Originally created 09/22/03

Vampire-werewolf duel 'Underworld' leads pack with $22 million



LOS ANGELES -- The vampires-vs.-werewolves blood feud "Underworld" put the bite on movie-goers, debuting as the top weekend movie with $22 million.

"Underworld," starring Kate Beckinsale as a vampire warrior, buried other new movies, with the Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyonce Knowles gospel romance "The Fighting Temptations" opening in second place with $13.2 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

"Secondhand Lions," starring Robert Duvall, Michael Caine and Haley Joel Osment in the coming-of-age story of a teen and his oddball great-uncles, premiered at No. 3 with $12.9 million.

The previous weekend's top movie, "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," fell to fourth place with $11.5 million, pushing its 10-day total to $41.4 million.

The thriller "Cold Creek Manor," with Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone as new homeowners terrorized by their house's former occupant, debuted at No. 5 with $8.3 million.

Overall ticket sales were unusually strong for September, typically a quiet time for Hollywood. The top 12 movies took in $94 million, up 37 percent from the same weekend a year ago.

"People seem to be in the mood for movies," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "Studios are creating a new strong period at the box office by taking a chance and putting all these films out in what is not known as a big moviegoing time."

"Underworld" was the third horror movie to debut at No. 1 in the last month, following "Freddy vs. Jason" and "Jeepers Creepers 2." Critics generally slammed "Underworld," but the horror genre has a loyal audience unswayed by bad reviews.

"It's certainly a fun, audience-pleasing movie," said Jeff Blake, vice chairman at Sony Pictures, whose Screen Gems banner released "Underworld."

"Underworld" was Sony's eighth No. 1 debut of the year, tying a record set by Warner Bros. in 1999 and 2001, Dergarabedian said.

Woody Allen's box-office slump continued as his romantic comedy "Anything Else" opened well out of the top 10 with $1.7 million, the weakest debut among his four films for distributor DreamWorks.

"Anything Else," starring Jason Biggs and Christina Ricci, capped a course of diminishing returns for Allen at DreamWorks. His "Small Time Crooks" debuted with $3.9 million in 2000, "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion" opened with $2.5 million in 2001, and last year's "Hollywood Ending" premiered with $2 million.

Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation," starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, expanded from its limited debut a week earlier and broke into the top 10 with $2.8 million.

A reissue of Brian De Palma's 1983 gangster epic "Scarface" debuted strongly with $268,000 in 13 theaters. A new DVD version of "Scarface," which stars Al Pacino, hits stores next week.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Underworld," $22 million.

2. "The Fighting Temptations," $13.2 million.

3. "Secondhand Lions," $12.9 million.

4. "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," $11.5 million.

5. "Cold Creek Manor," $8.3 million.

6. "Matchstick Men," $7.8 million.

7. "Cabin Fever," $3.9 million.

8. "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star," $3.8 million.

9. "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," $3.5 million.

10. "Lost in Translation," $2.8 million.