by Bridget Byrne
Oct 13, 2003, 3:30 PM PT
Kill Bill slayed 'em.
Quentin Tarantino's bloody kung-fu extravaganza opened as the weekend's top movie with $22.1 million, according to studio figures released Monday.
The first part--Volume 1 as it is billed--of Tarantino's opus, starring Uma Thurman as a comely assassin with no inhibitions about swinging her samurai sword far and wide in the name of revenge, now ranks as the fifth-best October opener ever.
Debut business was clearly way ahead of the director's previous efforts--Jackie Brown opened with $12.8 million in 1997; 1994's Pulp Fiction only made $9.3 million its first Friday to Sunday, but went on to become his big hit, racking up a total gross of $107.9 million and winning him a Best Screenplay Oscar; Reservoir Dogs, which made him a cult icon, only took in $147,839 when it opened in 19 theaters in 1992.
Adding to the good news was that exit polling showed 90 percent of the audience want to see Volume 2 when it's released in February. The weekend's crowds were 60 percent male and mainly young.
Miramax CEO Rick Sands believes the decision to split the reportedly $65 million production into two parts was "smart," telling the Associated Press, "the gamble paid off."
Tarantino's R-rated release left little room for competition, inflicting intolerable cruelty on the weekend's other major newcomers.
Good Boy!, a family comedy about chatty pooches from outer space, woofed up $13.1 million in third place, better than box-office prognosticators expected and ahead of Intolerable Cruelty, the Coen brothers' take on the perils of modern romance, which only managed a fourth-place debut with $12.5 million, a little lower than had been hoped. The glamorous teaming of George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones registered most warmly with older females.
The fourth newbie, House of the Dead, in which a gaggle of raving teens are trapped on a zombie-infested island, barely raised a hackle, opened in sixth place with estimated $5.7 million, paid in mainly by young males.
Helping Kill Bill bury the competition was last week's number one School of Rock, which only rolled back 21 percent from its opening weekend. Down to second place Jack Black's comedy earned $15.5 million, bringing its current gross to $39.7 million.
In limited release, Mystic River, Clint Eastwood's dark drama of broken friendships and murder starring a slew of heavyweight actors, including Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, proved it will be a talking point at least through Oscar time. Debuting at just 13 sites, the R-rated Warners release averaged a major $49,293 per screen to earn $640,815. It has made $828,422 since opening Wednesday.
Among the wide release films, Kill Bill: Volume 1 averaged $7,121 at its 3,102 sites. Universal's PG-13 Intolerable Cruelty averaged $4,885 at 2,564 sites, while MGM's PG-rated Good Boy! averaged $4,064 at 3,225 sites, and Artisan's R-rated House of the Dead averaged $3,739 at 1,520 locations.
Overall, the top 12 movies grossed $97.9 million, a solid gain of 22 percent over last weekend and a 5 percent improvement on this time last year.
Here's a rundown of the top 10, as compiled by box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations:
1. Kill Bill: Volume 1, $22.1 million