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'Urban Legends,' 'Exorcist' Give Box Office a Boost

Movies * Horror flicks new and old bring ticket sales up from last weekend's three-year low.

September 25, 2000|From Times Wire Services

A pair of horror films took hold of the weekend box office, helping bring theaters' overall take up from last weekend's disappointing low.

"Urban Legends: Final Cut," a slasher sequel about a killer who pursues college film students, brought in $8.8 million in its opening weekend, according to box office estimates Sunday. The re-release of "The Exorcist," directed by William Friedkin in 1973, continued the scare fest with $8.5 million on just 664 screens.

"Horror is a tried and true genre," said Paul Dergarabedian of Exhibitor Relations Co., a box-office tracking firm. "One was just from the old school and the other new school."

"Almost Famous," a film that fictionalizes director Cameron Crowe's teenage days writing about rock 'n' roll for Rolling Stone magazine, leaped five places to No. 3 in its first wide weekend, according to studio estimates. The movie grossed $7 million on 1,193 screens.

Rounding out the top five were "Bring It On," earning $4.2 million for the cheerleader comedy, and "The Watcher," starring Keanu Reeves, which fell from No. 1 with $3.6 million.

The top 12 films grossed an estimated $48.1 million over the weekend, improving on last weekend's disappointing three-year low of $37.9 million. Still, this was the 10th straight weekend that total gross revenue was less than the previous year.

This weekend "proves that movies can still generate enough excitement to get people to go to the movies," Dergarabedian said. "But it's going to take more than one or two movies to turn things around."

Business the previous weekend was hurt by competition from the Summer Olympics and particularly the opening ceremony. But U.S. ratings for the sports extravaganza have not been stellar because of the lack of major stars and the lengthy time delay of the televised events.

Unfortunately for Americans with time on their hands, the studios planned long ago not to go up against the Olympics with their big guns, said box office analyst Gitesh Pandya at boxofficeguru.com. This has created a vacuum, with few films generating a "gotta see" buzz.

Next weekend could be the turnaround that movie studios have been seeking, with Denzel Washington starring in "Remember the Titans," Dergarabedian said.

Sony spokesman Blaise Noto said the studio is pleased that its sequel to the teen slasher "Urban Legends," which made $39 million two years ago, is still drawing crowds. He said production costs for "Final Cut" were around $14 million, and the film is expected to make a profit.

Another new release was "Woman on Top," which appeared in 1,085 theaters and brought in $1.9 million. "The Fantasticks," which was finally released after being shelved for five years, was shown in six theaters for a total take of $24,000.

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