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Male moviegoers push 'Kill Bill' into first place

The bloody martial-arts homage rakes in $22.2 million. 'Mystic River's' impressive opening sets a record for Eastwood.

October 13, 2003|Lorenza Munoz | Times Staff Writer

Quentin Tarantino's bloody homage to martial arts, "Kill Bill Vol. 1," slashed its way to an estimated $22.2 million over the weekend, Miramax reported.

Clint Eastwood's widely acclaimed drama "Mystic River" grossed a stunning $45,491 per theater in 13 locations for a three-day estimated total of $591,390. It marked a per-theater average record for Eastwood, who has received rave reviews for his interpretation of the somber drama based on Dennis Lehane's bestselling novel.

The impressive opening represents a coup for Eastwood, who told The Times in May that he had a hard time persuading Warner Bros. to make the movie. The picture, which cost $25 million, was a labor of love for the 73-year-old director, whose movie career spans half a century, mostly at Warners.

In other openings, Universal's "Intolerable Cruelty" landed in the No. 3 position with an estimated $13.1 million in 2,564 theaters. The movie, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, is by far the highest opening for the brothers, known for darkly comic eccentric fare, whose average opening is about $2 million.

Paramount's "School of Rock" maintained high marks in its second weekend, slipping to No. 2 with about $15.4 million. The film, which stars Jack Black as a substitute teacher/wannabe rock star, held up very well, dropping about 21% from last weekend. The film, which has garnered great reviews and positive word of mouth, has grossed an estimated $39.6 million so far.

MGM's family film "Good Boy!" posted a decent showing -- $13 million in 3,225 theaters, while Artisan's slasher movie "House of the Dead" opened with $5.5 million on 1,520 screens.

"Mystic River's" platform release (opening in a limited number of theaters before going wider) was a departure for Eastwood and Warners, which releases most of its big movies on a much wider basis.

But Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner, said the company wanted to nurture this film, particularly because of its harsh content. "It is a difficult story to tell, and it has adult content," said Fellman, who over the last 25 years has handled distribution of nearly all of Eastwood's films at Warner Bros. "We felt the movie needed to be discovered."

The film, which opened Wednesday, grossed $779,000 in five days -- an average of $60,000 per theater. The studio plans to expand the film Wednesday to 1,500 screens.

On "Kill Bill," meanwhile, if estimates hold up when more complete figures are available today, the movie will rank as the fifth-best October opening.

The picture, which cost an estimated $65 million, also opened well in London and elsewhere around the world. The majority of the film's U.S. audience was 21-to-39-year-old males.

It is the highest opening for Tarantino and the film's star, Uma Thurman. Tarantino's last picture, "Jackie Brown," opened with $9.2 million in 1997, and 1994's "Pulp Fiction" opened with $9.3 million.

However, because "Kill Bill" has received generally negative reviews, it remains to be seen how well it will hold up. In addition, its incessant violence has prompted some groups to question its receiving an R rating instead of an NC-17. Tarantino himself fueled controversy when he told an interviewer he would encourage 12-year-old girls to see the movie as a demonstration of female empowerment.

"Besides the fact this movie should have been NC-17, it's abundantly clear that Tarantino cares [and knows] nothing about kids," read a letter distributed to media outlets by Jim Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit watchdog group.

Miramax executives said they did not target 12-year-olds in their publicity campaign. "We marketed the movie in accordance" with the standards of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, said Rick Sands, Miramax's chief operating officer.

Among specialized movies, IFC Films' drag comedy "Girls Will Be Girls" opened to $13,850 in two theaters. The Sundance series' "Dopamine" opened in 10 theaters to $23,529, and ThinkFilm's documentary "Bus 174" opened with $8,140 at one New York site.

Moviegoing held its own this weekend despite competition from telecasts of the baseball playoffs, with the top 10 films grossing an estimated $93.9 million, a 23% increase over last weekend and 8% ahead of the comparable weekend last year, box-office tracker Nielsen EDI said, although year to date, the total is running about 2% behind.

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Box Office

Preliminary results based on studio projections.

*--* Movie 3-day gross Total (millions)

*--*

*--* Kill Bill Vol. 1 $22.2 $22.2

School of Rock 15.4 39.6

Intolerable Cruelty 13.1 13.1

Good Boy! 13.0 13.0

Out of Time 8.6 28.7

House of the Dead 5.5 5.5

The Rundown 5.3 40.3

Under the Tuscan Sun 4.8 28.2

Secondhand Lions 3.3 35.4

Lost in Translation 2.9 18.2 Source: Nielsen EDI Inc. Los Angeles Times

*--*

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