Monday, March 17, 2003

Other movies just can't bring down 'the House'

Box office

By David Germain
The Associated Press

A rush of new movies could not evict Bringing Down the House from the top spot at theaters.

The Steve Martin-Queen Latifah comedy remained No. 1 for a second straight weekend, taking in $22.4 million and pushing its 10-day total to $61.6 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.
1. Bringing Down the House, $22.4 million.
2. Agent Cody Banks, $15 million.
3. The Hunted, $13.5 million.
4. Tears of the Sun, $8.8 million.
5. Chicago, $7.7 million.
6. Old School, $6.8 million.
7. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, $4.8 million.
8. Willard, $4 million.
9. Daredevil, $3.04 million.
10. Cradle 2 the Grave, $3 million.
The Frankie Muniz teen-spy flick Agent Cody Banks opened in second place with $15 million. Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro's The Hunted, a thriller about a tracker chasing a military hitman gone berserk, debuted at No. 3 with $13.5 million.

The weekend's other new wide release - Willard, starring Crispin Glover in a remake of the 1970s horror tale about a social misfit and his ravenous pet rats - debuted a distant No. 8 with $4 million.

Bringing Down the House, about an uptight white lawyer whose online "girlfriend" turns out to be a black escaped convict seeking help to clear her name, is on track to become a $100 million hit.

"I think this is one of those classic situations where the public is actually moving the needle for us. Voluntary word of mouth, people walking up to friends and saying, `I saw this really funny movie you've got to see,' " said Chuck Viane, head of distribution for Disney, whose Touchstone Pictures banner released the film. "Bringing Down the House is a perfect antidote for what's going on in the world. You go in for an hour and a half and escape from the world situation," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

About 70 percent of the audience for Agent Cody Banks was 12 and younger, and the start of spring break at many schools gave the movie a boost, said Erik Lomis, head of distribution for MGM, which released the flick.

Sales for The Hunted came in on the "low side of what we were looking for," said Wayne Lewellen, head of distribution for Paramount, which released it. The audience was mostly younger males, he said.

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