Monday, July 15, 2002

Box office roads lead to 'Men in Black,' 'Perdition'

The Associated Press

        Tom Hanks was outgunned by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith.

        Men in Black II, with Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith saving the Earth from aliens, was the No. 1 movie for a second weekend, grossing $25 million to push its 12-day total to $133.3 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

        Road to Perdition, starring Mr. Hanks as a Depression-era hit man who's an artist with a tommy gun, debuted in second place with $22.1 million, although it played in only half as many theaters as Men in Black II.

        Road to Perdition already is receiving Academy Awards buzz for Mr. Hanks, co-star Paul Newman and filmmaker Sam Mendes, who won the directing Oscar with his first film, 1999 best-picture winner American Beauty.

        The weekend offered a healthy range of choices, including acclaimed adult-oriented films, action movies, comedy and family flicks.

        “This is what summer is all about, creating the widest diversity of choices for the broadest possible audience,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

        The overall box office soared with the rush of newcomers. The top 12 movies took in $130.8 million, up 20 percent from the same weekend a year ago. For the year, Hollywood revenues are running about 20 percent ahead of the record pace of 2001, when the box office hit $8.4 billion.

        Reign of Fire, the Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale tale of fire-breathing dragons, opened in third place with $16 million.

        Halloween: Resurrection, featuring Busta Rhymes and Jamie Lee Curtis in the eighth installment of the slasher franchise, premiered at No. 4 with $12.3 million.

        Mr. Deeds was fifth with $11 million, lifting its 17-day total to $94.1 million. No. 6 with $10 million was The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, starring Steve Irwin in a big-screen adaptation of his wildlife TV series.

        As it did with American Beauty, DreamWorks is rolling Road to Perdition out more gradually than most wide releases, which typically are marketed to maximize business in the first few weekends. It plans to expand Road to Perdition into a few hundred more theaters next weekend.

        “We thought it was different than the normal summer popcorn kind of movie,” said Jim Tharp, DreamWorks' head of distribution. “This is an adult drama, and historically, adults show up in subsequent weeks after they've heard whether the movie was good. We're looking at the long haul. I think we can play all summer.”

        Playing in 1,797 theaters, Road to Perdition averaged an impressive $12,305 a location, compared with $6,923 in 3,611 theaters for Men in Black II, $6,086 in 2,629 theaters for “Reign of Fire” and $6,295 in 1,954 theaters for Halloween: Resurrection.

        Men in Black II is running slightly behind the pace set by the original Men in Black, which had grossed $139 million by its 12th day on its way to a $250 million total. Sony hopes the sequel will hit the $200 million to $225 million range, said Jeff Blake, head of distribution.


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