Curmudgeon astronauts and a mad scientist stormed the box office for the second week in a row. ”Hollow Man” beat ”Space Cowboys” for first place by a hair this weekend scoring $13.05 million compared to ”Cowboy”’s $13.02 million, according to the box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. But even though the Clint Eastwood directed astronaut flick couldn’t rocket past Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi extravaganza in terms of ticket sales, ”Space Cowboys” was far more successful overall. ”Hollow” (which maintained the No. 1 position it held last week) suffered a 50 percent drop in earnings. ”Cowboys,” on the other hand, shot from third place to first, losing only 28 percent of its audience.
The biggest box office surprise this weekend was the decent debuts by newcomers ”The Replacements” (No. 3) and ”Autumn in New York” (No. 4). ”The Replacements” fared slightly better than its studio expected, pulling in $11.04 million. Distributor Warner Bros. said that the football scab comedy managed to draw more women than predicted because of its hunky star Keanu Reeves.
MGM/UA, ”Autumn”’s distributor, elected not to screen the Richard Gere/ Winona Ryder romance for critics – a move that prompted speculation among industry watchers that the film was a bomb. Instead, it scored an estimated $10.99 million at the box office – much higher than some analysts expected. (Tracking firm Reel Source predicted that the tearjerker would earn about $7 million in its opening weekend.) The studio’s head of distribution, Larry Gleason, defended the no preview strategy, saying, ”Our best judgment was that it would have gotten disappointing reviews basically saying that even though it’s beautifully photographed, it’s really a downer,” he told the Associated Press. ”This is a movie that plays to upscale audiences who are most affected by averse reviews.” Meanwhile, Eddie Murphy’s ”Nutty Professor II: The Klumps” rounded out the top 5 with $10.3 million in ticket sales, bringing its 17 day total to $94.1 million.
MGM may have been wise to keep ”Autumn in New York” hidden from critics before opening day, judging by the reaction of EW.com’s readers. Overall, voters graded the ”May December” romance a lowly C+, with the highest marks coming from women (B-) and the lowest from men (C+). Still, some 44 percent said that the movie was better than expected, and a healthy 40 percent said they would recommend it to friends. And star quality still counts: A whopping 64 percent of readers said that they went to see the tearjerker for Ryder and Gere, while ZERO percent said it was MGM’s hokey ”sick chick flick” trailers that drew them in.
”The Replacements,” on the other hand, scored well with EW.com’s readers. On average, voters marked the football comedy a B, much higher than the critics’ overall score of C-. Interestingly, the highest grades for the picket line crossing caper came from women (A-), and the lowest from men (B-). Like ”Autumn,” the gridiron flick seems to have benefited from its reliable stars. Some 67 percent of readers said that they went to theaters to see Reeves and Gene Hackman strut their stuff, while only 11 percent were attracted to the movie by its goofy union busting trailers. Just wait: Next August we’ll be treated to a May/ December football romance about a terminally ill scab. That’s sure to please ‘em all.
To vote on these and other current movies, visit our Critical Mass Movie Poll.