Teenage girls proved their box office might once again this weekend. ”Save the Last Dance” took the No. 1 spot at the box office with $15.4 million in earnings. The ”ballerina turned dirty dancer” tale — which cost just $13 million to make — has already taken in more than $46 million. And participants say the fact that ”Dance”’s audience is composed largely of young women (read: nonfootball fans) ensures that the film will continue to cash in, even as millions of Americans tune in to watch Super Bowl XXXV next weekend. ”We are holding very well and expect to do so during the Super Bowl because of our primary female audience,” Wayne Lewellen, Paramount’s distribution prez, told the Associated Press.
The Julia Stiles hip hop romance not only outshone two Golden Globes favorites — ”Cast Away” (No. 2; $11.2 million) and ”Traffic” (No. 3; $8.5 million) — it twirled past this weekend’s most buzzed about newcomer, ”Snatch” (No. 4; $8 million). Still, the Guy Ritchie heist caper, featuring Brad Pitt and Benicio Del Toro, scored an exceptional opening for a British import, according to execs at distributor Sony Screen Gems. ”No one has been able to take a United Kingdom film and get big crowds the first weekend,” Valerie Van Galder, exec VP of marketing told the AP. Of course, the film MIGHT have gotten a boost from Ritchie’s recent appearance opposite a certain American singer in the Scottish Highlands. (Mel Gibson’s comedy ”What Women Want” rounded out the top five, with $6.9 million.)
CRITICAL MASS We know why grown women want Mel Gibson. But why are teenage girls so keen on ”Save the Last Dance”? According to EW.com’s readers’ poll, both the film’s savvy marketing campaign and its rising teen star, Stiles, inspired the Justin Timberlake demographic to see the film. One quarter of voters said they saw the movie because of its stars, while 34 percent said were taken in by the hip hop heavy ads featured prominently on teen friendly nets like MTV and the WB. Moreover, 69 percent said that they plan to recommend the romance to friends. So Monday morning chats in homeroom could keep ”Dance” on top for quite a while.
Meanwhile, positive word of mouth may be helping a quieter interracial tale, ”Finding Forrester,” edge toward the top five. Overall, voters have given the teacher – pupil tearjerker a B+, slightly better than the critics’ average grade of B-. Some 36 percent say they were drawn to the film by its star, Sean Connery. But more importantly, a healthy 62 percent said it was better than they had expected and 70 percent said they would recommend the film to friends.