Monday, March 05, 2001

Julia, Brad topple 'Hannibal'

By David GErmain
The Associated Press

        LOS ANGELES — The box office went south of the border as The Mexican knocked Hannibal from the No. 1 spot after three weeks.

        The mob comedy, starring Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini of TV's The Sopranos, debuted with $20.3 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

        The gross-out comedy See Spot Run overcame generally harsh reviews to debut in second place with $10.2 million.

        Hannibal slipped to third place with $10.1 million.

        The overall box office was up again, with the top 12 movies grossing $76 million — a 29 percent increase from the same weekend last year. Theater revenues have risen every weekend this year.

        Despite mixed reviews, The Mexican averaged a solid $6,879 a theater playing in 2,951 cinemas, compared to $3,840 at 2,656 locations for See Spot Run.

        Mr. Pitt plays a hapless mob errand-runner, dispatched to Mexico to pick up a priceless antique pistol. Ms. Roberts, his high-strung girlfriend, is kidnapped by Mr. Gandolfini's gay, lovelorn hit man.

        It was the third straight first-place debut for Ms. Roberts, after Erin Brockovich and Runaway Bride.

        “What this shows is that this woman almost can do no wrong. Comedy, serious roles, she pulls people in,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. “I think people would go to see Julia Roberts no matter what.”

        The Mexican started out as a low-budget movie with modest aspirations, although its budget ballooned to $40 million after Ms. Roberts and Mr. Pitt signed on.

        “Back when we first read the script, we would have been happy with $20 million total in box office,” said Jim Tharp, head of distribution for DreamWorks, which released The Mexican.

        Families with young children made up most of the audience for See Spot Run. David Arquette stars as a mailman baby-sitting a drug-sniffing dog, which has been targeted for a mob hit.

        See Spot Run audiences also got a bonus. Distributor Warner Bros. provided the first trailer for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, one of this fall's most anticipated movies.

        Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures were to be released today.

        1. The Mexican, 20.3 million.

        2. See Spot Run, $10.2 million.

        3. Hannibal, $10.1 million.

        4. Down to Earth, $8 million.

        5. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, $4.9 million.

        6. Traffic, $4.5 million.

        7. Chocolat, $4.2 million.

        8. Recess: School's Out, $3.9 million.

        9. 3000 Miles to Graceland, $3 million.

        10. Sweet November, $2.5 million.


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