‘House’ hold word at the B.O.

Laffer takes third week as war limits auds

For a second straight frame, Hollywood stormed domestic theaters with a phalanx of wobbly new titles that crix and moviegoers promptly shot down.

Disney laffer “Bringing Down the House” remained embedded in the top spot for a third straight sesh — a rare recent feat — with an estimated $16.2 million weekend that brought 17-day cume to $83.4 million.

But openers were felled by tough competish from TV coverage of the Iraq war.

Stephen King fantasy “Dreamcatcher,” a co-prod of Warner Bros./Castle Rock and Village Roadshow, captured second place with an under-whelming $15.3 million in opening grosses.

MGM soph-sesher “Agent Cody Banks” landed third with $9.3 million, while Miramax’s Gwyneth Paltrow starrer “A View from the Top” bowed in fourth with just $7.6 million.

Paramount thriller “The Hunted” chased down $6.6 million to finish fifth in its second frame. Miramax award-magnet “Chicago” was sixth with $6.2 million.

Mouse tooner “Piglet’s Big Movie” — relatively well reviewed unlike the other opening pics — finished seventh with $6.1 million. And Artisan’s Cuba Gooding Jr. laffer “Boat Trip” docked in 10th place with a maiden voyage of only $3.7 million.

Industrywide, the weekend retreated 28% from last year’s B.O. with $97 million in estimated grosses, according to data from B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI. That was down 8.5% from the previous week’s B.O.

“When there’s a situation in the world, new pictures normally get affected more than others,” Artisan distrib boss Steve Rothenberg said.

“The public right now is concentrating on other things,” said Rick Sands, Miramax’s chief operating officer. “I think the war is in people’s minds and hearts.”

‘Dreamcatcher’s’ nightmare

Warners distrib prexy Dan Fellman said “Dreamcatcher” was particularly affected as it skews heavily male. Over 70% of pic patrons were under age 25, according to exit surveys.

“Part of our box office was affected by war coverage, but I do believe we will recapture that box office,” said Fellman, who was still “pleased” with the opening.

Warrners/Castle Rock and Village Roadshow will evenly share costs and grosses on the pic, which carries an estimated $70 million negative cost.

Disney distrib topper Chuck Viane lauded “House’s” ability to grab “the consciousness of the mainstream movie audience.” The pic is the first No. 1 three-peat since New Line’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” at year’s end.

“The feel-good nature of the film has struck a chord (and) with the climate of the country this was the picture to see,” said Hyde Park topper Ashok Amritraj, a producer.

Meanwhile, “View from the Top” flew into the frame on a half tank after a long delay in release. And early poor reviews of “Boat Trip” rendered the gender-bending laffer dead in the water from its launch.

“Piglet’s Big Movie,” like another recent Disney tooner “Jungle Book 2,” was produced for under $20 million and is expected to reap most profit in homevid. (“JB2” has outperformed such expectations, with another $1 million in B.O. boosting cume to $45.4 million through six weeks.)

In specialty market action, Fox Searchlight’s femme-soccer drama “Bend It Like Beckham” expanded from two to eight theaters and grossed $185,170, an impressive $23,146 per venue with a $444,959 cume. Crix-supported pic expands to about 50 runs Friday.

Sony Classics’ Ralph Fiennes starrer “Spider” added 49 engagements for a total 54 and grossed $132,224, or $2,449 per playdate with a $926,328 cume. Distrib’s “Laurel Canyon” drama held in 19 location and grossed $158,389, or $8,336 per site with a $682,261 cume.

Zeitgeist’s German drama “Nowhere in Africa” added five runs for a total 16 and grossed $112,598, or a solid $7,037 with a $265,081 cume. Pic figured in Oscar’s foreign film category.

Newmarket’s black comedy “Spun” added an L.A. exclu to its Gotham engagement and grossed a strong $30,544 from the two runs. Druggies tale expands to 15 theaters next weekend.

Focus’ Holocaust drama “The Pianist,” which numbered among Oscar’s pic nominees, shed 34 theaters for a total 540 and grossed $1.1 million, or $2,050 per venue with a $20.3 million cume.

Paramount’s Oscar pic contender “The Hours” was off 15 engagements at 814 and grossed $1.1 million, or $1,752 per playdate with a $39 million cume.

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