''Serendipity'' opens strong; ''Max Keeble'' has no big moves

By Dave Karger
October 10, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

For the second week in a row, intrepid movie fans flocked to multiplexes, again favoring dark drama over lighter fare, as Denzel Washington’s violent ”Training Day” topped the box office with an impressive $24.2 million, according to estimates.

Apparently the film’s brutal violence didn’t deter Denzel fans, as ”Training Day”’s take surpassed Washington’s previous personal best, last year’s ”Remember the Titans,” which debuted with $20.9 million. Critical praise for Washington’s performance, which has had some talking Oscar, along with cameos from popular rap artists Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, certainly added to the film’s draw. Only last year’s ”Meet the Parents” has ever opened stronger in October.

Filmgoers looking for something lighter found ”Serendipity,” to the tune of $14 million for the John Cusack/Kate Beckinsale romantic comedy. That number obviously pales in comparison to the $30.2 million posted by Cusack’s last film, ”America’s Sweethearts.” But that entry had the dual benefit of a summer opening and a costar named Julia Roberts.

Last week’s top two films ran neck-and-neck in third and fourth place. The Michael Douglas thriller ”Don’t Say a Word” fell a decent 41 percent to $10 million, bringing its total to over $32 million, while the Ben Stiller spoof ”Zoolander” dropped only 36 percent to $9.9 million.

The weekend’s other two new entries landed in fifth and sixth place. The road trip thriller ”Joy Ride” managed only a $7.4 million gross, despite uniformly excellent reviews and a hot cast including Paul Walker, Leelee Sobieski, and Steve Zahn. And the Disney kiddie revenge comedy ”Max Keeble’s Big Move” stalled in sixth place with $5.5 million. All those families must be waiting for that ”Shrek” DVD.

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