Box Office: Angels Triumph Over Devilish Nicky

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) — Charlie's Angels sent Adam Sandler's devilish new comedy to purgatory at the weekend box office, as the femme crime-fighting trio easily retained the No. 1 slot with a haul of $25 million, according to studio estimates issued Sunday.

Sandler's Little Nicky, in which the comedian plays the kind-hearted son of Satan, opened at No. 2 with $18.1 million — a great figure for most movies, but a relative disappointment for Sandler. His last two movies, 1999's Big Daddy and 1998's The Waterboy, launched with $41.5 million and $39.4 million, respectively.

"I think we would have wanted it to open higher, but you need to look at the reality of the marketplace," said David Tuckerman, president of distribution at New Line Cinema, which released Little Nicky.

The reality, observers said, was that Charlie's Angels has far exceeded expectations by grossing $75.4 million after two weekends, thus providing a lot of competition for the Sandler picture.

"Little Nicky did well," said Jeff Blake, president of worldwide marketing and distribution at Sony Pictures Entertainment, which released Charlie's Angels. "But once you open at $40 million [as Angels did] you have a huge advantage."

Blake predicted that Angels, which stars Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu, would pass $100 million before Thanksgiving and would go on to surpass $150 million in the United States and Canada.

Additionally, Charlie's Angels enjoyed wide support from adult moviegoers, as well as youngsters, while Little Nicky tended to play to Sandler's core audience of young males. New Line's Tuckerman said those young males generally see a Sandler picture several times, which could give it some extra legs.

The Top 10 contained two other new releases. The military drama Men of Honor opened at No. 3 with about $14 million, and the sci-fi thriller Red Planet debuted at No. 5 with $9 million.

Acclaimed British comedy Billy Elliot, about a working-class boy who wants to become a ballet dancer, went into wide release in its fifth weekend and jumped four places to No. 9 with $2.8 million. Its total stands at $6 million.

Tracking firm Exhibitor Relations reported that ticket sales for the top 12 films were $101.5 million, up 6.7 percent from last weekend, and up 15 percent from the year-ago period, when Pokémon: The First Movie opened at No. 1 with $31 million.

Men of Honor gives its star, Robert De Niro, two movies in the Top Five, as his comedy hit Meet the Parents fell two places to No. 4 in its sixth weekend with $10.6 million. The 38-day total for Parents stands at $130.3 million.

With its $9 million opening, Val Kilmer's Red Planet suffered from being the second Martian epic to reach theaters this year: Mission to Mars opened to $22.9 million in March en route to an underwhelming $60.7 million. Red Planet was originally set to debut in March as well, but was pushed back first to June, and then to November. Warner Bros. had hoped Planet would open in the mid-teens, said Dan Fellman, the studio's president of distribution.

The Top 10 films for Nov. 10-12, 2000:

1. Charlie's Angels, $25 million 2. Little Nicky, $18.1 million 3. Men of Honor, $14.1 million 4. Meet the Parents, $10.6 million 5. Red Planet, $9 million 6. The Legend of Bagger Vance, $6.6 million 7. Remember the Titans, $5.5 million 8. Pay It Forward, $3.1 million 9. Billy Elliot, $2.8 million 10. Bedazzled, $2.5 million

Final figures will be released Monday.