Denzel Washington's bad-guy role should excite box office sales

By Dave Karger
October 05, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Hollywood’s box office recovery, which began last week, will most certainly continue this weekend as three more big-time films — featuring serious draws like Denzel Washington, John Cusack, and ”The Fast and the Furious” star Paul Walker — hit theaters in wide release.

After the chilly kidnap thriller ”Don’t Say a Word” bested all competitors last weekend, look for the equally dark and intense R-rated police-corruption drama ”Training Day” to score the top spot this time. Washington, who plays a nasty cop hazing rookie Ethan Hawke, has been getting good reviews in this rare non-heroic role, and the film may benefit because it has had more time to run TV ads since the studio delayed the film’s original Sept. 21 release date. The higher awareness level, combined with the unquestionable star power of frequent Oscar nominee Washington (not to mention business-savvy cameos by rap artists Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg), should help ”Training Day” earn $20-22 million.

Second place should go to the diametrically opposite ”Serendipity,” the Manhattan-set romantic comedy starring Cusack (”America’s Sweethearts”) and Kate Beckinsale (”Pearl Harbor”). The leads have been everywhere promoting the film, which has garnered favorable early reviews. Much as the modeling world spoof ”Zoolander,” last week’s No. 2 movie, was a friendly alternative to heavy drama, ”Serendipity” will appeal to moviegoers looking for a more relaxing multiplex experience, and should gross $13-15 million.

The week’s third big debut, the road trip thriller ”Joy Ride,” will battle it out with ”Don’t Say a Word” for No. 3. ”Joy Ride,” featuring newly minted pinup Walker, Leelee Sobieski (”Eyes Wide Shut”), and ace character actor Steve Zahn, will bring in a large teen audience, while ”Word” is on track to decline about 40 percent in its second weekend. Both films should make $9-11 million.

Rounding out the top five will be ”Zoolander,” directed by and starring Ben Stiller. A 35-40 percent drop will translate into another $8-10 million for the comedy. Five films that could earn $10 million or more each? Looks like we may be getting back to normal after all.

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