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August 16, 1999
Shyamalan Spooks Opposition
A P Kamath
For the second week in a row Manoj Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense kept ahead of the competition and retained the top position in the United States and Canada. Words such as "incredible staying power" and "remarkable box-office hold" are being used to describe the film's performance.
In just 10 days Shyamalan's film has grossed $70 million, recouping its modest $40 million investment; its per-screen average was a strong $10,901.
The last movie to rule the box office for consecutive weeks wasStar Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace, whose three weekend reign ended June 4-6. The first week gross for The Sixth Sense, while being very impressive, looks small compared to the $60 million grossed by The Phantom Menace, which completed its run with more than $415 million gross.
The Sixth Sense is drawing enormous number of repeat audiences because of its powerful and surprising ending. This weekend, it beat the well-reviewed Eddie Murphy-Steve Martin film, Bowfinger, which grossed $18 million, compared to $26 million garnered by The Sixth Sense.
For 29-year-old Shyamalan, the movie is not so much about ghosts and afterlife but facing life's realities and communicating with friends, lovers, spouses and parents.
If terror of what the audiences can see and fear of what we can't see is the soul of The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan says, then surely the heart of the film is the relationship -- the friendship between Dr Malcolm Crowe and his eight-year-old patient Cole, played by Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment, respectively.
"The friendship is the huge factor in the success of their doctor-patient relationship," he says, "and it is imperative that the audience understands that friendship to become emotionally involved with these two people and to really care about what the two of them are going through."
"It is through the growth of their friendship, they both come to recognize the goodness in each other and the prospect of helping each other and their respective suffering."
In topping the box office for the second straight weekend, The Sixth Sense dropped by a minuscule two per cent from its debut week. Most box-office observers had expected it to drop by 25 per cent.
"The movie is packing full houses many times during the weekdays because of fantastic word of mouth," says Gitesh Pandya, one of America's most quoted box-office observers.
"Bruce Willis films never display this kind of stamina at the box office," Pandya notes. "Much of the credit for its enormous success goes to writer/director M Night Shyamalan who crafted an eerie tale with clever plot twists that has been giving moviegoers the creeps."
Earlier estimates gave the film $100 million gross in America but now trade insiders say it could easily seize $150 million, and if the current momentum continues, it could dislodge Armageddon, the highest grossing Bruce Willis film, with $206 million American gross and $320 million abroad. Both Armageddon, which cost about $125 million, and The Sixth Sense are produced by Walt Disney.
Given Willis's huge popularity abroad, The Sixth Sense could top its American box-office gross.
"On the international front, Bruce Willis is a humongous box office draw," Pandya says."So The Sixth Sense is sure to become a megablockbuster in global ticket sales."
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