Cop beats robbers–maybe

In the weekend contest between the bad-cop movie and the comic-robbers one, the cop movie won — but just barely, and the outcome could be reversed when the official verdict is handed down later today.

Training Day, in which Denzel Washington plays a corrupt narc, earned an estimated $13.55 million in its second week while Bandits, featuring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett as crooks, earned $13.46 million in its debut. Figures represented actual ticket sales on Friday and Saturday and estimated sales for Sunday.

The results for Bandits, which received mostly good reviews on Friday, were disappointing for its studio, MGM, which had predicted it would earn between $20 million and $25 million. Many analysts had also expected it to be a big winner. MGM blamed the poor showing on fears of an anthrax attack by terrorists.

“People became really attentive to the news [on Friday],” MGM distribution chief Robert Levin told the Associated Press. “People just didn’t want to go out of the house.”

But Exhibitor Relations President Paul Dergarabedian told the wire service, “It wouldn’t just happen to their movie. If there was a scare keeping people out of theaters, it would happen across the board.”

In fact, the overall box office was up 6.4 percent over the same weekend a year ago, although down about 5 percent from last weekend. Two other films opening wide performed according to expectations. The critically scorned Corky Romano earned $9.3 million to place third, and the critically hailed Iron Monkey, an eight-year-old Chinese language film that had originally been released straight to video in the U.S., opened in sixth place with $6 million. In limited release, David Lynch‘s Mulholland Drive got off to a terrific start with about $708,000 in just 68 theaters, while My First Mister grossed $105,000 in only 33 theaters.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. Training Day, $13.55 million; 2. Bandits, $13.46 million; 3. Corky Romano, $9.3 million; 4. Serendipity, $9 million; 5. Don’t Say a Word, $6.8 million; 6. Iron Monkey, $6 million; 7. Zoolander, $5.1 million; 8. Joy Ride, $4.9 million; 9. Max Keeble’s Big Move, $4 million; 10. Hearts in Atlantis, $2.8 million.