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Auds cling to spring

'Guide' is hot but B.O.'s not

Don’t fire up the grill just yet.

While Disney’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” opened to a healthy $21.7 million, the box office has not yet taken on a summer hue.

Tepid results for the frame’s other fresh film, Revolution and Sony’s “XXX: State of the Union,” which bowed with $13.7 million, meant total biz continued at the languid pace that has marked spring.

Actioner sequel finished in third place behind Universal’s U.N. thriller “The Interpreter,” which scored $14.2 million in its second week, off 38% from its opening.

Adaptation of Douglas Adams’ cult classic tome, “Hitchhiker” opened at 3,133 theaters while Ice Cube starrer “XXX” bowed at 3,480.

Among the holdovers in the top 10, perfs were down modestly from last week.

MGM’s swan song, horror pic “The Amityville Horror,” came in fourth with $8.1 million in its third week, down 41%, while Bristol Bay Prods. and Paramount’s “Sahara” rounded out the top five with $6 million in its fourth week, a 34% dip.

Disney’s romantic comedy “A Lot Like Love” scored $5.2 million for its sophomore session, down 31%. That put it in the No. 6 position. Right behind was Sony Pictures Classics’ “Kung Fu Hustle,” which grossed $3.8 million, a drop of 43% in its second week of wide release.

Heading into the weekend, the industry was hoping the combo of “Hitchhiker” and “XXX” — both billed as summer titles — could shake the box office out of its spring funk and get moviegoers back into theaters.

Big hopes don’t pan out

When they dated their pics for April 29, Sony and Disney were hoping to move summer’s starting line back even further into spring with big showings. Since “Gladiator’s” $35 million opening in 2000 and the $68 million bow for “The Mummy Returns” the following year, Hollywood has considered the first weekend of May to be the starting line for its most lucrative stretch at the box office.

But the bid to boost April grosses to summer levels didn’t pan out. According to Nielsen EDI’s estimate, total B.O. receipts for the frame were just $93 million, down a steep 10% from last year, when “Mean Girls” topped the chart with its $24 million opening. For the year, grosses in 2005 are 6% behind where they were in 2004, $2.478 billion vs. $2.628 billion.

Nevertheless, Disney was ecstatic about “Hitchhiker’s” opening. “The spread between us and No. 2 and 3 was very surprising,” said Disney distrib prexy Chuck Viane. “Everyone thought it was going to be a nail-biter through the first weekend. This is the weekend where a fresh idea won out over the sequels and the comfort stuff.”

Age, not gender, balance

He said the studio’s exit polls found the aud skewed male, as expected, with 59%, but was balanced in age. According to the surveys, half the aud for the PG-rated pic was under 25 and half over. “It played pretty balanced across the country with the West Coast having the edge,” he added.

Sony, meanwhile, acknowledged the “XXX” opening was a disappointment. “We thought we had everything working for us with a star like Ice Cube and a director like Lee Tamahori,” said Sony distrib topper Rory Bruer. “Everyone at Sony and Revolution worked on the film and we would have liked to have seen more.”

Pic is a follow-up to 2002 Vin Diesel starrer, which bowed with $44.5 million.

Exit surveys found the PG-13 “XXX” aud was 64% male and 53% under 25. Polls also showed the aud was 30% African-American.

‘Holy’ has strong bow

Among pics debuting this weekend in limited release, Fine Line saw strong results for “The Holy Girl,” which started with $32,000 from two Gotham screens.

Roadside Attractions launched “Ladies in Lavender” on 22 screens in Gotham and L.A. and counted $154,000 in receipts, averaging $7,000 per engagement.

Also unspooling, Sony Classics’ “3-Iron” collected $21,721 from seven screens, an average of $3,103.

Magnolia’s doc “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” held well in its second week. Now playing on 49 screens, pic grossed $440,000, for an average of $8,980 per venue. Cume on the saga of corporate greed now stands at $550,000.

Continuing its hardy run, Samuel Goldwyn and Roadside’s “Walk on Water” picked up $136,300 in its ninth week, pushing its cume past $1.3 million. Playing 47 screens, pic averaged $2,900.

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