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Col’s snake holds grip on B.O. title

Columbia’s “Anaconda” may turn out to be a snake with legs.

In its sophomore outing, the Luis Llosa-helmed thriller maintained its grip on the national box office, dropping just 27% to $12.2 million and taking the No. 1 spot for the second time.

The stronghold surprised many industry observers who had expected the film to conform to the typical horror-action trajectory of a big opening weekend followed by a quick dropoff in its sophomore outing.

“Anaconda” once again squeezed out Universal’s month-old blockbuster “Liar Liar,” which dropped 30% to $10.2 million in 2,911 locations for a $3,504 average. The Jim Carrey comedy has grossed a fabulous $133.6 million to date.

Explaining “Anaconda’s” staying power, Sony Pictures Releasing president Jeff Blake said exit polls showed the PG-13 film’s audience continued to expand to include families and women.

“If we were restricted to just the young male action crowd we would have seen a steeper drop,” Blake said. “We’re seeing almost as many women as men, and they’re enjoying it just as much.”

Striking in 2,456 locations, the Jon Voight-Jennifer Lopez starrer averaged $4,967 per bite.

Coming in third at the polls was Warner Bros.’ newcomer “Murder at 1600.” The Wesley Snipes-Diane Lane thriller grossed $8 million in 2,152 precincts, for an OK $3,736 per district.

The weekend’s two other wide openers were considerably less auspicious.

Universal and the Bubble Factory’s bigscreen adaptation of the ’60s sitcom “McHale’s Navy” tied for seventh place with $2.1 million. In 1,858 ports, the Tom Arnold starrer averaged an unseaworthy $1,130.

The film is the fourth box office disappointment in a year from Sid Sheinberg’s Bubble Factory, following on the heels of “Flipper,” “The Pest” and “That Old Feeling.”

Also getting decapitated was Orion Pictures’ crime farce “8 Heads in a Duffel Bag.” Landing in ninth place, the Joe Pesci starrer bagged just $1.9 million in 1,559 locations for a $1,269 average.

Among limited openers, Goldwyn’s “Kissed” made its U.S. debut with $36,400 on eight engagements in New York, L.A., Seattle and the Bay Area, or $8,200 per screen. In Canada, where Malo opened the film one week earlier, the film grossed an additional $33,000, according to estimates.

Meanwhile, Live Entertainment’s “Dead Men Can’t Dance” bowed to $17,000 in 27 ballrooms for a clumsy $630 per screen, according to Daily Variety projections.

Paramount’s “The Saint” dropped 32% to $7.3 million in 2,500 niches for a $2,920 average. Cume after its third weekend is $41.4 million.

At No. 5, Buena Vista’s sophomore “Grosse Pointe Blank” enjoyed a respectable 29% drop to $4.9 million. In 1,236 assignments the George Armitage-helmed black comedy racked up a $3,964 average; cume is $13.8 million.

Columbia’s “The Devil’s Own” dropped 43% to $2.4 million in 2,004 households, or $1,198 per abode. Cume after 26 days is $39.1 million.

U’s “That Old Feeling” was tied for seventh with “McHale’s Navy” at $2.1 million. Off 39% from the previous weekend, the Bette Midler romantic comedy made its money in $1,584 locations for a $1,326 average. Now in its third week of release, “Feeling” has cumed $13.2 million.

Tenth place was a tie between two films from Miramax. Kevin Smith’s quirky comedy “Chasing Amy” grossed $1.6 million after expanding from 25 playdates to 519. Per screen average is $3,038; cume is $2.1 million.

Meanwhile, Wes Craven’s hip horror pic “Scream” dropped 20% to $1.6 million in 1,153 playdates, or $1,388 per screen. Cume after 19 weeks is $91 million.

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