“Chicago” and its Mama, Queen Latifah, Score Big at Weekend Box Office

News   “Chicago” and its Mama, Queen Latifah, Score Big at Weekend Box Office It must have been a memorable weekend for Queen Latifah, who portrays Matron “Mama” Morton in the acclaimed Miramax film “Chicago.”

Not only did the actress-singer host NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” March 8, but two of her movies placed in the top five of the highest box-office earners for the weekend past. “Bringing Down the House,” which casts Latifah as an escaped con who meets an uptight lawyer (Steve Martin), was the top box-office draw during its premiere weekend, bringing in a whopping $31.7 million. “Chicago” was the fourth top box-office draw, with a $6.9 million weekend gross and a total $114.5 million gross to date. Others in the weekend’s top five included “Tears of the Sun” ($17.2 million), “Old School” ($9.2 million) and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” ($6.8 million).

Queen Latifah was also among the winners of a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award for Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture for her work in “Chicago.” Others awarded that prize include co stars Christine Baranski, Ekaterina Chtchelkanova, Taye Diggs, Denise Faye, Colm Feore, Richard Gere, Deidre Goodwin, Mya Harrison, Lucy Liu, Susan Misner, John C. Reilly, Dominic West, Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The SAG Awards were announced live March 9.

*

“Chicago” opened wide Feb. 8 and now plays at more than 2,268 screens. Starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renée Zellweger and Richard Gere, "Chicago" debuted in the top-20 markets Dec. 27 and then opened at 300 other screens Jan. 3. The much-in-the-news film had another limited expansion Jan. 17 — for a total of 557 screens — and a further expansion Jan. 24. Last week, the film garnered 13 Academy Award nominations, the most of any motion picture this season.

The soundtrack of the film is available from Epic Records. *

Featuring a star-studded cast led by Zellweger (Roxie Hart), Zeta-Jones (Velma Kelly) and Gere (Billy Flynn), the "Chicago" company also includes John C. Reilly (Amos Hart), Dominic West (Fred Caseley), Christine Baranski (Mary Sunshine), Queen Latifah (Mama Morton) as well as Taye Diggs, Colm Feore, Lucy Liu, Mya, Marc Calamia, Deidre Goodwin, Sebastian La Cause, Mary Ann Lamb and a cameo from original Chicago star Chita Rivera.

Marshall, the choreographer of Broadway's Kiss of the Spider Woman and the revivals of Damn Yankees, She Loves Me, Cabaret and Little Me, directed the $45 million film, his motion-picture debut. Bill Condon wrote the "Chicago" screenplay for Miramax Studios, and the film's cinematographer was Dion Beebe. The Tony-winning lighting team of Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer lit the film.

John Kander and Fred Ebb's musical, which features such songs as "All That Jazz," "Mister Cellophane," "Class" and "Nowadays," debuted on Broadway in June 1975 with choreography by the late Bob Fosse and a cast led by Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera and Jerry Orbach. The Tony-winning revival opened in November 1996 with Bebe Neuwirth, Ann Reinking, Joel Grey and James Naughton in the lead roles. Featuring direction by Walter Bobbie and choreography by Reinking "in the style of Bob Fosse," the musical satire recently reopened at the Ambassador Theatre Jan. 29 after a lengthy run at the Shubert.