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Chicago struts its stuff

January 5th, 2003

In its first two weeks, Chicago has sung up mighty business during a limited run. Its debut weekend of Dec. 27 saw a per-screen average of $26,947 from 77 locations across the country. But if you remember last year’s musical, Moulin Rouge, bringing in some $85,000-plus on its opening weekend of May 18, let me remind you that the Nicole Kidman spectacle opened on just two screens, in New York and Los Angeles. And if it is any consolation, Chicago (based on the Broadway phenomenon by Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb) will most likely appeal to a wider audience and extend its neck past Moulin Rouge in the long run, both critically and commercially.

Proof of that has already emerged. Here in the sun-drenched city of Orlando, the film opened at two theaters and I was present at one of the earliest showings at Walt Disney’s AMC Pleasure Island 24, undeniably the biggest and best Cineplex in town.

Having considered some friends and myself to be the only ones attending Chicago that morning, I was stunned when, after the lights dimmed and the show began, every single seat in the auditorium was filled. A sell-out had emerged and the first full-fledged packed house I’d attend all year, that including my presence at opening nights of Spielberg’s Minority Report and 2002’s highest-grossing film, Spider-Man.

Not only was the theater full, but the crowd was exuberated. They all laughed, whistled, and applauded several scenes, most notably the courtroom/tap dance number performed splendidly by star Richard Gere.

Chicago also stars Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and is directed by newcomer Rob Marshall and written by Bill Condon (director of Gods and Monsters).

Chicago is expected to bring in $14,500 per-theater in its second weekend, having expanded to 304 sites. If word-of-mouth stays strong, Chicago could become the most popular musical since Grease and could sing up some Oscar nods as well.

Chicago is currently in the run for numerous Golden Globe awards, including best actor (Gere) actress (Zeta-Jones, Zellweger and co-star Queen Latifah), and best picture (musical or comedy).

Chicago opens nationwide January 24.

Matthew Dalton

Filed under: Chicago