Pix take on Super Bowl

Continuing horror’s hot streak at the box office, Sony and Screen Gems’ “Boogeyman” opened strongly this weekend with $19.5 million from 3,052 locations.

Impressive debut continued a hot streak for Sony on Super Bowl weekend, a frame that most distribs typically avoid since traffic at theaters drops sharply while Americans spend time watching football and commercials.

Studio has had the top film on the big game weekend for the last five years, with “Boogeyman” seeing the biggest opening yet.

Last year, Sony/Screen Gems combo “You Got Served” led the chart with $16.1 million; the year before that, Sony opened Revolution’s horror pic “Darkness Falls” at $12 million.

Sony distrib prexy Rory Bruer noted the studio started laying the groundwork for “Boogeyman,” produced on a $7 million budget by Sam Raimi’s Ghost House label, as early as October.

“Having Sam Raimi as a partner is terrific because we had the ability to start the marketing early on the picture with a trailer on ‘The Grudge,’ ” Bruer said.

In second place for the weekend was Universal and Gold Circle’s romantic comedy “The Wedding Date,” which debuted with $11 million at 1,694 theaters.

Anticipating the low grosses throughout the industry on the day of the Super Bowl, distribs said they had included low Sunday numbers in their weekend estimates. Final numbers are due today.

Pix blitz

Both “Boogeyman” and “Wedding” were designed to sidestep the football problem for the biz this weekend: “Boogeyman” appeals mostly to young auds who turn out on Friday and Sunday, while “Wedding” was driven by femmes, who are the least likely to be interested in the big game.

U distrib chief Nikki Rocco said its studio exit polls found the “Wedding” aud predominantly female, with women making up 75% of admissions; 49% of the aud was over 30.

“It’s way above the gross we had expected,” she said.

“Wedding,” which carried a pricetag between $10 million and $15 million, is the second pic to come out under Gold Circle’s distrib pact with U, following “White Noise” earlier this year.

Gold Circle prexy Paul Brooks said the two pics are indicative of the genres, horror and comedy, his company will focus on.

Weekend’s openers were followed by Revolution and Sony’s family laffer “Are We There Yet?” with $10.4 million, bringing the Ice Cube starrer’s cume to $51.1 million.

In its second weekend, Fox’s “Hide and Seek” dropped a steep 59% to $8.9 million, landing in the No. 4 spot.

Kudos contenders

Warner Bros.’ “Million Dollar Baby” rounded out the top five films, grossing $8.8 million from 2,025 locations. Clint Eastwood’s boxing drama has cumed $34.7 million.

Among the kudos contenders, Miramax and Warners’ “The Aviator” grossed $5.4 million from 2,501 venues, boosting cume to an impressive $75.9 million.

Fox Searchlight watched “Sideways” become the specialty division’s top-grossing title ever with its $4.8 million at 1,787 engagements. Alexander Payne’s wine country yarn has a cume of $46.8 million, surpassing 1997’s “The Full Monty,” the distrib’s previous biggest title.

MGM and United Artists’ “Hotel Rwanda,” which mounted the most aggressive expansion of its run so far with a boost to 823 screens, scored $2.5 million for the frame. Cume is $11.4 million.

Miramax’s “Finding Neverland,” playing on 1,411 screens, grossed $2.6 million for the frame, bringing cume to $39.5 million.

Among the limited openers, IFC Films’ “Nobody Knows” bowed well in Gotham. Playing on two screens, pic grossed $33,720, averaging a stout $16,860. Japanese pic about four children abandoned by their mother opens in Los Angeles this Friday.

Palm Pictures opened New Wave biographical doc “The Nomi Song” on two screens in New York and L.A. and grossed $14,780, averaging $7,390.

Limited returns

Making minimal impact at the box office was Focus Features’ opener “Rory O’Shea Was Here,” which made just $5,865 from three screens.

Sony Pictures Classics’ “Being Julia” stepped up to $336,978 for the weekend, a 28% improvement from last week. Pic played 124 screens, averaging $2,718. With Annette Bening nominated for the actress Oscar, distrib plans to expand the pic incrementally starting Friday and then widen to around 300 Feb. 18.

Fine Line’s “Vera Drake,” which expanded to 97 screens this week following its multiple Acad noms, grossed $146,000, or $1,505 per screen. Cume on the Mike Leigh-helmed project is $2.6 million.

Label’s “The Sea Inside,” which is competing in the foreign-language film category at the Oscars, also saw improvement with $89,000 on 48 screens, an addition of 34, boosting cume to just over $500,000.

ThinkFilm’s “Born Into Brothels,” competing for Oscar’s docu feature statuette, expanded to 12 screens this weekend and grossed just over $86,000, averaging $7,172 per engagement and raising its cume to $219,438.

Though the Super Bowl makes estimates more shaky than usual this weekend, Nielsen EDI projects this will be the best overall Super Bowl weekend. EDI estimates total biz amounted to $104 million, 8% better than last year’s frame.

So far, 2005 is off to a quick start. Year-to-date the firm estimates total biz at $778.2 million, 11% higher than last year, when holiday holdover “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” was still a potent force at the wickets.

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