Once again, the new flicks in town emerged triumphant at the box office. In spite of dismal reviews, ”The Haunting” (an estimated $33 million) and ”Inspector Gadget” ($22 million) took the top two spots handily. (”Drop Dead Gorgeous,” however, was one film that didn’t benefit from its debut status — opening in 11th place with only $4 million.)
If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that box office leadership can often pass quickly: Last week’s champ, ”Eyes Wide Shut,” dropped 54 percent, to $9.9 million this week, with experts predicting a $70 million total gross, far short of Tom Cruise’s recent string of $100 million-plus winners. And judging from EW Online readers’ votes in our Critical Mass poll, word of mouth may be inaudible on this week’s top flicks — both ”Haunting” and ”Gadget” earned a C+ — which may very well mean a race with ”Eyes Wide Shut” to the bottom.
Another danger sign for ”Haunting” is the impending challenge of ”The Blair Witch Project,” which widens from 31 screens to some 1,000 next week. In limited release, the chilling ”Project” has been breaking records, this weekend taking in another $2 million. The film’s total gross is now nearly $5 million, five times the price Artisan paid for the low-budget indie. Considering that ”Witch” has 50 times the screams of ”Haunting,” it’s the big-budget horror-fest that could end up running scared.