''Runaway Bride'' gets hitched at No. 1, but EW Online's Critical Mass poll hints that a witch could crash the party

By Liane Bonin
August 02, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Who knew the recipe for a blockbuster was so easy? Just cast the stars of ”Pretty Woman,” add a wedding dress, and voila! The Richard Gere-Julia Roberts film ”Runaway Bride” scored the No. 1 spot with a hefty $34.5 million gross this weekend, the biggest opening for a romantic comedy ever. Not only did Roberts get upgraded from her ”Pretty” streetwalker status to the role of blushing bride, the movie’s weekend gross is also Roberts’ best opening to date, topping ”Notting Hill”’s $27.7 million 4-day debut two months ago.

But the happy couple of ”Bride” has competition on its hands. ”The Blair Witch Project,” which opened wide over the weekend, brought in $28.5 million to take second place. Its per-screen average of $25,885 is the highest ever for a movie in wide release according to Artisan Entertainment, which predicts the movie will ultimately gross $115 million. Hey, whoever said documentaries (okay, fake documentaries) can’t be big hits? Overshadowed by the stiff competition, the shark creep-fest ”Deep Blue Sea” floated into third place with a total of $24.7 million earned since Wednesday, while ”The Haunting” tumbled to fourth place with $15.1 million, having lost 55 percent of its audience since last week. ”Inspector Gadget” held the attention of tykes with $14 million, taking fifth place.

CRITICAL MASS ”Runaway Bride” may be raking it in this weekend, but reactions were mixed among EW readers in the Critical Mass Poll . Though 56 percent said they would definitely recommend the movie to their friends, it scored a tepid B-, and 43 percent claimed it was somewhat or very unlikely they’d head back to the theaters for another walk down the aisle. Meanwhile, ”The Blair Witch Project” received a healthier B+ rating, and 51 percent claimed the movie was better than they expected, high praise indeed given the endless hype surrounding the film. But even though fans and critics alike are applauding ”Blair” as the scariest movie of the summer, the truly terrifying thought is how many film-school students are going to be running around in the woods with video cameras of their own this summer.