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August 23, 1999
Supernatural Chiller Grosses Unearthly Figures
Arthur J Pais
If there was a doubt in anyone's mind that Manoj Night Shyamalan's unexpected hit The Sixth Sense is on its way to become a genuine blockbuster, it must have been dispelled this weekend as the movie with the supernatural theme held into the number one spot easily.
The third weekend is crucial in assessing the longevity of movies in America. For many films open strongly, suffer a big decline in the second week and end up bleeding in the third week.
The Sixth Sense declined by a minuscule three per cent at the second weekend and by about six percent this weekend. In 17 days, it has grossed $ 107.7 million.
This weekend, The Sixth Sense grossed more than the combined box-office of Bowfinger, the Eddie Murphy comedy in the second week declining by 41 per cent, and the new Hugh Grant film, Mickey Blue Eyes. While Bowfinger made about $ 10.7 million, the Grant comedy garnered $ 10.4 million.
Shyamalan's film which cost about $ 40 million is already profitable. Hollywood insiders believe that at its current rate, it would end up with more than $ 220 million in North America, beating the record of Bruce Willis' Armageddon, which had cost about $ 150 million.
Twenty-eight-year old Shyamalan has suddenly become a major name in Hollywood with the unexpected success of his film. Urgent calls are received at Walt Disney studios from newspapers and television stations asking for his interviews. He has already appeared on Larry King Show and is scheduled to do more interviews this week.
The Sixth Sense, which starts its run in Asia early next month, is now in 2,688 movie houses, up 293 from last weekend.
With a strong $ 8,966 per screen average, The Sixth Sense became one of the three films in the last three years to score three $ 20 million plus weekends in a row. The others are Titanic which grossed $ 610 million and Star Wars, Episode I, which minted about $ 420 million. Exhibitors believe that one reason The Sixth Sense is doing strong business is because it also offers a heart-warming story, apart from its chills and thrills.
The movie which revolves around a child who can see dead people and a troubled psychiatrist who seeks redemption "is accessible to all age groups," says Chuck Viane, the president of Buena Vista Pictures, the distribution arm of Disney. He says a lot of people are seeing it a second and third time to re-evaluate its shocking ending.
America's obsession with The Sixth Sense is clearly hurting the success of another spooky film, The Blair Witch Project. Made for a mere $ 40,000 and promoted by a $ 15 million budget, the film, work of graduate students in their mid 20s, have grossed a robust $ 120 million but it suffered a 50 per cent decline this weekend, and could end up with a great $ 150 million.
With low levels of competition in the weeks ahead, Shyamalan's film is assured of a very healthy run. There are also strong indications that it will be one of the hottest video items this year. Video store owners have already started placing big orders.
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