Reality checked by ‘Identity’

Thriller bows atop B.O. as 'Cancun' swoons

The box office found its “Identity” this weekend, but New Line’s pioneering bid to bring the reality genre to the bigscreen with “The Real Cancun” did a bellyflop.

Sony took the first two spots, with suspenser “Identity” topping the sesh with a strong $17 million bow and Sony/Revolution’s “Anger Management” nabbing $16 million in its third frame, pushing estimated cume to $104.5 million.

New Line execs acknowledged disappointment with the $2.3 million bow for docu-drama “Cancun.” Spring break reality pic’s 10th place showing came despite reams of pre-release press.

“It was a great effort, but it didn’t work to the level we had hoped,” a New Line spokeswoman allowed.

At least one exec at a rival studio acknowledged relief the pic tanked, noting that if “Cancun” had matched the earlier success of reality-TV adaptation “Jackass,” more studios might be inclined to try a similarly lightweight road to success. Negative cost on “Cancun” is estimated at $7.5 million.

‘Scary with a brain’

Helmed by James Manigold (“Kate & Leopold”), “Identity” drew auds evenly split between males and females and skewed “a bit young,” Sony distrib prexy Rory Bruer said. John Cusack and Amanda Peet topline pic, which combines a farcical tone with challenging plot twists. “It’s scary with a brain,” Bruer observed.

“Identity” cost an estimated $28 million to produce.

Disney’s family hit “Holes” grossed $13 million in third place on a skimpy 20% drop from opening grosses. Warner Bros.’ young-skewing laffer “Malibu’s Most Wanted” was fourth with $7.7 million on a 39% soph-sesh decline.

Lions Gate’s con-men drama “Confidence” bowed in fifth place with $4.8 million, while MGM’s Kirk and Michael Douglas kin drama “It Runs in the Family” opened in ninth with $3 million.

Industrywide, the weekend repped a 9% uptick from the same frame a year ago with $94 million in total estimated grosses, according to B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI. It was the third consecutive year-over-year improvement after a spate of weekly downticks.

Next weekend looks to halt that positive streak, even though 20th Century Fox’s bow of the highly anticipated “X-Men” sequel next weekend portends a seasonal surge in movie-going.

‘Men’ not on top

“X2” looks sure to gross more than $50 million, but the year-earlier frame featured the phenom $114 million bow of “Spider-Man.” So the year-to-year comparison will surely see an industrywide downtick.

Disney also bows its family laffer “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” on Friday.

Among limited bows this weekend, United Artists suspenser “City of Ghosts” unspooled in six L.A. and Gotham locations and grossed an estimated $38,000. That reps a fleshy $6,269 per site, with distrib planning a Friday expansion to 25 runs.

Miramax drama “People I Know” unspooled in five L.A. and Gotham theaters and grossed an estimated $34,000, a solid $6,800 per venue.

Paramount Classics drama “House of Fools” opened in three L.A. and Gotham locations and grossed $7,229, or an iffy $2,410 per site.

And in a pair of solid Gotham exclus, Palm Pictures’ fantasy “The Cremaster Cycle” grossed an impressive $11,128 from a single venue, while IFC Films drama “Manic” grossed $7,000 from its solo run.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, 20th Century Fox’s Hispanic laffer “Chasing Papi” fell 53% in its soph sesh with $1.1 million from 584 engagements, or a wobbly $1,926 per playdate with a $4.9 million cume.

‘Bend’ booming

Fox Searchlight’s femme-soccer drama “Bend it Like Beckham” added another 29 engagements for a total 421 and grossed $1.6 million or $3,717 per playdate with a $9.1 million cume. Already a major success overseas, pic’s more recent winning rollout in the U.S. and Canada has distrib planning a wider expansion to at least 600 venues within two weeks.

“This film seems to have caught on and held amazingly,” Searchlight distrib maven Steve Gilula said.

Paramount Classics’ Orange County-based Asian youth drama “Better Luck Tomorrow” added 338 theaters for a total 380 in its third weekend and grossed $1.1 million, or $2,789 with a $2.2 million cume.

Fox Searchlight’s Nick Nolte-as-addict drama “The Good Thief” added 79 theaters for a total 201 and grossed $465,000, or $2,313 per site with a $2 million cume.

‘Wind’ speed picks up

Warner Bros. folk-music spoof “A Mighty Wind” added 22 engagements for a total 155 and grossed almost $1.5 million, or a gusty $9,400 per playdate with a $4.8 million cume.

And Zeitgeist’s best-foreign-film Oscar winner “Nowhere in Africa” added five locations for a total 70 and grossed $329,000, or $4,700 per site with a $2.4 million cume.

Sony marked its third No. 1 bow this year with “Identity,” after top-ranking openings for “Anger” and Sony/Revolution horror pic “Darkness Falls.”

Disney distrib boss Chuck Viane marveled at the second-week staying power displayed by “Holes.”

“To hold like this is just one of those fairy tales you always hope for,” Viane said. “It’s got to be great word-of-mouth, to be off just 20% after an (Easter) holiday weekend.”

Lions Gate distrib topper Tom Ortenberg said the “Confidence” opening reps a “nice win,” as pic’s $15 million in production costs was already offset by foreign presales.

Edward Burns-Dustin Hoffman starrer skewed “a little bit older,” with auds evenly split between males and females, Ortenberg said.

MGM distrib maven Erik Lomis called “It Runs in the Family” a “labor of love for the Douglas family” that ultimately couldn’t find much of opening audience.

“We thought it deserved a shot,” Lomis said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work, so of course we’re disappointed.”

Some 75% of pic’s moviegoers were over age 35, with 60% of patrons female.

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