Keanu Reeves managed to thrill the largest audience as ”The Watcher” topped the box office for a second weekend in a row. But the serial killer flick’s estimated $5.7 million take is the lowest No. 1 gross this year. In fact, the weekend’s overall box office total is the most dismal since Super Bowl weekend 1997, according to tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. The only new wide release, Jamie Foxx’s ”Bait” (No. 2), lured a few more people to theaters (earning $5.5 million) than No. 3 ”Bring It On” ($5.1 million). But that’s hardly enough dough to put smiles on the lips of Hollywood execs waiting for this year’s earnings swoon to pass. Last week’s No. 2, ”Nurse Betty,” dropped to No. 4 ($4.7 million), while that old standby ”What Lies Beneath” crept back up to No. 5 ($2.6 million).
The big winner was ”Almost Famous.” ”Jerry Maguire” writer/director Cameron Crowe’s rock saga opened on just 131 screens but came in at No. 8 ($2.3 million). Despite its critically lauded director, DreamWorks opted to release ”Famous” slowly, in part because its cast lacks big stars. This brought its average to a sold out $17,557 per theater. Studio marketers hope this strategy will allow word of mouth to build to a No. 1 finish next weekend, when ”Famous” expands to theaters throughout the country. (DreamWorks used the same strategy for last year’s Oscar winner, ”American Beauty.”) But ”Famous”’s low profile stars – newcomer Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson (”200 Cigarettes”), and Billy Crudup (”Jesus’ Son”) – can claim victory over at least one big name: Gwyneth Paltrow’s karaoke road flick, ”Duets,” opened a notch lower than ”Famous” at No. 9, earning only $2 million on 581 screens.
CRITICAL MASS Jamie Foxx may have moved successfully from TV to the big screen, but if EW.com’s viewers have anything to say about it, the comedian needs a better script if he hopes to become a major star. Readers gave the heist spoof a lowly grade of C, which is high praise compared to the critics’ scathing score of D+. Not surprisingly, some 62 percent of viewers said the movie’s star reeled them into theaters. But only 12 percent said they’d see the film again. Even so, about half of EW.com’s readers said the movie was no worse or better than expected. Score one for Hollywood: We’ve learned to expect mediocrity.
”Almost Famous,” meanwhile, surpassed EW.com readers’ hopes. They agreed with critics, grading Cameron Crowe’s autobiographical flick an A-. Moreover, some 80 percent said the ’70s rock movie was far better than they had expected, while a whopping 70 percent said they’d like to see the film again. As one might expect, only 10 percent of voters went to see ”Famous” for its stars, while 30 percent were drawn to the film because of its glowing reviews. Now if only execs would roll out a few more movies that are as good as ”Famous,” we could stop watching those blasted ”Survivor” reruns.
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