B.O. is for ‘Kids’

'Bridget' delights; 'Josie's' catatonic

HOLLYWOOD — Those “Spy Kids” managed to levitate a third straight week atop the box office charts, but the spring scramble produced its share of surprises.

“Bridget Jones’s Diary” became the best opening British film ever — in the U.K., that is. In the U.S., the Miramax/Universal film registered a strong $11.3 million on only 1,600 screens, claiming third place behind Paramount’s “Along Came a Spider.”

On the feline front, “Josie and the Pussycats” produced weak meow at $5.2 million while Sony’s heavily toted “Tomcats,” which was the first release for Joe Roth’s Revolution, has already plummeted from the charts.

“Spy Kids” hopped to $12.8 million in estimated Easter-weekend grosses. Paramount’s “Along Came a Spider” thriller saw a sweet repeat at No. 2 in its sophomore outing with an $11.3 million Easter basket. And U’s bowing David Spade laffer, “Joe Dirt,” dug up $8.2 million — good for No. 4 in Easter’s B.O. parade.

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“It was really strong in the Midwest and South,” Sony marketing and distrib topper Jeff Blake said. “It’s definitely not a Manhattan and westside L.A. movie (but) it’s playing well down the middle of the country.”

“Bridget” managed to take the third spot despite being on about half as many screens as the leaders. Miramax plans to add at least a few hundred “Bridget” engagements next weekend.

Grosses for “Bridget” will be divided evenly between Miramax (domestic) and U (foreign), which will also split negative costs on the Working Title production.

Miramax’s Mark Gill said domestic auds for the Renee Zellweger starrer — which also bowed this weekend in the U.K. — skewed 60-40 female.

“It’s definitely a date movie,” Gill observed.

Age demos ran deep, with auds drawing heavily from 18 into the high 50s, he said. “You don’t do this well without having that wide a spread,” he stressed.

New Line’s drug-lord drama, “Blow,” hunted up $8 million to score a No. 5 ranking in its second weekend.

“The word-of-mouth has been incredibly strong,” New Line’s Steve Elzer enthused. “Based on the competition this weekend, that was particularly evident.”

Pic’s six

And Fox Searchlight’s urban drama “Kingdom Come” bowed one notch back with an earnest $7.5 million from a modest 1,111 engagements.

“We’re quite pleased,” distrib prexy Steve Giulula said.

Pic, which reps the first pic that Peter Rice shepherded from production to release since becoming Searchlight prexy, enjoyed the widest opening ever for the specialty unit.

U’s live action adaptation of ’70s cartoon “Josie and the Pussycats” was the weekend’s clear disappointment, opening at No. 7 with only $5.2 million over the three days. Pic apparently targeted too narrow a demo in teen femmes just as Clearasil-oriented fare’s gone freezer cold.

The off-key “Josie” bow follows a couple other poor perfs for live action adaptations of cartoons in recent years. Previously falling flat were last year’s “Rocky & Bullwinkle” and 1999’s “Dudley Do-Right.”

“Tomcats” dropped far out of the top 10 in its third frame with only $875,000 in three-day grosses, having seen only $12.8 million since bowing March 30.

Easter cache

Industrywide, it was relatively easy to mark an overall 8% uptick over last year at $88 million in total grosses, because the Easter weekend — always a good moviegoing sesh — came one frame later in 2000. But last year’s $91.5 million in total grosses over that Easter frame sets up a tough comparison for next weekend, when bowing laffers “Freddy Got Fingered” from 20th Century Fox and “Crocodile Dundee in L.A.” from Paramount join the B.O. competish.

Among specialty perfs in the latest frame, Newmarket’s amnesia thriller “Memento” continued to play strongly. Guy Pearce starrer added 53 engagements for a total 173 while grossing an estimated $991,413 over three days for a $5,731 per-theater average and $3.8 cume.

And Lions Gate’s Mexican drama, “Amores Perros,” saw robust results as it moved to 163 locations after opening in a pair of venues. Gritty, Spanish-language pic grossed an estimated $815,000 for an average $5,000 per theater and $1 million cume.

“I think we’re on target to end up with a gross of about $5 million,” co-prexy Tom Ortenberg estimated.

B.O. could go north of that figure if pic broadens from its current base of arthouses and Hispanic commercial locations, he added.

“The key to real success will be if we can cross over into more traditional mainstream theaters,” Ortenberg said. “We’re going to slowly dip our toes into those waters.”

Sony Classics’ crossover phenom, martial arts fantasy “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” finally fell from the B.O. top 10 — its weekend roost for the past 15 consecutive frames. But the Mandarin-language multiple Oscar winner still kicked up another $2 million over three days to raise its foreign film-record domestic cume to $120.6 million.

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