August 26, 2002 
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Mel Gibson in Signs
Signs topples XXX
M Night Shyamalan's thriller retrieves top spot

Arthur J Pais

Showing the kind of resilience that most big budget films haven't had this year, M Night Shyamalan's Signs dropped by about 26 per cent the past weekend and claimed back to the top at the box-office in North America.

It earned about $144 million and took its 24-day total to $173 million. As a result of its continuing strength, experts are revising their earlier $170-million to $180-million gross forecast. They now believe it could reach $220 million.

Signs is moving fast to become the highest grossing Mel Gibson film, beating in a week his comedy What Women Want.

Signs could end up earning more than double Shyamalan's previous film Unbreakable, made over a year ago. But it remains a distant second to his first megahit The Sixth Sense, which earned about $295 million in North America over two years ago when tickets cost about 15 per cent less than today.

'There is a chord that is being touched, whether it's the spirituality or the crop circles,' Disney domestic distribution president Chuck Viane told reporters. 'Whatever it is, it has become part of the public consciousness right now.'

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But the most astonishing achievement of the weekend is the low-budget My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which started low key in a few cities before the summer onslaught of big budget movies.

For the first time in its 19-week long run, it zoomed to the top five orbit the past weekend. Its distributor IFC added 270 theatres last week, taking the total to 1,330 theatres. With a $7.8 million take and a $64 million gross, it is headed down the aisles for a $100 million gross.

Two weeks ago when the comedy added about 200 screens, some Hollywood experts thought it could earn about $75 million. But the steady hold it has been showing over the box-office led to a revision of that estimate.

Even with a 1,330 theatre count, it is playing in far less number of theatres than most other movies. Films such as Serving Sara, which are new, are playing at over 2,500 movie houses.

The Robin Williams starrer One Hour Photo opened Wednesday in a handful of theatres. It added more screens by Friday and grossed an impressive $315,000.

Fox Searchlight will add more theatres and cities the coming Friday, which could take the film, one of the best reviewed films so far this year, into the top 10 list.

In a week in which the newcomers like the mostly ridiculed high-tech comedy Simone, starring Al Pacino earned a slim $4 million, and the Elizabeth Hurley and Matthew Perry comedy Serving Sara grossed a disappointing $6 million, the continuing success of proven hits was some consolation to the movie industry. Vin Diesel in XXX

XXX, which was pushed to the second place by Signs, slid by about 38 per cent and earned about $13.7 million ($106 million gross). And Spy Kids 2, which is still amusing adults and children, earned about $7.8 million over the weekend. With $58 million earned in about a month, it is headed for a medium-sized hit status with a final $80 million gross.

Universal's surf drama Blue Crush, which generally received good reviews, isn't making big waves. It lost about 55 per cent of its box-office and earned about $6.5 million. Yet the $26 million movie could make a small profit.

Austin Powers In Goldmember has still quite a bit of laughing gas left. With a $5.6 million gross, it is chugging its way to a $210 million domestic gross.


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