Dating Pays Off At Box Office

Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler
Columbia Pictures
Moviegoers have not forgotten "50 First Dates."

The Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore romance about a man wooing a memory-challenged woman took in $21 million to remain the weekend's top movie, easily fending off a rush of new flicks, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Lindsay Lohan's girl-power comedy "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" led the weak batch of newcomers, grossing $9.2 million for the No. 2 spot.

Kurt Russell's hockey holdover "Miracle," the second-place movie the previous two weekends, slipped to No. 3 with $8 million.

Three other new wide releases debuted poorly. Gene Hackman and Ray Romano's political farce "Welcome to Mooseport," about an ex-president running for small-town mayor against a plumber, was No. 4 with $7 million.

The teen-raunch comedy "Eurotrip," about a high school graduate's quest to find his dream girl in Germany, opened in fifth place with $6.6 million.

Meg Ryan's "Against the Ropes," in which she plays female boxing manager Jackie Kallen, premiered a distant No. 8 with $3 million.

All of the new movies received generally harsh reviews.

The overall box office tumbled, with the top 12 movies grossing $75.1 million, down 21 percent from the same weekend a year ago, when "Daredevil" and "Old School" led the pack.

February typically is a quiet month for movies, but the slump this week was bigger than usual.

"The level of audience disinterest is pretty stunning. They're just kind of checked out right now," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "You had four brand-new attractions, and they really could not make a dent. If not for '50 First Dates,' this would be an abysmal weekend."

Playing in 3,612 theaters, "50 First Dates" averaged $5,814 a cinema, a strong number for a movie in its second weekend and by far the best average among the top 10 films. The movie pushed its 10-day gross to $72.3 million.

"Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" averaged $3,682 in 2,503 theaters, compared to $2,627 in 2,512 cinemas for "Eurotrip," $2,442 in 2,867 cinemas for "Welcome to Mooseport," and $1,874 in 1,601 locations for "Against the Ropes."

The box office should get a boost next weekend with the Ash Wednesday debut of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," opening in about 3,000 theaters, a huge release for a religious-themed movie. Gibson orchestrated a grass-roots marketing campaign to promote the film, with Christian leaders spreading the word and church groups buying out theaters.

The movie, starring Jim Caviezel as Jesus, bloodily re-enacts Christ's final hours. It has prompted a firestorm of criticism from some Jewish and Christian leaders who say it could revive the notion that Jews collectively were responsible for the death of Christ.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.

  1. "50 First Dates," $21 million.
  2. "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen," $9.2 million.
  3. "Miracle," $8 million.
  4. "Welcome to Mooseport," $7 million.
  5. "Eurotrip," $6.6 million.
  6. "Barbershop 2: Back in Business," $6.3 million.
  7. "Mystic River," $3.1 million.
  8. "Against the Ropes," $3 million.
  9. "The Butterfly Effect," $2.9 million.
  10. "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," $2.8

By David Germain