By the Numbers: Sept. 21

All that Glitters is not box office gold, as Mariah Carey is likely to discover this weekend.

After a forgettable cameo in 1999’s The Bachelor, the songbird makes her starring debut in the Reagan-era R&B fantasy Glitter. Staying close to what she knows, Carey portrays an aspiring singer out to make it big. She has insisted, though, that Glitter is not autobiographical.

A distinct lack of harmony surrounds this vanity project. The first single from the soundtrack, the Cameo-sampled “Loverboy,” shot up the charts only after her new label Virgin Records shopped it to stores at a bargain-basement price. Partly blaming work on Glitter, Carey then reportedly checked herself into hospital for exhaustion in July. Consequently, 20th Century Fox and Virgin Records pushed back the August releases of the film and the soundtrack to mid-September.

Recent history suggests that fans are willing to support such pop divas as Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, the late Aaliyah and, on rare occasions, Madonna when they turn their attention to the silver screen. But the apathy toward all things Glitter seems to run alarmingly deep. The soundtrack landed this week on the Billboard 200 at an unimpressive No. 7, selling only 116,325 copies. Last week’s terrorist attacks certainly affected sales, but rapper Jay-Z still managed to debut at No. 1 by shipping 426,550 copies of The Blueprint.

That Glitter is the sole wide release this weekend should guarantee mild interest from non-fans who have had their fill of Rush Hour 2, American Pie 2 and The Others. Still, Carey should not expect Glitter to live up to its title.

Megiddo, the sequel to the Christian-oriented chiller The Omega Code, will open in a few hundred theaters. Thanks to its well-organized grassroots marketing campaign, The Omega Code managed to make a surprising $2.4 million in only 305 theaters in October 1999. It eventually made $12.6 million. The most recent Armageddon-themed yarn with Christian leanings, this year’s Left Behind, made only $4.1 million. In all fairness, Left Behind hit 860-plus theaters after its highly successful direct-to-video premiere.

Under any other circumstances, a film that opened with a meek $9.3 million would expect to find itself knocked off the top of the box office in its second weekend. But Keanu ReevesHardball should remain the champ by default, just as The Watcher did in September 2000 following a lackluster opening. Stiff competition was expected in the form of Denzel Washington‘s Training Day and Tim Allen‘s Big Trouble, but both were postponed in the wake in last week’s attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Hardball opened with $9.3 million, or slightly more than The Watcher‘s $9 million. Given recent events, the inspirational family yarn about an inner-city youth baseball team should fare better in its second weekend than The Watcher. The critically mauled thriller, inexplicably casting Reeves as a serial killer, dropped to $5.8 million on its way to a total $28.9 million. Hardball‘s total through Wednesday: $10.8 million.

The same cannot be said about The Glass House, with Leelee Sobieski fending off the murderous advances of her guardians. The thriller opened with a tepid $5.7 million and has $6.9 million through Wednesday. The Glass House‘s failure, coupled with last year’s disappointing teen tearjerker Here on Earth, should send the message to the talented Sobieski that she should be more careful about choosing future projects. Then again, her next film is the Duel-like Joy Ride, due Oct. 5.

Despite being a nation in mourning, theaters experienced a 37 percent increase in takings last weekend in comparison to the same time last year when The Watcher was still No. 1. Higher ticket prices partially accounted for the surge in earnings, but the absence of MLB, NFL, college football and pre-season NHL games was also a big factor.

Warner Bros. had planned last weekend to sneak Hearts in Atlantis, but postponed doing so until this weekend. With a lack of new films in multiplexes, Scott Hicks‘ adaptation of the Stephen King novel should prove irresistible to audiences looking for something new to see. It also seems a smart move to generate as much interest as possible in the drama, considering it opens next weekend against Michael DouglasDon’t Say a Word and Ben Stiller‘s Zoolander.

Otherwise, it’s business as usual, with Rush Hour 2 ($212.1 million), American Pie 2 ($136.7 million), The Others ($74.4 million) and Rat Race ($48.1 million) still commanding attention after all these weeks. The Princess Diaries, with $100 million, now stands as the summer’s second-most successful sleeper after The Fast and the Furious.

Fading fast, though, are Jeepers Creepers ($30.5 million), The Musketeer ($18.8 million), Two Can Play That Game ($14.7 million) and Rock Star ($11.9 million).

If anything, the poor response to The Musketeer demonstrates once again that audiences are only so willing to watch a story that has gone through countless incarnations. This perhaps bodes ill for Guy Pearce‘s remake of The Count of Monte Cristo, once scheduled for a fall release but now pushed back to February 2002, a release date that could pit it directly against The Time Machine remake, also starring Pearce, which DreamWorks moved from December to February 2002 following last week’s terrorist attacks.