'Barbershop' clips competition to top box office

— Movie-goers might want to phone ahead for an appointment to get into "Barbershop."

The warmhearted comedy starring Ice Cube as reluctant proprietor of his late father's business debuted in first place at the box office with $21 million over the weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The year's big sleeper hit, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," remained in the No. 2 spot with $11 million, pushing its total to $110.7 million and becoming the 15th movie of 2002 to cross the $100 million mark.

And in its first weekend of fairly wide release, Robin Williams' stalking thriller "One Hour Photo" came in third, with $7.7 million.

The weekend's other new wide release, Jason Lee and Tom Green's crime comedy "Stealing Harvard," premiered at No. 4 with $6.3 million, finishing slightly ahead of last weekend's top film, "Swimfan," which grossed $6.1 million.

Overall box office revenues rose for the first time in nearly two months. The top 12 movies took in an estimated $72 million, up 38 percent from the same weekend last year, although that was a relatively slow period in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Barbershop" played in 1,605 theaters and averaged a whopping $13,084 a cinema.

"If you make a good movie, they'll come," said Peter Adee, head of marketing for "Barbershop" distributor MGM. "I think there's a big audience out there that goes to good movies, whether they're ethnic or not. Just look at 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding."'

"Greek Wedding" added 69 locations to reach its widest release yet at 1,764 theaters and average $6,254, an impressive figure considering it has been out for five months.

The romantic comedy starring its screenwriter, Nia Vardalos, and John Corbett cost just $5 million to make and could finish with a domestic gross of $150 million to $160 million, said Rob Schwartz, head of distribution for IFC Films, which released "Greek Wedding."

"One Hour Photo" averaged $6,337 in 1,212 theaters. "Stealing Harvard" played in 2,366 theaters and averaged a so-so $2,663.

Besides "Barbershop," MGM had good news during the weekend with the dark coming-of-age comedy "Igby Goes Down," which averaged $31,918 at 10 theaters in New York City and Los Angeles. The film featuring Kieran Culkin, Susan Sarandon, Jeff Goldblum, Claire Danes and Ryan Phillippe expands to more theaters over the next two weekends.

MGM is struggling to recover from a string of box-office losers such as "Windtalkers" and "Hart's War." With "Barbershop" and "Igby," the studio now has two solid lead-ins to an almost certain smash in "Die Another Day," the 20th James Bond flick, which opens in November.

Studios often use the lull between summer and holiday blockbuster seasons to slip in smaller, edgier fare such as "One Hour Photo," "Barbershop" and "Igby," which was delayed from a late summer debut in favor of the quieter period after Labor Day.

"You get into this time of year and it's a better climate for quirky and more sophisticated movies," said "Igby" producer Marco Weber.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.:

1. "Barbershop," $21 million.

2. "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," $11 million.

3. "One Hour Photo," $7.7 million.

4. "Stealing Harvard," $6.3 million.

5. "Swimfan," $6.1 million.

6. "Signs," $5.3 million.

7. "City by the Sea," $4.8 million.

8. "XXX," $3.3 million.

9. "Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams," $2.4 million.

10. "Austin Powers in Goldmember," $1.8 million.


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