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A 'Beauty' of a Weekend for Oscar Winner

Box office * Best picture award pays off; 'Brockovich' hangs on to the No. 1 spot. 'Skulls,' 'Fidelity' debut well.

April 03, 2000|RICHARD NATALE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In the afterglow of the Academy Awards, DreamWorks' "American Beauty" soared about 44% in box office receipts, but the company's new animated film "The Road to El Dorado" had a somewhat less salubrious debut and was unable to wrest the No. 1 slot away from "Erin Brockovich."

"El Dorado's" estimated $12.5-million opening-weekend launch on 3,218 screens was backed by a large-scale marketing and promotional campaign but couldn't attract enough kids or adults to rival DreamWorks' previous animated efforts, "Antz" (a $17.2-million start) or "Prince of Egypt" ($14.5 million).

The weekend's other debuts--"The Skulls," "High Fidelity" and "Price of Glory"--had moderately good to inauspicious beginnings.

Julia Roberts continued her reign as box office queen for the third weekend in a row, as "Erin Brockovich" held strong with an estimated $14.2 million in 2,903 theaters, for a sterling 17-day run during which it has amassed more than $76 million, virtually ensuring Roberts her third $100-million-plus film in a row.

"The Skulls" succeeded in tapping the WB network-friendly audience (it stars "Dawson's Creek's" Joshua Jackson) with an Ivy League debut estimated at $11.4 million on 2,410 screens, despite failing grades from reviewers.

The romantic comedy-drama "High Fidelity," starring John Cusack, landed some of the year's best reviews so far, and Disney opened it on just 1,183 screens to give the hard-to-market film (an adult comedy that looks like a slacker movie) some time to build an audience. First weekend was a promising $6.4 million--an average of about $5,400 a screen, the highest in the top 10.

The Jimmy Smits boxing film "Price of Glory" was down for the count in its debut on 802 screens with an estimated $1.5 million. The pugilistic drama didn't have enough wind even to crack the top 12, meaning that it won't last much past the first round, especially with four new national releases arriving next weekend.

Though there were no real fireworks among the weekend's arrivals, the cumulative strength of the top 12 films lifted the three-day period to an estimated $77 million, according to Exhibitor Relations, just about even with last year.

The Jet Li action film "Romeo Must Die" got waylaid in its second weekend, losing almost half its audience as teens and young adults were presented with more alternatives. Still, with an estimated $9.6 million this weekend on 2,641 screens, "Romeo" is already pushing $40 million and should prove to be one of the spring's better performers.

The same is true to a lesser degree of "Final Destination," which wasn't hurt at all by the arrival of another teen thriller, "The Skulls." Third-weekend grosses slipped only 28% to a still strong $5.2 million in 2,314 theaters and just above $28 million to date.

"American Beauty" climbed to sixth place thanks to the five Oscars it collected last Monday night, grossing about $5.8 million. Now playing on 1,990 screens, "Beauty" has been a beaut since DreamWorks re-released it for Oscar season, having collected more than $40 million in additional revenue since the beginning of the year, bringing its grand total to $117 million.

The distinctly American suburban drama has done even better overseas--almost $140 million to date--and it should end up somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 million worldwide before it hits home video.

"The Cider House Rules," which picked up two Oscars last week, raked in another $2.2 million over the weekend on 1,468 screens, for a total to date of $53 million, more than twice as much as it had in the bank before the Oscar nominations were announced in mid-February.

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