Joel Schumacher's Phone Booth tops weekend box office

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com April 08 2003 12:00 AM ET

Out director Joel Schumacher's Phone Booth, starring Colin Farrell as a man trapped on a public telephone by a sniper, dialed in as the weekend's number 1 movie with a $15 million debut. The teen flick What a Girl Wants, with Amanda Bynes as an outgoing American reunited with her stuffy British dad, opened in second place with $12.1 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. Vin Diesel's action tale A Man Apart, about a rogue federal agent battling a Mexican drug cartel, premiered at number 3 with $11.2 million. Last weekend's top movie, Head of State, fell to fourth place with $8.8 million.

Hollywood remained in a box-office slump, with the top 12 movies grossing $84 million, down 10% from the same weekend a year ago. It was the fourth straight weekend that revenues declined, and the box office is down about 7% compared with last year. Studio executives say the war in Iraq might be dampening the moviegoing mood somewhat. But analysts said movie choices so far this year generally have been weaker than the first part of 2002, when such hits as Ice Age, Blade II, John Q, and Panic Room opened to big audiences.

"The fact that it's down four weekends in a row, everybody says, hey, this has to do with the war and people's moods," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "But no matter what the mood of the country, if there are good movies out there, people will want to go see them." The box office should heat up this weekend, when Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson's comedy Anger Management opens. Coming a few weeks later is the X-Men sequel X2, followed by The Matrix Reloaded, the middle chapter of the sci-fi saga starring Keanu Reeves.

Originally scheduled for release last November, Phone Booth had been put on hold because of the sniper attacks around Washington, D.C., that killed 13 people. After two suspects were caught in those shootings, 20th Century Fox rescheduled the movie, reasoning that enough time had passed and its story line of a gunman targeting a specific victim was dissimilar. "Once we knew what it was in D.C. and how it was being done, it was clearly a very different thing from this," said Bruce Snyder, the studio's head of distribution. "At the time, you couldn't have put this out there. It would be offensive and hurtful. Now it's just become a thriller."

The movie stars Farrell as a sleazy publicist held hostage in Manhattan's last remaining phone booth by a sniper (Kiefer Sutherland) who says he will kill his victim if he hangs up. Eddie Griffin's stand-up comedy concert movie DysFunKtional Family opened with $1.1 million in 602 theaters for a weak average of $1,827 a cinema, compared with $6,056 in 2,481 theaters for Phone Booth. In limited release, Nick Nolte's casino-heist caper The Good Thief, directed by Neil Jordan, opened strongly in nine theaters with $137,626 for a $15,292 average.