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February B.O. is second highest ever

'Hitch,' Sony deliver box office passion

Even without a blockbuster biblical epic, the February box office had plenty to be passionate about.

Overall receipts for the period of Jan. 31-Feb. 28 totaled $636 million, making it the second highest February behind last year’s all-time high of $646 million. That record was predominantly fueled by “The Passion of the Christ” which bowed during the final five days of the month.

Sony grabbed the top spot with $215 million, paced by Will Smith starrer “Hitch,” while Keanu Reeves headliner “Constantine” led Warner Bros. to $121 million.

Several other factors contributed to February’s boffo B.O. success:

  • The four-day weekend B.O. of $158 million for the Presidents Day frame was up 9% over a year ago despite the fact fewer kids were off from school. The percent of public schools off for the holiday this year was 73% versus 2004’s 78%.

  • Twenty Oscar-nominated pics last month, led by “Million Dollar Baby,” rang up $141 million, up 12% over last February’s contenders.

  • People actually went to the movies over Super Bowl weekend. Notorious for being one of the weaker weekends at the box office, this year’s Super Bowl frame was the highest ever, ringing up $103 million. Studios counter-program against the game with romantic comedies or horror pics, and it paid off this year with “Boogeyman.” At $19 million, pic posted the biggest three-day take for a Super Bowl weekend bow.

On the downside, teen-centric fare, typically a staple on the early winter sked, continued to under-perform, just as they did last February. While “Boogeyman” ($45 million) was the notable hit among the young set last month, winter hasn’t seen a healthy teen headliner since 2001’s “Save the Last Dance” ($91 million).

The top 10 grossing pics for last month: Sony’s “Hitch,” $122 million; Warner Bros.’ “Constantine,” $52 million; Screen Gems’ “Boogeyman,” $45 million; Warner Bros.’ “Million Dollar Baby,” $44 million; Sony’s “Are We There Yet?,” $38 million; U’s “The Wedding Date,” $29 million; Fox’s “Hide and Seek,” $28 million; Miramax-Warner Bros.’ “The Aviator,” $26 million; Fox Searchlight’s “Sideways,” $23.3 million and Lions Gate’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” $23.2 million.

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