August 5, 2002 
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Mel Gibson in Signs
All Signs go at US BO
Gibson edges out Mike Myers

Arthur J Pais

Spooking all opposition, M Night Shyamalan's Signs reaped excellent dividends at the box-office, grossing $60.2 million in three days.

While it pushed the gross-out comedy, Austin Powers in Goldmember to the second position (which still made an impressive $32 million) Signs set several records.

It is the highest grossing film for Shyamalan, whose Unbreakable grabbed $30 million in the opening weekend over a year ago, and The Sixth Sense earned about $29 million in 1999. Signs is also the highest weekend grossing film for Mel Gibson, whose Ransom opened with $34 million about six years ago. For Walt Disney, the Signs opening marks the highest weekend grossing record for its non-animated films.

Shyamalan, who was hailed by Newsweek magazine in its cover story as the next Steven Spielberg, reportedly received about $12 million to write and direct Signs. He also plays a small but key role in the film as the mysterious Ray Reddy whose action leads to a tragedy and crisis of faith in the affable priest (Gibson).

Now the big question is if Shyamalan's drama about aliens and a troubled Christian priest can beat the $295 million North American benchmark of The Sixth Sense. Or will it suffer a quick burnout like Unbreakable. The Sixth Sense, which remained at the top, for five weeks lost just about 10 per cent of the box-office with each passing week, while Unbreakable fell by about 40 per cent in its second weekend. Tickets, three years ago, cost about 20 per cent less.

Signs is showing in about 3,260 cinema houses while The Sixth Sense opened in 2160 theatres, adding about 500 more theatres after a couple of weeks of solid run.

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Even if Signs were to lose a big chunk of the box-office next week, it could still be on its way to a very profitable $160-175 million run in North America.

Shyamalan's movies invariably receive mixed critical reception. Signs is no exception. The New York Times, for instance, slammed the film for being too pretentious while grudgingly admitting Shyamalan was very good at creating a suspenseful milieu. On the other hand, Chicago Tribune raved about the film, giving it four stars out of five.

Austin Powers, written by Mike Myers who plays four roles in it, was expected to tumble in a big way because of the mammoth $71 million it grossed in its first weekend. It slipped by 56 per cent, taking its 10-day gross to a fabulous $143 million. It is expected to gross at least $215 million, $10 million more than the previous Austin Powers adventure, The Spy Who Shagged Me.

Mike Myers' pal Dana Carvey returned to movie houses with his first starring role in seven years with The Master Of Disguise, which at $18 million production cost, can be called a low budget movie. The latest edition of Austin Powers, the glitzy comedy, cost about $80 million.

The Master Of Disguise, a comedy about a man who uses his gift for impersonating to help his family, debuted with a decent but unexciting $13 million. If it does not suffer an huge attrition next weekend, it could end up with a healthy $50 million in North America --- and a small profit.

Perhaps the movie that was most hit by the Signs phenomenon is the acclaimed Road To Perdition. In previous weeks, the movie had lost 25-30 per cent of the box-office, but this weekend, it lost 40 per cent. With a $6.6 million weekend gross, its total has reached $77 million mark. If in the following week, it suffers smaller drops, it could reach the $100 million mark.

Men in Black II earned about $4.7 million, dropping 45 per cent from last week. With a $182 million gross so far, MIBII is struggling to reach the $200 million mark.


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