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Sony’s squishy ‘Fish’ is kvetch of the day

'Rings' atop B.O. for 4th week

This article was updated at 6:51 p.m.

Sony told a big “Fish” story.

Distrib’s claim of weekend-winning box office for “Big Fish” — a movie about a serial fibber — effectively proved to be something of a whopper itself.

New Line’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” was the actual B.O. kingfish, finishing No. 1 for the fourth weekend in a row with $14.2 million, according to final data released Monday by B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI.

“Fish,” which Sony claimed Sunday would gross $14.5 million over its first weekend in wide release, actually rung up $13.8 million in the final tabulations.

Sony execs said their preliminary numbers for Friday and Saturday were off about $150,000 each, and a Sunday projection proved too optimistic by some $400,000.

“We’d hoped for a really strong Sunday,” Sony distribution prexy Rory Bruer said.

Bruer denied suggestions Sony had fibbed just to steal the thunder from New Line for one news cycle.

“I had no idea what (New Line) had reported,” he said. “We never anticipated that ‘Big Fish’ would beat ‘Lord of the Rings’ this weekend. We were quite happy to be No. 2.”

Weekend B.O. estimates are often proved too optimistic when official data is released on the following Monday. But it’s unusual that weekend bragging rights would hang in the balance.

“Weather and other events can make the actual box office results differ from the projections of Sunday morning,” EDI exec veep Dan Marks noted. “So the best-guess estimate for the weekend can change when Sunday’s actual numbers are available on Monday.”

In this case, “Fish” faced tough competish from TV broadcasts of NFL football playoffs.

Weekend perf brought “Fish” cume to $23.4 million. Tim Burton-helmed drama played in limited release for three frames prior to widening to 2,406 venues Friday.

Cume for “Return of the King,” the final installment in the “Rings” trilogy, reached $312.3 million domestically. Its worldwide gross sits at $767.1 million.

“It’s tremendously significant that this film continues to connect with audiences,” said David Tuckerman, New Line’s domestic distribution prexy.

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