Line One: Hollywood

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Last weekend, when you lined up to see "Meet the Parents," you may not have noticed that "Bring It On" was still playing at the multiplex. Or, with popcorn and Twizzlers in hand, as you rushed to the next showing of "Remember the Titans," you passed by the somewhat windswept theater in which "Bring It On" has been playing since August 22 and didn't stop. And yet the enduring presence of "Bring It On" is remarkable. According to conventional wisdom, it's a movie that should by now have come and gone from theaters, made its video debut and begun rotating on pay-cable channels. It is, after all, a teen comedy that might easily have gone the way of last spring's "Whatever It Takes," starring people who no one besides US magazine editors have ever heard of and which opened to a paltry $2.3 million, one of several signs this year that the teen high-school comedy had been tapped out. But "Bring It On" brought in more than $17 million its opening weekend, and has since grossed over $60 million. When its theatrical run ends, it will leave the field a victor. At a cost of about $10 million, it will ultimately bring in close to $70 million at the domestic box office, making it one of the most profitable films of 2000.

The roots of its success, of course, go back to a clever, well-refined script. Screenwriter Jessica Bendinger tapped into racial conflicts and moral dilemmas with her story of an ambitious white high school cheerleader (Kirsten Dunst), who discovers that her team has been stealing routines from a group of black cheerleaders on a rival squad. "We made a good film for the right price," says Marc Abraham, one of the producers who would've been perfectly happy had the film raked in $40 million. But good scripts don't always translate to box office success (see last weekend's grosses for "Almost Famous"). When the marketing minds at Universal tested the concept with teenagers earlier this year, they discovered that the kids were less than interested in a cheerleading movie. "They thought cheerleading was kind of death," says Universal's marketing president Marc Shmuger, who thus veered the campaign away from cheerleading, played up the rivalry between the black and white squads and changed the title from "Cheer Fever" to the more combative "Bring It On." When the trailer made its debut in front of "Big Momma's House" in June, its response from teenagers, twentysomethings, blacks and whites indicated that they had a crossover hit on their hands.

The film has held up because of favorable word of mouth, and because we in the media have played catch-up with a movie most of us ignored in the beginning. Kirsten Dunst appeared on "The Tonight Show" early in the film's run. Other members of the cast scored spots on MTV. Entertainment shows recycled footage from a bouncy press junket that had been staged prior to opening weekend at UCLA with legions of real cheerleaders. Also, of course, the cheerleading movie got lucky. Like all monstrously profitable films, it arrived quite by accident at a time when audiences were in the mood to see it. You go, girls.