Heads roll at the B.O.

Miramax's bloody 'Bill' makes a $22 mil killing

This article was updated at 7:04 p.m.

Miramax actioner “Kill Bill, Vol. 1” made blood sport of the weekend box office with a chart-topping opening of $22.7 million.

Paramount’s “School of Rock” was runner-up over laffer’s soph session with an estimated $15.4 million — a slim 22% drop from opening B.O.

Older femmes took kindliest to Universal’s “Intolerable Cruelty” amid narrow pic support, as the Coen brothers’ dark comedy bowed third with $13.1 million.

MGM’s family laffer “Good Boy!” debuted with a better-than-anticipated $13 million in fourth place. And Artisan horror pic “The House of the Dead” grossed an estimated $5.5 million in fifth, bowing much as expected.

Industrywide, the weekend’s $107 million in total estimated grosses was roughly flat with B.O. from the same frame a year ago. Year-to-date, 2003 is off 2% from a comparable portion of last year, according to B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI.

Miramax chief operating officer Rick Sands called the “Bill” bow “pretty damn good.” Perf repped the best-ever bow for a Miramax release, excluding titles from distrib’s Dimension specialty unit and surpassing “She’s All That,” which unspooled to $16.1 million in January 1999.

Appropriately for a film featuring countless severed body parts, “Bill, Vol. 1” was produced by slicing a long Quentin Tarantino actioner in two. “Bill, Vol. 2” is skedded to open in February, with distrib saying franchise is already assured profitability based on opening grosses for the first pic.

Miramax claims the pics cost a combined $65 million to produce, and a sum approaching the same amount is likely in prints and advertising costs.

“We spent $35 million to get the first one open, and the second will be less because we’re established in the marketplace now,” Sands said.

Talent agreed to rejigger some deal terms following the decision to release “Bill” in two parts to help defray greater marketing and distribution costs. Meanwhile, distrib expects higher ancillary income, thanks to two-part TV and homevid revenue streams.

Further, Miramax normally sells off substantial foreign rights on its pics, but the minimajor has full control of international distribbing on “Bill.”

Uma Thurman leads a cast on “Bill” that also features Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox and others.

‘Cruelty’ draws older auds

“Intolerable Cruelty,” starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones, drew auds comprised 70% of moviegoers age 30 and older, with 61% of patrons femmes. Narrow demo appeal kept opening at the lower end of pre-release projections.

“We’re not too far off from where we expected it to be,” U distribution prexy Nikki Rocco observed.

MGM distribution boss Erik Lomis said studio brass is “thrilled” that “Good Boy!” exceeded tracking forecasts. Auds were comprised 85% of parents with kids.

“House of the Dead” auds skewed largely male, with good support in the 18-24 demo and among urban ethnic moviegoers, Artisan spokesman David Spitz said. Interestingly, pic notched a Saturday-over-Friday uptick in daily B.O. comparisons — unusual for a horror pic and something even “Bill” couldn’t manage this weekend.

Sony/Revolution drew 60% capacity auds to 106 Saturday-night sneak previews in 15 markets for upcoming Cuba Gooding Jr. starrer “Radio.”

Some 90% of patrons said they would “definitely recommend” the pic, execs said. Distrib plans to sneak “Radio” in 1,200 locations next weekend to stoke pre-release buzz prior to wide release Oct. 24.

Wide openers set for Friday include 20th Century Fox’s courtroom drama “Runaway Jury” and New Line’s remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

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