Demon burns Rock

Auds spark to 'Hellboy'; 'Tall' in second

This article was updated at 7:40 p.m.

Sony/Revolution’s comics-spawned actioner “Hellboy” caught fire at the box office this weekend, bowing with a chart-topping $23.5 million.

MGM’s “Walking Tall” remake debuted at No. 2 with an estimated $15.3 million, while Warner Bros.’ family sequel “Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed” harnessed $15 million in third place despite a 49% drop over its soph session.

Disney’s family-targeted “Home on the Range” grazed on a limp $14 million in fourth — sure to get tongues wagging over the fading allure of traditional cel animation. It did, however, rep an April-best toon bow. And Paramount romancer “The Prince and Me” unspooled with $10 million in fifth place.

Disney’s “The Ladykillers” — the Tom Hanks-toplined laffer from the Coen brothers — dropped 45% to gross $7 million over its second weekend in seventh place, one rung below a $9.8 million sixth frame for Newmarket-distribbed religious drama “The Passion of the Christ.” And Miramax’s “Jersey Girl,” the Kevin Smith-helmed romancer getting 301 additional playdates in its soph session, dipped 38% to $5.1 million in eighth.

Good reviews helped “Hellboy” open well, Sony distribution prexy Rory Bruer said.

But with 60% of pic’s inaugural auds male, “hopefully we can get more women to come” over future frames, said Revolution partner Tom Sherak. About 52% of “Hellboy” patrons were age 25 or older.

“Walking Tall” skewed 52% male, with 53% of patrons 25 or older.

“It’s playing broadly,” said Ashok Amritraj, whose Hyde Park produced the pic.

Johnson’s wide appeal

“Tall” taps into the appeal of topliner Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson — a burgeoning femme heartthrob who’s known to younger males from his wrestling career — and older moviegoers’ enthusiasm for the original 1973 “Tall,” Amritraj said.

MGM distribution boss Erik Lomis said prior weekend’s sneak previews “helped us get the females.”

“Home on the Range” opened similarly to DreamWorks’ toon “The Road to El Dorado,” which bowed to $12.8 million over the March 31, 2000, frame, noted Disney distrib prexy Chuck Viane.

But Mouse will be hoping to do better than the $50.9 million domestic run for “El Dorado,” with the negative cost on “Range” believed north of that terrain. Schoolkids’ Easter breaks should help swell B.O. over the next couple sessions, Viane said.

Par, which split production costs on “Prince and Me” with foreign-rights holder Lions Gate, said Julia Stiles starrer performed about as expected, considering pic played almost exclusively to young femmes.

“It’s pretty much where we thought it would be,” Par distribution boss Wayne Lewellen said. “That’s about what these pictures do.”

Despite big expectations for Focus Features’ “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” the Jim Carrey starrer doesn’t seem to be finding an audience outside the arthouse crowd. Charlie Kaufman-penned drama clung to the bottom of the weekend chart with $3.5 million over its third weekend for a $24 million cume.

And “Hidalgo,” for which Disney had big hopes, slipped from the top 10 with $2.5 million from its fifth frame for a $60.6 million cume.

Up from last year

Industrywide, the weekend repped a 25% uptick from the same frame a year ago with $123 million in total estimated grosses, according to box office tracker Nielsen EDI. The big B.O. rise appeared fueled by the combined effect of four wide openers and an easy comparison with a year-ago session topped by the $15 million bow of “Phone Booth.”

Year-to-date, 2004 is 7% ahead of the same portion of last year at $2.05 billion.

Among limited bows this weekend, Paramount Classics drama “The United States of Leland” fetched an estimated $51,000 from 14 runs, or $3,643 per venue.

Sony Classics’ drama “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring” opened with $45,037 from a half-dozen playdates, or $7,506 per engagement.

‘Soccer’ kicks it up

And Miramax laffer “Shaolin Soccer” unspooled in a half dozen locations to gross $37,000, or $6,167 per site.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, IFC Films’ “Intermission” added 23 theaters for a total 49 and grossed $127,000, or $2,591 per venue prior to the Colin Farrell starrer’s addition of 20 more runs Friday.

Sony Classics laffer “Good Bye, Lenin!” added 13 playdates for a total 76 and grossed $287,490, or $3,783 per engagement. Cume is $1.4 million cume.

Distrib’s “Monsieur Ibrahim” comedy added five locations for a total 76 and grossed $198,367, or $2,610 per site with a $1.5 million cume.

And its laffer “Bon Voyage” added one run for a total seven in grossing $56,340, or $8,049 per venue; cume is $179,067.

Lions Gate’s Nicole Kidman starrer “Dogville” added five theaters for a total 14 and grossed $108,000, or $7,714 per venue with a $236,000 cume.

5 openers for Easter

Looking to next weekend, five wide openers add to an already crowded marketplace over the Easter frame.

Disney debuts historical Western “The Alamo,” 20th Century Fox unspools youth laffer “The Girl Next Door,” Fox Searchlight sends out urban laffer “Johnson Family Vacation,” Miramax bows family fantasy “Ella Enchanted” and Warners releases its sequel laffer “The Whole Ten Yards.”

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