`Real Cancun' drowns among new releases

April 29, 2003|By Lorenza Munoz | Lorenza Munoz,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

HOLLYWOOD - Reality television may not be ready for its big-screen close-up, if weekend box office estimates are any indication, but there's still life in the hoary old mystery.

The Real Cancun, from the producers of MTV's The Real World, failed to bring in large audiences in its debut weekend despite considerable pre-release publicity and attention in entertainment news media.

While New Line Cinema projected Cancun would come in at the No. 10 spot with $2.3 million, other studios calculated that it had tied with Disney's Bringing Down the House at $2.1 million. Either way, it represented a big letdown for New Line.

Identity, a mystery-thriller about people stranded in an isolated motel-cafe, came in at No. 1 with an estimated $17 million. The film, whose ensemble cast includes John Cusack, Ray Liotta and Amanda Peet, exceeded Sony Pictures Entertainment's expectations.

Sony's Anger Management slipped to No. 2 in its third weekend with $16 million and $104.5 million to date.

New Line executives were perplexed by Cancun's dismal opening, considering that word-of-mouth was good among the 18-to-25-year-old target demographic. Pre-weekend audience tracking was inconclusive about which film might open at No 1.

Although the popularity of reality TV has cooled, a few programs, such as American Idol, remain very popular among TV viewers, and most of the shows launching this summer are based on unscripted concepts.

Whatever the reasons, many in Hollywood are relieved that the next big thing will likely not be reality-based or, more accurately, "unscripted" movies. The results for Cancun may not bode well for two other such films: From Justin to Kelly, from Fox and based on American Idol; and The Quest, conceived by Mike Fleiss of ABC's The Bachelor, from Universal.

"I thought it was going to do a lot more. It had the earmarks of a hit," said Paul Dergarabedian, head of the box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co. "Perhaps with the R rating a lot of the target audience couldn't get in, and it's not a movie that parents would be comfortable taking their kids to see."

Among other debuts, Lions Gate Films enjoyed modest success with the con caper Confidence, which grossed a respectable $4.7 million on 1,871 screens. The Douglas clan's It Runs in the Family grossed about $3 million in 1,207 theaters.

Other opening films this weekend included Paramount Classics' House of Fools, a Russian drama that grossed $7,229 on three screens in New York and Los Angeles. United Artists showed decent returns for Matt Dillon's directorial debut, City of Ghosts, which grossed $38,000 in six theaters. IFC Films' Manic grossed $7,000 on seven screens in New York.

Disney's Holes also proved durable, dropping only 20 percent from its opening last weekend to gross an estimated $13 million and a total of $36.8 million.

The total for the top 10 films was estimated at $74.8 million, down 11 percent from last week but up 11 percent from the comparable weekend last year, according to Nielsen EDI, another box office tracking firm.

Lorenza Munoz writes for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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