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September 7, 1999
Sixth Number 1 For Five Weeks
Arthur J Pais
Soaring past the most optimistic predictions, 29-year-old Manoj Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense fought off the opposition at the crowded Labor Day holiday weekend and held on to the No 1 position and earned more than the next three films combined.
With a $ 28.5 million haul in four days of the holiday period, the movie has grossed $ 175 million, and earlier estimates of a $ 200 million box-office in North America are now being revised for a $ 275 million final gross. It could become the second most successful of 1999 releases next to the $ 425 million grossed by The Phantom Menace. The George Lucas opus cost $ 115 million and over $ 60 million for marketing while Shyamalan's film was made for about $ 40 million, with marketing cost of less than $ 20 million.
The spook thriller joins Titanic as the only film to score five $ 20 million weekends. Titanic ended with $ 600 million. But The Sixth Sense, which has been dropping by about 10 per cent in recent weeks, is headed for a far less but a very lucrative final gross in America. It is expected to do stronger business abroad, given the huge following its star Bruce Willis has in Asia and South America. In about three weeks, it could overtake Armageddon, the highest grossing film for Willis. The $ 120 million movie grossed about $ 210 million in America and $ 300 million abroad.
Box-office experts were surprised that The Sixth Sense gained 15 per cent this week.
Shyamalan's movie also sets a new Labor Day holiday record, breaking the four-day benchmark of $ 17.2 million set by The Fugitive in 1993, said a spokeswoman for Walt Disney Co., which released Sixth Sense through its Hollywood Pictures banner. The strength of The Sixth Sense helped Disney crush the competition in overall ticket sales for the summer box-office, which runs from Memorial Day weekend through Monday.
The movie will make at least $ 60 million in profits for Disney, a sizeable contribution to the studio's coffers at a time when its struggling film division most needs it. The film involves a psychologist trying to help a boy who sees dead people.
"It's just an incredible film. It keeps people coming back for more,'' said Reel Source President Robert Bucksbaum, who attributed the film's lasting strength to moviegoers seeing it more than once.
Disney believes there are thousands of people who have seen the film three or four times.
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