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Comedy 'Blue Streak' Is Off and Running at No. 1

Box Office: Costner's 'Game' takes second spot; low-budget 'Beauty' enjoys strong opening weekend.

September 20, 1999|RICHARD NATALE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Martin Lawrence talked himself a box office "Blue Streak" over the weekend as young moviegoers crowned a new No. 1 film, knocking off the scare pair of "Stigmata" and "The Sixth Sense."

Lawrence's action comedy, which left most critics cold, got a warm reception from the under-25 crowd, both urban and suburban, with an estimated $19.2-million launch. The Sony comedy was the second-best September debut behind "Rush Hour," another action comedy, which opened the same weekend last year to $33 million.

Older patrons, particularly female, turned out for the Kevin Costner baseball romance "For Love of the Game," which slid into second with an estimated $14 million. Universal reports that the audience was 59% female, and it played best in the middle of the country where patrons likely paid little attention to Costner's gripe that the studio cut some choice moments out of the film to get a PG-13 rating.

But the biggest box-office news for the weekend came in a small package. The bloom was definitely on the rose for the modestly budgeted "American Beauty," a dark comedy-drama that had critics fawning and people clamoring to get into the 16 mostly urban theaters where it debuted on Wednesday. The $841,000 opening weekend--the film has taken in almost $1 million since Wednesday--breaks down to $52,563 per screen.

DreamWorks expected the acerbic film about suburban dysfunction to do well in big cities, but it's playing so well it will open wider next weekend, a week earlier than planned. DreamWorks plans to open the film in about 25 to 30 additional markets next weekend.

Still humming along in third place is "Sixth Sense," which after seven weeks is still in double digits, taking in $11.2 million for the weekend; its total is now at $213.2 million. "Sixth" is now the year's second-largest-grossing film, surpassing "Austin Powers" and behind only "Phantom Menace."

"Stigmata" took the predictable second-weekend horror-film plunge, losing more than 50% of its audience, down to a still respectable $9 million and almost $33 million in 10 days. "Stir of Echoes," however, held on a bit better, given its largely older demographic, dropping only 33% to a predicted $3.9 million for a 10-day total of just under $12 million--just about what the film cost to make.

The fall attendance pattern finally set in this weekend with the top 12 films grossing roughly $67 million, less than 3% above the comparable weekend last year, according to Exhibitor Relations.

The rest of the top 10 was made up of older films, some of which are slowly--or not so slowly--heading south. "Runaway Bride" and "The Thomas Crown Affair" continue to feed the romantically inclined. "Bride" is nearing the $145-million mark after two months in theaters, with $2.6 million over the past weekend. "Crown" is almost at $65 million, with an additional $2 million this past weekend.

The Steve Martin/Eddie Murphy pairing in "Bowfinger" got hit by a "Blue Streak" but still managed $1.7 million for a total to date of $63 million. And "The Thirteenth Warrior" is nearing the end of its run with a monthlong total of almost $30 million and $1.5 million over the weekend.

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