It was nice to see Martin Lawrence heating up something other than himself: This weekend he fired up the box office, nabbing the top spot, with ”Blue Streak” taking in an estimated $19.2 million. It was a respectful gross but didn’t come close to another cop buddy movie that opened on the same weekend last year — ”Rush Hour,” which debuted with $33 million.
Meanwhile, Kevin Costner had to settle for second place, with ”For Love of the Game” pulling in $14 million in its debut. Right now the bitter star is probably convincing himself that ”Game” would have earned at least another $5 mil if Universal had let him drop trou and showcase his own Louisville Slugger. Filling out the weekend’s top 5 was a horror hat trick: ”The Sixth Sense” ($11.2 million), ”Stigmata” ($9 million), and ”Stir of Echoes” ($3.9 million).
But another low-key opener may have HIT written all over it: ”American Beauty” premiered on just 16 screens, which was still enough to land it in 11th place with $841,000. That makes its per-screen average $52,563, compared to ”Blue Streak”’s $7,020 and ”Game”’s $4,949. DreamWorks was originally planning to expand the Kevin Spacey black comedy to only 100 more theaters next weekend before going wide on Oct. 1, but this beautiful news has convinced them to rush to 500 theaters on Sept. 24.
Judging from our online Critical Mass poll, if EW readers ruled the box office, ”Blue Streak” and ”For Love of the Game” would have switched places: ”Streak” received a B-, while ”Game” earned a B+. However, the groundswell of support for ”American Beauty” shined through, with readers giving it an A, and 95 percent saying it was better than they expected. (You can register your own opinions on these and any other current film at Critical Mass online.) Forty percent of ”Beauty” attendees said that it was the glowing reviews that drove them to it, compared to only 13 percent of ”Blue Streak”ers and zero percent of ”Game” players saying the same about those movies. Then again, it’s tough to be moved by good reviews when you have to read 10 papers to find one.