Third installment nabs $50.2 million

After a six-year hiatus, New Line and Brett Ratner’s “Rush Hour” franchise revved up nicely as the third installment in the series of martial arts buddy pics took in $50.2 million at the domestic box office for the weekend crown.

Debut, in 3,778 theaters, did fall far short of the $67.4 million opening scored by “Rush Hour 2,” which bowed on Aug. 3, 2001.

Needing a fairy godmother, but unable to find one, was Paramount’s pricey fantasy epic “Stardust,” which made $9 million from 2,540 locations.

Sony’s sequel “Daddy Day Camp,” one of the last pics from Revolution Studios, fared dismally, grossing just $3.5 million from 2,332 playdates.

Miramax’s Jane Austen biopic “Becoming Jane” looked fetching, with the Anne Hathaway starrer writing up a healthy $3 million in box office receipts as it expanded to 601 runs in its second frame. Per-screen average was $5,005; cume is $4.6 million.

Overall, it was another healthy weekend for the film biz. Receipts for the top 10 pics were up 30% to $135.7 million vs. $103.8 million in the same frame last year. Unusual late-summer surge is attributed to a healthy crop of films with strong staying power.

Universal holdover “The Bourne Ultimatum” easily came in second for the weekend, taking $33.7 million from 3,868 runs. Pic declined 51% in its second frame; cume is $132.3 million.

Behind “Bourne” was 20th Century Fox’s “The Simpsons Movie,” which drew $11.1 million in its third frame to cross the $150 million mark. Pic, which declined 56%, has grossed $152.2 million domestically.

After “Stardust” at No. 4, holdovers dominated the top 10 list.

In its fourth frame, New Line’s “Hairspray” sang sweetly at the box office, outshining U laffer “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” also in its fourth frame, and almost edging out Disney’s “Underdog” for the No. 5 spot. “Hairspray” came in at No. 6.

New Line prexy of distribution David Tuckerman said the studio was very pleased with the perf of “Rush Hour 3,” even if it didn’t match the opening number for the second installment.

“It’s a very crowded marketplace. When we opened ‘Rush Hour 2′ on Aug. 3, 2001, there was far less competition,” Tuckerman said.

Generally speaking, three-quels have enjoyed a strong summer, either outpacing preceding installments or coming close to equaling their perfs.

“Everyone is very happy, and the word of mouth will be very strong,” said “Rush Hour” producer Arthur Sarkissian. “At the same time, it is six years later, and it is the tail end of summer. These are factors that have to be considered.”

The first “Rush Hour” opened at $33 million on its way to making $141.2 million domestically. The second pic grossed $226.2 million. Third pic took years to nail down as a deal was negotiated for Chris Tucker, who reportedly gets a $20 million-against-20% payday. Chan reportedly gets $15 million plus foreign rights in Hong Kong.

“Rush Hour 3″ is Ratner’s first pic since last summer’s “X-Men: The Last Stand,” and the opening is his third highest after those of “Last Stand” ($102.7 million) and “Rush Hour 2.”

Par remained confident that “Stardust” will be a strong international player considering its ensemble cast, which includes Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, Robert De Niro, Peter O’Toole, Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes and Rupert Everett.

Studio also said it only put up half of the budget, and that the rest came from Marv Films, Ingenious Films and the Melrose Fund. Par says the pic, directed by Matthew Vaughn and produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura, cost $75 million to make, but others put the figure well north of $100 million.

“I think fantasy is a hard genre, but we always assumed international would be better than domestic,” said Paramount prexy of worldwide marketing and distribution Rob Moore. “It certainly is less than we expected, but the early outlook overseas is good. Ultimately, we could do double the business internationally.”

Launching in Russia over the weekend, “Stardust” took $2.9 million, more than “Mission: Impossible III.”

After “Stardust,” Paramount proper has only one release for the rest of the year, Robert Zemeckis’ “Beowulf,” which opens Nov. 16. The rest of Par’s slate will come from DreamWorks.

“Stardust” comes on the heels of the disappointing release of Par’s “Hot Rod,” which fell off the top 10 list in its second frame, drawing $2.2 million over the weekend from 2,607 locations for a cume of $11 million.

Lionsgate’s “Bratz” also continued to disappoint, taking $1.5 million in its second frame from 1,509 runs for a cume of $7.6 million.

Sony said it always envisioned “Daddy Day Camp” as a homevid property, but that the studio decided to try a theatrical release after positive test screenings.

But sans Eddie Murphy and Jeff Garlin — who toplined “Daddy Day Care” — there seemed to be little heat. Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lochlyn Munro star in “Day Camp,” which was directed by Fred Savage.

On the specialty side, Samuel Goldwyn Films’ “2 Days in Paris,” directed and written by Julie Delpy, opened at $181,000 from eight screens in Los Angeles, Gotham and San Francisco for a healthy per-screen average of $22,625. Delpy stars opposite Adam Goldberg in the romancer.

Picturehouse’s coming-of-age entry “Rocket Science” made $56,898 as it bowed in six theaters in Gotham and Los Angeles for a per-screen average of $9,482.

After Dark Films’ horror entry “Skinwalkers” showed little skin as it made $565,279 from 737 locations for a meager per-screen average of $767.

City Lights thriller “Descent” drew $8,039 as it bowed in two locations for a per-screen average of $4,020.

In its second frame, Picturehouse’s Jennifer Lopez-Marc Anthony starrer “El Cantante” took $1.4 million as it expanded to 537 locations. Cume is $5.5 million.

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