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Rock's 'Rundown' doesn't have sting of 'Scorpion'

Wrestler-turned-actor's action film opens with an estimated $18.5 million, about half of his last movie's debut. 'Under the Tuscan Sun' shines in limited release.

September 29, 2003|Lorenza Munoz | Times Staff Writer

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's buddy-action movie, "The Rundown," came in at No. 1 this weekend with an estimated $18.5 million, a somewhat disappointing number considering that the wrestler-turned-actor's last film, "The Scorpion King," boasted a $36 million opening in his debut as a leading man, and "The Mummy Returns," in which he played the same character but in a supporting role, opened with $68 million.

Universal executives were quick to point out that they never expected "The Rundown," an adventure film starring The Rock as a bounty hunter who treks to the Amazon to retrieve his quarry (Seann William Scott), to bring in as much as the earlier pictures. Universal predicted "The Rundown," which they say received high audience approval ratings, will hold up well in subsequent weekends.

"Our expectations were in check," said Niki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal. "This is not 'The Scorpion King' or 'The Mummy.' "

Disney's feel-good, female-oriented "Under the Tuscan Sun" opened with decent numbers, bringing in an estimated $9.4 million on 1,226 screens, and its $7,667 per theater average was the highest among the top dozen movies.

Sony reported its Screen Gems horror film "Underworld" brought in an estimated $9.4 million in its second weekend to tie "Tuscan Sun," but rival studios estimated lower figures for "Underworld."

The box office overall was down this weekend, with the top 10 films grossing an estimated $73.7 million, down 14% from last weekend and 17% off last year's comparable weekend, when Reese Witherspoon's "Sweet Home Alabama" set a September opening record with $35.6 million.

And while this weekend was certainly better than the first weekend in September when "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star" opened with $7 million, it paled in comparison to Sony's "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," which premiered with $23.4 million two weeks ago and "Underworld," which brought in $21.8 million last weekend.

Some studio executives are complaining that this year's fall is beginning to resemble summer, with too many movies opening every weekend, giving little breathing room for movies that need time to catch on.

"It's a battle," said Rick Sands, chief operating officer of Miramax Films, which faced its own disappointing returns in Danny DeVito's dark comedy, "Duplex," starring Drew Barrymore and Ben Stiller. The film grossed just $4.4 million on 2,189 screens. Its audience consisted mainly of Barrymore fans, 62% being young females.

Among limited openings, ThinkFilm released the Christian film "The Gospel of John," on 14 screens in four markets in the South and Southwest, taking in an estimated $103,284. Sony Pictures Classics' drama "My Life Without Me," starring Sarah Polley as a woman who decides not to tell her family about her terminal illness, grossed an estimated $43,199 in seven theaters.

And Sofia Coppola's critically acclaimed "Lost in Translation" is holding up well in its gradual rollout by Focus Features, with a weekend estimate of $3.52 million in 488 theaters. The film has grossed $8.4 million and will expand to more than 700 theaters this weekend.

"Secondhand Lions" finished in fourth place with $8.3 million, giving the New Line production a two-week total of $23.5 million. "Cold Creek Manor" was in eighth, earning $4.3 million.

*

(Begin Text of Infobox)

Box Office

Preliminary results based on studio projections.

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

*--*

*--* The Rundown $18.5 $18.5

Underworld 9.4 37.0

Under the Tuscan Sun 9.4 9.4

Secondhand Lions 8.3 23.5

The Fighting Temptations 6.5 20.2

Once Upon a Time in Mexico 5.1 49.1

Duplex 4.4 4.4

Cold Creek Manor 4.3 14.6

Matchstick Men 4.3 30.6

Lost in Translation 3.5 8.5

*--*

*

Source: Neilsen EDI Inc.

Los Angeles Times

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