'Bad guy' Denzel Washington tops box office with 'Training Day'

Sunday, October 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Even mean and crooked, Denzel Washington can pack a movie theater.

``Training Day,'' the nice-guy actor's first time as a villain, debuted as the No. 1 weekend film with $24.2 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

``Serendipity,'' a romantic comedy starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale, opened in second place with $14 million.

Last weekend's top movie, ``Don't Say a Word,'' slipped to No. 3 with $10 million. ``Zoolander,'' the second-place film a week ago, fell to No. 4 with $9.9 million.

Two other new movies debuted in the top 10 this weekend. The highway thriller ``Joy Ride,'' with Steve Zahn, Paul Walker and Leelee Sobieski, was No. 5 with $7.4 million. The junior-high comedy ``Max Keeble's Big Move'' was No. 6 with $5.5 million.

Hollywood did healthy business for the second weekend in a row after a sharp drop last month in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Several big films, including ``Training Day,'' were bumped from their scheduled Sept. 21 openings, leaving a dearth of new movies.

Overall, the top 12 movies took in $86.9 million, up 14 percent from the same weekend last year and up 35.5 percent from a week ago.

It was the second straight weekend that a violent, R-rated thriller topped the box office, indicating that audiences were not shying away from intense subject matter in the wake of the attacks.

``I think this will embolden studios to not be as shy of releasing these types of films,'' said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. ``People can differentiate fantasy from reality. The world changes, but as long as the movies are good and marketed well, it's pretty much business as usual. Except terrorism. I think that's still a taboo subject and may be for a while.''

Arnold Schwarzenegger's ``Collateral Damage,'' in which he plays a firefighter seeking vengeance against terrorists who killed his family, was scheduled to open this past weekend but has been put on hold indefinitely.

Tim Allen's comedy ``Big Trouble,'' scheduled to open Sept. 21, also was delayed indefinitely because it includes a scene about a bomb on an airplane.

``Training Day,'' co-starring Ethan Hawke and directed by Antoine Fuqua, was held for two weeks so Warner Bros. could advertise it more effectively, said Dan Fellman, the studio's head of distribution.

``Even though subject matter was not in conflict with the events of the day, I think we needed time to publicize the film properly,'' Fellman said. ``Denzel and Antoine both were very distraught, like all of us, over the events. It just was not in our best interest at that time to go on television and sell the movie.''

Washington plays a flamboyantly corrupt narcotics detective who bullies his way through a day on the streets with a rookie cop (Hawke).

It was almost exactly a year since Washington led the box office as a high-minded football coach in ``Remember the Titans,'' which had been his best previous opening at $20.9 million.

``Serendipity,'' largely set in New York City, also was affected by the terrorist attacks. Distributor Miramax removed a shot of the trade center towers from the finished film.

In interviews with people after seeing ``Serendipity,'' Miramax found many movie-goers saying the light comedy was ``just what I needed right now,'' said David Kaminow, senior vice president of marketing for Miramax.

``It really is a terrific love letter to New York, the way people want to think about New York.''

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures are to be released Monday.

1. ``Training Day,'' $24.2 million.

2. ``Serendipity,'' $14 million.

3. ``Don't Say a Word,'' $10 million.

4. ``Zoolander,'' $9.9 million.

5. ``Joy Ride,'' $7.4 million.

6. ``Max Keeble's Big Move,'' $5.5 million.

7. ``Hearts in Atlantis,'' $5.4 million.

8. ``Hardball,'' $3.7 million.

9. ``The Others,'' $3 million.

10. ``Rush Hour 2,'' $1.8 million.