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Heh, heh, he said B.O.!

The way cool opening of Paramount and MTV Films’ “Beavis and Butt-head Do America” led the pre-Christmas weekend to a merry $82.6 million total, up about 16% from the equivalent Friday-Sunday period last year.

The dimwitted teen duo’s cross-country trek in a quest to make 10 grand in order to replace a stolen TV set finished the weekend with a $20.1 million haul, startling even seasoned box office observers.

No message here

“This film flew under everyone’s radar screen,” said Van Toffler, exec VP of MTV Prods. “It reaffirms our belief that there is an audience out there if you speak to them in ways that are meaningful to them – not that this is exactly a message film.”

The animated feature, which paired Viacom subsidiaries Paramount Pictures and MTV, appears to be a rare example of those elusive concepts of synergy and corporate branding that entertainment conglomerates long have touted.

“The relationship between MTV films and Paramount was dream,” Toffler said. “They let us do the picture we wanted to do and we worked together on the marketing both on and off of MTV. You have to put Sumner Redstone’s face right between Beavis and Butt-head – the faces of synergy.”

While “Beavis and Butt-head” clearly is MTV’s most visible and popular on-air property, the company’s feature production arm also has been developing bigscreen versions of its futuristic animated series “Aeon Flux” and “The Maxx.” However, Toffler said MTV Films’ next couple of theatrical releases likely will be ones that do not derive from the cable network’s programming.

Teen audiences of both sexes drove Miramax/Dimension’s horror pic “Scream” to a $6.4 million opening weekend. The film performed better on Sunday than many observers had expected, posting a drop of just 12% from Saturday – the best hold among the top 10 films.

Good word drives B.O.

Miramax credited the Wes Craven-helmed chiller’s staying power to strong word of mouth. “Exit polls indicated 70% to 80% of audiences surveyed said they would definitely recommend the film to their friends,” a Miramax spokeswoman said. “The film appeals to all ethnic demographics and to males and females equally.”

Meanwhile, as the Oscar race continues to widen, the Golden Globe nominations for best dramatic picture seem to have had a measurable – if not huge – effect on recipients.

Miramax’s “The English Patient,” which garnered seven Globe noms last week, dropped just 6% to $1.7 million, despite a decrease in screens from 683 to 612. October’s “Secrets & Lies,” with three noms, actually gained 10% to $123,000, despite a drop from 78 to 71 screens.

Fine Line’s “Shine,” with five noms including best picture, was off just 3% to $131,500 on 10; while October’s “Breaking the Waves” (two noms) jumped 74% after more than doubling its run, from 20 to 42 theaters. The fifth-best drama nominations, “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” begins a limited this weekend.

Overall B.O. comparisons with the comparable frame last year are problematic because Christmas fell on a Monday in 1995, making it a four-day weekend. However, according to Entertainment Data Inc., the total for the three-day weekend – which included Christmas Eve, a traditionally weak day at the box office – came to about $72 million.

In 1991, the most recent time Christmas fell on a Wednesday, box office for the top 10 films saw increases of between 50% and 100% from the pre-Christmas weekend to post-Christmas one.

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