'Hawk,' 'Dogs' hunt top spots

Fighting inclement East Coast weather, Sony/Revolution Studios’ military drama “Black Hawk Down” flew heroically into wide release with $29 million in a three-day box office this weekend, a record for the frame.

And Disney laffer “Snow Dogs” proved both aptly titled for the weather and amply attractive to family auds with a notable $17.5 million bow in second place.

Both pics were expected to enjoy unusually strong Monday seshes today, as most school kids and many workers have the day off for the Martin Luther King holiday. But heavy white stuff from the Northeast through the Mid-Atlantic region made projecting even Sunday’s B.O. more perilous than usual.

Execs hope “Hawk” will fly to about $34 million over the entire four-day MLK frame. This means pic’s three-day and four-day grosses stand to beat the previous MLK weekend record, set last year when Paramount’s “Save the Last Dance” opened with $27.5 million over four days.

The only bigger January bow was 20th Century Fox’s “Star Wars Special Edition,” which debuted Jan. 31, 1997, and grossed $35.9 million over three days.

Big is best

“This was important for us,” Revolution partner Tom Sherak said. “We wanted to say that we will be making big important movies like this.”

Sony marketing and distrib topper Jeff Blake similarly observed that “Hawk” is “a big, commercial picture, and its (wide) opening worked out well.”

“Black Hawk,” about the military op in Somalia that went awry despite valiant exploits of U.S. troops, cost an estimated $90 million to produce. Pic, which previously played in limited L.A. and Gotham release, boasts an estimated cume of $30.8 million through Sunday.

“Snow Dogs,” inspired by a book about the Iditarod dogsled race in Alaska, was this weekend’s only wide opener. Cuba Gooding Jr. starrer broadened on its target family auds to attract substantial numbers of teens, Mouse House distrib boss Chuck Viane said. “It’s always nice to exceed expectations,” Viane added.

“Dogs” cost an estimated $31 million to produce.

Industrywide, the frame was up 9% from the third weekend of January 2001, but only because the MLK holiday fell one week earlier last year.

Trailing bucks

So far 2002 is down 10% on last year at an estimated $463 million, according to data from B.O. tracker ACNielsen EDI. The comparison should even up a bit after this year’s strong Monday grosses are accounted for, however.

Meanwhile, Par laffer “Orange County” grossed $9 million to squeeze into fifth place in its soph sesh. Perf repped a relatively modest 40% drop but still amounted to frame’s biggest fall-off in a weekend that saw most players hold steady.

In a limited bow, Miramax’s Danish-language laffer “Italian for Beginners” grossed an estimated $50,000 from three theaters in L.A. and Gotham, or a fluent $16,660 per venue.

Universal Focus’ French-lingo actioner “Brotherhood of the Wolf” added 86 locations for a total 107 and grossed $1.1 million. Voracious per-site average of $10,135 brought 10-day cume to $1.8 million.

Next weekend, several pics surely will be looking to parlay prominence in Sunday’s Golden Globes kudocast into revitalized B.O. But those efforts will clash head-on with four wide openers and New Line’s “I Am Sam,” which expands into wide release after a limited run in L.A.

“Sam” grossed another $18,000 from that single engagement this weekend to run cume to $175,000. Distrib said 500 sneaks for Sean Penn-Michelle Pfeiffer also went well, with 75% capacity auds.

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