'Kangaroo' puts $17 million in its pouch

Warner Bros./Castle Rock’s Jerry Bruckheimer-produced laffer “Kangaroo Jack” hopped to the head of the box office pack with an estimated $17.7 million bow, while Sony’s Martin Lawrence starrer “National Security” was runner-up with $15.7 million.

Other notable weekend perfs saw New Line B.O. phenom “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” near $300 million in just its fifth week and “Gangs of New York” turn the corner on projected profitability for Miramax after four frames.

Soph sesher “Just Married” from 20th Century Fox dropped just 29% this weekend to ring up $12.5 million in third place and a 10-day cume of $34 million. Fox and other distribs penciled in robust Sunday estimates due to next-day school and office closings for the Martin Luther King holiday.

But that still couldn’t help MGM’s “A Guy Thing,” which opened limply with just $7.1 million in seventh place.

“Two Towers” finished fourth on the frame, as $11.4 million brought estimated cume to an amazing $299 million.

‘Catch’ snags fifth

“DreamWorks’ Leonardo DiCaprio starrer “Catch Me if You Can” captured another $11.3 million in fifth place to boost cume to $135 million through its fourth sesh.

Miramax’s “Chicago” sashayed into sixth with $8 million, even though platforming musical has yet to hit wide distribution with just 557 engagements.

New Line’s Jack Nicholson starrer “About Schmidt” grossed $6.3 million in eighth place, while Paramount’s ensemble drama “The Hours” ticked off $4.7 million in ninth.

“Two Weeks Notice” repped a second top-10 title for Warners/Castle Rock on the frame, as romancer’s $4.1 million perf gained a 10th place tie with Miramax’s Martin Scorsese epic “Gangs of New York.”

‘Gangs’ to $61 mil

Execs now project “Gangs” will be profitable for Miramax, as cume reached $61 million. Pre-release foreign rights sales helped partially offset pic’s considerable production costs. But distrib figures that anticipated ancillary revenues mean its costs were covered when pic reached between $55 million and $60 million domestically.

Meanwhile, Miramax mounted an impressive limited bow this weekend of Brazil’s foreign-language Oscar entry, “City of God.” Gritty drama grossed an estimated $90,000 from five Gotham and L.A. theaters, or $18,000 per venue.

Distrib’s Michael Caine starrer “The Quiet American” added a pair of playdates for a total of seven and grossed $88,000, or a solid $9,778 per run. And busy Miramax’s George Clooney-helmed “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” held in five locations to gross $82,000, or a strong $16,4000 per site.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Disney held in 490 theaters with Spike Lee’s Gotham-themed drama “The 25th Hour” and grossed $2.5 million, or $5,027 per venue; cume is $7.3 million.

‘Adaptation’ out of top 10

Sony’s “Adaptation” fell from the top 10 while upping its distribution by four runs to a total 564, as Meryl Streep-Nicolas Cage starrer grossed $2 million, or $3,546 per site, with cume reaching $12.1 million.

Quirky lit adaptation is one of several limited releases that could see renewed market traction through success in awards competish. Focus Features has a pair of such pics – “The Pianist” and “Far From Heaven.”

Former, Roman Polanski-helmed Holocaust drama, upped its distribution by 97 theaters for a total 258 this weekend and grossed almost $1.2 million, or $4,592 per venue; cume is $4.1 million. “Heaven” — whose topliners Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid have drawn especially favorable notices — shed 27 runs this weekend to a total 264 and grossed $426,221, or $1,614 per site, with cume reaching $12.6 million.

Looking for a lift

Golden Globes wins or Oscar noms would help both pics, Focus distrib topper Jack Foley said.

“Depending on what happens today, we could get a nice little bounce both in terms of business and (screen count),” Foley said before the Globes.

Meanwhile, Sony Classics upped Pedro Almodovar’s Spanish drama “Talk to Her” — a conspicuous absence in foreign-language competish — by one engagement to a total 66 and grossed $347,763, or $5,269 per playdate with a $3.7 million cume.

And Rialto held in single Gotham sites for a pair of pics. “Le Cercle Rouge” grossed an estimated $14,458 (cume: $43,579), and “Quai des Orfevres” grossed $13,716 (cume: $50,533).

Young auds for ‘Jack’

“Kangaroo Jack” scored strongly with moviegoers of all ages in exit interviews, with 94% of patrons rating pic either “excellent” or “very good,” Warners distrib boss Dan Fellman said. Three-fourths of auds were family patrons, with youth aged 12-17 comprising most of the balance.

“We’re just thrilled with the performance of the movie,” Fellman said. “We were confident that it would open well, but this exceeded our expectations.”

PG-rated pic carries a negative cost north of $60 million, but its prospects over future frames are enhanced by the absence of direct new competish for a week or two. Sony horror pic “Darkness Falls” reps the only wide opener over the coming Super Bowl weekend.

“National Security” — in which Lawrence plays a smugglers-battling security cop partnered with an ex-cop played by Steve Zahn — combined mainstream appeal with comedian’s established urban draw, Sony distrib prexy Rory Bruer said. Pic was developed by Intermedia and sold to Sony.

“We got a really good mix of people, and we’re very happy with the performance,” Bruer said.

MGM execs acknowledged some disappointment with the “Guy Thing” bow but noted pic’s modest budget, estimated at $20 million.

“We’ll probably break even on it, or get close,” Lion’s distrib maven Erik Lomis estimated.

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