‘Who’ is on first

'Guess' work tops B.O. with $21 mil

Sony’s Bernie Mac-Ashton Kutcher comedy “Guess Who” won the weekend with a stronger-than-expected $21 million opening. Pic, a loose adaptation of 1967’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” bowed at 3,147 locations.

In the second spot was Warner Bros.’ “Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous” with $17.6 million since it opened at 3,233 theaters on Thursday. For the three-day span, the Sandra Bullock sequel grossed $14.5 million.

While “Congeniality 2” was running well above the original’s $10 million bow in 2000, industry estimates leading into the Easter weekend had the positions reversed for the two pics.

DreamWorks’ “The Ring Two” fell 61% in its second week to $13.8 million, which was good for No. 3. Pic now has a cume of $58 million.

Just behind it in the fourth spot was 20th Century Fox’s CGI toon “Robots,” which grossed $13 million in its third weekend, boosting its cume to $87.4 million. Pic was off 38% from last weekend.

And rounding out the top five was Disney’s “The Pacifier” with $8.5 million, down just 32% in its fourth frame. Vin Diesel family laffer has a cume of $86.3 million.

Sony toppers

“Guess Who” marked the fourth Sony pic to open at No. 1 this year, after “Hitch” (which, with $166.5 million, is the year’s top earner so far), “Are We There Yet?” and “Boogeyman.”

Sony distrib prexy Rory Bruer called the “Guess” bow “better than we anticipated.”

Exit polls showed the aud swayed a bit femme, drawing a 54% female crowd. Surveys also showed the aud young with 59% under age 25.

Competish for femme auds was stiff this frame. “Congeniality” had an aud that was 70% femme and 60% older than 35. On opening weekend, “Ring Two” also drew an aud that was around two-thirds female, though it played younger.

Some industry observers cited the NCAA basketball tournament as a reason for the femme shade at the wickets. Tourney has been garnering big ratings for CBS and could be giving guys a reason to stay out of theaters.

While “Congeniality” was in a strong duel for women this weekend, Warners distrib prexy Dan Fellman said that the pic is well positioned against the upcoming sked — MGM’s “Beauty Shop” and Miramax’s “Sin City” will open next weekend.

“Looking at the competition next week, it’s not really geared at me,” he said. “(‘Congeniality’) has a tendency to leg itself out.”

That was certainly the case with the original pic, which eventually took in $106.8 million. After opening with $10 million Christmas weekend in 2000, pic’s receipts went up the second week to $14.6 million during the three-day portion of the New Year’s holiday frame. In the third week, it outgrossed its opening again, posting $13 million.

Elsewhere in the top ten, Miramax’s underperforming “Hostage” held in its third week with $4.1 million, down just 31%. Cume on the Bruce Willis actioner is at $26.2 million.

Disney’s “Ice Princess” was off 46% in its sophomore session to $3.7 million, placing it at No. 8. Pic now has a cume of $13.3 million.

Warners’ Oscar-winner “Million Dollar Baby” stayed in the top ten in its 15th week with $2.6 million, down 35%, which brings its cume to $94.1 million.

Overall, biz was sharply down from last year’s Easter weekend. Nielsen EDI estimated total box office for the frame at $100 million, off 14% from the $115.8 million during the holiday frame last year, which started on April 9. The drop this year, however, is almost exactly equal to “The Passion of the Christ’s” $15.2 million worth of ticket sales last Easter weekend.

Compared to last year’s corresponding calendar weekend, the frame was even weaker, down 16%. Leading the charts on the last weekend of March last year was “Scooby-Doo 2’s” $24.9 million bow.

Year-to-date, however, box office is holding up well at $1.870 billion, off just 1% from last year despite the lack of a $300-plus million “Passion”-sized hit.

Limited runs

In the limited release arena, Woody Allen’s “Melinda and Melinda,” distribbed by Fox Searchlight, grossed $790,000 from 95 screens, bringing its cume to just over $1 million. Perf marked a successful second-week expansion for the pic in 11 new cities, with a sturdy screen average of $8,316, after debuting last week on a solo Gotham screen.

Searchlight distrib topper Steve Gilula said plans are to add 17 new markets on this coming Friday, for a total run around 150, and then reach 300 screens on April 8.

Several specialty pics made strong debuts this weekend as well. IFC’s “The Ballad of Jack and Rose,” which stars Daniel Day-Lewis, opened in Gotham and Los Angeles with $60,461 from four screens, averaging $15,115 per engagement. IFC distrib head Mark Boxer said the distrib will take it to the top 20 markets this Friday.

Tartan also saw good results for the debut of Korean revenge thriller “Old Boy,” which brought in $75,000 from five screens in Gotham, L.A. and San Francisco. The Chanwook Park-helmed pic averaged $15,000 per screen.

ThinkFilm’s wine doc “Mondovino” grossed $11,525 for the weekend from its exclusive Film Forum engagement in Gotham. Since starting there on Wednesday, doc has distilled $14,745.

Destination and Samuel Goldwyn’s action spoof “D.E.B.S.” didn’t see such good results, bowing with $56,250 from 45 screens for an average of $1,250 in its first week.

‘Anger’ manages B.O.

Among the holdovers, New Line’s “The Upside of Anger” continued a strong run, racking up $1.25 million from 167 screens in its third week, an average of $7,485. Perf pushes cume just past $4 million.

Playing the second week at its exclusive L.A. engagement, Miramax’s “The Best of Youth” also stayed strong, with $10,197 for the frame. The six-hour Italian family epic, released in two parts, has cumed $75,887 in its four-week U.S. run.

Fox Searchlight’s “Millions” grossed $480,000 in its third week. Playing on 77 screens, the Danny Boyle pic averaged $6,234 and now has a cume of $907,173.

Searchlight also toasted “Sideways” surpassing the $70 million mark this weekend. Still playing on 431 screens, pic grossed $660,000 for the weekend, which brought its cume to $70.5 million. Much of that gross — more than $30 million worth — came after the Academy Awards nominations were announced the last week of January.

Newmarket, which was acquired by HBO and New Line this past week, saw German-lingo “Downfall” expand to 128 screens this week. For the three-day span, pic posted $651,212 in its sixth week, or $5,088, and has a cume of $2.3 million. Newmarket topper Bob Berney said distrib will add around 30 runs this Friday.

Miramax’s “Dear Frankie,” in its fourth week, grossed $91,569 from 27 screens, averaging $3,391. Cume now stands at $331,230. Distrib’s “Bride and Prejudice,” in its seventh frame, picked up $496,063 from 261 screens, an average of $1,901. The Jane Austen adaptation from Gurinder Chadha has cumed $5.6 million.

ThinkFilm’s Oscar-winning doc “Born Into Brothels” continued to draw in its 16th week with $275,260 in receipts off 123 screens. Doc, which averaged $2,238, has cumed $2.4 million.

Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Merchant of Venice” collected $152,894 in its 13th frame. Playing on 91 screens, pic averaged $1,680 and now has a cume just under $3.3 million.

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