'Old School' chugs into 2nd place

Twentieth Century Fox’s “Daredevil” landed atop the box office heap for a second consecutive frame — the first back-to-back No. 1 perfs of the year — with a soph-sesh haul estimated at $18.9 million.

That bested four openers including a strong runner-up showing from DreamWorks’ “Old School.” The R-rated campus comedy matriculated with $17.5 million.

Paramount romancer “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” showed how to hold B.O. over its third frame with $11.9 million in third place. Disney toon “Jungle Book 2″ grossed $8.6 million over its second weekend in fourth place.

And Miramax’s platforming musical “Chicago” added another 87 engagements for a total 2,355 and grossed $8.5 million in fifth. Frame’s other wide openers were resigned to the bottom half of the B.O. chart:

  • Universal/Intermedia’s Kevin Spacey starrer “The Life of David Gale” saw $7.2 million in sixth place.

  • Ted Turner Pictures’ Civil War epic “Gods and Generals,” which Warner Bros. distribbed, marched to $4.8 million in eighth.

  • United Artists/Intermedia’s “Dark Blue,” which stars Kurt Russell as a rogue L.A. cop, mustered $3.8 million in the ninth position.

Industrywide, the spate of new titles helped the weekend to a 4% uptick from the same frame last year, with $114 million in total estimated grosses, according to B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI.

Year-to-date, 2003 is off 12% at $1.1 billion. That’s mostly because of a comparison with a portion of 2002 boasting one more weekend.

Meanwhile, Miramax reversed a re-expansion of “Gangs of New York” that followed pic’s Oscar best-pic nom and shed 843 theaters for a total 660. Martin Scorsese-helmed epic grossed $878,000 over its 10th weekend, or a smallish $1,330 per location, but cume beefed up to $73.8 million.

Unfolding ‘Hours’

Paramount’s “The Hours,” which has been supplementing its sturdy arthouse base with more commercial venues, widened by seven playdates for a total 1,010 and grossed $2.4 million, or $2,376 per run. Cume crossed $30 million.

Among sesh’s limited bows, Paramount Classics drama “Till Human Voices Wake Us” grossed $7,700 from five L.A. and Gotham engagements, or a sleepy $1,540 per playdate.

Artisan’s South African music docu “Amandla!” bowed with an estimated $14,000 in a Gotham exclu. Pic boasts a $20,000 cume after unspooling Wednesday and broadens to Chicago and L.A. next weekend.

First Look’s Brit laffer “Lawless Heart” took $15,000 from its debut Gotham exclu, with no specific expansion plans.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Miramax’s Michael Caine starrer “The Quiet American” added 29 engagements for a total 186 and grossed $1.1 million, or a solid $5,946 per playdate with a $4.4 million cume.

Busy distrib’s Brazilian actioner “City of God” added five theaters for a total 34 and grossed $142,000, or $4,176 per venue with a $1.5 million cume.

And Oscar-nom magnet “Frida” continued to regain runs with a second consecutive expansion after a previous screen-count downsizing. Up 10 locations to a total 127, Salma Hayek starrer grossed $182,000, or $1,433 per site with a $24 million cume.

‘Daredevil’ broadens

Despite sizeable 52% drop for “Daredevil” this weekend, results pleased Fox execs over signs of broadening demos for the comicbook-adaptation actioner.

“It’s becoming more of a standard, movie-for-everybody rather than a young-males movie,” Fox distrib prexy Bruce Snyder said.

“Daredevil,” which cost an estimated $75 million-$80 million to produce, carries a 10-day cume of $70.3 million.

DreamWorks distrib boss Jim Tharp said the impressive bow for Will Ferrell-Luke Wilson starrer “Old School” was especially pleasing in light of laffer’s restricted rating.

Meanwhile, pic — helmed by “Road Trip” director Todd Phillips — skewed less exclusively to young males than expected with auds 56% under age 25 and 58% male.

“I think this shows his audience is broadening,” Tharp said. “Road Trip” bowed with $15.5 million in May 2000. “Old School” cost an estimated $24 million to produce.

U distrib maven Nikki Rocco said she was “disappointed” in the opening for “David Gale,” a gritty drama involving a death-penalty murder case. But she added that positive exit surveys offer hope of sturdier grosses in future frames.

“In this marketplace, it’s pretty hard to break out an R-rated adult film,” Rocco said.

Auds for “Gods and Generals” — for which Warners gets only a distrib fee — were 56% over age 35 and 65% male. Blue-Gray pic played best in the East and Southeast.

Warner execs stressed high hopes for homevid and other ancillaries, with exec veep distrib Jeff Goldstein noting modest theatrical debut “far exceeded” expectations.

UA paid about $5 million to pick up domestic distribution of “Dark Blue,” MGM/UA distrib boss Erik Lomis said. Pic skewed 70% over 35.

“We got a much older audience, and those moviegoers just don’t come out with the urgency of some others,” Lomis said.

‘Cradle’ to rock

Warners’ Joel Silver-produced actioner “Cradle 2 the Grave” is the only skedded wide opener next weekend. Jet Li-DMX starrer marks the first outing for helmer Andrzej Bartkowiak since “Exit Wounds” in 2001.

Disney’s “Bringing Down the House” bows the following frame, and Mouse House offered 940 sneak previews of the Steve Martin-Queen Latifah laffer this weekend. Results were promising: 85% capacity auds almost evenly split between males and femmes, with 92% of patrons saying they’d “definitely recommend” the pic.

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