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‘Dates’ Expecting Audience Crush
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Clear the decks.
Sony Pictures is sending out a rowdy valentine to weekend moviegoers in the form of the new Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore romantic comedy “50 First Dates,” and the result is likely to be 2004’s first box office blowout.
The combined luster of Sandler and Barrymore, a super-wide release that will see the movie setting up shop in 3,591 locations and the added benefit of a holiday weekend with Presidents Day on Monday should all conspire to boost “Dates” with a hefty liftoff.
Certainly, the competition is keeping its distance. Sony’s rivals are all ceding the frame, and as a result, the following weekend will see an especially crowded field as “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen,” “Welcome to Mooseport,” “Against the Ropes” and “Eurotrip” all jostle for attention in the wake of “Dates.”
“Dates” was produced by Sandler and nine others and/or executive producers. But in this case, Sandler’s and Barrymore’s names are the ones that really matter.
The duo first appeared together in 1998’s “The Wedding Singer,” which also bowed on the parallel four-day February weekend, opening to $21.9 million and eventually pulling in $89.2 million domestically.
Written by George Wing and directed by Peter Segal — who last year helmed Sandler’s “Anger Management” — the PG-13 “Dates” beckons with a seemingly surefire premise: Sandler falls in love with Barrymore, who plays a woman with short-term memory loss, which means that each day he must woo her all over again. The comparisons to Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Dog” are as obvious as they are inevitable.
Sandler has established himself as an actor who, when he is at the top of his game, scores $40 million openings. “Anger,” in which he starred opposite Jack Nicholson, debuted to $42 million in April. In 2002, “Mr. Deeds” arrived to the tune of $37 million.
When it comes to boffo openings, Barrymore is no slouch herself. “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” managed a $37.6 million opening in the summer, following in the wake of “Charlie’s Angels,” which scored $40.1 million when it hit theaters in 2000.
With clear sailing ahead of it, “Dates,” which looks as if it will draw from all demographics, should find itself flirting with the $40 million mark.
With “Dates” set to top the heap, the only suspense is which film will claim the second spot. MGM’s “Barbershop 2: Back in Business” opened in first place with a jiggy $24.2 million last week, and Disney’s underdogs-on-ice movie, “Miracle,” was not that far behind, attracting $19.4 million. Weekday screenings saw the two films maintain roughly the same relative position, though “Miracle” has been steadily closing the gap.
And because “Barbershop” is likely to experience a bigger drop than “Miracle,” the sports movie could seize the opportunity to move ahead of the urban comedy, as both of them duke it out in the $16 million-$20 million range to claim second-place honors.
Meanwhile, Jim Caviezel fans who happen to live in Texas and can’t wait to see his starring turn in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” opening Feb. 25, have an option: New Line Cinema is testing out the Caviezel starrer “Highwaymen,” in a limited, 111-theater run in the state. Directed by Robert Harmon, who helmed the 1986 classic, “The Hitcher,” the R-rated thriller stars Caviezel as a man out to avenge his wife’s death at the hands of a serial killer.
Meanwhile, on the specialty films circuit, Fox Searchlight Films will take its first steps in expanding Bernardo Bertlucci’s “The Dreamers.” The NC-17 drama debuted last weekend in five theaters to a cumulative gross of $142,632 — a per-theater average of $28,526. This weekend, it will move up to 66 theaters.
And Sony Pictures Classics will use the weekend to re-introduce Francois Dupeyron’s “Monsieur Ibrahim,” starring Omar Sharif. The French drama played an Academy-qualifying run in December. Although it failed to score any Oscar nominations, it has picked up several prizes including the audience award for Sharif as best actor at the Venice International Film Festival as well as a Golden Globe nomination as best foreign-language film.