'Big' bow, 'McPhee' spree at box office

Martin Lawrence topped the box office with 20th Century Fox’s “Big Momma’s House 2,” which bowed to $28 million at 3,261 locations.

A better-than-expected $14.1 million opening for “Nanny McPhee,” which unspooled at 1,995 locations, put Universal’s Brit kidpic in the No. 2 slot.

Walt Disney’s “Annapolis” debuted with $7.7 million from 1,605 theaters, good for fourth place.

In sixth, Focus Features’ “Brokeback Mountain” took in $6.4 million over the frame from 1,654 venues. Cume on the Jake Gyllenhaal-Heath Ledger is $50.8 million.

That’s especially impressive, said Focus distribution chief Jack Foley, because the original strategy was geared to the weekend following Tuesday’s Oscar noms.

“We thought the real business this film was going to be able to exploit was after the nominations,” he said.

Pic’s Oscar chances were buoyed over the weekend as helmer Ang Lee won the Directors Guild of America’s top kudo.

Next weekend, the film will expand to more than 2,000 theaters.

“We have always been finding new money,” Foley said of the aggressive expansion strategy. “We’ve found this $50 million” before Oscar noms are out.

Comparing “Brokeback” with last year’s Oscar winner for best pic, “Million Dollar Baby,” which ultimately cumed $100 million, Foley noted, “When they were going into this weekend, they were at $9 million.”

Elsewhere at the box office, Sony’s “Underworld: Evolution” sank 59% in its sophomore session, dipping to $11.1 million, which placed it at No. 3. Vampires-vs.-werewolves sequel has taken in $44.3 million to date.

Coming in at No. 5 was Weinstein Co. kidpic “Hoodwinked,” which dropped 29% to $7.4 million. CGI toon’s cume is $37.7 million.

In their third sessions, Disney’s “Glory Road” was down 41% to $5.2 million, bringing cume to $34.8 million, while Paramount’s “Last Holiday” dipped 45% to $4.8 million, pushing cume to $32.6 million.

The Weinsteins also saw Pierce Brosnan starrer “The Matador” crack the top 10 after expanding to 885 screens. Acquired almost exactly a year ago at Sundance, pic has accumulated $5.5 million in five weeks of release.

Fox distrib prexy Bruce Snyder said he was pleased with the “Big Momma” debut, which was well above the 2000 original’s $25.7 million bow thanks in part to a 47% increase from Friday to Saturday grosses.

“That’s a big-time jump for an opening weekend,” he said.

Surprisingly, exit surveys on the PG-13 film found the aud was 67% female, while 52% were over age 25.

Polls on “McPhee” showed the pic was primarily picking up family biz. Auds were 40% kids age 12 and under. Among adult attendees, 57% were parents with kids younger than 13.

“It’s nice to see a family film like this work,” said U distrib topper Nikki Rocco. “The exits are excellent. Hopefully, they’ll hold (next weekend).”

Among the other films looking for Oscar nod bumps, Fox’s Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line” continued its leggy run, taking in $2.9 million from 1,201 theaters in its 11th weekend. Cume is $106 million.

DreamWorks’ Woody Allen title “Match Point” also continued healthy play, netting $2.6 million from 501 engagements in its fifth frame; cume is $13.7 million.

In its second week of wide release, New Line’s “The New World” discovered $2.5 million at 811 venues, pushing cume on the Terrence Malick pic to $7.8 million.

Warner Bros. expanded Stephen Gaghan’s “Syriana” by nearly 1,200 playdates to 1,685 over its 10th frame and saw grosses of $1.2 million. Cume is $46.9 million.

Steven Spielberg’s “Munich” grossed $1.6 million for U in its sixth frame. Currently playing 980 dates, pic has cumed $40.5 million.

In a relatively limited run of 325 screens, Sony Pictures Classics’ “Capote” brought in $668,725 for the frame, lifting cume just past $15 million.

Warner Independent’s George Clooney-helmed “Good Night, and Good Luck” grossed $181,000 on 105 screens, bringing cume to $25.1 million. Distrib hopes to capitalize on Oscar buzz next frame by expanding the pic to 800-plus runs.

Of the new titles bowing in limited release, Picturehouse’s “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story,” Michael Winterbottom’s adaptation of an unusual 18th-century novel, bowed strong, taking in $59,777 from just three Gotham screens, for an average of $19,926. Picturehouse chief Bob Berney said plans are open the pic Feb. 10 in L.A. and then expand to 50-plus runs the following week.

IFC reported Lars von Trier’s “Manderlay” grossed $14,900 in its first outing on two screens for an average of $7,450.

Fox Searchlight saw “Imagine Me & You” collect $52,830 from eight screens in Gotham, L.A. and San Francisco for a per-screen average of $6,604. Searchlight chief operating officer Stephen Gilula said it planned to expand the Brit pic next week to about 50 screens in nine cities and is targeting a Feb. 24 national release.

Among the limited holdovers, Sony Classics’ “Cache” did strong biz of $359,919 on 52 screens, averaging $6,922 in its sixth week.

Cume broke the $1 million barrier, rising to $1.14 million.

SPC’s political doc “Why We Fight” picked up $57,316 from nine screens in its soph sesh, averaging $6,368. Also from Sony Classics, “The White Countess” grossed $160,786 from 55 screens in its sixth sesh, averaging $2,923 and bringing cume to $815,117.

The Weinstein Co. watched “Mrs. Henderson Presents” gross $302,160 in its eighth week. Playing 53 screens, pic averaged $5,701 and now has a cume of $2.05 million.

“Transamerica,” distribbed by TWC along with IFC, picked up $451,119 from 82 screens in its ninth frame, raising cume to $1.45 million. ThinkFilm’s “Fateless” brought in $11,300 from two screens in its fourth frame, averaging $5,650 and pushing cume to $59,000.

Overall for the frame, biz was nearly flat with last year. Nielsen EDI estimates total box office at $125 million, just a hair higher than the $123.9 million for the frame in 2005.

Ticket sales this year continue to run slightly ahead of last year. Year-to-date box office totals $661 million, 1.4% ahead of sales through this point last year.

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