‘Blade’ slices B.O.

Weekend marks 63% uptick in grosses

New Line action sequel “Blade 2” sunk its vampire fangs into a weekend-leading $33.1 million in estimated opening box office, as Universal’s “E.T.” re-release dialed up a less-than-cosmic $15.1 million to bow in third place.

Twentieth Century Fox’s computer-generated tooner “Ice Age” posted a strong soph sesh of $31.1 million to finish second. But Disney laffer “Sorority Boys” opened limply with $4.2 million in ninth place.

Industrywide, weekend marked a dramatic 63% improvement over the same frame last year at $134 million in total grosses, according to data from B.O. tracker ACNielsen EDI. MGM laffer “Heartbreakers” had led the year-earlier frame with an $11.8 million opening. Year-to-date, 2002 is now almost 12% ahead of the same period last year with a total $1.86 billion in B.O.

In a limited bow this weekend, Miramax drama “Stolen Summer” grossed an estimated $62,000 from 13 theaters in four markets. Perf repped a solid $4,769 per venue for Aidan Quinn starrer.

And Sony Pictures Classics’ Argentine “Son of the Bride” unspooled in six L.A. and Gotham locations to an estimated $33,119, or $5,519 per site. Distrib expects to mount a continued expansion over coming frames.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, IFC Films’ Spanish-lingo “Y Tu Mama Tambien” added 14 engagements for a total 54 and grossed an estimated $469,895, or an impressive $8,535 per playdate. Road trip laffer expands into 20 additional markets April 5, with distrib hoping for about 120 total theaters.

Fox Searchlight’s “Kissing Jessica Stein” added 40 engagements for a total 66 in grossing an estimated $548,000, or a sweet $8,300 per playdate. Offbeat romantic comedy broadens to 19 additional markets for a total 130 theaters Friday, then expands north of 400 venues over the following weekend.

Miramax’s “Iris” biopic added 63 locations for a total 204 to sprout an estimated $596,000, or $2,922 per site, and a $3.9 million cume.

Distrib’s French-lingo “Amelie”added 20 engagements for a total 245 and grossed $244,000, or $3,089 per playdate, for a $30.4 million cume.

Miramax drama “The Son’s Room” added one theater in grossing $26,000 from 19 venues, or an average $1,368, and moved cume to $780,894. Personal record.

“Blade 2” perf repped a personal best for topliner Wesley Snipes. His previous biggest bow was with the original “Blade,” which opened at $17.1 million in August 1998.

Distrib’s exit surveys showed “Blade 2” auds were 55% male and evenly split between patrons older and younger than 25. Some 31% of patrons were African-American.

“The movie certainly played across-the-board,” New Line marketing boss Russell Schwartz said. “Wesley is a major star and appeals to all audience demos.”

U never had a good feel for exactly what to expect out of the 20th anniversary re-release of a digitally bolstered “E.T.,” studio’s distrib topper Nikki Rocco said.

“The point of the release was to celebrate and honor the fact that it was 20 years old,” Rocco said.

Special promos included a glitzy preem at the huge Shrine Auditorium, a major media push including lots of TV spots and even the altering of the U logo to tout pic’s anniversary year. The unfortunate — if unintended — result was to raise expectations that the “E.T.” re-release would open bigger than it did.

Family sci-fier’s perf compares with Warner Bros.’ September 2000 re-release of “The Exorcist.” A director’s cut version of the horror classic bowed at $8.2 million and grossed a total $39.7 million domestically.

Old college try

Disney had hoped “Sorority Boys” would show a little more opening muscle. But distrib noted production costs were low, at an estimated $7 million.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros.’ Eddie Murphy-Robert De Niro laffer “Showtime” slid 45% in its soph sesh to $8.2 million in fourth place. And Sony Screen Gems’ vidgame-adaptation “Resident Evil” dropped an evil 63% in its second frame to $6.6 million in fifth place.

Industryites noted the calculating of three-day B.O. estimates — a dicey proposition in any frame — was a particularly perilous exercise this sesh.

Distribs penciled in especially strong Sunday grosses on spec lots of kids and teens begin spring break on Monday and will view more movies than on a typical Sunday. EDI figures 29% of all U.S. students will be on school vacationMonday.

Four wide releases are skedded for next weekend’s Easter frame. They include Sony suspenser “Panic Room,” Disney’s family drama “The Rookie,” Paramount’s youth actioner “Clockstoppers” and Warner laffer “Death to Smoochy.”

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