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Auds drool for Disney’s ‘Pacifier’

Kiddie pic keeps 'Cool' quiet

Vin Diesel’s “The Pacifier” put the chill on John Travolta’s “Be Cool” with an estimated $30.2 million at 3,131 playdates, winning the top spot handily at the nation’s theaters over the weekend.

Disney and Spyglass’ “The Pacifier” drew significantly above internal forecasts of about $20 million, thanks to strong appeal beyond its core family aud to teens and adults. Laffer attracted an aud that was 55% female, 47% under 18 and 19% in the 18-34 demographic.

For Diesel, “The Pacifier” is the third pic he’s toplined with an opening above $30 million, after “The Fast and the Furious” and “XXX.”

MGM’s “Be Cool,” a sequel to 1995’s “Get Shorty,” finished a still-solid second with $23.5 million at 3,216 engagements. Should the estimate hold, opening will be the biggest opening for a Travolta pic, just above 1997’s “Face/Off” at $23.4 million.

“Be Cool” performed in line with expectations off a marketing push stressing the pic’s star power. Cast includes Uma Thurman, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Cedric the Entertainer, Vince Vaughn and Andre 3000. MGM distribution prexy Eric Lomis said “Be Cool” generated solid exit numbers and drew best among young males and nonwhite audiences.

‘Funny is money’

Disney distribution topper Chuck Viane was optimistic that “The Pacifier” will show strong legs in coming weeks, citing strong audience ratings and the generally solid performance by comedies of late. Laffers have won six of the nine weekends so far this year. “Funny is money,” he said.

Sony’s fourth frame of “Hitch” remained a respectable player in third, with $12.5 million at 3,438 playdates to lift its 24-day cume to $138.4 million. The Will Smith starrer — the only 2005 release to top $100 million so far — edged the soph sesh of last weekend’s winner, Lions Gate’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” which grossed $12 million at 1,703 sites.

Warner Bros./Lakeshore’s “Million Dollar Baby” got a bounce from its four Academy Awards, up 16% from last weekend to finish fifth with $8.5 million at 2,350 engagements. Cume is $77 million.

Warner distrib chief Dan Fellman predicted “Baby” has enough steam left to clear the $100 million mark.

Holdovers took the next four slots, with all seeing significant declines. Warner’s third frame of “Constantine” slid 50% to $6 million at 2,758 playdates, followed by Dimension’s soph session of “Cursed,” which fell 59% to $3.9 million at 2,805.

Sony’s “Man of the House” also faded quickly, dropping 60% in its second frame to $3.5 million at 2,422 engagements, edging Fox’s third sesh of “Because of Winn-Dixie,” which declined 49% to $3.45 million at 2,506.

Warner Independent’s opening of time-travel thriller “The Jacket” showed little traction in 10th with $2.7 million at 1,331 sites.

Miramax and Warner’s “The Aviator” saw negligible impact from its five Oscars, finishing 11th with $2.3 million at 1,331 playdates — off 37% from the previous frame — to lift cume to $97.1 million. Fox Searchlight’s “Sideways,” which took home the adapted screenplay Oscar, declined 38% to $2.2 million at 1,057 sites. Its 20-week cume is $66.3 million.

Frame game

Overall business was $125 million for the frame, up 2% from last weekend, according to Nielsen EDI, but off 13% from the year-ago frame, when the second weekend of “The Passion of the Christ” took in an impressive $53.2 million.

Year-to-date business hit $1.427 billion, up only 1% from the same period a year ago. A week ago, the 2005 lead over 2004 was 14%.

In the specialized arena, Palm Pictures’ Iraqi war docu “Gunner Palace” showed notable firepower with $65,898 at eight playdates. Samuel Goldwyn/Roadside Attraction’s release of Israeli political-sexual thriller “Walk on Water” also performed respectably in its launch, with $63,000 at 10 sites, as did Miramax’s Scottish family drama “Dear Frankie,” with $37,667 on five screens.

Miramax’s fourth frame of “Bride and Prejudice” pulled in $709,153 at 179 sites to push its total to $2.77 million. Newmarket’s third weekend of German Oscar entry “Downfall” grossed $81,390 at nine screens, lifting cume to $219,630.

‘Born’ supremacy

ThinkFilm’s 13th weekend of docu “Born Into Brothels” saw a definite bounce from its Oscar win: It nearly doubled B.O. from the previous frame with $304,827 at 65 sites, up 24 from last weekend. Cume has crossed $1.1 million, and the distrib plans to take the screen count past 100 next weekend.

Magnolia’s fourth frame of martial arts pic “Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior” picked up $290,000 at 191 screens, upping cume to $3.87 million.

Sony Classics’ 21st weekend of “Being Julia” took in $330,090 at 221 sites to push its total to $7.35 million. Its soph sesh of Czech comedy “Up and Down” grossed $14,166 at five screens; cume is $47,410.

Next weekend will see Fox’s launch of CGI toon “Robots” facing off against Miramax’s Bruce Willis actioner “Hostage.” Newmarket will also release a slightly shorter version of “The Passion of the Christ,” with some of the violence trimmed, as Easter approaches.

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