Weekend Box Office (September 26 - 28, 2003)

THIS WEEKEND Wrestler-turned-action-hero The Rock emerged victorious from the weekend box office challenge winning the title with his new action-comedy The Rundown which pinned all competitors. Moviegoers with more delicate tastes powered the Diane Lane drama Under the Tuscan Sun to a solid second-place finish while the combination of Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore meant nothing to the dark comedy Duplex which was dead on arrival.

Universal claimed the number one spot with The Rundown which grossed $18.5M, according to final studio figures, from an ultrawide bow in 3,152 venues. Averaging a healthy $5,880 per site, the PG-13 film about a retrieval expert (The Rock) sent to the Amazon to bring back the son of a crime boss (Seann William Scott) performed best with young men. According to studio research, 53% of the audience was under 25 and 56% was male. The racial mix for the grappler's flick was also broad as 54% of the crowd was non-white. Reviews were generally positive and 91% of those polled called The Rundown "excellent" or "very good."

The debut did, however, come in at about half the level of The Rock's maiden starring vehicle The Scorpion King which bowed to $36.1M in April 2002. That film, which was essentially a spin-off of the hero's role in The Mummy Returns, went on to collect $90.4M domestically and over $160M worldwide. The Rundown was co-produced with Sony for $85M with that studio handling overseas territories.

With less than half the theaters as Rundown, Diane Lane powered her way into second place with a $9.8M weekend for Under the Tuscan Sun in its debut frame. The Buena Vista release about an American divorcee rebuilding her life in Italy averaged a potent $7,954 from only 1,226 theaters. Boasting the best average in the top ten, Tuscan will use its momentum to expand to additional theaters on Friday. Reviews were mixed for the Audrey Wells-directed film.

Last weekend's top hit, the vampire chiller Underworld, fell an understandably steep 57% in its second attack to $9.4M and brought its ten-day cume to a bloody $37M. With a sequel already in development, the R-rated film looks to reach roughly $60M domestically.

New Line's Haley Joel Osment drama Secondhand Lions held up well in its second frame slipping 32% to $8.3M for a ten-day total of $23.5M. The PG-rated film looks to conclude with $45-50M. Another sophomore, Paramount's musical saga The Fighting Temptations, dropped 46% in its second weekend for a sum of $20.5M after ten days. The Cuba Gooding Jr.-Beyonce pic should sing its way to the tune of $35-40M. Sony's Once Upon A Time in Mexico dropped 55% to sixth place with $5M and a 17-day tally of $49M.

Moviegoers ignored the new Ben Stiller-Drew Barrymore comedy Duplex which flopped with a seventh-place bow grossing only $4.6M. Playing in 2,189 locations, the Miramax release averaged a puny $2,109 and could get evicted from the top ten as early as next week.

The Dennis Quaid-Sharon Stone thriller Cold Creek Manor dropped 46% in its second weekend to $4.4M putting its ten-day total at $14.6M. Look for the Buena Vista release to reach about $26M. Following in ninth with $4.4M was the Warner Bros. pic Matchstick Men which declined 42% raising its cume to $30.7M.

Focus Features clung to the tenth spot with Lost in Translation which expanded from 183 to 488 theaters and grossed $3.7M. The Bill Murray drama's $7,558 average was second-best in the top ten and the total stands at $8.6M with more markets being added on Friday which will boost the run to 700-800 runs.

Three films fell out of the top ten over the weekend. Paramount's Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star dipped just 21% in its fourth frame to $3M and lifted its cume to $20.8M. The David Spade comedy should find its way to about $30M. The horror pic Cabin Fever fell 47% to $2.1M and boosted its tally to $18.1M. Lions Gate looks to infect $22-24M from its domestic run.

Disney's megahit Pirates of the Caribbean finally sailed out of the top ten in its twelfth weekend and grossed $2.4M, off only 32%. The Johnny Depp smash has grossed $295.7M to date and sits at number 16 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters after Independence Day which grossed $306.2M in 1996. Pirates also surpassed The Sixth Sense this weekend to become the highest-grossing live-action film ever for Disney. Look for a final figure of about $300-305M for Pirates.

The top ten films grossed $74.4M which was down 16% from last year when Sweet Home Alabama opened at number one with $35.6M; but up 22% from 2001 when Don't Say A Word debuted in the top spot with $17.1M.

Compared to projections, The Rundown opened well below my $27M forecast while Under the Tuscan Sun debuted ahead of my $6M prediction. Duplex premiered below my $8M projection.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on which film will open at number one next weekend. Last week, readers were asked if The Rundown would open with at least $25M. Of 1,289 responses, 74% said Yes while 26% correctly thought No.

For a review of The Rundown visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Out of Time and School of Rock both open.

Marketplace: Shop for videos, DVDs, music, books, and posters at discounted prices using search engines

# Title Sep 26 - 28 Sep 19 - 21 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Rundown $ 18,533,765 3,152 1 $ 5,880 $ 18,533,765 Universal
2 Under the Tuscan Sun 9,751,425 1,226 1 7,954 9,751,425 Buena Vista
3 Underworld 9,418,606 21,753,759 -56.7 2,928 2 3,217 37,025,501 Sony
4 Secondhand Lions 8,258,330 12,139,832 -32.0 3,038 2 2,718 23,464,037 New Line
5 The Fighting Temptations 6,388,472 11,758,372 -45.7 2,026 2 3,153 20,116,473 Paramount
6 Once Upon A Time in Mexico 5,004,233 11,007,367 -54.5 2,922 3 1,713 48,967,404 Sony
7 Duplex 4,617,128 2,189 1 2,109 4,617,128 Miramax
8 Cold Creek Manor 4,405,084 8,190,574 -46.2 2,035 2 2,165 14,642,749 Buena Vista
9 Matchstick Men 4,354,363 7,552,427 -42.3 2,666 3 1,633 30,703,127 Warner Bros.
10 Lost in Translation 3,688,538 2,622,737 40.6 488 3 7,558 8,640,267 Focus
11 Dickie Roberts 3,006,088 3,783,655 -20.6 1,953 4 1,539 20,833,457 Paramount
12 Pirates of the Caribbean 2,374,249 3,480,968 -31.8 1,443 12 1,645 295,713,028 Buena Vista
13 Cabin Fever 2,082,307 3,909,896 -46.7 1,629 3 1,278 18,052,136 Lions Gate
14 Freaky Friday 1,315,913 2,540,613 -48.2 1,422 8 925 106,808,336 Buena Vista
15 Luther 908,446 400 1 2,271 908,446 R.S. Ent.
16 Seabiscuit 880,380 1,622,465 -45.7 876 10 1,005 117,396,680 Universal
17 Open Range 678,638 1,411,028 -51.9 930 7 730 56,900,845 Buena Vista
18 Anything Else 644,826 1,673,125 -61.5 1,033 2 624 2,781,677 DreamWorks
19 Mambo Italiano 506,891 734,570 -31.0 183 2 2,770 4,579,395 IDP
20 S.W.A.T. 486,448 1,236,611 -60.7 642 8 758 115,524,018 Sony
Top 5 $ 52,350,598 $ 64,849,904 -19.3
Top 10 74,419,944 86,199,587 -13.7
Top 20 87,304,130 97,514,415 -10.5
Top 20 vs. 2002 87,304,130 97,023,430 -10.0

Last Updated : September 29, 2003 at 7:30PM EDT

Gitesh Pandya can be seen each Friday on "The Biz" airing at 12:30pm and 9:30pm ET on CNNfn.