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Disney, Dimension lift July B.O. over $1 billion

'Pirates' led pack with 'T3,' 'Bad Boys' close behind

For the third time since 2000, the July B.O. generated just over $1 billion.

While the studios tallied $955 million through Sunday, strong weekday performances of Dimension’s “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over” and Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” drove the frame of June 30-July 30 to $1.01 billion, 8% above last July.

Disney swabbed up most of the month’s loot with $253 million, thanks to “Pirates” and “Finding Nemo,” which has become the highest-grossing animated pic ever.

Sony took second place for the month with $158 million, bolstered by the success of the month’s other Jerry Bruckheimer-produced pic (besides “Pirates”), “Bad Boys II.”

While none of the month’s new releases bested the $50 million-plus openings from previous July frames, frosh wide bows held stronger in their sophomore seshes, averaging a 47% drop. While that number is a slight improvement on the second weekend drop of 50% last July, it’s a definite uptick from the July 2001 average slide of 54%. And don’t forget last weekend’s formula for B.O. success: five films each generating more than $20 million in three days.

Admissions up, too

Given the decent holdover pattern of pics, last month’s admissions also experienced a slight increase from a year ago, to 172 million from 162 million.

July’s arthouse and large-format fare — pics playing in no more than 800 engagements — generated $33 million, up 33% from the same frame last year thanks to top grossing pics like Newmarket’s “Whale Rider” ($7 million to date) and Focus Features’ Gallic thriller “Swimming Pool” ($4 million). Even though Fox Searchlight’s March release “Bend It Like Beckham” raked in $2.4 million last month, pic is aiming to kick up boffo bucks in August after it goes wide today.

The top-grossing July pics were “Pirates,” $187 million; Warner Bros.-Intermedia’s “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” $139 million; “Bad Boys II,” $96 million; MGM’s “Legally Blonde: Red, White & Blonde,” $83 million; Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Nemo,” $61 million; Sony’s “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” $56 million; Fox’s “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” $55 million; “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over,” $46 million; U’s “The Hulk,” $29.2 million; and Par’s “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life,” $29.1 million.