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‘Bill’s’ better half

Bride's $25 mil leaves 'Punisher' at B.O. altar

This article was updated on April 19, 2004

Vengeance proved potent at the weekend box office as the opening of Miramax’s “Kill Bill: Vol. 2” dominated with an estimated $25.6 million at 2,971 playdates, besting October’s $22.1 million opening of “Kill Bill: Vol. 1.”

The second helping of Quentin Tarantino’s chopsocky saga easily outdistanced Lions Gate’s actioner “The Punisher,” which opened with a respectable $14 million at 2,649 locations.

But audiences again forgot to remember “The Alamo,” which plunged 56% to $4.1 million at 2,609 engagements for a 10th place finish in its soph sesh. With little traction among audiences, Disney’s pricey epic has cemented its status as a financial disaster with a lackluster $16.3 million in 10 days.

“Kill Bill: Vol. 2” marked Miramax’s top debut weekend, excluding releases from its Dimension shingle. It’s also the largest April opening for an R-rated entry, topping the $20.4 million take for “Life” in 1999.

Miramax chief operating officer Rick Sands said results for “Vol. 2” showed audiences perceiving the pic as being self-contained, rather than the second part of a long movie, and more accessible to female moviegoers than “Vol. 1.” “Vol. 2” drew a 60% male audience; 56% were in the 18-to-29 range.

Rival execs questioned the wisdom of opening “The Punisher” against “Kill Bill: Vol. 2,” given that both pics offer the same theme of revenge and appear to be seeking the same core audience of young male action fans. A similar face-off took place between “Hellboy” and “Walking Tall” during the April 2-4 sesh; “Hellboy” won with $23.3 million, followed by $15.5 million for “Tall.”

“It’s certainly not ideal scheduling because you may not be able to maximize your opening,” one exec noted of the weekend. “On the other hand, the results for ‘Kill Bill: Vol. 2’ and ‘The Punisher’ are nothing to sneer at.”

Marvel Studios chief Avi Arad pointed out “The Punisher” took the date first and had already built a campaign around it when Miramax moved “Vol. 2” back from its original February slot. And Lions Gate exec VP Steve Rothenberg opined, “There’s plenty of room in the marketplace for both films.”

Results for “Vol. 2” appeared buoyed by a combo of factors — the solid perf by “Vol. 1,” which cumed $69.9 million; extensive publicity from the novelty of a single film split in two; strong critical notices; and last week’s release of the “Vol. 1” DVD, with first-day sales hitting 2 million units. Friday’s take was $10.6 million followed by $8.6 million Saturday.

“There was a lot of pent-up demand,” Sands noted. “Based on our exit polls, we’re very hopeful about the long-term prospects.”

Met expectations

Rothenberg asserted that “The Punisher” — developed by Marvel and Valhalla for Artisan prior to Lions Gate’s purchase of Artisan — had performed in line with internal expectations. And Arad said he was “very pleased” with the results, citing its moderate budget in the low $30 millions and its use of one of the lesser-known of Marvel’s stable of 4,700 characters.

“It’s a terrific opening for a reasonably priced movie with one of our non-superhero characters,” Arad said. “We feel this is a business model that’s worth pursuing.”

It was the first No. 2 opening for a Marvel pic after seven No. 1 bows, which include “Spider-Man,” “Daredevil,” “The Hulk,” the two “X-Men” and the two “Blade” pics.

Industrywide, box office tracker Nielsen EDI estimated the frame totaled $104 million, or down 3% from the same weekend last year, which included Easter. This weekend’s total fell 10% from last frame’ s $115 million, which was led by the impressive $15.2 million from the seventh weekend of “The Passion of the Christ” in a 43% surge tied to Easter.

“The decline from Easter weekend is no big deal,” Nielsen EDI VP Dan Marks said. He noted that “The Passion of the Christ” saw its business fall 72% to $4.2 million at 2,848 playdates to land in 9th place.

Movin’ on up

Newmarket’s religious blockbuster has cumed $360.9 million and passed “Jurassic Park” for seventh place on the all-time domestic list.

Year-to-date grosses have hit $2.37 billion, 8.6% ahead of the same point last year due to the still-stunning performance by “Passion.”

Among other holdovers, Fox Searchlight’s laffer “Johnson Family Vacation” led the pack in third with $6.4 million at 1,326 playdates, down 31% with a 12-day cume of $21.5 million. Distribution chief Steve Gilula said the pic, budgeted at $12 million, should continue to play well to family audiences for several more frames.

Sony/Revolution’s third sesh of “Hellboy” followed in fourth with $5.7 million at 2,897 sites to crack the $50 million mark. A pair of family pics — Disney’s third outing of “Home on the Range” and Warner’s fourth of “Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed” — took the next two slots with $5.4 million at 2,735 sites and $5.1 million at 2,810 screens, respectively.

MGM’s “Walking Tall” took seventh with $4.6 million at 2,444 playdates, edging out Miramax’s soph outing of family fantasy “Ella Enchanted” with $4.4 million at 1,939 sites. The latter’s 29% decline was the smallest in the top 10.

‘Yards’ loses ground

Warners’ “The Whole Ten Yards” continued to underperform, in its second weekend with $3.7 million at 2,654 playdates, as the sequel fell out of the top 10 to finish 11th. Cume stands at $12.6 million after 10 days.

In the specialty market, Sony Classics reported a solid opening for Brit drama “Young Adam” with $56,967 at nine playdates. The shingle added 20 playdates for German comedy “Good Bye, Lenin!” and grossed $255,363 at 103 screens for a $2.24 million cume.

Distrib’s third weekend of drama “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring” took in $72,026 at 13 playdates, pushing its total to $208,133. It expanded “Bon Voyage” by 12 to 41 in taking in $156,586 for a total of $504,270.

IFC reported $84,297 at 84 sites for its fifth weekend of “Intermission, pushing its cume to $575,164. Its 13th frame of “Touching the Void” pulled in $101,227 at 98 playdates for a $3.93 million cume.

Sony reported strong audience responses for Saturday sneaks of Jennifer Garner’s comedy “13 Going on 30” at 1,000 locations with 90% capacity as audiences were 65% female. It will open next weekend in over 3,000 playdates against Fox/Regency’s actioner “Man on Fire,” starring Denzel Washington as a vengeance-seeking bodyguard.

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