Box Office: Bring It On Takes Trophy

The catty cheerleader flick Bring It On scratched its way to first place this weekend, barely working up a sweat while blasting the competition with its healthy $17.4 million debut.

According to studio estimates issued Sunday, the weekend's other two new movies, Art of War and The Crew, didn't come close to the youthful glow of Bring It On, a teen satire in the tradition of Election and Clueless that stars Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku.

"There was a lack of films aimed at women and teens, and Bring It On filled a void," noted Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co. "It's a great date movie or even back-to-school movie."

Bring It On is something of a Cinderella story in the midst of a summer that was not kind to teen-themed movies. Two young-adult flicks released in July, Loser and The In Crowd, bowed with just $6.1 and $1.5 million, respectively.

Wesley Snipes' action-driven The Art of War came in second with $11.2 million. That's well below the opening weekend tallies for two of the actor's last two star vehicles, Blade and U.S. Marshals, which both opened in the $16 million to $17 million range.

The Crew, a new comedy about a group of aging former hit men living in Miami, garnered a disappointing $4.1 million to tie Keanu Reeves' football film, The Replacements, for No. 7. "Some good movies just never get noticed, and this is one of them," said Chuck Viane, president of distribution for Buena Vista Pictures.

The Top 10's other senior-themed picture fared much better. Space Cowboys landed in fourth, earning a solid $6.6 million its fourth week of release. Cowboys, about a group of senior citizens on a NASA mission, now has an estimated $63.8 million total gross.

Also gaining enviable endurance points was the ghostly What Lies Beneath, which scared up $4.5 million in its sixth week out. The No. 6 film's overall take stands at $130.8 million.

Last weekend's theatrical champs saw their earnings drop nearly 50 percent. Jennifer Lopez's sci-fi thriller, The Cell, was transported down to third with a $9.6 million haul, while Spike Lee's The Original Kings of Comedy took home $6.1 million and the No. 5 slot.

After four substandard weekends in a row, overall ticket sales this weekend were flat compared to the same time a year ago. Exhibitor Relations Co. reported that the top 12 films grossed $75.7 million, down almost 13 percent from last weekend.

"It is the dog days of August," said Dergarabedian. "This isn't going to pull us out of the deficit overall, but it was a solid weekend. We did quite well."

The Top 10 films for Aug. 25-27, 2000:

1. Bring It On, $17.4 million 2. The Art of War, $11.2 million 3. The Cell, $9.6 million 4. Space Cowboys, $6.6 million 5. The Original Kings of Comedy, $6.1 million 6. What Lies Beneath, $7.1 million 7. (tie) The Crew, $4.1 million The Replacements, $4.1 million 9. Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, $3.3 million 10. Autumn in New York, $3.2 million

Final figures will be released Monday.