‘S.W.A.T.’ hits B.O. spot

Actioner tops 'Freaky' to beat blahs

A correction was made to this article on August 13, 2003.

A pair of solid openings and some sturdy holdover pics repped welcome bright spots in a summer still marked by overcast box office conditions.

Sony’s adaptation of the former TV show “S.W.A.T.” opened atop the B.O. rankings with a stronger-than-expected $37 million.

And Disney’s “Freaky Friday,” a remake of the mother-daughter role-reversal pic, debuted at No. 2 with a $22.3 million weekend, building on a Wednesday bow for a $33.2 million cume.

Universal’s sequel laffer “American Wedding” was off 55% in its second weekend, finishing third with $15.1 million.

But Mouse House’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” finished fourth in its fifth week with a strong $13.1 million and Universal’s “Seasbiscuit” — co-financed by DreamWorks and Spyglass — was fifth in its third frame with $11.9 million.

‘Spy’ sees sixth

Miramax’s family actioner “Spy Kids: Game Over” ended up sixth in its third outing with $10.1 million.

Industrywide, the weekend rung up 2% less B.O. than the same frame a year ago with $140 million in total grosses, according to Nielsen EDI data. Frame compared with a year-earlier weekend featuring the $44.5 million bow of “XXX” and a $29.4 million second outing for “Signs.”

This summer is now just .003% ahead of last summer with $3.21 million in industry grosses and three weekends remaining. So admissions are off considerably, as ticket prices have increased since a year ago.

“We’re down on body count, there’s no question,” EDI exec veep Dan Marks said.

Year-to-date, 2003 remains even less impressive than the summer, with B.O. off 2% compared with a comparable portion of 2002.

Next weekend reps something of an industry clear-out special, with five skedded wide releases.

‘Range’ bow coming

Disney’s debut of the Kevin Costner western “Open Range” reps one of the more high-profile new pics. But other wide openers include MGM laffer “Uptown Girls,” New Line horror pic “Freddy vs. Jason” and Warner Bros.’ skateboarding actioner “Grind.”

A media campaign for IDP/Goldwyn’s “Passionada” has also been seeking audience interest in that drama’s limited debut, further cluttering the marketplace.

And Miramax will re-release its dark comedy “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” in Gotham and L.A., looking for biz left on the table in a crowded winter market.

In a limited bow this weekend, Fox Searchlight unspooled Merchant-Ivory romancer “Le Divorce” with 34 engagements and grossed an estimated $533,233, or an impressive $15,863 per playdate. Kate Hudson-Naomi Watts starrer will add locations for the next couple of weeks and reach wide distribution by Labor Day weekend.

‘Liquid’ splash

Artisan bowed surfing docu “Step Into Liquid” in five theaters in L.A., Gotham and Hawaii and grossed $135,000 — a splashy $27,000 per venue. “Liquid” expands to 15-20 sites Friday.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Miramax drama “The Magdalene Sisters” expanded by five locations for a total nine to gross $111,000, or a fulsome $12,333 per site with a $523,621 cume.

Paramount Classics added six engagements for its drama “Northfork” and grossed $155,000, or $2,183 per playdate, with an $815,000 cume.

Distrib also expanded drama “And Now Ladies and Gentlemen” by 16 theaters for a total 22 and grossed $81,000, or $3,682 per venue with a $152,000 cume.

Miramax suspenser “Dirty Pretty Things” added 23 engagements for a total 62 and grossed $427,000, or $6,887 per playdate with a $1.3 million cume.

Distrib’s black comedy “Buffalo Soldiers” added 16 theaters for a total 21 and grossed $59,000, or $2,810 per venue with a $140,307 cume.

IFC laffer “Camp” added 40 playdates for a total 43 and grossed $218,072, or $5,071 per engagement, with a $390,642 cume.

And Sony Classics docu “Winged Migration” added one more theater for a total 155 in grossing $284,448, or $1,835 per venue with a $7.6 million cume.

Sony attack

Sony marked its sixth No. 1 perf for the year with “S.W.A.T.,” which also gave actor Colin Farrell his fifth consecutive No. 1 bow including four this year.

Co-star Samuel L. Jackson helped pic broaden appeal into older demos, but “S.W.A.T.” auds still skewed 55% under age 25. Some 54% of patrons were male.

Coming off a tough weekend with the dismal bow of “Gigli,” Sony brass was particularly happy with the big “S.W.A.T.” bow.

“It’s terrific,” Sony distrib prexy Rory Bruer said. “There’s no question about that.”

Disney distrib topper Chuck Viane said teens repped 30% of auds for the well-reviewed “Freaky Friday.” Bowing on a Wednesday was designed to stoke word of mouth, though move likely undercut weekend grosses a bit.

“Weekend grosses aren’t what you take to the bank — you take it all,” Viane observed.

Mouse will be hoping positive buzz sustains “Freaky” through next Friday. Lion, which unspools similarly femme-skewing “Uptown Girls” that day, will be crossing fingers it doesn’t.