U sequel '2 Fast' roars past 'Nemo' with $52 mil

This article was updated at 9:21 p.m.

Universal’s sequel street-rod actioner “2 Fast 2 Furious” came roaring out off the line with an estimated $52.1 million in box office, the latest example of a film sequel outstripping the original’s bow.

But Disney/Pixar’s family toon “Finding Nemo” was hardly dead in the water, finding an estimated $45.8 million in second place after sinking just 34% over its soph sesh.

U’s Jim Carrey laffer “Bruce Almighty” looks predestined for $200 million after conjuring $21.7 million in third place and levitating cume to $170.8 million through three frames.

Paramount’s remake of action thriller “The Italian Job” boosted $13.3 million in fourth place, as a skimpy drop of 32% moved soph-sesh cume to $40.1 million.

And Warner Bros./Village Roadshow’s sequel sci-fier “The Matrix Reloaded” brought its domestic haul to $247.7 million with $9.1 million in fifth place. “Reloaded” marked a 42% sesh-over-sesh drop, a bit better than in previous weekends as newly added Imax screens bolstered fourth-frame grosses.

Industrywide, solid weekend repped a big 49% improvement over the same frame a year ago with $162 million in total estimated grosses, as an early summer surge continues to help 2003 shake off first-half blahs.

So far, the year’s $3.68 billion in total grosses reps a 2.5% downtick from a comparable portion of 2002 after accounting for differences in the B.O. years, according to Nielsen EDI data.

“2 Fast” bow — which gave personal bests to helmer John Singleton and producer Neil Moritz — repped the second consecutive $50 million-plus opening for U, assuming the weekend estimate holds up. A first such feat for any studio, the combined success of “2 Fast” and previously debuted “Bruce Almighty” has U suddenly back in the thick of B.O. action after a sleepy first half.

Bests original’s bow

“2 Fast” bowed bigger than franchise original “The Fast and the Furious”– which opened at $40.1 million in June 2001 — even though co-topliner Vin Diesel sat out the sequel. “2 Fast” co-star Paul Walker reprised his young-cop role and Tyrese Gibson was introduced as a new co-topliner to favorable notices.

“It just shows the original wasn’t a fluke,” U distrib maven Nikki Rocco said.

Franchise success, following solid run of Eminem starrer “8 Mile” last year and the continuing success with the “American Pie” series, shows U’s savvy for youth-culture pics, she added.

“2 Fast” drew auds comprised 75% of patrons under age 25, with 55% of moviegoers male. Some 38% of patrons were Hispanic and 16% African-American.

Singleton — who subbed for “Fast and Furious” helmer Rob Cohen — surpassed his previous best opening of $21.7 million from June 2000’s “Shaft” remake. And Moritz bested his previous biggest bow as a producer, marked last year with Sony/Revolution’s Vin Diesel starrer “XXX” ($44.5 million).

Production costs on “2 Fast” were estimated at $76 million. That’s more than double the negative cost of the first street-racing actioner, but backend profit dilution was minimized by the turnover in talent and director.

Earlier this summer, “The Matrix Reloaded” and “X2: The X-Men United” similarly posted bigger bows than their predecessors.

Fast swimmer

“Nemo” — the fifth in a series of Disney/Pixar collaborations produced for an estimated $90 million — is on target to hit $150 million in a studio record 12 days on Tuesday. That would be five days earlier than the fleetest Mouse perf previously, Disney/Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.”

“It’s somehow gotten into the consciousness of the public already,” said Disney distrib boss Chuck Viane, noting early positive word of mouth.

Par execs said good buzz was also behind the sturdy market hold for “Italian Job,” which will need sustained good traction if it’s to recoup pic’s $70 million-$80 million in production costs.

Warners distrib topper Dan Fellman welcomed the contribution to “Matrix Reloaded” from newly added Imax screens.

“The Imax presentation is great, and we’re getting a lot of repeat business from it,” Fellman said.

Uploading Imax screens

“Reloaded,” which unspooled in 39 large-screen locations this weekend, adds 10 more Imax venues June 20 and a few more after that.

Latest sesh’s estimated $700,000 in giant-screen grosses reps an impressive $17,950 per location for the Imax venues. Fellman said he saw no evidence Imax screens detracted from perfs at conventional venues.

Pic was reformatted to Imax specs using a recently introduced conversion technology. Warners plans to bow a second sequel, “The Matrix Revolutions,” in at least some Imax venues simultaneously with pic’s Nov. 7 wide opening.

Elsewhere among the weekend top 10, 20th Century Fox’s “X2: The X-Men United” rung up another $3.1 million in seventh place to move comicbook sequel’s cume to $204.3 million.

One rung lower, horror pic “Wrong Turn” — a New Regency pickup that 20th Century Fox is distribbing — fell a substantial 49% in its soph sesh to $2.7 million.

In a limited release this weekend, New Market unspooled New Zealand drama “Whale Rider” in nine L.A. and Gotham locations and grossed an estimated $135,435. That repped an impressive $15,048 per site with distrib adding theaters in Portland, Ore., and Toronto on Friday.

Palm Pictures bowed Chinese horror pic “The Eye” in four L.A. and Gotham venues and grossed an estimated $40,138, or a solid $10,035, a week before expanding to Seattle, San Francisco and Boston with a total of about 10 runs.

Easy as ABC

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Thinkfilm added 35 engagements for a total 77 playdates for docu “Spellbound” and grossed $347,681, or $4,515 per venue with a $1.2 million cume.

Fox Searchlight broadened laffer “L’Auberge Espagnole” by 29 engagements for a total 72 and grossed an estimated $270,000, or $3,750 per playdate with a $1.9 million cume.

Paramount Classics expanded drama “The Man on the Train” by 17 theaters for a total 72 and grossed $234,370, or $3,255 per venue, with a $956,027 cume.

Sony Classics widened docu “Winged Migration” by 15 engagements for a total 58 and grossed $297,695, or $5,133 per playdate with a $2.5 million cume.

United Artists broadened Chinese drama “Together” by 19 locations for a total 25 and grossed $134,000, or $5,357 per site with a $230,000 cume.

And Magnolia added two engagements for a total five playdates for docu “Capturing the Friedmans” and grossed $72,000. That repped a notable $14,400 per venue with a $172,000 cume.

A case of ‘Homicide’

Sony offered 766 sneaks of upcoming Harrison Ford-Josh Hartnett actioner “Hollywood Homicide” on Saturday. “Homicide,” which opens wide this Friday, drew 70% capacity sneaks dominated by baby boomer patrons.

Other wide openers set for the coming frame include New Line’s sequel laffer “Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd” and Par’s kid toon “Rugrats Go Wild.” Fox recently postponed by a week — to June 20 — the debut of “From Justin to Kelly,” a musical starring two artists from Fox TV’s “American Idol” skein.

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