Horror remake slashes competition at box office

Sony and Screen Gems’ “Prom Night” terrorized the competish at the weekend box office, grossing an estimated $22.7 million from 2,700 theaters and scoring the best bow for a horror pic so far this year.

“Prom Night,” starring Brittany Snow and Johnathon Schaech, pulled off the move despite a generally soft marketplace for horror pics. More suspense than gore orgy, film won the B.O. crown by a wide margin on the strength of teens who took advantage of the pic’s friendly PG-13 rating.

Placing No. 2 in its bow, Fox Searchlight and New Regency’s Keanu Reeves-Forest Whitaker cop actioner “Street Kings” grossed an estimated $12 million from 2,467 runs, according to Rentrak.

Continuing to play a strong hand, Sony’s gambling drama “21” came in No. 3 in its third sesh, declining a narrow 28% to an estimated $11 million from 2,736 runs for a cume of $62.3 million. That gave Sony two pics in the top five.

But the overall slump at the domestic B.O. continued, sans the breakout hits enjoyed during the first part of 2007, including “300” and “Wild Hogs.” (“Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” is the only 2008 film to cross the $100 million mark; last year there were four.)

Weekend revs came in 19.6% behind the same frame last year, when thriller “Disturbia” opened to $22.2 million. While “Prom Night,” co-financed by Miramax, matched that, the slate of films as a whole did less business. That drove year-to-date revenues down by 3.45%, according to Media by Numbers. Attendance is down 6.57%. Nervous studio execs won’t know if the economy’s a factor until the busy summer sesh.

Miramax’s so-so reviewed “Smart People” — the weekend’s other new wide release — only placed No. 7, grossing an estimated $4.2 million from 1,106 runs for a per location average, $3,797. Dramedy, whose cast includes Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker and Ellen Page, revolves around a college professor whose normally staid existence is upturned.

Also about a college professor, Overture’s “The Visitor” got off to a stronger start on the strength of glowing reviews, even though it didn’t have the advantage of a well-known cast. Specialty film, opening on only four theaters, posted a per screen average of $22,096 after grossing an estimated $88,383.

“It’s a real discovery,” Overture exec VP of theatrical distribution Kyle Davies said.

Star billing of George Clooney and Renee Zellweger also didn’t seem to help Universal’s period screwball comedy “Leatherheads,” which declined 51% in its second sesh to an estimated $6.2 million from 2,771 theaters for a cume of $21.9 million.

“Leatherheads,” directed by Clooney, continued to lag behind Fox-Walden’s family adventure-fantasy “Nim’s Island,” which declined only 32% in its second sesh to an estimated $9 million from 3,518 runs for a cume of $25.3 million. That put “Nim’s” at No. 4 for the weekend, while “Leatherheads” took No. 5.

Last weekend, Universal put “Leatherheads” ahead of “Nim’s,” but the order reversed when final numbers came in Monday in a boost for Fox-Walden.

“Prom Night,” produced by Neal Moritz and loosely based on the 1980 film starring Jamie Lee Curtis, marks another success for Sony label Screen Gems. Nelson McCormick directed from a script by J.S. Cardone. Pic revolves around a sadistic killer who turns prom night into a living hell for a group of high schoolers.

Sony prexy of domestic distribution Rory Bruer said teens dominated the aud. Pic played slightly female.

“I don’t know anybody that does it better. They know this genre so well, and you certainly have to give them props for contemporizing a classic. It hit the sweet spot, helped by the fact that it’s prom season. All our ducks were in a row,” Bruer said.

Film is the highest opening for a horror pic since Lionsgate’s “Saw IV,” which opened to $31.7 million in October.

Thanks to “Prom Night,” DreamWorks/Paramount’s horror pic “The Ruins” took a steep 59% tumble its second sesh to $32 million from 2,814 runs for a cume of $13.4 million. Spyglass co-produced.

“Prom Night” marks the third weekend in a row that Sony has taken the No. 1 spot. “21” won the previous two frames.

The Fox empire also continues to dominate the upper reaches of the B.O. chart. A co-production of Searchlight and New Regency, the R-rated “Street Kings” was distributed by 20th Century Fox. Expectations were modest for the film.

“Street Kings,” about corruption in the L.A. Police Dept., a favorite topic of Ellroy’s works, played heavily to young males. Of the aud, 56% were men, while 55% were under the age of 55.

“It is a quality ensemble picture.. It provides a window into the battle that is on the streets of America,” Fox senior VP of distribution Chris Aronson said.

On the specialty side, Fox Searchlight’s feel-good docu “Young@Heart” posted the second highest location per average of the frame after “The Visitor.” Film, about an elderly rock chorus, grossed an estimated $52,312 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a per screen average of $13,078. Pic’s five day cume is $63,606.

Among holdovers, Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Stones concert docu “Shine A Light” declined 34% to an estimated $982,000 from 277 locations, with more than a third being Imax theaters.

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