But EW Online's Critical Mass poll shows our viewers may close their eyes to the Kubrick drama

By Liane Bonin
July 19, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Despite some critical sniping and a butt-numbing two-hour-and-forty-minute running time, Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise’s ”Eyes Wide Shut” opened at the top of the charts with a healthy $22.8 million, slightly exceeding industry expectations. The opening numbers are a sign that director Stanley Kubrick’s last film may turn out to be his most profitable. Prior to ”Eyes,” Kubrick’s best tally had been $46 million, for 1987’s ”Full Metal Jacket.”

”Eyes Wide Shut” wasn’t the only movie debut to make a splash. The crocodile thriller ”Lake Placid” scared up a fourth place showing ($10.2 million), while ”The Wood” made back its $6 million budget in just one weekend, taking sixth place ($8.6 million). But the most impressive opening didn’t even crack the top 10. ”The Blair Witch Project,” showing in just 27 theaters, averaged $57,407 per screen, scaring the hell out of ”Eyes” average of $9,457, and grossing $1.6 million since Wednesday. Rounding out the top 5, ”American Pie” held on to its slice of the box office pie in second place ($13.3 million), ”Big Daddy” snagged third ($10.5 million), and ”Wild Wild West” took fifth ($10 million).

CRITICAL MASS Of the audiences lining up this weekend to get an eyeful of Kidman and Cruise’s onscreen high jinks, some EW readers were walking away asking for a blindfold. A full 47 percent slammed the film as being worse than they expected, and over all ”Eyes” ranked a barely passing C+ in our Critical Mass poll . In contrast, the pseudo-documentary creepfest ”The Blair Witch Project” had readers clamoring for more, with 57 percent saying they were eager to be scared out of their wits for a second time, and 69 percent saying they’d definitely recommend the movie to others. With ”Blair” slated to reach between 700 and 800 theaters by the end of the month, there may be just enough seats available to accommodate the word-of-mouth praise, but with buzz like this, some of the scariest scenes may be among the people fighting for space in the ticket line.