'American Pie 2' takes box-office cake
By David Germain
Associated Press Movie Writer
LOS ANGELES "American Pie 2" grabbed the biggest slice of the box office, debuting as the top weekend film with $45.1 million, the best opening ever for an R-rated comedy.
Last weekend's top film, "Rush Hour 2," slipped to No. 2 with $31.5 million, pushing its 10-day total to $131.9 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. The movie has almost matched the $141 million that "Rush Hour" took in over its entire theatrical run.
Among other new movies, Nicole Kidman's ghost story "The Others" opened strongly at No. 4 with $13.7 million. The live-action and animated comedy "Osmosis Jones," about a battle between a virus and a white blood cell inside a man's body, tanked with just $5.6 million, coming in at No. 7.
The overall box office continued to surge during a period when big hits from Hollywood traditionally are petering out as summer wanes. The top 12 movies grossed $146.4 million, up 52 percent from the same weekend a year ago.
"This is the strongest home stretch of a summer I've ever seen," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the box office. "I've never seen so many big films one after the next in the dog days of late July and August."
The opening gross for "American Pie 2" was more than double the $18.7 million the original movie took in over its first weekend in July 1999. "American Pie" went on to gross $102.1 million.
"Sequels tend to open very big right now," said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal, which released the "American Pie" flicks. "And we're making better sequels these days."
The sequel reunites Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Mena Suvari and the rest of the original cast for a second summer of gross-out sexual hijinks.
"American Pie 2" topped "Scary Movie" as the best opening ever for an R-rated comedy. It also is the second-best opening ever for an R-rated movie, behind "Hannibal," which debuted with $58 million.
Recent raunchy R-rated comedies for younger audiences such as "Tomcats" and "Say It Isn't So" have bombed, but the "American Pie" movies manage to blend crude humor with likable characters that audiences can relate to.
"It really is like `Animal House' and other movies which became anthems for their particular youth generation," said Marc Shmuger, Universal Studios vice chairman. "I think it truly speaks to both males and females who are growing up or have just gone through it."
Playing in 3,063 movie houses, "American Pie 2" averaged an impressive $14,724 a theater. "The Others" averaged a healthy $8,147 in 1,678 theaters, while "Osmosis Jones" did just $2,419 in 2,305 locations.
Miramax plans to expand "The Others" to about 500 more theaters next weekend. Kidman has earned rave reviews for her restrained performance in "The Others," a throwback to old-style psychological horror films.
"Nicole, I think, will become a serious Oscar contender off those reviews," said Mark Gill, West Coast president for Miramax.
Kidman plays a British widow with two young children troubled by eerie visitations in a creepy old mansion at the end of World War II. Tom Cruise, whose divorce to Kidman became final last week, was an executive producer for "The Others."
In limited release, the film-noir thriller "The Deep End" had a strong debut, grossing $140,487 in six theaters in New York City and Los Angeles for a $23,415 average.
The movie, starring Tilda Swinton as a mother coping with a dead body and blackmailers, will expand to about 200 theaters in 70 markets over the next two weeks.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures are to be released Monday.
- "American Pie 2," $45.1 million.
- "Rush Hour 2," $31.5 million.
- "The Princess Diaries," $14.1 million.
- "The Others," $13.7 million.
- "Planet of the Apes," $13.3 million. 6. "Jurassic Park 3," $7.3 million.
- "Osmosis Jones," $5.6 million.
- "America's Sweethearts," $4.6 million.
- "Legally Blonde," $3.8 million.
- "Original Sin," $3.1 million.