Reuters - Michael Douglas has first "Word" at box office

Last Update: 30 September 2001

Source: Yahoo/Reuters

30 September 2001


Sunday September 30, 2:27 pm Eastern Time
Michael Douglas has first "Word" at box office
By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Three new movie releases, led by the Michael Douglas kidnap thriller ``Don't Say A Word,'' helped rejuvenate the lackluster North American box office, propelling total weekend receipts to their highest level in three weeks.

According to studio estimates issued on Sunday, ``Don't Say A Word'' (Fox) grossed $18.0 million, a record sum for the 57-year-old actor. His previous best bow was ``A Perfect Murder,'' which opened at No. 2 with $16.6 million in 1998.

``Zoolander'' (Paramount), a comedy from actor/director Ben Stiller, opened at No. 2 with $15.7 million, followed by fellow rookie ``Hearts in Atlantis'' (Warner Bros.), a supernatural drama starring Anthony Hopkins, with $9.5 million.

The top 12 films grossed about $66.2 million for the three days beginning Friday, up 52 percent from last weekend and up 26 percent from the year-ago period, when football drama ``Remember the Titans'' opened at No. 1 with $20.9 million. Theater takings have been hit in recent weeks by a seasonal paucity of exciting new movies, exacerbated in part by a shuffling of release schedules following the Sept. 11 attacks.

``It does appear that the public is ready to go back to the movies,'' said Wayne Lewellen, president of distribution at Paramount Pictures.

New releases next Friday include something for everyone: ``Training Day,'' a drama starring Denzel Washington as a corrupt cop; ``Serendipity,'' a romantic comedy starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale; ``Joy Ride,'' a horror film; and ``Max Keeble's Big Move,'' a family comedy.

Rounding out the top five this weekend, ``Hardball'' (Paramount) fell to No. 4 with $5.2 million after two weeks at No. 1, taking its 17-day total to $26.3 million. The Nicole Kidman thriller ``The Others'' (Dimension) fell three places to No. 5 with $5.1 million, boosting its 52-day haul to $87 million.

Twentieth Century Fox is a unit of Fox Entertainment Group Inc (NYSE:FOX - news). Paramount Pictures is a unit of Viacom Inc (NYSE:VIA - news) (NYSE:VIAb - news). Warner Bros. is a unit of AOL Time Warner Inc (NYSE:AOL - news). Dimension Films is a unit of Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS - news).

``Don't Say A Word,'' reportedly budgeted at about $50 million, stars Douglas as a New York shrink who must coax a secret code out of a mental patient by day's end in order for kidnappers to release his little girl. Brittany Murphy plays the patient and Sean Bean the leader of the villains.

The movie played well across all demographics, with women under 25 comprising a surprisingly large 25 percent of the audience, said Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder.

``Zoolander'' came in at the higher end of Paramount's expectations and also skewed younger than expected, said Paramount's Lewellen. The film reportedly cost $28 million to make, and Lewellen said it would be profitable. Stiller plays the title character, a dimwitted supermodel caught up in an international conspiracy. His wife, Christine Taylor, and father, Jerry Stiller, co-star.

``Hearts in Atlantis,'' based on a story by horror author Stephen King, stars Hopkins as a psychic on the lam who befriends a young boy in 1950s America. The film's opening was on target, said Warner Bros. distribution president Dan Fellman. Its 37-percent jump in business from Friday to Saturday was the highest among the new releases, he said, indicating strong word-of-mouth advertising. About three-quarters of the audience was aged 25 and older, and women made up 55 percent of ticket-buyers, Fellman added.

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