spot with anestimated $10 million during its sophomore frame, down 41%. The New Regency-produced thriller starring Michael Douglas has taken in about $32.2 million after 10 days. Paramount's Zoolandergrossed an estimated $9.85 million to place fourth during its second weekend, off 37% from its debut. The male-supermodel comedy, co-written and directed by and starring Ben Stiller, has an estimated 10-day cume of $28.7 million.

New arrivals landed in the fifth and sixth slots. Fox's Joy Ride, another New Regency thriller that stars Steve Zahn, Paul Walker and Leelee Sobieski, tallied estimated receipts of $7.4 million in the fifth slot, followed by Max Keeble's Big Move, a family comedy from Buena Vista that earned an estimated $5.5 million.

Warner Bros. was thrilled with the stellar opening for Training.

"What I am excited about is that the film performed extremely well in all markets," Warners presidentof domestic distribution Dan Fellman said. "All segments had excellent reactions to the film."

Even so, Fellman noted that the biggest grosses came from major urban areas. The gritty urban drama, which also stars Ethan Hawke, probably was helped by a preponderance of positive reviews, many ofwhich mentioned Washington's strong performance. "(Washington's) performance places him as afront-runner for Academy consideration this year," Fellman said.

According to exit polls, 70% of the audience for the R-rated film was 25 years of age or older.

Fellman said Training drew a male-female audience ratio of 48%-52%, the female skewing of which he attributed to Washington.

Likewise, Miramax was pleased with the debut of Serendipity. "It's a terrific opening; we're veryhappy with it," Miramax senior v.p. marketing David Kaminow said. "We have a real word-of-mouth picture on our hands." Kaminow added that the previous weekend's sneak previews helped Serendipity.

The romantic comedy skewed 60% female vs. 40% male, with 21- to 39-year-olds as the core age group. Kaminow said the film played well to men and women, and the distributor believes that it will enjoy a long run in the marketplace.

Fox said the moderate debut for Joy Ride was in the range the studio expected. The thriller drew56% females vs. 44% males, and 66% of the audience was under 25 years of age. "It's a quality film that's been sampled enough," Fox president of domestic distribution Bruce Snyder said. "The word-of-mouth should carry the day."

MGM reported promising sneaks from 1,000 venues Saturday for Bandits, which debuts Friday in wide release. According to exit polls, the comedy starring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett drew 80% in the top two boxes, 70% definite-recommends and a 52%-48% male-female audience ratio, while the primary age group for the PG-13 rated film was 25-34. MGM said theaters were filled to two-thirds capacity, and 15% were sellouts.

In the limited-release arena, Sony Pictures Classics' Grateful Dawg opened in three locations andreaped an estimated $15,200 for a stout per-theater average of $5,067. The distributor said it willexpand the release to the New York market Friday.

8X Entertainment's Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 grossed an estimated $819,196 from 338 theatersduring its third weekend, down a slim 20%, bringing its cume to about $3.9 million.

Overall, the weekend box office turned in a solid performance as the Golden Dozen posted an estimated $87 million, up 14% from the first three days of last year's Columbus Day frame.

But all weekend estimates are subject to change because they were based on a normal Columbus Day weekend, before the United States and its allies began air strikes Sunday in Afghanistan against the Taliban regime. News of the strikes most likely will affect moviegoing, promptingsome who had planned to go to theaters to stay home.

The Hollywood Reporter projects the four-day gross for Training at nearly $27.2 million, whileSerendipity should come in at about $15.7 million and Don't Say a Word at nearly $11.2 million.

The percentage drops on all films normally would be slightly better for a three-day frame because of the four-day holiday, which alters weekend moviegoing patterns. Today is a legal holiday in the United States, with nearly 45% of schools out, and Thanksgiving in Canada. But that uptick might be canceled out by Sunday's events.

The four-day estimate for the Golden Dozen is nearly $98 million, up 14% from the total for the top 12 films during 2000's Columbus Day frame. The Hollywood Reporter forecasts the total for all films this weekend at nearly $110 million, up from last year's $98.6 million.

National box office during the week ending Oct. 4 rose nearly 15% from last year's comparable seven-day frame ($99.9 million vs. $87 million), while the year-to-date total holds a 10% advantage ($6.13 billion vs. $5.57 billion). Estimated year-to-date admissions edged up slightly to nearly a 6%improvement on last year's pace.

Other films in the top 10 during the weekend included Warner Bros.' Hearts in Atlantis, which placedseventh with an estimated $5.4 million, down 40% during its sophomore outing. The total for the Anthony Hopkins starrer stands at an estimated $16.8 million.

Paramount's Hardball grossed an estimated $3.7 million to place eighth, taking its cume to about $30.8 million, followed by Dimension's The Others with $3 million. The horror film starring Nicole Kidman has scared up an estimated $90.7 million to date. New Line's Rush Hour 2 took the 10th slot with an estimated $1.8 million, raising its blockbuster total to about $221.6 million.

--Brian Fuson

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