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Los Angeles Times

Monday, November 22, 1999

Bond, Ichabod Crane Gallop to a Record Box Office

* Latest 007 thriller and 'Hollow' debut at over $30 million--a first for two films in a weekend.
By RICHARD NATALE, Special to The Times

It's beginning to look a lot like Thanksgiving, thanks to James Bond and Ichabod Crane as admissions soared and box office totals were lifted to record highs for the pre-holiday weekend. Both "The World Is Not Enough" and "Sleepy Hollow" are estimated to debut at more than $30 million each, the first time two films have opened that high on the same weekend.

Though the Bond film franchise will be turning 40 in a couple of years, the 19th entry in the series was behaving like the new kid on the block in its first weekend. The $37.2 million estimated debut on 3,163 screens was far and away the fastest start for any Bond film. The previous high was $26.2 million for "GoldenEye" in 1995. It's also a personal best for MGM. Studio distribution chief Larry Gleason credits the high-octane launch to the film's marketing outreach to younger viewers via such vehicles as MTV. About the only segment of the audience that didn't bite in big numbers was younger females.

That audience segment was occupied by Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane as he tried to fathom a series of decapitations in "Sleepy Hollow." Tim Burton's phantasmagoric adaptation of Washington Irving's colonial tale sliced off a sizable chunk of the weekend business with an estimated $30.5 million in 3,064 theaters. About the only roadblock for "Sleepy Hollow" is its R-rating, limiting its reach to kids under 17. Otherwise, according to Paramount Pictures, which released the film, 57% of all ticket buyers were men and women under the age of 25, who should continue to be the film's engine in the weeks to come.

The Bond/Crane double punch accounted for more than 50% of the totals for the top 12 movies, knocking every other film in that group for a loop, with most dropping, on average, 40% or more from the previous weekend.

In particular, "Pokemon: The First Movie," plunged a sizable 57% in its second weekend from what was an admittedly high start. In 3,043 theaters, the Japanese animated movie captured an estimated $13.3 million. With more than $68 million in less than two weeks, however, the low-budget "Pokemon" is still an extremely profitable proposition and should reach $100 million by early- to mid-December.
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