Spidey’s big B.O. and a big drop

Sequel is fastest pic to hit $250 mil cume despite 48% fall

This article was updated at 9:39 p.m.

Flying past the $250 million mark, “Spider-Man 2” was the frame’s biggest film in its second weekend, picking up another $46 million from 4,166 engagements, according to Sony estimates.

That brings its cume to an amazing $257.3 million, making “Spider-Man 2,” which did drop 48%, the fastest ever to cross $250 million. Superhero pic took just 12 days to cross that benchmark, one day faster than previous record holder “Shrek 2.”

Debuting with a strong second-place showing, DreamWorks’ “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” scored $28 million in its first three days at 3,091 engagements.

Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” reached a robust $80 million.

Meanwhile, Walt Disney’s “King Arthur” placed a distant third for the weekend — the sixth weak opening in a row for the Mouse House. Booked at 3,086 theaters, the medieval epic grossed a disappointing $15.5 million during the three-day frame. Since opening Wednesday, the knight’s tale has cumed $23.6 million.

While Spidey and Ferrell provided the weekend’s biggest fireworks, several niche pics, including “De-Lovely,” “Before Sunset” and “The Clearing,” performed well in the arthouse market, defying predictions that the summer’s saturated marketplace would leave smaller pics struggling to find auds.

Also opening this weekend was MGM’s “Sleepover,” which bowed with $4.2 million from 2,207 locations, just good enough to slip into the No. 10 spot on the weekend chart.

In its third weekend, “Fahrenheit 9/11” grossed $11 million, the fourth biggest gross of the weekend; that’s a 32% drop from its three-day perf for last week’s holiday sesh. Michael Moore’s documentary expanded to 2,011 locations for the frame, 286 more theaters than last weekend. Cume now stands at $80.1 million.

Spidey 2’s $46 million weekend haul puts the sequel well ahead of the original “Spider-Man,” which in 2002 had grossed $233 million through its first 12 days of release.

“Spider-Man” legged it out to $403.7 million domestically; “Shrek 2” has so far accumulated $418.6 million in its U.S. run, adding $4.5 million this weekend.

But Sony distrib prexy Rory Bruer wasn’t ready to make any predictions on whether the final tally for “Spider-Man 2” would surpass the original or “Shrek 2.”

“I’m afraid to jinx it,” he said. “I feel like I need to knock on wood, spin around three times and throw salt over my shoulder.”

Good news

“Anchorman’s” perf compares well to that of Ferrell’s holiday hit “Elf,” which opened with $31.1 million last November. This year’s other successful comedies also have opened in the high 20s to low 30s range. “Starsky & Hutch,” in which Ferrell had a small role, debuted in March with $28.1 million; last month “DodgeBall” bowed with $30.1 million.

Noting “Anchorman” was going up against “Spider-Man 2’s” sophomore session, DreamWorks distrib topper Jim Tharp said, “It’s a very good opening in this crowded marketplace.”

Tharp said the studio’s exit surveys found the audience nearly evenly split between men and women, with 52% males and 48% females. The PG-13 pic drew heavily among people over 21, attracting an aud that was 60% over 21 and 40% under.

“King Arthur” came in well below studio expectations. Reportedly made on a budget of more than $100 million (Disney would not comment on costs), “Arthur” follows a string of pricey underperformers on the studio’s slate, including “Hidalgo,” “The Ladykillers,” “Home on the Range,” “The Alamo” and “Around the World in 80 Days.”

Long string of hits

“Arthur” also reps an extremely rare misfire from producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Over the last 17 years, going back to 1987’s “Beverly Hills Cop II” and a distribution era that didn’t put so much emphasis on opening weekends, only two of the 19 wide releases Bruckheimer has produced have opened lower than “Arthur”: 2002 flop “Bad Company,” which opened with $11 million, and 1995’s “Dangerous Minds,” which turned into a hit after debuting with $14.9 million at 1,348 venues and expanding slowly over several weeks.

Disney distrib chief Chuck Viane, who called “Arthur’s” opening “a very solid double,” indicated the studio has hopes the pic’s run will resemble that of the latter, not the former. “We don’t play for the weekends,” he said. “We play for longevity.”

Nielsen EDI estimates overall box office for the weekend at $146 million, even with the same frame last year, when “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” led the B.O. with a $46.6 million opening.

Year-to-date, B.O. stands at $4.93 billion, up 6% from $4.63 billion at this point in 2003.

For the first 10 weeks of summer, total box office take is $2.28 billion, up 11% from $2.05 billion through the same frame last year.

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