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Vin spins B.O. wheels

Diesel-fueled 'XXX' nabs $46 mil but rivals sputter

Sony/Revolution’s mega-hyped Vin Diesel actioner “XXX” grossed an estimated $46 million to top the weekend box office. Yet solid showing still fell a bit short of some of the more heated pre-release expectations for pic, which casts increasingly prominent topliner as an underground extreme-sports hero tapped by the government for international spy exploits.

Another sleuth opener, Miramax’s family sequel “Spy Kids 2,” also debuted to good-not-great B.O. with an estimated $17 million in third place. Kid-caper boasts a five-day cume of $25.3 million after a Wednesday bow.

Warner Bros. opened Clint Eastwood suspenser “Blood Work” with an estimated $7.2 million, good for fifth place on the weekend. And in a boffo limited bow, Fox Searchlight’s Jennifer Aniston starrer “The Good Girl” grossed an estimated $148,703 from just four Gotham and L.A. theaters. Pic’s per-venue average of $37,176 reps the best this year for a platforming release. “Good Girl” cume reached $205,700 following a Wednesday bow, with black comedy expanding to 500 runs by Aug. 23.

Sophs were notably lackluster this weekend. Disney’s “Signs,” Sony/Revolution’s “The Master of Disguise” and Paramount’s “Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat” posted drops from opening frames of 50%, 59% and 57%, respectively.

And further reflecting a later-summer sag, New Line’s “Austin Powers in Goldmember” slumped 58% in its third weekend.

Industrywide, sesh’s $144 million in total estimated grosses repped a nearly 10% downtick from the same frame a year ago, according to data from B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI. It was the fourth consecutive weekend to mark a year-over-year decline after an early summer characterized by successive weekly upticks.

“Nothing seems to have terrific legs,” EDI exec veep Dan Marks observed.

Also, year-ago competish was particularly strong in the late summer, Marks noted. A year earlier this past weekend, “American Pie 2” bowed to $45.1 million, and “The Others” opened at $14.1 million.

Year-to-date, 2002 is still 10% ahead of the same portion of last year.

“Wedding” B.O. party

There continues, however, to be at least one leggy pic among current top performers, as IFC Films’ “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” remains the little pic that could. “Wedding” took in another $3.2 million in its 17th weekend, good for an eighth-place tie with “Runteldat.”

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Sony Pictures Classics laffer “Secret Ballot” tallied $14,172 from five L.A. and Gotham locations for quiet $2,834 per site.

United Artists unspooled Michael Winterbottom’s “24 Hour Party People” in two Gotham theaters and grossed a festive $34,000. A yarn about the Manchester pop-music scene, “Party People” spreads to a handful of additional markets Friday.

IFC’s laffer “The Chateau” also debuted in a pair of Gotham theaters, taking in $15.484, or $7,742 per site. Pic hits L.A. on Aug. 23.

Focus expanded Robert Evans biopic by 40 runs for a total 45 and fetched $198,979, or $4,422 per engagement with a $467,056 cume. Currently playing in 14 U.S. and Canadian cities, “Kid” is skedded for another 10 markets starting Friday.

Miramax added six venues for a total 214 for Steven Soderbergh’s low-budget laffer “Full Frontal” this weekend and fetched just $375,000, or $1,752 per site. Ten-day cume is $1.5 million.

Distrib’s “Tadpole” laffer expanded by 45 playdates to 92 and grossed $285,000, or $3,100 per engagement.

And Palm/Magic Lamp expanded its “Sex and Lucia” drama by six theaters for a total 29 and grossed $100,284. Perf repped a per-venue average of $3,458 with a $525,804 cume.

“XXX” looks for traction

“XXX” auds skewed 52% male and young, Sony distrib and marketing topper Jeff Blake said.

“But the exit interviews showed that the adults who came enjoyed it as much as the kids,” he added.

Growing adult interest and late summer’s thinning marketplace could help pic display sturdy legs, he said. “We should be at or near the top for several weeks to come,” Blake predicted.

“This is a big, big opening for us,” Revolution partner Tom Sherak said.

Script work is already under way on a “XXX” sequel, Sherak noted. He credited “great work” by helmer Rob Cohen for pre-fab franchise’s solid launch.

Miramax marketing veep David Kaminow said boys and girls aged 7 to 12 — and accompanied by parents — formed a core constituency for “Spy Kids 2.” Pic’s bow fell short of original’s $26.5 million opening, with a “Spy Kids 3” set for July 2003.

Distrib expects solid legs for “Kids 2,” as no other family opener looms anytime soon.

Warners will similarly seek to flesh out early “Blood Work” grosses over coming frames.

“The movie is well-made and has a good story, so I guess we’ll look to the longer haul and hope for the best,” Warners distrib boss Dan Fellman said.

Wide openers set for next weekend include Universal’s surfer-girls pic “Blue Crush, and Warners’ Eddie Murphy sci-fier “The Adventures of Pluto Nash.” Skedded limited releases a 17-market bow of Focus’ Gwyneth Paltrow starrer “Possession.”

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