Devil Of A Time For US Box Office

Exorcist prequel wins dullest weekend in recent memory

If, during your weekend travails, you heard a strange noise like a pin repeatedly dropping, don't worry: that was the sound of the US box office winding down. The last two weekends in August are traditionally a dumping ground for, shall we say, lesser product as studios seek to get rid of movies that have been gathering dust for too long while simultaneously using the alleged lustre of a summer weekend to generate a decent result. This weekend was no exception. The two new movies duking it out for the no. 1 spot were Renny Harlin's revamped horror prequel, Exorcist: The Beginning, and the Matthew Lillard/Seth Green 'comedy', Without A Paddle. Given that choice, coupled with the lure of the Olympics, it's no wonder that audiences stayed away in droves. Harlin's movie won the battle, with an estimated $18.2 million take (the lowest no. 1 opening since You Got Served back in January) but that won't bode well for Morgan Creek, the film's producers, who have spent an estimated $100 million on the prequel, commissioning Harlin to shoot an entirely new movie after scrapping Paul Schrader's original effort. However, with a 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it's fair to say that audiences and critics alike didn't welcome the return of Satan with open arms. Some might say the curse of the Exorcist has struck again... Oh, and in case you were wondering, Without A Paddle made an estimated $13.7 million in second place. Woo. Yay. Elsewhere, Paul W.S. Anderson's AvP (Alien vs Predator) fell away faster than Paula Radcliffe legging it up a Greek hill, dropping a whopping 67.4% to fourth place after its top spot opening last weekend. After ten days, the monster mash has grossed an estimated $63 million. A sequel beckons? Likewise for The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, which held up vaguely well to post a $13 million second weekend, for $61 million so far. It won't recapture the glory of the original's $120 million gross, but as long as little girls harbour futile dreams of becoming princesses, this franchise will run and run. Unlike Paula Radcliffe, then. Ahem. Lions Gate hoped to do a Blair Witch with their DV shark thriller, Open Water, using internet word of mouth and a limited release to generate a phenomenal opening weekend. But, since reviews weren't so kind, that never happened. Still, the low-budget flick entered at no. 5 witha decent $11.7 million take. Look for it to drop off fast over the coming weeks. Two big-budget movies fell out of the Top 10 this weekend, after a prolonged stay. Spider-Man 2 now has a cool $365 million in the bank, and should overtake fellow superhero movie, The Passion Of The Christ, for the no. 2 spot in 2004. Mel Gibson's flick has $370 million in the Biblical bank. And Will Smith's I, Robot left the Top 10 also, having grossed $138 million in just six weeks. Next week, the barren spell continues. You know it's a barren spell when the big release is Anacondas: The Hunt For The Black Orchid, a sequel so obscure not even Eric Stoltz could be persuaded to return for it. We also have Aaron Eckhart and Ben - sorry, Sir Ben - Kingsley squaring off in Suspect Zero, but our eyes will be trained on Zhang Yimou's wonderful martial arts epic, Hero, which is opening on 1,200 screens. Can it do a Crouching Tiger and break out into mainstream consciousness. If there's any justice, it will. Check back next week to find out...