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'Spy Kids' Defeats Its Nefarious Competition

Box Office: Family feature holds fast; 'Bridget Jones's Diary' makes a surprisingly lively debut.

April 16, 2001|RICHARD NATALE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Spy Kids" soared above a quartet of new competitors to remain at the top of the box-office chart for the Easter holiday weekend with an estimated $12.8 million on 3,172 screens. With many schools around the country in holiday recess this coming week, Robert Rodriguez's family adventure should add handsomely to its already strong $69 million in only three weeks, with the $100-million mark clearly on the horizon.

Of the four new arrivals, the big surprise was "Bridget Jones's Diary," which, like "Spy Kids," is from Miramax. The studio's plan was to open the film moderately wide on 1,611 screens and allow word of mouth to build. But it's clear that fans of the book weren't in on Miramax's plan and, buoyed by strong reviews, they sailed into theaters in sufficient number to produce a debut of about $10.8 million in the first three days. Universal, which co-produced the film and is releasing it overseas, had even better news. "Bridget," set and made in England though its star, Renee Zellweger, is American, opened in the U.K. on Friday to the best numbers ever for a British production, an estimated $10.4 million in its first four days in only 414 theaters (more than $20,000 per screen). "That's our second-biggest opening in England, after 'Hannibal,' " said Universal marketing chief Marc Shmuger.

The audience for "Bridget Jones" in the U.S. was "women from 18 on up and their husbands and boyfriends, as well as women in groups," said Miramax co-president Mark Gill. Given the strong exits, Miramax is going to push forward onto more than 2,000 screens come Friday.

After the disappointment of the raunchy "Tomcats," Sony Pictures is breathing a sigh of relief over the white-trash comedy "Joe Dirt," starring David Spade, which drew enough young males to place fourth in the box-office derby with an expected $8.2 million in 2,638 theaters and a total of about $11 million in its first five days (it opens Wednesday). The fact that its biggest audience is rural and downscale is, as they say, a no-brainer.

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Fox Searchlight's "Kingdom Come" came in sixth, largely due to being on only 1,111 screens, though it boasted the best per-screen average in the top 10: $6,760 a theater. The African American comedy featuring LL Cool J and Whoopi Goldberg premiered at about $7.5 million over the weekend (and almost $10 million in its first five days), meaning the film has already covered its modest $7 million budget.

"Josie and the Pussycats," however, was a box-office disappointment, given its widespread marketing push and the cult popularity of such TV shows as "Pop Stars." The first weekend was barely a meow with an estimated $5.2 million in 2,554 theaters (and only $7.2 million since its Wednesday premiere). The musical comedy skewed young and female (mostly younger than 17) and was blindsided by the "Spy Kids" phenomenon, which also took its toll on "Pokemon 3," which nose-dived 67% to an estimated $2.7 million in its second weekend and $13 million so far. This is the last of the "Pokemon" feature films and looks to be the weakest.

Of last weekend's other arrivals, "Along Came a Spider," starring Morgan Freeman, is developing into a solid mid-range hit with an estimated $11.3 million in its second weekend in 2,530 theaters and almost $34 million in only 10 days. "Blow," the true-life drug drama starring Johnny Depp, also held on well in weekend 2 with $8 million expected in 2,249 theaters and almost $26 million to date.

Rounding out the top 10 are "Someone Like You" and "Heartbreakers," both of which are running out of steam with an estimated $2.6 million and $2.55 million respectively. "Someone" has grossed about $22 million after three weeks and "Heartbreakers" has tallied around $34.5 million during its first month in theaters.

Even considering that Easter Sunday is traditionally a slow day for movie attendance, the top 12 films pulled ahead of last year's dirty dozen by 13%, according to Exhibitor Relations, reaping more than $78 million.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Box Office

Estimated weekend grosses (in millions):

1. "Spy Kids": $12.8

2. "Along Came a Spider": $11.3

3. "Bridget Jones's Diary": $10.8

4. "Joe Dirt": $8.2

5. "Blow": $8

6. "Kingdom Come": $7.5

7. "Josie and the Pussycats": $5.2

8. "Pokemon 3": $2.7

9. "Someone Like You": $2.6

10. (tie) "Enemy at the Gates": $2.55

10. (tie) "Heartbreakers": $2.55

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