'Babies' beats estimates by more than 50%

Thanks to “Babies” and “Letters to Juliet,” Mother’s Day turned out to be lucrative for Hollywood.

Focus Features managed to elicit more “oohs” and “ahhs” than expected on Sunday, with specialty docu “Babies” outpacing estimates by more than 50%.

Summit also took advantage of Mother’s Day, sneaking Amanda Seyfried-Vanessa Redgrave starrer “Letters to Juliet” at 882 locations. Studio noted that 75% of filmgoers — mainly women — were definite recommends, and the majority of engagements sold out.

“Letters” should continue to play well with femmes when it launches this weekend against “Robin Hood” and “Just Wright.”

Focus gained traction for “Babies” with a grassroots campaign aimed at mothers. Focus launched partnerships with March of Dimes and Johnson and Johnson; it also mounted a viral campaign on mommy blogs.

Distrib had projected the docu’s weekend estimates near $1.6 million; yet on Mother’s Day alone “Babies” took in $1.1 million, repping 50% of the weekend’s actual $2.2 million domestic take at 534 locations.

Focus prexy of theatrical distribution Jack Foley said Sunday’s estimates for “Babies” were based on historical trends, with Disney’s docu “Earth” earning 38% of its share on the same day last year — the previous benchmark for Mother’s Day.

“You’ve got to manage expectations very sensitively,” Foley added. “You couldn’t speculate because this really broke new ground and is a true measure of how the film was branded as a Mother’s Day event.”

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