‘Friday’ tops ‘Down,’ wins weekend crown

NL pic outperforming expectations, 'Beauty' boost planned

Miramax’s “Down to You” dropped down a peg on the B.O. charts when actual weekend totals were released Monday, as New Line’s “Next Friday” emerged the winner for a second straight frame.

The two mini-majors jockeyed fiercely in their Sunday estimates, with Miramax predicting $8.3 million and New Line looking for $8.2 million for the three days.

The official tally favored New Line, which reported $8 million for “Next Friday.” Miramax proved much less accurate, as “Down to You” actually amassed $7.6 million.

While distribs commonly overestimate Sunday, the Miramax call was, in relative terms, fairly egregious. Plus, New Liners grumbled, it conveniently catapulted the company into the No. 1 spot.

Miramax’s “Down,” a romantic comedy starring Freddie Prinze Jr., targeted teen girls.

With Sunday’s championship football telecasts luring away male movie auds, Miramax officials expected girls to be down with “Down.” Given grosses of $3.1 million both Friday and Saturday, they looked for Sunday’s total to comprise 25% of the weekend take. Instead, it came in at 18%.

New Line distrib chief David Tuckerman said “Next Friday” continues to outpace expectations. It’s clearly the mini-major’s biggest B.O. performer since last summer’s “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.”

Cume of hip-hop comedy sequel starring Ice Cube stands at a sturdy $31.8 million, well beyond the $27.5 million amassed by the original 1995 pic “Friday.”

Tuckerman said “Next” will likely stay in the neighborhood of 1,200 screens heading into its third week.

In other B.O. news Monday, DreamWorks set plans to boost “American Beauty,” winner of three Golden Globes on Sunday, to about 750 screens from its current 267. The move will come Feb. 18, three days after Oscar noms are announced.

Pic began platform run last Sept. 15 and opened nationwide Oct. 1.

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