Arnold, WB on top with $15 million

Warner Bros./Bel Air finally unspooled Sept. 11 victim “Collateral Damage” this weekend, and the Arnold Schwarzenegger actioner captured the box office flag with an estimated $15.2 million in three-day grosses.

Universal family laffer “Big Fat Liar” and MGM action remake “Rollerball” finished second and third with bows of $11.7 million and $9 million, respectively.

Industrywide, weekend’s total $100 million in estimated grosses was off 22% from a year ago, when blockbuster sequel “Hannibal” swelled sesh numbers. Latest frame was hindered by competish from TV coverage of the Winter Olympics, including Friday night’s highly rated telecast of opening ceremonies.

Year-to-date, 2002 is off 2% from a year ago at $910 million in total grosses, according to data from B.O. tracker ACNielsen EDI.

Less steam in the kettle

Limp B.O. in the latest sesh is also traceable to flaccid perfs from recent releases.

Sony Screen Gems youth laffer “Slackers” fell from the top 10 in its soph sesh with a 61% drop to $1.1 million, as cume reached a slack $4.8 million. And Miramax’s Nicole Kidman starrer “Birthday Girl” tumbled 55% in its second week, grossing $1.1 million for a $4.2 million cume.

But Warners execs were pleased that “Collateral” showed few signs of damage from its months-long delay due to content sensitivities.

Produced for an estimated $15 million, “Liar” drew a mostly parents-with-kids crowd. “Probably 60% of the audience was under 13,” distrib topper Nikki Rocco estimated.

“Rollerball” repped a different story. Though MGM hedged it bet via foreign-rights sales, pic still cost a pretty penny to produce. Actioner was delayed from a skedded August bow to allow re-editing for younger auds, then was skewered by crix.

A couple of wide releases hoping for further marketing bang from possible Oscar noms Tuesday finished in the top ten again this weekend.

Sony/Revolution Studios’ military drama “Black Hawk Down” was No. 4 on the frame with an estimated $8 million to fly cume to $86.7 million. And U/Imagine’s biopic “A Beautiful Mind” grossed $5.8 million in seventh place, boosting cume to $112.8 million.

In a limited bow this weekend, Goldwyn/IDP debuted Korean-language “Shiri” with seven engagements in five markets to gross an estimated $31,500, or an acceptable $4,500 per playdate. Actioner is skedded to expand into additional markets in two weeks.

‘Monsters’ mushrooms

Elsewhere among specialty titles, Lions Gate’s Billy Bob Thornton-Halle Berry starrer “Monsters Ball” got its first big expansion this weekend, adding 312 theaters for a total 341 and grossing $2.3 million.

That was good for a weekend-best $6,745 per venue. Prison drama, which many say could figure in Academy noms, unspools in another 100 locations Friday.

Busy Miramax broadened Sissy Spacek starrer “In the Bedroom” 189 theaters to a total 737 and grossed an estimated $1.7 million, or a sleepy $2,238 per screen. Distrib hopes Tuesday’s Oscar noms will reawaken interest in family drama — which boasts $19.2 million domestic cume to date — and plans to widen run to 1,000 venues by month’s end.

Miramax’s French-lingo “Amelie” expanded 30 engagements for a total 303 and fetched an estimated $700,000, or just $2,310 per playdate. But whimsical laffer — which figures in foreign best-pic handicapping — boasts impressive specialty cume of $24.6 million.

‘Beginners’ baby steps

Distrib’s Danish-language “Italian for Beginners” added one theater for a total 15 and grossed an estimated $132,000, or a fluent $8,800 per venue. Laffer lifted cume to $486,408.

And Miramax’s Italian-lingo “The Son’s Room” widened 2 engagements to 7 and grossed $46,000, or a sturdy $6,571 average. Drama boosted cume to $114,411.

Fine Line’s Todd Solondz-helmed “Storytelling” added 33 theaters for a total 38 and grossed an estimated $150,000, or $3,950 per venue. Drama advanced cume to $333,000.

Universal Focus expanded French-language “Brotherhood of the Wolf” by 12 playdates to 405 and grossed an estimated $1.1 million, or $2,875 per engagement. Actioner has $8.6 million cume, with distrib expecting a $10 million domestic run in total.

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