The Johnny Depp drug saga and a Morgan Freeman thriller take on kid flicks at the box office

By Lori Reese
Updated April 06, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Blow: Lorey Sebastian

”Spy Kids” soared to the top of the box office last weekend with a $26.5 million debut, but this Friday the savvy tyke feature faces some experienced foes. Two R rated dramas — the Morgan Freeman / Monica Potter thriller ”Along Came a Spider” and the Johnny Depp / Penélope Cruz drug saga ”Blow” — open in wide release alongside the kinder oriented tales ”Pokémon 3” and ”Just Visiting.” So whose tastes will prevail — kids’ or grownups’?

Analysts think ”Spy Kids” should remain at No. 1, earning about $17 million. ”Blow” and ”Spider” will be the weekend’s biggest newcomers, each pulling in somewhere between $11 and $15 million. ”Pokémon 3” is likely to secure the fourth spot with $8 million.

”Spider,” based on James Patterson’s bestselling prequel to 1997’s ”Kiss the Girls,” has both name recognition and four years of audience anticipation in its favor. The original grossed $60.5 million and helped launch Freeman’s costar, Ashley Judd, to stardom. Freeman reprises his role as Detective Alex Cross, but Potter (”Patch Adams”), playing a U.S. Secret Service agent, has replaced the flinty Judd as the film’s female lead. Industry watchers wonder whether ”Spider” will have the same allure without her. ”That’s the X factor,” says Paul Dergarabedian of box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. ”’Girls’ was a very popular film, but that had Judd in it, ‘Spider’ does not.”

”Blow,” meanwhile, is enjoying ample prerelease buzz and comparisons (at least as far as its plot) to both ”Traffic” and ”Goodfellas.” The ’70s tale about the origins of the U.S. / Colombia cocaine trade is scoring exceptional marks from sample audiences, according to Robert Bucksbaum of Reel Source. ”It’s a true story, and people are into reality right now,” he says. ”We’re looking to this to have the really break out numbers of the week.”

But ”Blow” also has two strikes against it: grim subject matter and the perception that it’s a period movie. Multiplex audiences tend to avoid films about drugs and the days of wide collars and bombastic hairdos. (Depp sports a myriad of frost jobs throughout the film.) Nevertheless, analysts feel certain that audiences who do see it will respond positively, assuring ”Blow”’s eventual success. ”It’s the only adult movie out there that has potential to crossover to a younger audiences,” says Bucksbaum. Adds Dergarabedian: ”It’s going to get a lot of attention [because of its stars and striking ads].” ”Even if it doesn’t do as well as we expect this weekend, word of mouth will carry it in the coming weeks.”

”Pokémon 3” might not have it so good. ”Interest in Pokémon in 1999 went from fanatical to mild last year when the second film opened,” says Bucksbaum. ”Now the market keeps dropping.” Hey, we thought it was just the Dow and NASDAQ.

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