The slasher teen flick's wide release dominates the slow Labor Day weekend

By Dave Karger
Updated September 04, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Julia Stiles, Mekhi Phifer, ...
Credit: O: Lions Gate Films
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Though it’s not exactly one of the most prestigious distinctions in Hollywood, we now have a new record holder for the best Labor Day opening in history. ”Jeepers Creepers,” the low-budget, high-mortality rate slasher flick, topped the box office this weekend with an estimated $15.8 million. And while it may not be a benchmark studios have been dying to break — it’s kind of like saying ”Bio-Dome” was the best Pauly Shore movie ever — it trounced the previous holiday champ, ”The Crow: City of Angels,” which opened with $9.8 million in 1996.

Helping ”Jeepers” unseat ”American Pie 2” from a three-week run at No. 1 was the film’s 90-minute running time and its near-3,000 theater release. Proving the time-tested adage that Labor Day is a slow moviegoing weekend, ”Jeepers” is the lowest-performing film to open at No. 1 this summer, even though it debuted on a long weekend.

”Rush Hour 2” and ”American Pie 2” placed second and third with $11.8 million and $11.7 million, respectively. If the early numbers prove accurate, ”RH2” will hover on the brink of $200 million total so far, and will soon become the third film this year (after ”Shrek” and ”The Mummy Returns”) to reach that milestone. Rounding out the top five were the well-performing holdovers ”The Others” ($10 million) and ”Rat Race” ($9.2 million), two of the few word-of-mouth films to be released this summer.

The weekend’s other high-profile new release, ”O,” landed in seventh place with $6.9 million. The ”Othello” in high school drama, starring Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett, and Julia Stiles, was only released in 1,434 theaters, only half of ”Jeepers”’ amount. As a result, its per-theater average was a respectable $4,812, compared to ”Jeepers”’ $5,379.

With the dog days of late August behind us, look for things to get a bit more interesting this weekend, with the debut of the first big fall movie, the Mark Wahlberg heavy metal flick ”Rock Star.” By then, ”Jeepers Creepers” should be just a vague memory.

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