''Last Castle'' and ''Riding in Cars'' round out the low-figured top three
Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, ...

In a weekend that saw disappointing performances from three big-name new releases, Johnny Depp’s horror whodunit ”From Hell” managed to eke out a box-office victory over Drew Barrymore and Robert Redford.

Earning an estimated $11.6 million in its first three days (about $5 million less than most projections), the Jack the Ripper thriller, starring Depp as a 19th-Century British policeman tracking the serial killer and Heather Graham as a prostitute targeted by the Ripper was hindered by its R rating and a downer of a title, to say the least. By comparison, Depp’s last high-profile period film, ”Sleepy Hollow,” grossed $30.1 million in its first weekend in 1999. With its overall favorable reviews and fortunate timing (Halloween is fast approaching), ”From Hell” will, however, be able to hang on much better than a typical horror film, which usually sees a 50-plus percent dropoff in its second weekend.

Close behind in second place was Barrymore’s ”Riding in Cars with Boys,” which amassed $10.8 million, also a bit below studio expectations. The drama, in which Barrymore plays a teenage mother, attempted to bring in romantic-comedy fans with its light-hearted TV ads, but potential filmgoers obviously found out that the movie, which features drug use and unwanted pregnancy, isn’t entirely a feel-good flick. Barrymore’s last star vehicle (not counting the ensemble ”Charlie’s Angels”), ”Never Been Kissed,” managed a stronger debut, earning $11.8 million in 1999.

Last week’s top two films both dropped a couple notches this weekend. In its third week, Denzel Washington’s ”Training Day” fell only 29 percent to $9.5 million, bringing its total to $57.5 million. And the Bruce Willis/Billy Bob Thornton bank-robber comedy ”Bandits” held on respectably in its second weekend, falling 36 percent to $8.4 million. Its 10-day take stands at $25 million.

The biggest disappointment of the weekend has to be ”The Last Castle,” the prison drama starring Redford as a court-martialed three-star general and ”Sopranos” star James Gandolfini as a dictatorial warden. Though most experts (including the film’s studio, DreamWorks) had the film opening in the double digits, it only managed $7.1 million. Obviously hampered by poor reviews, the drama couldn’t have been helped by Redford’s decision not to publicize the film. When he does begin his press rounds for next month’s Brad Pitt thriller ”Spy Game,” we can imagine what one of the media’s first questions will be.

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From Hell
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