Rico Torres
February 10, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

”Scream 3” slew its competitors by earning $34.7 million at the box office last weekend — the biggest February opening ever. But the film’s megabucks appeal is no surprise to star Neve Campbell, who thinks it strikes — or perhaps slashes — a nostalgic chord with its audience. ”It brings back [good] memories for people,” she says about the latest installment in the genre-flouting franchise. Indeed Campbell thinks that the popularity of the trilogy (both ”Scream” and ”Scream 2” grossed more than $170 million worldwide) has turned the films into a pop-culture life marker for many. ”When people saw [the original] five years ago,” she says, ”it was a certain time in their life, and [”Scream 3”] brings that back somehow.”

The joy of nostalgia is certainly true for returning ”Scream” cast members Campbell, David Arquette, and Courteney Cox Arquette. ”The first time we did the film it was like being at summer camp,” Campbell says. ”We were shooting in Santa Rosa in wine country, driving through cow pastures to get to work in the morning. So every time we see each other again, it’s that feeling.”

But with ”Scream 3” likely to be the last in the series, it may be a while before Campbell gets to revisit these good — if grisly — times again. And this isn’t the only goodbye in her immediate future. Come May, she bids adieu to her other signature role, as Julia Salinger on ”Party of Five.” ”It’s bittersweet,” Campbell says about leaving the projects that made her a star. ”I’m sad to say goodbye to them and to that time in my life, but I’m also really excited about having new times. I feel that you have to empty a cup to fill it.”

Not to worry. Audiences will get a new cupful of Campbell starting March 3, when her black comedy ”Drowning Mona” opens nationwide. Among her costars: Bette Midler, Casey Affleck, and the original scream queen herself, ”Halloween”’s Jamie Lee Curtis. ”The first day I met her, she said, ‘I want my crown back!”’ laughs Campbell, who says it’s unlikely that she’ll return to ”Scream” 20 years later á la Curtis’ ”Halloween H2O” ”I don’t see it now, but maybe when I’m 50 I will.” (Ouch!) Or maybe when Miramax ‘s Bob and Harvey Weinstein flash her a Curtis-like multimillion dollar paycheck.

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