Invaders mint mega moolah

Spielberg sci-fier soars to $113 million

Though it didn’t rival the results of last year’s Fourth of July holiday frame, Paramount and DreamWorks’ “War of the Worlds” turned in an impressive $77.6 million opening over the Friday-to-Monday long weekend.

Playing 3,908 theaters, the Steven Spielberg-Tom Cruise alien invasion pic has a domestic cume of $113.3 million in its first six days, and $102.5 million overseas in its first five days.

For Independence Day openings, “Worlds” is behind only last year’s mammoth “Spider-Man 2,” which amassed $180 million for its six-day opening.

Par says “Worlds” was produced on a $135 million budget, but the actual pricetag is thought to be much higher.

While no one thought the pic would match “Spider-Man 2,” industry estimates had been a bit higher than the results.

Still, Par execs were ecstatic. Vice chair Rob Friedman said, “Our greatest expectations have been met. You’re always hoping for something to happen, and in this particular case it did.”

Demographics were well balanced, with the aud 53% male and equally divided between those over and under age 25.

While “Worlds” won’t go into the industry record books, it did set several high-water marks for those involved. Pic, which crossed the century mark Stateside in five days, is the fastest to do so for Par, Spielberg and Cruise.

However, as lofty as the film’s numbers were, 2005’s summer box office season continues to lag behind last year’s record numbers.

According to Nielsen EDI’s estimate, total box office over the four-day span amounted to $171 million, off 23% from the $223 million in biz last year. It’s the 19th consecutive weekend that numbers have lagged behind 2004, which was the best year ever at the box office.

The dip pushes 2005’s year-to-date number further behind last year’s. Grosses this year are at $4.313 billion, 8.4% behind 2004 at this point. Most of the distance between the two years has come during the summer season, which with $1.813 billion is running 11.7% behind last year’s record season.

The weekend’s only other new wide release was 20th Century Fox’s “Rebound,” which scored $6 million in its opening session, good for the No. 7 spot overall.

Bankable “Batman”

In second place was Warner Bros.’ “Batman Begins,” which earned $18.7 million over the four-day span, raising cume to $154.1 million.

In third was 20th Century Fox’s “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” with $12.7 million in its fourth frame, boosting cume to $146.1 million.

Holding the No. 4 spot was Sony’s “Bewitched,” which made $10.8 million in its soph sesh. Comparing the three-day portion of the weekend to its opening, the Nicole Kidman-Will Ferrell laffer dropped a steep 55%. Pic, which Sony says cost $80 million to produce but is thought to have cost significantly more, has cumed $40.3 million.

Also in its sophomore session, Walt Disney’s “Herbie: Fully Loaded” placed fifth for the weekend with $10.5 million. Lindsay Lohan starrer was off a modest 32%.

Universal’s “George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead” fell a precipitous 74% in its second week, grossing $3.2 million over the four-day frame.

Indie fare

In the limited arena, Warner Independent Pictures’ nature doc “March of the Penguins” showed considerable strength in its second week, grossing $523,029. Playing 20 engagements, pic averaged a stout $20,454 per screen over the three-day span. Cume is now $743,118. Among the new entrants, Wellspring’s “The Beat That My Heart Skipped” opened to $87,228 from five screens, averaging $13,061.

Lions Gate’s “Undead” bowed on two and grossed $10,000 over four days, averaging $4,351.

Label’s dance doc “Rize” pulled in another $600,000 in its second week, raising cume to $2.6 million. Playing on 352 screens, pic averaged a somewhat soft $1,449, however.

Lions Gate’s “Crash” continues its leggy run in its ninth frame, grossing $975,000 from 424 screens, an average of $1,887 per venue. Cume is $49.7 million.

In its third week, IFC’s “Me and You and Everyone We Know” also showed some resiliency, grossing $304,703 from 26 screens. Pic averaged an impressive $9,219 per screen.

For its second week, Rialto’s reissue “Elevator to the Gallows” picked up another $10,400, lifting cume to $23,767.

Also in its soph sesh, Samuel Goldwyn’s “Lila Says” brought in $25,800 from six screens, averaging $3,187 per screen.

Roadside Attractions’ “Ladies in Lavender” continues to chug along. Pic grossed $444,415 in its 10th frame, averaging $2,840 on 115 screens. Cume is now just a hair under $4 million.

Sony Pictures Classics’ “Heights,” in its third week, grossed $183,563 from 45 bookings, lifting its total to $393,480. Pic averaged $3,079 per screen.

Among the banner’s other titles in release, “Yes” found $50,813 in its second week. Playing on 17 screens, pic averaged $2,283; cume is $92,772. Meanwhile, “Saving Face,” in its sixth week, grossed $144,049 from 56 playdates, averaging $1,947. Cume is $816,110.

Paramount Classics’ doc “Mad Hot Ballroom” also did well over the holiday, grossing $615,000 from 202 locations, lifting cume to just under $4 million. Kid dance doc’s average was $2,475 per screen.

Distrib’s “Apres Vous,” in its fifth week, pulled in $90,000 at 33 screens. That gave it an average of $2,152 and a cume of $437,000.

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