Ice Cube melts frigid B.O.

Laffer on top despite brutal weather

Winter weather throughout much of the eastern half of the country wiped out grosses on Saturday, but Sony and Revolution still managed a successful opening of Ice Cube family laffer “Are We There Yet?” which bowed with $18.5 million from 2,709 theaters.

“To do $18.5 million in spite of the weather is fantastic,” said Sony distrib chief Rory Bruer. “Even if it had been perfect moviegoing conditions, it would have been terrific.”

Family pics like “There Yet” were insulated a bit from the blizzard, since the storm didn’t affect matinees as much as it did Saturday’s evening shows.

Frame’s other newcomer, Rogue Pictures’ “Assault on Precinct 13,” opened in sixth place with $7 million from 2,297 theaters.

“It’s always a good idea to open your film when business is shut down from Washington, D.C., to Portland, Maine,” remarked Focus distrib chief Jack Foley.

Rogue is the genre arm of Focus.

“In a lot of our dates, like Scranton, Penn., we might as well not have been there,” Foley added. “Everybody got wiped out.”

Last week’s champ, Paramount’s “Coach Carter,” fell to second place with $11 million, a 55% drop from its holiday weekend opening. Cume on the Samuel L. Jackson basketball drama is $43.2 million.

Universal’s “Meet the Fockers,” in its fifth week of release, continues to come down gently. Its $10.2 million for the frame, good for the No. 3 spot, pushed cume to $247.7 million.

Total makes it the second-biggest live-action comedy, surpassing U’s 2003 summer hit “Bruce Almighty.” Fox’s “Home Alone” from 1990 tops the category with $285.8 million.

U’s “In Good Company,” in its second week of wide release, saw results of $8.5 million over the weekend, putting it in fourth place.

Also in its sophomore session, Warner Bros.’ “Racing Stripes” came in at No. 5 with $7.1 million, a drop of 49%, over the frame. Talking animal pic has a cume of $27.3 million.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox’s “Elektra” wilted to $3.8 million in its second week, a precipitous 74% decline off its opening. Cume for the Jennifer Garner comic book adaptation is $20.2 million.

Snow freezes out auds

Starting Friday, more than a foot of snow blanketed a vast swath of the country — from Wisconsin to Massachusetts, Virginia to Maine — and brought exhibition to a standstill in many affected areas.

Specialty pics like “Sideways” were as vulnerable as wide releases. The Alexander Payne wine country tale, coming off its best picture win at last weekend’s Golden Globes, grossed $2.85 million after expanding to a 699-screen run, averaging $4,077.

Fox Searchlight distrib chief Steve Giulula said, “I did some spot checks on theaters and we got hurt from the northern Midwest all the way to the mid-Atlantic and New England.” He added, “I figure we lost at least 20% of our business. In Philly, for example, we had theaters that were doing $2,500 a screen on Friday that essentially closed Saturday.”

With “Sideways” expected to score multiple Oscar noms Tuesday, Giulula said he expects to expand the pic to as many as 1,800 runs this coming Friday.

Miramax and Warner Bros.’ “The Aviator,” which also won a best pic nod at the Globes, pushed its run to 2,261 theaters and earned $4.8 million during the frame, bringing its cume to $58 million.

Despite doing most of its biz at matinees, Revolution partner Tom Sherak said “There Yet” still lost ticket sales to the blizzard. By Saturday afternoon auds in markets like New York and Philadelphia were staying home, he said. “I figure we lost $1 million to $2 million.”

Exit polls found the “There Yet” aud to be about two-thirds families and 57% female. Though termed in some quarters an “urban” pic because of Ice Cube’s hip-hop background, pic attracted an aud that was 43% Caucasian and 26% African-American.

Nielsen EDI estimated overall biz for the weekend at $97 million, down 4% compared with the same weekend last year. However, compared with last week’s three-day span, biz was off sharply by some 30%.

“Baby” B.O. growing

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Warners’ “Million Dollar Baby” continued its potent limited run. Playing on 147 screens, the Clint Eastwood boxing pic brought in $1.85 million, an average of $12,619 per screen. Cume now stands at $8.5 million. Warners will take the pic wide this weekend.

MGM and United Artists’ “Hotel Rwanda,” benefiting from Oscar buzz on Don Cheadle’s performance, expanded to 319 screens, up 127 from last week, and saw results of $1.4 million, averaging $4,389. Gross was down 4% from last weekend despite nearly doubling the number of playdates.

Sony Pictures Classics’ “Being Julia,” whose Annette Bening won a Globe last week, grossed $131,959 from 70 screens, an expansion of 45 locations. Though grosses improved more than 250% from last week, biz was still modest with the screen average coming in at $1,885.

Among Sony Classics’ other pics, “House of Flying Daggers,” playing wide on 1,017 screens, grossed a tad over $1 million, averaging $1,019 per screen. Cume on the martial arts romancer is now a hair below $9 million.

Al Pacino’s “The Merchant of Venice,” in its fourth week, had $193,247 in receipts, averaging $4,831 on its 40 screens. Pic has a cume of $556,617.

Pedro Almodovar’s “Bad Education,” continued its persistent run in its 10th week, grossing $301,031 on 67 screens, an average of $4,493 per engagement. Cume stands at $3.1 million.

Despite Oscar buzz for Miramax’s “Finding Neverland,” the biopic is struggling to find its footing at the box office. Playing its 11th frame, pic grossed $1.2 million from 1,382 locations, averaging just $869 a screen. Cume is now $32.5 million.

Also making slow headway is Fox Searchlight biopic “Kinsey,” which brought in $205,000 from 154 screens, averaging $1,331. Cume on the sexologist tale is just shy of $9 million.