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Dirty dozen pulls off heist

WB's 'Twelve' makes waves at B.O.

“Ocean’s Twelve” pulled off a box office heist for Warner Bros. this weekend, taking in $40.9 million from 3,290 theaters. That beat out the $38.1 million opening for 2001’s “Eleven.”

Opening in the No. 2 spot, New Line’s “Blade: Trinity” slashed its way to $16.1 million over the three-day span and $24.6 million since its Wednesday bow. Third installment in the Marvel Studios franchise played in 2,912 venues.

Warners distrib prexy Dan Fellman said of the “Ocean’s” bow: “We’re extremely thrilled to have that number. It is behind only the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films as the biggest December opening.”

He praised producer Jerry Weintraub for keeping intact the cast — which includes George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon — that made the 2001 remake a hit.

“When I called Jerry Weintraub in Paris this morning,” Fellman said, “I told him, ‘I’m ready for “Thirteen.” ‘ And he said, ‘Kid, I’m working on it.’ ”

According to studio exit surveys, pic attracted an aud similar to that of “Eleven,” with 53% under age 25 and 54% female.

New Line distrib chief topper David Tuckerman said his studio was pleased with the bow for “Blade: Trinity,” though it came in short of the bow for the last pic in the series. “We think it’s solid,” he said.

Tuckerman noted, however, that the previous “Blade” films were released in August and March, respectively. “There’s a hell of a lot more competition right now than there was for the last two we released,” he said.

Disney’s “National Treasure” fell out of top position for the first time in its four-week run, grossing $10 million over the weekend, which was down 41%. Cume is $124.2 million.

‘Polar’ hits $110 mil

Right behind it was Warners’ “The Polar Express,” which was off just 9% from last weekend with $9.8 million. The Santa toon has now amassed $110 million and is still playing well heading into the holiday.

“Our best playtime is ahead of us,” said Warners’ Fellman. He noted that beginning next Monday, 62% of school kids will be on vacation. Even with kids in class, the midweek numbers have been showing growth on “Polar,” with grosses actually improving week over week.

Revolution and Sony’s holiday pic “Christmas With the Kranks” also held well, dropping 32% to $7.6 million (cume: $54.8 million).

Sony also sneaked “Spanglish” this weekend at more than 1,100 locations in advance of its opening next Friday.

Sony distrib chief Rory Bruer said “Spanglish” shows were about 75% full, and the exit polls found the aud to be 56% female and 60% over age 25.

Brisk business

Overall, biz was brisk at the wickets. Nielsen EDI estimates the weekend’s total haul at $106 million — a 19% gain over the same weekend last year, when “Something’s Gotta Give” led the pack with its $16.1 million bow.

Weekend brings the year-to-date total box office to $8.52 billion, 2.4% ahead of 2003 through this point.

Whether 2004 finishes ahead of last year could be determined next weekend. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” which opened the weekend before Christmas, gave 2003 a huge finish, with $293 million in B.O. by the time EDI closed the books for the year.

While no single film opening between now and the end of 2004 is expected to ring up those kind of numbers, studios will be unleashing nine wide releases, including next week “Spanglish,” Paramount’s “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” and Fox’s “The Flight of the Phoenix.”

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