Costner Hit By 'Blue Streak'

In a matchup of debut films, the Martin Lawrence comedy Blue Streak beat Kevin Costner's latest baseball movie to win the weekend box-office pennant, according to industry estimates.

Blue Streak took in $19.2 million and Costner's For Love of the Game opened in second place with $14 million, according to figures released Sunday.

The Bruce Willis ghost story The Sixth Sense was third with $11.2 million. It climbed past Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me as the year's No. 2 box office draw behind Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Sixth Sense has grossed $213.2 million since opening Aug. 6.

Last weekend's top movie, the supernatural thriller Stigmata, slipped to No. 4 with $9 million.

Blue Streak, about a jewel thief posing as a cop to retrieve a diamond stashed in a police station, was Lawrence's first solo triumph at the box office. He previously had No. 1 openings as a co-star with Eddie Murphy in Life and with Will Smith in Bad Boys.

Costner plays an aging pitcher in For Love of the Game, his third baseball movie after Bull Durham and Field of Dreams.

For Love of the Game may have been hurt by Costner's reluctance to help publicize the film, said Robert Bucksbaum, a film analyst with Reel Source Inc. Costner did some media interviews but devoted much of his time to criticizing Universal for editing scenes to get the movie down from an R rating to PG-13.

"It reminds me of a baseball player making $10 million," Bucksbaum said. "He should take some time to sign some autographs once in a while."

The critically acclaimed American Beauty, playing in just 16 theaters, was No. 11 with $841,000 for the weekend, upping its total to $1 million since opening Wednesday. The movie averaged a phenomenal $52,563 a theater, compared with a $7,020 average in 2,735 theaters for Blue Streak.

The film stars Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening in a dark satire of suburban life.

The movie so far is playing only in bigger cities. Its disturbing examination of marital fidelity, parental violence, homophobia and drug use "could be problematic in other parts of the country," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations Inc., which tracks movie ticket sales. "Then again, you can't underestimate audiences in the Midwest or wherever."

The numbers for American Beauty rivaled those of The Blair Witch Project, which averaged $63,812 per theater while playing on 31 screens in July, the weekend before wide release. Blair Witch has grossed $137.6 million.

American Beauty distributor DreamWorks is expanding the movie to about 500 theaters next weekend and 1,200 to 1,400 the following Friday, said Jim Tharp, the studio's distribution chief.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North Amrican theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations:

  1. Blue Streak, $19.2 million.

  2. For Love of the Game, $14 million.

  3. The Sixth Sense, $11.2 million.

  4. Stigmata, $9 million.

  5. Stir of Echoes, $3.9 million.

  6. Runaway Bride, $2.6 million.

  7. The Thomas Crown Affair, $2 million.

  8. Bowfinger, $1.7 million.

  9. The 13th Warrior, $1.5 million.

  10. Mickey Blue Eyes, $1.1 million.