‘Brokeback’ beefing up

Cowboy pic rides Globe win at B.O.

Who says the Golden Globes don’t matter?

Jumping off a big win at the kudofest Monday and helped by an otherwise weak field, “Brokeback Mountain” garnered the impressive achievement of a solid No. 1 win at the box office Tuesday and Wednesday despite playing just 682 theaters. With about $740,000 both days, Focus’ cowboy love story beat “Glory Road,” which was on 2,222 playdates, by approximately $50,000 Tuesday and $100,000 Wednesday.

That puts “Brokeback” in a very strong position as it expands this weekend to 1,194 playdates — a significant boost from the 800-900 Focus was planning before the Globes victories.

Also bowing, and considered a lock for the top weekend spot, is Sony Screen Gems’ “Underworld: Evolution.” Indie distrib Rocky Mountain Films will be aiming for the Christian aud with “End of the Spear,” while New Line puts Terence Malick’s “The New World” in a small wide run and Warner Independent debuts Albert Brooks’ comedy “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World” in limited release.

Focus has been regularly expanding “Brokeback” by 100-200 playdates per week for the past few weeks, but decided to take advantage of excitement among exhibs and the public after the Globes.

“We have the opportunity now with these exhibitors to play at least through the Academy Award nominations,” said Focus distrib topper Jack Foley.

If, as expected, “Brokeback” garners a slew of Oscar noms on Jan. 31, it could go significantly wider then.

Pic will push into remaining small cities, as well as further into the suburbs, this weekend.

“Brokeback” also has a big weekend overseas, where it’s opening in Spain, Italy, France, Norway and Taiwan. It’s cumed $6.1 million foreign so far, mostly via two strong weeks in the U.K., where it’s playing on 275 screens.

Pic bowed Wednesday in France with 155 prints, becoming the No. 2 pic in the country and the highest-ranked in Paris with 15,397 admissions. In all of France, it finished with 37,331 admissions, missing the No. 1 spot by about 1,000.

Focus has sold off foreign rights to various distribs.

Given its weekday momentum, “Brokeback” could be a strong contender for the No. 2 spot domestically after “Underworld: Evolution,” which bows at 3,207 locations.

Sony is optimistic pic can top the September 2003 bow of the original “Underworld,” which grossed $21.7 million before going on to cume $51.5 million and becoming a sleeper hit on homevideo.

Fantasy horror pic is expected to appeal primarily to young males.

Again toplining Kate Beckinsale, “Underworld: Evolution” opens day-and-date in the U.K. via Entertainment and in Australia via Sony.

“The New World” opens in a relatively small 811 theaters. Without the award recognition New Line was undoubtedly hoping for, mini-major has targeted a conservative opening with hopes of expanding from there if pic opens well.

Malick has cut the film from 149 minutes to 135 minutes for its wide release. In two weeks of an Acad-qualifying limited run on three playdates in December, “New World” grossed $189,864.

Rocky Mountain Pictures, formerly RS Entertainment, is handling distribution for indie production company Every Tribe Entertainment’s “End of the Spear,” which hits 1,158 theaters.

Pic about American missionaries in Ecuador has been marketed to Christian auds by the same firms that handled outreach on “The Passion of the Christ” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” with a P&A budget of $12 million.

“We have been reaching out to churches and screening it for religious leaders from Pat Robertson on down,” said RS distrib exec Ron Rogers.

In limited release, Warner Independent Pictures is opening “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World” at 161 playdates. Political comedy has been marketed primarily on the Internet in hopes of bringing out a new aud for helmer-star Brooks.

“Every indication we have is that the audience is the hipper, younger, Jon Stewart audience,” said WIP distrib topper Steve Friedlander.

Pic is expected to expand to around 500 theaters in early February.

DreamWorks expands Woody Allen drama “Match Point,” which been doing solid business at 312 playdates, to 441. That could be about as wide as the pic goes, depending on how it performs.

Coming off a Golden Globe win for star Felicity Huffman, Weinstein Co. is expanding “Transamerica” to 38 plays in the top 20 markets.

Also building on victories at the Globes, Fox is expanding “Walk the Line,” which seemed played out with a $98 million cume since its November opening, from 864 to 1,125 playdates.

Weinstein Co. is expanding “Hoodwinked” after its surprisingly strong $16.9 million No. 2 debut. Toon will hit 3,003 theaters, up from 2,394 last weekend.

Overseas, “Memoirs of a Geisha” opens in Spain via Sony and in Australia, Russia and Germany. Foreign cume so far is $23 million, with $11 million-plus in Japan.

Sony’s “Fun With Dick and Jane,” which has $19 million foreign so far, bows in the U.K. and Brazil.

(Dave McNary contributed to this report.)

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