B.O. Analysis: Audiences “Rush” to theaters

Adding a little kick to the box office this weekend, New Line Cinema’s Rush Hour 2, starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, raked in $66.8 million its first weekend of release.

The weekend’s gross gives the film the No. 4 opening in history, the No. 3 non-holiday opening, and the No. 1 action/comedy opening in history (edging out New Line’s very own Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, which earned $54.9 million its first weekend). The sequel doubled Rush Hour debut of $33 million in September 1998.

“It was a stunning opening,” Steve Elzer, New Line’s senior vice president of corporate communication, said Sunday. “And the promotional campaign for this film was phenomenal. These guys [Tucker and Chan] were everywhere promoting this thing. Late-night talk shows, Comedy Central. TNT did a great run of the first [Rush Hour]. [Tucker and Chan] even showed up on Regis and Kelly. We’re very pleased.”

Rush Hour 2, which transplants Chan and Tucker in Hong Kong this time around, showed on 4,524 screens in 3,118 theaters, pulling in $21,424 per theater. It is rated PG-13.

Twentieth Century Fox’s PG-13-rated Planet of the Apes, which dominated the box office last week, dropped an astonishing 58 percent, but still earned a respectable $28.5 million. The film, starring Mark Wahlberg and Estella Warren–about a civilization of advanced apes–showed on 3,530 screens, making an average of $8,059 on each.

Bruce Snyder, president of 20th Century Fox distribution, said that Planet‘s decrease was somewhat inevitable.

“When everybody’s in there the first week at the opening…well, you know,” he said.

Nevertheless, Snyder said, the film surpassed the $100 million mark in its eighth day in release. So far, the film has earned an estimated $124.7 million.

Disney’s The Princess Diaries, starring newcomer Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews, grossed a healthy $23.2 million in its first weekend of release. The G-rated film, about an unconventional 16-year-old who’s offered the throne of a small European country, showed on 2,537 screens nationwide.

“Needless to say, we’re very, very happy,” said Elizabeth Wolfe of Disney/Buena Vista Pictures.

Wolf said the film’s earnings were quite close to Princess‘ total cost.

The Princess Diaries was directed by Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman).

Universal’s Jurassic Park III continued its slide down the box-office rankings, coming in at No. 4. The film, about a family stranded on an island of dinosaurs and the scientist (Sam Neill) who must guide them out, took in $12.1 million.

Jurassic Park III, which held the No. 2 position last week, was directed by Joe Johnston (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids). The film’s estimated accumulation thus far is $146.7 million. It is rated PG-13.

The Julia Roberts and John Cusack comedy America’s Sweethearts, released by Sony Pictures, earned $8.4 million in its third week of release, garnering the No. 5 position. About a movie star’s (Catherine Zeta-Jones) sister who develops an attraction for her celebrity brother-in-law, the PG-13-rated film was co-written by Billy Crystal and directed by Joe Roth. It’s estimated earnings have reached $75.1 million.

At No. 6, the perpetually delayed new thriller Original Sin, rated R, continued to disappoint, scraping in just $6.4 million in its debut weekend. Released by MGM, the film stars Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas as lovers caught in a dangerous spiral of mistaken identity. Sin was originally slated for a November 2000 debut and was bumped from February of this year.

Legally Blonde, also released MGM, grabbed the No. 7 spot in its fourth week of release, earning $6.1 million. Starring Reese Witherspoon as a lovesick–yet extremely trendy–young woman determined to earn her Harvard law degree, the film slipped three spots from its No. 4 finish last week, bringing its overall take to $71.6 million. Blonde is rated PG-13.

Paramount’s The Score dropped three spots to No. 8 this weekend in its fourth week of release. The film, which has grossed a cumulative $57.3 million, stars Robert De Niro and Edward Norton as crooks attempting a heist that will afford one of the pair a lifelong retirement. Rated R, The Score was directed by Frank Oz (In & Out).

The Warner Bros. comedy Cats & Dogs scampered to the No. 9 spot–down from last weekend’s No. 6 showing–earning $2.3 million in its fifth week in theaters. Rated PG, the film stars Jeff Goldblum and an army of felines and canines waging a high-tech war on one another. To date, Cats & Dogs has earned a respectable $86.8 million.

Eddie Murphy‘s Dr. Dolittle 2 rounded out the top 10 with a $2.1 million take, bringing its overall gross to $106 million. Twentieth Century Fox’s comedy about a man who’s known to communicate with animals fell from its No. 7 finish last week. The film is rated PG.

Elsewhere, director Francis Ford Coppola‘s Apocalypse Now Redux, which was released in very few theaters, took in a nice $96,000 its opening weekend. The film was shown only in IMAX theaters nationwide, but its earnings suggest fans are eager to see the 54 minutes of deleted footage that Coppola couldn’t work into the original. Starring Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando, the film is about a group of U.S. military officers ordered to eradicate a military outpost overseen by a deranged American colonel. The film is rated R.

The top 12 films this weekend grossed about $164 million, up 14 percent from last weekend.