Box Office Tie, 'Cowboys' and 'Hollow Man'

Astronauts and an invisible man were the big draw at the weekend box office, with Space Cowboys and Hollow Man sharing the top spot, according to studio estimates.

The surprising tie marks a strong showing for last week’s debut films, each taking in $13.1 million, although the numbers could shuffle when final figures are released tomorrow.

The Richard Gere,Winona Ryder romantic drama Autumn in New York survived critical skepticism to take in $11.5 million for a third place ranking.

In another near tie, for third place, the Keanu Reeves football flick The Replacements scored $11.1 million to debut in fourth.

‘Blockbuster Fatigue’ It was an unusual weekend, with no film dominating and the top seven movies bunched within a few million dollars.

Hanging on in the top 10 at No. 5 and 6 were Nutty Professor II: The Klumps with $10.3 million and What Lies Beneath with $9.8 million. The supernatural tale Bless the Child, starring Kim Basinger and Jimmy Smits, premiered at No. 7 with $9.6 million.

August typically is a slow month for Hollywood. With summer waning, films cluster together and post smaller grosses as “blockbuster fatigue sets in,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks movie-ticket sales.

“This weekend was sort of a horse race. A slow horse race, but still a horse race,” Dergarabedian said. “Unless you have films like Sixth Sense from last August that grab the national consciousness, it’s tough to have any record-breaking grosses.”

Overall, the top 12 films grossed $97.7 million, down 13.7 percent from last year and continuing a summer slump behind 1999’s record summer revenues of $3 billion.

Warmer Than Expected Autumn Gere and Ryder’s romance attracted the best per-theater average among wide-release films at $5,100 in 2,255 cinemas. That compared to $4,621 in 2,835 theaters for Space Cowboys and $4,432 in 2,956 cinemas for Hollow Man.

This is a notable achievement, after critics dubbed Autumn in New York a klunker when MGM decided not to offer preview screenings, a usual sign of a flop.

MGM Spokesperson Amanda Lundberg stands by their decision to delay the previews. “We weren’t concerned at all — it was all part of our strategy and we’re very proud of what we accomplished [with the open],” she said. DreamWorks’ What Lies Beneath climbed to $112.1 million, making it the 10th movie released this year to hit $100 million. The studio’s Chicken Run, with $99.9 million, is expected to pass that mark Monday and surpass The Prince of Egypt later this week as DreamWorks’ highest-grossing animated movie.

In limited release, cult director John Waters scored an impressive opening for his madcap assault on Hollywood filmmaking, Cecil B. DeMented, starring Stephen Dorff and Melanie Griffith. The movie took in $130,000 at nine theaters. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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