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No. 1 ‘Spy Kids’ Solves Seasonal Slowdown

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Movie attendance, which had been going south over the last couple of weeks, got a boost over the weekend with the arrival of the new family adventure “Spy Kids,” starring Antonio Banderas, from “El Mariachi” director Robert Rodriguez. The $27-million debut in 3,104 theaters not only attracted kids to Saturday and Sunday matinees, but also drew full-paying customers in the evenings. It is one of the better March openings ever, not far below films such as “Erin Brockovich,” “The Matrix” and “Liar, Liar.”

For Dimension, the genre film label of Miramax Films, “Spy Kids” is an expansion beyond its horror (“Scream”) and spoof (“Scary Movie”) films into the potentially lucrative live-action family film arena, which Miramax co-head Bob Weinstein says is seriously underrepresented.

“Even before we came out with this movie, I already committed to a sequel,” he says. “Robert [Rodriguez] has already written it, and when we shoot will depend on whether there’s a strike or not.”

Weinstein credits strong reviews across the country with eliminating reluctance on the part of parents to accompany their kids. And many adults even went solo, with Friday-evening performances largely sold out (the Friday take alone was $7 million). In addition, the film broke through to young teens, who usually have an aversion to anything with the word “kids” in the title.

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The two other debuting films, “Someone Like You” and “Tomcats,” were aimed at the under-35 crowd, but it was Ashley Judd’s star power that gave the former the edge. On 2,345 screens, “Someone” beat back bad reviews to command an estimated $10.3 million in its first three days.

“Tomcats,” the first film from Revolution Studios, former Disney chairman Joe Roth’s new enterprise, seems to have arrived at the tail end of the raunch-comedy cycle. The heavily marketed, R-rated comedy, being released by Sony Pictures, got off to a better start than “Say It Isn’t So” and “Get Over It"--about $6.5 million in 2,617 theaters--but the genre is obviously starting to show signs of serious wear and tear.

Thanks in large part to “Spy Kids,” totals for the top 12 movies climbed more than 11% ahead of last year, to approximately $84.6 million, according to box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

The MGM comedy “Heartbreakers” gave “Someone Like You” a run for its money, holding on strongly in its second weekend, dropping from first place to third with an estimated $8.2 million in 2,751 theaters and a good 10-day total of nearly $23.5 million. The comedy/drama “The Brothers” lost a bit of its footing after a good weekend debut, dropping about 44% to $5.8 million in 1,378 theaters and a two-week total of just more than $18 million.

Two male-oriented vehicles, “Enemy at the Gates” and “Exit Wounds,” continue to draw their primary audience. “Enemy” has taken in more than $34 million in its first three weeks in 1,706 theaters, approximately $5.3 million of that over the past weekend. “Exit Wounds,” which marks the return of Steven Seagal, just topped $41 million in its third weekend, albeit on 2,610 screens--about $5.2 million of that over the weekend.

The Oscars gave a boost to two of the bigger winners, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Traffic,” giving both a boost after almost four months in theaters and taking them both to just under $114 million total. “Tiger,” which picked up four Oscars a week ago, climbed by about 9% to $5 million or so in 1,906 theaters and has grossed about twice as much as any foreign film ever in the United States.

“Traffic,” which also won four Oscars, added $4.2 million over the weekend in 1,673 theaters, up about 7%.

Rounding out the top 10 was “The Mexican,” which got no appreciable help from star Julia Roberts’ best actress win for “Erin Brockovich,” dropping 44% to $2.6 million on 2,047 screens.


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