‘Hostel’ takeover

Scream fest nabs $20 mil

It was a better weekend for gore than prestige.

Lionsgate’s “Hostel” slashed into theaters with a $20.1 million first-place bow in the first frame of 2006, while “Munich” and “Casanova” failed to connect in their wide expansions.

Weekend’s other two openers — Fox’s “Grandma’s Boy” and Romar’s “Bloodrayne” — both opened to dismal numbers outside of the top 10.

Most pics, particularly those aiming at adults, saw a better-than-average B.O. “drop” since business was weak last Saturday, New Year’s Eve.

Playing 2,195 theaters, “Hostel” averaged $9,157. It’s the second successful opening for a low budget horror pic from Lionsgate, following “Saw 2’s” boffo $31.7 million in October.

Pic played to an overwhelmingly young male aud.

“It’s a remarkable achievement when a movie grosses more than four times its production budget in its opening weekend,” crowed Lionsgate distrib prexy Steve Rothenberg.

Expanding to 1,484 theaters, “Munich” did only $7.5 million, giving it a per-play average of $5,020. Following two solid weeks on just over 500 playdates, cume for Steven Spielberg’s historical drama is $25.2 million.

U is hoping awards momentum could give the historical drama legs, but “Munich” now looks poised to become that rare creature: a Steven Spielberg miss. Last Spielberg pic to gross less than $50 million domestically was “Amistad” in 1997.

In the battle of the major holdovers, Disney and Walden’s “Chronicles of Narnia” has come out of the holiday season the clear winner, poised to end up in the high 200 millions. That will make it a very solid performer, if not a “Lord of the Rings”-size blockbuster.

U’s “King Kong” is declining faster and looks poised for a disappointing but still respectable domestic cume in the low 200 millions.

“Narnia” declined 40% in its fifth frame, grossing $15.4 million to land in second place. Per-play average at 3,514 locations was $4,390 and total take is now $247.6 million.

“King Kong” took a bigger hit of 50%. U’s tentpole grossed $12.5 million, averaging $3,580 at 3,482 playdates. Cume stands at $192.5 million.

Disney’s “Casanova” upped its print count from 37 to 1,004 and got no love from auds, landing outside the top 10. Romantic comedy grossed just $4 million, giving it a per-theater average of $3,998. Since its Christmas bow, total take for the Heath Ledger starrer is $5.2 million.

Adam Sandler-produced “Grandma’s Boy” lost its young male aud to “Hostel” and grossed just $2.9 million at 2,015 locations for a per-play average of $1,427.

Vidgame adaptation “Bloodrayne” turned out to be a debacle for new indie distrib Romar, bowing to just $1.2 million. Romar said on Thursday it would play 1,915 locations, but pic ended up on 985. Sources said exhibs received hundreds of prints that they didn’t order and refused to play. Per-theater average was $1,218.

Romar execs didn’t report grosses to Daily Variety or return calls on Sunday.

Sony had something to brag about, as both its pics in the market experienced very modest declines. “Fun With Dick and Jane” fell only 26% to $12.2 million, putting it in fourth place barely behind “Kong.” Per-theater average was $3,834 on 3,182 plays and cume is now $81.4 million.

“Memoirs of a Geisha” showed legs after a poor first two weeks in wide release, falling just 23% to $6 million, good enough for No. 7. Average take was $3,776 at 1,589 locations. Cume is a still-weak $39.8 million.

“Cheaper by the Dozen 2” dropped 43% in its third frame, taking $8.3 million and landing in fifth. Per-print average was $2,671 at 3,108 playdates and total take is $66.4 million.

Coming in No. 8, WB’s “Rumor Has It” fell 37% in its second full frame after opening Christmas Day. Gross was $5.9 million on 2,766 playdates, giving it an average of $2,126. Cume is $35.4 million.

Meanwhile, Disney snuck “Glory Road” at 850 theaters Saturday night.

Overall, it was a good start for 2006, as the first weekend of the year was up 8% compared to 2005.

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