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‘Bruce’ lords it over ‘Matrix’

U's goofy God is B.O. gold as cyber sequel downloads

Warner Bros.’ “The Matrix Reloaded” appeared partially spent, but Universal’s “Bruce Almighty” opened divinely at No. 1 over the long Memorial Day weekend.

Mega-hyped action sequel, which debuted to such success a week earlier, fell short over the latest frame as “Bruce” begot a personal best for topliner Jim Carrey with an estimated $86.4 million bow through Monday. “Reloaded” rung up $45.6 million over the four days.

Co-produced by Spyglass, Tom Shadyac-helmed “Bruce” was welcomed as a return to comedic form for Carrey in a God-for-a-Day perf opposite Jennifer Aniston as loyal galpal. With older-appealing Morgan Freeman additionally featured as the actual, Yankees-loving deity, “Bruce” packed just too much demo pull even for “Reloaded” to thwart.

“It’s a heavenly day for the mortals at Universal,” U distrib maven Nikki Rocco said Monday.

“Reloaded” tumbled a big 59% this weekend in a three-day comparison with its opening sesh. But estimated cume moved to a mind-numbing $209.5 million from just 12 days in domestic release for the Village Roadshow co-prod.

“We certainly anticipated a strong drop-off from its record-breaking first week,” Warners distrib boss Dan Fellman said.

‘In-Laws’ fifth

Warners also unspooled a remake of “The In-Laws” this weekend, with Michael Douglas-Albert Brooks starrer grossing an estimated $9.1 million to finish fifth on the frame.

Fellman acknowledged bow was “slightly disappointing,” as counter-programming ploy fell short of expectations. “In-Laws” auds were 60% femmes, with patrons “mostly over 40,” Fellman said.

Elsewhere in the weekend top five, Sony/Revolution’s Eddie Murphy starrer “Daddy Day Care” finished third over its third sesh with $18 million, and 20th Century Fox’s comix actioner “X2: X-Men United” was fourth in its fourth frame with $13.1 million.

Industrywide, the weekend repped a 1% downtick from last year’s holiday sesh with $198 million in total estimated grosses, according to box office tracker Nielsen EDI.

‘Respiro’ strong

In a limited bow this weekend, Sony Classics’ drama “Respiro” grossed an estimated $93,627 over four days from seven L.A. and Gotham locations, or an impressive $13,375 per site.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Fox Searchlight added 61 theaters for a total 154 for John Malkovich-helmed drama “The Dancer Upstairs” and grossed $490,000 over the long sesh. That repped $3,182 per venue with a $1.4 million cume.

Searchlight laffer “L’Auberge Espagnole” expanded by 17 engagements for a total 28 and grossed $222,841, or $7,959 per playdate with a $311,163 cume.

Paramount Classics expanded drama “The Man on the Train” by 29 runs for a total 46 and grossed $268,939, or $5,846 per venue with a $457,057 cume.

Sony Classics added a dozen locations for a total 25 for docu “Winged Migration” and grossed $276,381, or a nifty $11,055 per site with a $846,672 cume.

And Miramax drama “The Blue Car” added nine theaters for a total 21 and grossed an estimated $82,000, or $3,905 per venue with a $230,136 cume.

‘Bruce’ has mixed auds

“Bruce Almighty” auds evenly comprised moviegoers above and below age 25, with femmes repping 53% of patrons. Exit surveys showed 87% of moviegoers rated pic “excellent” or “very good,” U’s Rocco said.

That should help sustain soph-sesh interest when B.O. competish thickens considerably. Wide openers skedded for next weekend include Disney/Pixar tooner “Finding Nemo,” Paramount’s action remake “The Italian Job” and Fox horror pic “Wrong Turn.”

Spyglass got foreign sales rights on “Bruce” from its co-prod arrangement on “Bruce.” Pic’s negative cost is estimated at $81 million.

“Bruce” grossed $70.8 million through Sunday, a record bow for a non-sequel laffer. Opening was the second best of any comedy, after last July’s “Austin Powers in Goldmember” ($73.1 million).

Sequel passes ‘Reloaded’

“Matrix Reloaded” surpassed the total domestic gross for the first “Matrix” movie by Friday, just its ninth day in release. That’s when cume hit $174 million compared with original’s $171 million haul.

“Reloaded” became the fastest R-rated pic to reach $200 million when it passed that mark on Sunday, its 11th day in theaters. Sony’s PG-13-rated “Spider-Man” soared past $200 mil in nine days last May.

“Reloaded” and “Spider-Man” have each set B.O. records, but it’s now clear the Warners pic won’t display “Spidey”-like legs.

“Spider-Man” grossed an amazing $403.7 million in the fifth-best domestic perf ever. Warners estimates “Reloaded” is on track to gross about $300 million.

Attention now shifts toward prospects for the final sequel in the action franchise. “The Matrix Revolutions” unspools Nov. 7.

The “Matrix” sequels were produced simultaneously at a cost estimated at $300 million or more. Producer Joel Silver has said there’s little chance of any further installments in the franchise, with the possibility of prequels somewhat precluded by a series anime-tooner shorts set for DVD release under the title “Animatrix.”