Paramount's "First Wives Club" held a firm grasp on the box-office competition over the weekend for the third week in a row, taking in an estimated $11.18 million and handily outdrawing three movie newcomers.
In three weeks, the spurned-wife antics of Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton have grossed $58.6 million, according to industry estimates.
"This picture is becoming a phenomenon," said John Krier, head of the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Inc. "Especially when you consider that this weekend was down 21% [at the box office] from last year."
The women-get-revenge movie, which cost in the upper $20-million range to produce, continues to buck pricier films with some of Hollywood's top action stars: Bruce Willis and now Steven Seagal.
Warner Bros. "The Glimmer Man," starring Seagal and Keenan Ivory Wayans, was one of the three openers. It was second with $7.6 million while Tom Hanks' directorial debut, "That Thing You Do" for 20th Century Fox, took third with $6.6 million. Disney's "D3: The Mighty Ducks" was in fourth place with $6.5 million.
The fifth and sixth place films were both in their second weekends in the theaters. Columbia's "Extreme Measures" was fifth with $4.1 million. MGM/UA's "2 Days in the Valley" was sixth with $2.3 million.
Willis' "Last Man Standing," in its third week, cornered seventh with $2.2 million. Mitch Goldman, president of New Line Cinema's distribution and marketing, conceded results were helped by sneaks of New Line's "The Long Kiss Goodnight" in about 600 theaters. That film was directed by Renny Harlin and stars his wife Geena Davis.
Columbia's "Fly Away Home," the anomaly family film of late summer, was in eighth with $2.1 million in its fourth week. That film and "Big Night" are becoming the surprise hits for the early fall. "Big Night," a small Orion release about two brothers who open a cafe, has been building significantly on strong word of mouth. It was in 10th place, taking in an estimated $1.19 million in its second weekend.
In the ninth spot was Fox's "Independence Day" with $1.35 million. The year's biggest blockbuster has grossed about $295 million in 14 weeks. It will continue to play in U.S. theaters until it hits $300 million, probably by early November.
Final official weekend figures will be released today.