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No kick for slick ‘Angels’ chicks

Sequel can't top original as Hulk sulks

Sony’s “Charlie’s Angels 2: Full Throttle” never got out of third gear but still cruised to No. 1 this weekend, though action laffer’s $38 million in estimated box office lagged the bow of the first fighting-femmes actioner.

Universal’s comicbook adaptation “The Hulk” was runner-up on the frame with $18.4 million, reflecting an ugly 70% drop from its opening B.O. Disney/Pixar’s leggy fish tale “Finding Nemo” was third with $13.9 million in its fifth frame, pushing cume to $253.9 million.

Fox Searchlight’s horror pic “28 Days Later” — sesh’s other wide opener — finished fourth with $9.7 million.

“This was almost double what the tracking said we would do,” said Fox Searchlight distrib prexy Steve Gilula. “We were expecting about $5 million- $6 million.”

Ho-hum “Angels” bow and precipitous “Hulk” decline underscore recent moviegoing malaise. Industry totals over the first few months of 2003 trailed the same portion of last year despite significant increases in ticket prices, and now some early summer sizzle seems to have subsided. Industrywide, the latest weekend was off 17% from the same sesh a year earlier, with $118 million in total estimated grosses, according to B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI.

Summer ’03 is down 2% through the same frame last year. And year-to-date, industry B.O. trails a comparable portion of last year by 4%. Elsewhere this weekend, U took heart in two other titles remaining firmly in the top 10. Jim Carrey starrer “Bruce Almighty” reached $221.3 million with another $6.2 million in fifth place, and action sequel “2 Fast 2 Furious” drove to $113.4 million with $5.7 million in sixth place. Paramount pointed to another modest drop for “The Italian Job” — down 25% at $5.4 million in seventh place — as continued evidence of pic’s sturdy legs. Cume for the thriller remake hit $76.7 million.

Par toon “Rugrats Go Wild” reached $30.1 million, with a $3.5 million sesh in eighth place. Sony/Revolution action laffer “Hollywood Homicide” rang up $3 million in ninth place to push third-week cume to $27.3 million.

And Warners’ Luke Wilson-Kate Hudson starrer “Alex & Emma” slipped 57% from limp opening grosses with $2.6 million in ninth place. Cume for the Rob Reiner-helmed romancer reached $11.5 million.

‘Whale’ riding high

In the specialty market, Newmarket broadened drama “Whale Rider” by 85 theaters for a total 163 and grossed an estimated $1 million — a solid $6,144 per venue with a $2.3 million cume. Pic gets 50 additional engagements starting Wednesday.

Three docus continued solid runs, with Sony Classics docu “Winged Migration” adding two sites for a total 79 and grossing $353,687. That repped a sturdy $4,477 per venue with a $4.8 million cume.

Thinkfilm’s “Spellbound” expanded by 24 theaters for a total 117 to gross $337,165, or $2,882 per location with a $2.6 million cume.

And Magnolia docu “Capturing the Friedmans” added 20 runs for a total 60 to gross $250,000, or $4,167 per venue with a $1.1 million cume.

Miramax romancer “Jet Lag” added 15 playdates this weekend for a total 18 and grossed $81,000, or $4,500 per location with a $114,291 cume.

And United Artists drama “Together” broadened by four engagements for a total 47 to gross $106,000, or $2,263 per playdate with a $756,000 cume.

Wednesday bows

Looking to next weekend, three wide openers will get the jump on the holiday-lengthened Independence Day frame by unspooling Wednesday. New pics include Warner Bros.’ hugely anticipated “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” MGM’s sequel laffer “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde” and DreamWorks toon “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas.”

The new competish could give “Angels” a tough soph sesh. But Sony marketing and distrib chief Jeff Blake said robust weekday grosses leading up to next weekend should help sequel outperform the first week of its franchise predecessor. And they’re hoping the foreign grosses will outperform those of the original “Angels.”

“Our goal was to be as good or better than the first one,” Blake said. “But let me emphasize that our comparison was always intended as being with the worldwide performance of the original.”

Stronger o’seas

The first “Angels” pic — adapted from the show and, like the sequel, helmed by McG — bowed domestically in November 2000 with $40.1 million en route to a $264 million worldwide run. Foreign outpaced domestic with $138 million of the total, and pic’s comely topliners have been tirelessly stumping overseas for the sequel. A Paris preem is set for tonight, and paparazzi have been all over pic’s Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Demi Moore.

“There’s a good buzz in Europe,” producer Leonard Goldberg said. “The girls get a great buzz wherever they go.

“Angels 2” drew domestic auds comprised 60% of femmes and 52% of moviegoers under age 25. Industryites cited a failure to lure more men and boys to the PG-13 pic as undoing efforts to outpace the original’s opening weekend. Some observers also cited the first nice East Coast weekend in a while as preoccupying prospective patrons.

‘Hulk’ sulking

U distrib maven Nikki Rocco said the big “Hulk” drop was at least partly a result of the depressed marketplace at present. “We had a huge opening (but) there’s something going on, and the business is down overall,” Rocco said. “I do have to admit I’m disappointed in the ‘Hulk’ drop, though.”

She said it was “too soon to say” if the lack of market traction could prevent a “Hulk” sequel. “We have to see what it does overseas,” she added.

Fox Searchlight’s Gilula said he hopes to widen playdates for “28 Days” after its better-than-expected bow.

Pic cost just $8 million to produce, and distrib also kept down marketing costs with a mostly Internet-based campaign.

Bolstering its perf were largely positive reviews for the pic, helmed by critical fave Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting,” “The Beach”).

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