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October 01, 1999

"Three Kings" and a queen will rule over the boxoffice this weekend

By Roger Cels
The Hollywood Reporter

Warner Bros.' "Three Kings" has rallied its subjects in the marketplace to the point where a first-place finish is well within its power. DreamWorks' "American Beauty," meanwhile, will play the distaff supporting role to "Three Kings' " male lead for the time being, though it might have been more Lady Macbeth if both films were in equally wide release.

The gender gap separating the two projects only enhances the business outlook for both. While the best of worlds would have a picture play to all audiences, completely capturing one or the other of the sexes can provide for a potent performance.

"Three Kings" stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube as American soldiers who set out to loot a pot of gold in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm but end up doing the right thing instead. David O. Russell directed and co-wrote with John Ridley.

Much has been made of the twisted take on the story line in "Three Kings," but audiences appear to view it more as a straight-up wartime adventure saga. Males in general and the choice under-25 sector specifically are the most motivated members of the marketplace at this juncture, suggesting that the female attraction that might be exerted by a more light-hearted rendering has not really taken hold. Of course, Clooney can get the girls going all on his own, so it would be unwise to completely count them out just yet.

"American Beauty," for its part, has made its boxoffice bones, having earned about $10 million in two weeks of very limited issue. That productive start is supported by marketplace sentiment that has all segments save young males quite involved as the Kevin Spacey-Annette Bening dark romantic comedy moves into moderate domestic release today.

Paramount's "Double Jeopardy," which opened last week to some $30 million, will also continue to be a player this go-round. The drama starring Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones remains a force with filmgoers, particularly "American Beauty's" core constituency of mature women.

Three other features debut nationally today: Fox's "Drive Me Crazy," Buena Vista's "Mystery, Alaska" and Sony's "The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland." "Crazy" is by far the most promising of the three and indeed may turn in an upside surprise if its fulsome following by young females is fully realized.

Melissa Joan Hart stars in "Crazy" as a high schooler who falls for the nerdy next-door neighbor whom she has fashioned into the quintessential date. John Schultz directed the feature, which is based on the Todd Strasser novel "Girl Gives Birth to Prom Date."

"Mystery, Alaska" is the story of a group of locals on a ragtag small-town hockey team whose exposure in a national news magazine finds them pitted against the vaunted New York Rangers professional club. Russell Crowe, Hank Azaria and Burt Reynolds star in movie directed by Jay Roach from a screenplay by David E. Kelley.

"Elmo" is the eighth installment in the Muppets movie series, which in the main have generated fair to moderate family business. This time around, Elmo must venture off Sesame Street and into a vile land of misanthropic creatures in search of his beloved blue blanket. First-timer Gary Halvorson directed.

Three films open today in limited issue: USA's "Plunkett & Macleane," Imax's "Siegfried & Roy" and Lions Gate's "New Rose Hotel." "Plunkett & Macleane" stars "Trainspotting" alumni Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle as Robin Hood-style robbers in 18th century England whose adventurous lifestyle is disrupted by one of their intended victims (Liv Tyler). "Siegfried & Roy" is a giant-screen rendering of the magician duo's renowned stage act. "Hotel" is a crime drama starring Christopher Walken and Willem Dafoe.

Miramax's "Happy, Texas" plays New York and Los Angeles only. Jeremy Northam, Steve Zahn and William H. Macy star in the story of redneck prison escapees whose cover is pretending to be gay men who specialize in staging children's beauty pageants. Mark Isley directed.

Playing New York only is Castle Hill's "Five Wives, Three Secretaries and Me." The documentary directed by Tessa Blake recounts life with her Houston oil tycoon father Tom Blake.

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