Adam Sandler's 'Mr. Deeds' overcomes critics' pans

Monday, July 1, 2002

LOS ANGELES -- "Mr. Deeds" went to town in a big way as the Adam Sandler comedy debuted as the No. 1 weekend film with $37.6 million.

Last weekend's No. 1 film, "Minority Report," slipped to third place with $21.6 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. "Lilo & Stitch," which opened just $400,000 behind "Minority Report" last weekend, remained the No. 2 movie with $22.2 million.

The weekend's other new wide release, the animated TV adaptation "Hey Arnold! The Movie," opened a distant sixth with a weak $6 million.

With the strong premiere of "Mr. Deeds" and solid staying power for "Lilo & Stitch," "Minority Report" and other holdover films, the industry scored another rising weekend. The top 12 films grossed $131.9 million, up 12 percent over the same weekend last year.

"This weekend was excellent, but I think next weekend with 'Men in Black,' we could be looking at some record-breaking numbers," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

A remake of Frank Capra and Gary Cooper's "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," Sandler's film overcame generally bad reviews and played well among his core audience of young males, a group that pays little heed to critics.

"With that audience, he's four stars," said Jeff Blake, head of distribution and marketing for Sony, which released "Mr. Deeds." "I think the audience went a little older than his usual given the romantic comedy subject matter, but it still played to his strength, the teens and young adults."

Sandler plays a goodhearted small-town guy who inherits $40 billion and winds up clashing with cynical city dwellers over his homespun values. Winona Ryder co-stars as Sandler's love interest.

"Spider-Man," the year's top-grossing film, fell out of the top 10 in its ninth weekend, taking in $3 million. Its total has climbed to $395.7 million and should pass $400 million by Fourth of July weekend.

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