Fox rides hype to $83 mil global take

For “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” all news turned out to be good news — even the tabloid variety. The 20th Century Fox pic opened this weekend to $51.1 million — the biggest opening in the careers of both its stars, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Overseas, too, the duo clicked as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” brought in $32 million to make their worldwide cume $83.1 million.

But U’s “Cinderella Man,” whose star Russell Crowe had his own media maelstrom last week, slumped 48% in its second stanza to $9.5 million — a much steeper decline than Universal had anticipated when it slated the pic for a summer premiere. (Crowe was arrested and charged with assault Monday in New York).

After months of Pitt and Jolie as the tabloid media’s most sought after (alleged) couple – Us Weekly is reported to have paid as much as $500,000 for photos of the pair on an African beach together — Fox launched the Doug Liman-helmed pic in 3,424 theaters to biz significantly higher than expected.

Boosting “Smith” were older femme adults, who don’t usually turn out for actioners but do read the celeb weeklies and watch tabloid TV chronicling the are-they-or-aren’t-they star pairing.

“It certainly didn’t hurt,” Fox distrib chief Bruce Snyder said of the media obsession with Pitt and Jolie.

Pic, which sparked the rumors that the stars became romantically linked, is also the biggest opener on helmer Liman’s resume.

Elsewhere, however, the marketplace remained sluggish, with the frame’s other frosh titles debuting softly. Dimension’s Robert Rodriguez kidpic “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D” opened at No. 5 with $12.5 million from 2,655 locations. In seventh place, Paramount’s “The Honeymooners” saw results somewhat lower than expected, with $5.8 million from 1,912. And finishing in the 11th spot, Lions Gate’s French horror pic “High Tension” opened to $1.75 million at 1,323.

‘Man’ down

There’s plenty of disappointment over the lackluster second-week results for U’s “Cinderella Man,” which now has cumed $34.5 million and, barring some unforeseen uptick, will have trouble matching the $77 million domestic gross of last summer’s “The Terminal.”

Successful summer dramas tend to hold onto a much bigger portion of their opening, racking up steady biz in successive weeks. For instance, “Seabiscuit” dropped just 15% in its soph sesh, while “The Road to Perdition” was down just 30%.

“I’m heartbroken over the 48% drop,” said U distrib prexy Nikki Rocco. “We know the word of mouth is great and the playability this film could have. And we will still support the picture.”

She couldn’t pinpoint why “Cinderella Man” has failed to catch traction. “As a group we’ll look at all the factors and then figure out our next steps,” she said.

“Smith,” with its wide appeal in all four quadrants, may have hurt “Cinderella’s” chances.

“We basically got everybody, from soup to nuts,” Fox’s Snyder said. Studio exit polls showed the aud was 56% female and 57% over age 25. “I am a little surprised (at those numbers) for a high-octane action movie.”

In second place for the frame was DreamWorks’ “Madagascar,” which in its third week grossed $17.1 million, raising cume on the talking animal toon to $128.4 million.

Immediately behind it, Fox’s “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” continued its stellar run, pulling in $14.9 million in its fourth weekend to lift cume on George Lucas’ sci-fi finale to $332.1 million.

Adam Sandler football pic “The Longest Yard” from Paramount was at No. 4 with $13.5 million in its third week. Cume on the remake is a more-than-respectable $118.1 million.

Among the other sophomores, Warner Bros.’ “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” held fairly steady, dropping 42% to $5.7 million and pushing cume to $23.7 million.

But Sony’s skateboarding pic “Lords of Dogtown” wiped out, nosediving 68% and out of the top 10 in its second frame with $1.8 million.

That was right behind No. 10′s “Crash,” which Lions Gate said earned $1.9 million in its sixth frame.

Summer doldrums

Despite “Sith” and “Smith,” summer continues to be sluggish. Nielsen EDI estimates the weekend’s total biz at $140 million, which is 12% behind last year, when five different pictures managed to gross more than $20 million, including the frame’s three openers: “Chronicles of Riddick,” “The Stepford Wives” and “Garfield.”

The season numbers are more dismal, with this year’s $1.121 billion in grosses 10.3% behind last summer’s results through this point. For the year, 2005 is falling further behind with its $3.621 billion, now 7.2% behind last year’s grosses.

Much of the season’s hopes will ride on the next few weeks’ releases, including Warners’ “Batman Begins,” set for Wednesday; Sony’s “Bewitched” and Disney’s “Herbie: Fully Loaded” for the June 24 frame; and Paramount and DreamWorks’ “War of the Worlds” over the July 4th weekend.

In the limited arena, Japanese animated hit “Howl’s Moving Castle” got off to a strong Stateside start with $401,000 from 36 screens. Distribbed domestically by Disney, pic averaged a stout $11,139 per location. Mouse House is studying results – for instance, the feature grossed $54,000 at the El Capitan in Hollywood – and considering a wider rollout. Last year, Hayao Miyazaki’s previous pic, “Spirited Away,” took in $10 million in the U.S., playing 151 screens at its widest point of release.

Thinkfilm saw good results for French helmer Francois Ozon’s relationship drama “5×2.” Starting on two screens in Gotham, pic grossed $17,055 for an average of $8,528 per engagement.

In its second week, Paramount Classics’ “Apres Vous” grossed $60,000 from 12 screens after expanding to San Francisco. Averaging $5,000 per screen, pic has cumed $95,000. Label’s “Mad Hot Ballroom,” in its fifth week, brought in $389,469 off of 126 screens for an average of $3,091. Doc’s cume is $1.7 million.

Sony Pictures Classics’ “Saving Face,” in its third week, collected $96,433 from 26 screens, averaging $3,709 per run. Cume is $333,335.

Roadside Attractions’ “Ladies in Lavender” chugged along in its seventh week with $291,060 from 96 runs, averaging $3,032 and pushing cume to $2.5 million.

Miramax’s “Deep Blue,” in its second week, grossed $5,540 off of two screens, upping cume to $18,393.

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