Kazakh cash cow

'Borat's' global grosses top $110 mil

The B.O. weekend tally looked a lot like last week’s as three pics — led by Fox’s “Borat” — made strong holds and maintained the same rankings on the chart. Pocketing $29 million in its second frame, the politically incorrect comedy “Borat” actually topped its opening-weekend gross and likely will cross $100 million by Thanksgiving.

“Borat’s” haul likely hurt Sony’s debuting comedy “Stranger Than Fiction,” which finished in the No. 4 slot. But Sony — which has the latest James Bond pic bowing next frame — believes “Stranger” can stick around and find additional auds.

Despite its “Borat” breakout, Fox execs didn’t have all good news to celebrate: The studio’s Russell Crowe vehicle “A Good Year” went sour. Upscale pic was roughed up by poor notices, Crowe’s offscreen antics and perhaps the expansion to 1,251 screens of Paramount Vantage’s star ensemble drama “Babel,” which moved into the No. 6 slot.

Focus Features’ horror pic “The Return,” meanwhile, was attacked by Lionsgate’s holdover “Saw III,” which was still skulking around the top five in its third frame to carve out further biz. Sarah Michelle Gellar-starring “Return” came in at No. 8 with $4.7 million from just under 2,000.

Two major studio productions vying for awards this season — Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” and Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers” — had very different experiences over the frame.

“Departed” once again held well, sliding just 32% in its sixth frame to graze the $110 million mark.

War epic “Flags” fell out of the top 10 to No. 12, taking in $2.8 million from 1,963. Pic has cumed $30.9 million to date. Par’s plan has been to take a slow and steady approach — as other successful Eastwood pics have — but the film about the U.S. campaign in Iwo Jima is still looking to build momentum the way “Million Dollar Baby” and “Mystic River” did. Those pics didn’t pick up steam until they landed on a host of critics’ top-10 lists and in the Oscar derby.

MGM’s rollout of indie banner Bauer Martinez’s gritty cop drama “Harsh Times” had a tough go of it at the B.O., taking in $1.8 million at 956 for a per-engagement average of $1,913.

With “Borat” appealing to teens and adults, Disney’s “The Santa Clause 3” and Paramount/DreamWorks Animation’s “Flushed Away” were able to weather scant drops in their second frames and draw families.

“Clause” slipped just 13% to hit a second straight No. 2 finish. Pic has cumed $41 million.

“Flushed” showed signs of life, taking in another $16.7 million to swell its cume to nearly $40 million.

Expanding “Borat” by 1,729 locations, Fox was looking to pick up some of the dough it might’ve missed out on when it opened the zany, profane pic on 837 screens in its debut. Playing to a per-engagement average of $11,302 in its second frame, pic continued to perform best in urban markets at cosmopolitan locations.

Heartland receipts were down a bit more, but the pic, sitting pretty at $67.8 million, is expanding its reach with female and older auds, indicating it can cross over from Baron Cohen’s core.

“Borat’s” perf put a dent in Sony’s debuting “Fiction,” the brainy Will Ferrell starrer from Mandate Pictures that was aiming at a similar demo.

“Stranger,” about a man who realizes his fate is being controlled by a novelist’s plot twists, bowed at No. 4, with $14.1 million from 2,264.

Columbia marketing and distrib chairman Jeff Blake said “Stranger” finished within expectations, but that the pic found itself “in a pretty unusual slot with the ‘Borat’ phenomenon.”

Farrell’s “Talladega Nights” bowed to $47 million for Sony in August. “Fiction” reps the lowest bow for a pic toplining the actor since 1998’s “A Night at the Roxbury.” But expectations were lower than for Farrell’s broader, more lowbrow projects. Still, Sony saw the pic as more mainstream than its previous quirky literary comedy, “Adaptation.”

“It’s been a while since the top three films finished the same twice in a row,” Blake said of the frame, “and to have the top three all have (drops) of under 15%. This is not a ‘Talladega Nights,’ but it’s a pretty mainstream comedy with a broad range (of appeal).”

But if “Fiction” finished a bit off the pace, “Good Year” had little good news to celebrate. Pic, starring Crowe as a banker who segues to French country living, played to just $3.7 million on 2,066, for a per-engagement of just $1,827.

Crowe’s last pic, “Cinderella Man,” opened at more than $18 million for Universal last year. B.O. pros said Sunday that “Year’s” perf was hurt by Crowe’s offscreen antics, which have turned off some of his fans, particularly females.

“Year” drew a crowd that was 88% over 25, according to Fox brass, and 53% over 50. That’s a demo that reads reviews, and “Year” received poor notices.

Paramount Vantage, meanwhile, had success with its expansion of “Babel,” its drama whose cast includes Brad Pitt and Gael Garcia Bernal.

Pic played in an additional 1,216 locations and rose up the charts to No. 6, taking in $5.6 million, off 1,251, and bringing its cume to $7.5 million.

Also hitting the top 10 was Disney’s magically themed period piece “The Prestige,” which has taken in $46 million after a month in release.

In the specialty sector, New Line’s drama “Little Children” moved to 32 markets in its fifth frame, taking in $173,049 to lift its cume to just over $1 million. Platform release won’t expand wide until after the new year.

Sony Classics’ “Volver,” in its second frame, took in another $172,340 off five screens to raise its cume above $466,000.

With so many choices for cineastes who are led to new fare by critics, some debuting pics were left straining for attention.

Picturehouse’s Nicole Kidman starrer “Fur” rolled out on four screens over the frame to take in just more than $30,000. Per-screen average stood at about $7,500.

MGM bowed its biopic “Copying Beethoven” in 26 engagements to $327,000 and a per-playdate average of $2,769.

Roadside Attractions bowed Sundance thriller “Come Early Morning” in 22 engagements to take in $51,700, for an average of $2,350.

With “Borat’s” boisterous perf, overall B.O. remained flat with the previous frame, dipping by about $1 million.

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