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October 15, 2001
Anthrax steals the show from Bandits
Just when Ashok Amritraj felt he found the formula for box office success, the tense mood blanketing much of the country got him.
Bandits, the Bruce Willis-Billy Bob Thornton starring comedy, is co-produced by Amritraj's Hyde Park Entertainment.
It opened to good reviews with critics praising the lead performances that include Cate Blanchett. Analysts predicted a haul of near $ 20 million for the Friday-Sunday period.
Yet, the fears of an anthrax attack kept much of its target audience away. Bandits finished with a mediocre $ 13.5 million, finishing second behind the Denzel Washington drama Training Day, with $13.6 million.
"Friday was a complete wipeout," Bob Levin, MGM's president of marketing and distribution, says to the Hollywood trade publication, Variety. MGM, which is going through a green period with the recent hit Legally Blonde, released Bandits.
Theaters in large markets such as New York, Washington D C, Boston and Philadelphia were largely empty Friday, Levin noted. In fact, Bandits earned more in Plano, Texas, than it did in New York Friday, he said.
But the film played well on Saturday and Sunday to finish in a virtual tie with Training Day. Final figures will be released on October 15.
Amritraj has had a tough summer with two disappointing films: the Martin Lawrence vehicle What's the Worst that Could Happen? that ended its run in North America with $ 32 million and Angelina Jolie's Original Sin, which grabbed just under $ 30 million.
Clearly, considering Willis's track record in recent films that include the blockbusters The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, the expectations for Bandits were sky high. It cost nearly $ 90 million, a third of which was financed by Hyde Park.
But the film is getting strong word-of-mouth, which should help next weekend: Exit polls showed 75 per cent of the Bandits audience was over 25 and 54 per cent were female.
Three-quarters of those polled rated the film 'very good' or 'excellent' and two-thirds gave it a 'definite recommend'.
Training Day, a Warner Brothers production, has grossed $ 43.6 million in 10 days. Two other new releases, Corky Romano, a comedy starring Saturday Night Live star Chris Kattan, opened at the third spot with $ 9.3 million; and Iron Monkey, a martial-arts action adventure, at the sixth spot with $ 6 million.
The top five also includes the John Cusack romantic comedy Serendipity at No 4 with $9.0 million and the Michael Douglas thriller Don't Say A Word at No 5 with $6.8 million. Serendipity has pulled in $ 26.6 million after 10 days and Word has grossed $ 41.8 million in 17 days.
Next week, sees more competition served up: From Hell, the Johnny Depp-Heather Graham drama; Rod Lurie's The Last Castle, a military prison thriller starring Robert Redford; and Riding in Cars with Boys, a drama starring Drew Barrymore.
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