D’Works’ B.O. winner comes at right ‘Time’

Sci-fi pic exceeds expectations, 'Benjamins' buys third

DreamWorks’ “The Time Machine” flew past box office competish this weekend with a chart-topping $22.5 million in opening grosses.

Distrib, which hadn’t unspooled a pic since October’s “The Last Castle,” said “Time Machine” traveled well beyond pre-release hopes.

Paramount’s Mel Gibson starrer “We Were Soldiers” captured second place on the weekend with an estimated $14.5 million — a modest 29% drop from its opening B.O.

And New Line’s Ice Cube-Mike Epps starrer “All About the Benjamins” debuted at No. 3 with an estimated $10.1 million. Laffer, which skewed heavily African-American and a bit female, was one of three New Line pics in frame’s top 10.

Distrib’s Denzel Washington starrer “John Q.” finished fifth with an estimated $6 million — one rung behind Miramax’s “40 Days and 40 Nights” laffer, which grossed $7.1 million in its soph sesh. And New Line’s “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” clung to the 10th rung with $2.6 million in its 12th frame for a boffo $291.1 million cume.

‘Mind’ finishes 8th

In addition to the latter film, Universal/Imagine’s “A Beautiful Mind” repped a second Oscar best-pic nominee still in the top 10. “Mind” finished eighth with an estimated $3.9 million for a $144.3 million cume.

Among other best-pic hopefuls, USA’s “Gosford Park” grossed $1.7 million to park cume at $33.4 million, and Miramax’s “In the Bedroom” grossed $1.4 million to roll cume to $30.7 million. 20th Century Fox’s “Moulin Rouge” is already in homevid.

Industrywide, sesh was up 35% from the same weekend a year ago at $103 million in total grosses, according to data from B.O. tracker ACNielsen EDI. The year-earlier frame was marked by a so-so soph sesh for “The Mexican” ($12 million), and soft bows for “15 Minutes” ($10.5 million) and “Get Over It” ($4.1 million).

“This weekend, the newcomers had some nice business in them,” EDI exec veep Dan Marks observed.

B.O. ahead of last year

Year-to-date, 2002 is 5% ahead of the same period of last year, at $1.5 billion.

In a limited bow, Paramount Classics unspooled laffer “Festival in Cannes” in a half-dozen L.A. and Gotham venues, grossing an estimated $44,000, or $7,333 per location. Henry Jaglom-helmed pic expands into three additional markets Friday.

USA Films widened laffer “Monsoon Wedding” to 76 locations from a previous 11 and grossed an estimated $779,012, or a celebratory $10,250 per site. Mira Nair-helmed pic, which bears $1.2 million cume, adds additional markets each of the next two frames.

Miramax biopic “Iris” expanded to 136 theaters to pluck $530,000, or $3,900 per venue, for a $2.4 million cume. Distrib’s “Italian for Beginners” laffer broadened to 79 playdates and grossed $350,000, or an average $4,430 per engagement, for a $2.1 million cume.

Palm’s “Scratch” docu added a pair of playdates, for a total of seven, in grossing $34,620, for a $4,946 average and $118,239 cume.

Record bow for Pearce

“Time Machine” marked a record bow for topliner Guy Pearce. That beat a previous personal best with “Rules of Engagement,” which opened at $15 million in April 2000.

“This was a very strong opening,” DreamWorks distrib topper Jim Tharp enthused. “The tracking going into the weekend had indicated maybe a $15 million opening.”

DreamWorks split an estimated $75 million-$80 million in production costs with foreign-rights partner Warner Bros. PG-13 pic did best with males and sci-fi fans.

Some 74% of patrons for “Benjamins” were African-American. Pic opened in line with expectations.

“We’re very happy,” New Line distrib prexy David Tuckerman said.

Produced for an estimated $14 million, “Benjamins” is expected to gross about $35 million overall domestically.

Three pics open wide next weekend — Fox tooner “Ice Age,” Sony Screen Gems’ vidgame-adaptation “Resident Evil” and Warners’ Robert De Niro-Eddie Murphy laffer “Showtime.”

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