'Cats & Dogs' nips 'Scary 2'

Warner Bros. laffer “Cats & Dogs” high-tailed it to the top of the box office heap with a bright-eyed $22 million in estimated box office, while Steven Spielberg’s much-heralded “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” plummeted a worrisome 52% to $14.1 million.

Full-blooded weekend perf chased five-day cume for war-of-the-pets live actioner to a well-groomed $36 million. “C&D,” produced for an estimated $60 million including lots of talking-critters f/x, reps Warners’ biggest family-pic debut ever.

Miramax/Dimension’s horror spoof “Scary Movie 2″ scared up $21 million in estimated B.O. to finish No. 2. That compared with a weekend-topping $42.3 million bow for the original “Scary Movie” in the same frame last year.

“We’re thrilled with this opening and could be poised for another sequel,” Miramax marketing veep David Kaminow said.

Opening “Scary 2″ Wednesday on Independence Day likely undercut opening-weekend grosses, Kaminow said, though the same could be argued for “C&D.” Five-day cume for “Scary 2,” which cost about $45 million to produce, is an estimated $34.5 million.

‘A.I.’ in 3rd place

Third-place finisher “A.I.,” from Warners/DreamWorks, has plugged into $59.7 million over its first 10 days.

“It seems to continue the pattern of other big opening films this summer,” Warners distrib topper Dan Fellman said. “I think we’ll settle in, though. The picture is playing to a primarily adult audience, but we’re playing to a little bit younger audience than we had been.”

A project of the late Stanley Kubrick taken over by Spielberg, pic is being distribbed by Warners with the studios splitting $100 million in production costs and worldwide B.O. Warners also gets a distrib fee.

20th Century Fox’s chopsockey actioner “Kiss of the Dragon” was the weekend’s third opener, finishing No. 4 with $13.6 million after a Friday bow. Some observers saw Jet Li-Bridget Fonda starrer as playing to overly similar demos as “Scary 2,” with both pics skewing toward young males and doing best with urban auds.

Fox distrib prexy Bruce Snyder said “Kiss” perf was smack in the middle of expectations. Pic’s negative cost is estimated in the low $20 millions.

Industrywide, the weekend’s $130 million in total grosses repped a 10% drop from the same frame a year ago, according to data from B.O. tracker ACNielsen EDI. But in a year-to-date comparison, 2001 is still 7% ahead of the same span of last year.

‘Baby’ drops 44%

Meanwhile, Sony’s urban-skewing drama “Baby Boy” saw a 44% drop in its soph sesh to $4.8 million. John Singleton-helmed pic, which has an estimated $16 million negative cost, boasts 10-day cume of $20.8 million.

Disney’s “Crazy/Beautiful” posted second-weekend numbers that were neither, but a modest 23% drop from $13 million pic’s lackluster opening was certainly helpful. Some $3.6 million in new B.O. moved 10-day cume to $11.8 million.

Elsewhere, Disney’s World War II epic “Pearl Harbor” sunk from the top 10, but $3.2 million in weekend grosses floated domestic cume to $187 million. And Fox’s quirky musical “Moulin Rouge,” an estimated $48 million-$50 million production, may have sung its way out of the red with another $1.4 million that danced domestic cume to $51 million.

Among specialty pics, Miramax laffer “The Closet” racked up $215,000 in expanding to 16 locations this weekend from a previous four, repping a top-shelf $13,430 per engagement.

“Everybody’s Famous,” another Miramax laffer, was less renowned among moviegoers this weekend, grossing $17,000 in four Gotham and L.A. locations for a humdrum $4,250 per theater.

‘Sun’ shines

Sony Classics’ Vietnamese drama “The Vertical Rays of the Sun” shone in four Gotham and L.A. locations, reflecting $27,199 in grosses for a per-venue average of $6,800.

And Fox Searchlight’s black comedy “Sexy Beast” grossed $714,000 in adding 25 theaters for a total 134. Per-venue average of $5,325 goosed cume to $3.1 million.

Warners’ Fellman said the No. 1 finish for “Cats & Dogs” is particularly notable as family pic’s top-grossing perf was built in large part on lower-priced kids tix.

“We were an exhibitor’s dream this weekend,” he quipped. “We brought a lot of bodies to the theater, and they were all hungry.”

MGM execs were stoked by results of 818 sneaks in 101 markets for distrib’s upcoming laffer “Legally Blonde.”

Half of the sneaks sold out, with theaters 75% full overall, said marketing and distrib prexy Bob Levin. Auds were 25% under 18 and 45% 18-25, Levin said.

Reese Witherspoon starrer opens in 2,000 plus theaters on Friday. Other wide releases set to bow this weekend include Sony’s vidgame adaptation “Final Fantasy” and Paramount’s Robert De Niro starrer “The Score.”

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