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U’s $188 mil tops Jan. biz

Month's B.O. up 14% vs. '04

Neither rain nor sleet nor snow kept Americans away from the movies in January.

Box office surged 14% to $643 million in the Jan. 3-30 span vs. the same frame a year ago. January 2002 still holds the record for the month, $683 million.

Significantly contributing to the month’s uptick was the absence of Super Bowl Sunday: This weekend’s B.O. was up 29% from the comparable period of Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2004.

Universal led all distribs in January with $188 million. Cume was thanks to two of the month’s highest-grossing films — “Meet the Fockers” and “White Noise” — the latter a box office surprise that caught the industry off-guard.

“It’s all about our strategic thinking. We try to keep our finger on the pulse and counterprogram our films,” U distrib prexy Nikki Rocco said of the success of “White Noise.”

With a mix of kudos contenders and family fare, Warner Bros. came in second with $102 million.

Capitalizing on kids and teens off from school for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, studios had a number of pics rated PG or PG-13 in play during the month. Both ratings combined tallied $544 million, up 30% from January ’04; R-rated pics totaled $86 million, down 36%.

U was the highest-grossing studio over the holiday weekend, Jan. 18-21. With the expansion of “In Good Company,” the sophomore frame of “White Noise” and the legs of “Fockers,” U grossed more than $50 million, a third of the holiday weekend business.

The top 10 pics for January were “Meet the Fockers,” $96 million; “White Noise,” $54 million; Paramount’s “Coach Carter,” $53.6 million; Sony’s “Are We There Yet?,” $38 million; Miramax and Warner Bros.’ “The Aviator,” $37 million; “In Good Company,” $36 million; Warner Bros.’ “Racing Stripes,” $35 million; Fox’s “Elektra,” $23 million; Warner Bros.’ “The Phantom of the Opera,” $22.7 million; and Fox’s “Hide and Seek,” $22 million.

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