Box Office: Creepers Chews Up the Competition

No marquee stars. No franchise familiarity. No problem.

There's been a consistent, if quiet, buzz about Jeepers Creepers for months, and that's apparently all that was needed to turn the unprepossessing horror film into a late-summer sleeper. Based on studio-reported estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations, Creepers was the top-grossing film in theaters over the Labor Day weekend, ending the three-week reign of American Pie 2.

The modestly-budgeted chiller stars Justin Long (Warren Cheswick on NBC's Ed) and Gina Philips (perhaps best known for a third-season recurring role on Ally McBeal) as a brother and sister who encounter a flesh-devouring terror in small-town America while driving home for spring break. Creepers rang up approximately $13 million in ticket sales Friday through Sunday, and earned an additional $2.8 million on the holiday Monday to finish the long weekend with an estimated $15.8 million in the bank.

That number sets a new record for highest Labor Day weekend opening, nearly doubling the $8.2 million four-day debut of previous record-holder The Crow: City of Angels (1996).

The weekend's other new release, Lions Gate's controversial "O" — a teen retelling of Shakespeare's Othello starring Julia Stiles and Mekhi Phifer — debuted at just 1,434 theaters and took in $6.9 million to finish as the weekend's seventh-highest grossing film.

Pair of Deuces, Others Still Going Strong Pie 2 not only tumbled out of the top spot, but lagged behind fellow holdover Rush Hour 2, to finish the weekend in third place. Neither movie's numbers were cause for mourning, however, as holiday weekend spending helped both to register the smallest drop in earnings from the previous weekend (13 percent for Rush, 29 for Pie) of their theatrical runs.

Rush 2 narrowly claimed the No. 2 spot with an estimated take of $11.8 million, just thousands of dollars ahead of Pie 2's tally of approximately $11.7 million. The gap between the two will likely widen when actual numbers are released: Universal projected an optimistic Monday take of just under $3 million for Pie 2, while New Line issued a much more conservative $1.7 million Monday estimate for Rush 2.

Nicole Kidman's The Others also continued to do brisk business. Miramax expanded the film's run for the third straight weekend, adding 280 screens, and the gothic chiller dropped just 2 percent from its third-weekend earnings, taking in an estimated $10 million to push its total take to within a day's grosses of $60 million.

The Top 10 films for Aug. 31-Sept. 3, 2001:

Jeepers Creepers, $15.8 million Rush Hour 2, $11.8 million American Pie 2, $11.7 million The Others, $10 million Rat Race, $9.2 million The Princess Diaries, $7.6 million "O", $6.9 million Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, $6.4 million Summer Catch, $5 million Captain Corelli's Mandolin, $4.1 million

Final figures will be released Tuesday.