Sequel tops estimate, 'Mile' misses

HOLLYWOOD — They went even more hog-wild for the Hogwarts this weekend than first estimated, while Eminem fell further than initially believed over his soph sesh.

Warner Bros.’ family phenom “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” actually grossed $88.4 million this weekend — or $700,000 more than projected for pic’s opening frame — according to Monday’s official data from box office tracker Nielsen EDI.

“Friday turned out to be the only day this ‘Harry’ didn’t beat the original, but that’s what made me skeptical of what the actual returns would be,” Warners distrib topper Dan Fellman said. “We also had some horrific weather back East (and) in parts of Canada. So, I thought we should take a conservative approach.”

Fellman had penciled in the same Sunday drop for “Chamber of Secrets” as marked over the first weekend of “Sorcerer’s Stone.” But sequel actually showed better audience hold on its third day than the franchise original, yielding a bit stronger opening weekend than originally estimated.

Perf still reps the third-best three-day bow of all time, after “Spider-Man” ($114.8 million) and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” ($90.3 million).

Total openings grosses for “Chamber” lagged those for “Stone” by 2%. The lower weekend estimate had the sequel trailing original’s bow by 3%.

The numbers have Warners execs believing sequel can again fly north of $300 million domestically. “Sorcerer’s Stone” delivered $317 million domestically, $967 million worldwide.

Meanwhile, Universal/Imagine’s “8 Mile” grossed just $19.3 million over its second weekend — $2 million less than had been estimated — meaning the hip-hop drama dropped a dramatic 62% from its opening weekend.

It appeared the disparity was traceable to less Sunday biz at urban ethnic theaters than had been projected. Eminem starrer still finished No. 2 in its second weekend.

Fan flameout?

Even rival distribs seemed puzzled by pic’s big drop, as critics’ reviews and word of mouth have been generally positive. Playability in future frames will bear watching, with some wondering if “8 Mile” built its big bow on rap artist’s fervent fan base that showed up early and then burned out.

Elsewhere among the weekend top 10, there were a few other deviations between Sunday estimates and Monday “actuals.” That’s the case on most weekends, with estimates often proving to be overly optimistic by up to $1 million or so.

This weekend’s only other wide opener was Sony Screen Gems/Franchise actioner “Half Past Dead,” which grossed $7.8 million in fifth place, according to official B.O. tallies. Distrib had penciled in a $400,000 higher weekend estimate for the Steven Seagal/Morris Chestnut starrer.

Industrywide, EDI counted $173 million in total grosses, or $1 million less than initially projected. Both figures rep a roughly 8% uptick over the same frame a year earlier.

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