B.O. reunion redux

Perry holdover tops lackluster bows

In a weekend with four debuts uniformly failing to impress, Madea and her family topped the box office for the second frame in a row.

Despite a sizable drop of 57% to $13 million, “Madea’s Family Reunion” becomes the weakest No. 1 of 2006. Overall, according to preliminary estimates, weekend was down a sizable 15% compared to a year ago, when three films debuted, though it wasn’t Oscar weekend. Domestic box office is now down 1% from last year, Nielsen EDI reported.

“16 Blocks,” “Dave Chapelle’s Block Party,” “Ultraviolet” and “Aquamarine” all posted weak grosses, with only the latter film meeting expectations going into the weekend.

Lionsgate’s Tyler Perry vehicle declined significantly more than the 50% fall for Perry’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” last year. However, “Madea’s” bigger start puts that pic well ahead in its second week with a $48.1 million cume compared to $37 million.

This year’s pic averaged $5,925 at 2,194 locations.

Warner’s “16 Blocks” was expected to gross in the mid- to high-teens but posted a disappointing $11.7 million in second place. Bruce Willis starrer averaged $4,307 at 2,706 playdates.

Debut is close to that of Willis cop drama “Hostage,” which opened 12 months ago to $10.2 million.

Auds were 70% over 25 and evenly split between males and females.

Many industryites thought “Dave Chapelle’s Block Party” could break out with young auds, but the comedy/music concert pic from Focus’ genre label Rogue Pictures ended up in seventh place with just $6.5 million, averaging $5,430 at 1,200 theaters.

Plurality of ticket buyers were African-American, at 35%, and an overwhelming 91% were under 35.

Sony Screen Gems actioner “Ultraviolet” bowed a little below already diminished studio hopes, grossing $9 million at 2,558 locations, giving it a per-play average of $3,518.

Unlike other recent Screen Gems pics, like “When a Stranger Calls,” that were powered by teen girls to No. 1 bows, “Ultraviolet’s” aud was 60% male and 72% over 21.

Fox’s mermaid pic “Aquamarine” rode an overwhelmingly young and female current to $7.5 million, giving it a per-play average of $2,986 at 2,512 theaters. Though “Aquamarine’s” aud was a little younger, performance was similar to the tepid bow of Fox’s last pic aimed at young femmes, “Tristan and Isolde,” which opened to $7.6 million in January.

Otherwise, family pics continue to hold extremely well this winter.

“Eight Below” fell only 35% in its third weekend to $10.3 million, good enough for No. 3. Disney’s true-life dog story averaged $2,315 at 3,024 theaters and brought its cume to $58.8 million.

Also declining slowly is “The Pink Panther.” Sony and MGM’s Steve Martin starrer came in at No. 6 with $7 million. Per-play take was $2,315 at 3,024 locations; cume has hit $69.8 million.

In limited release, Sony Pictures Classics opened French Oscar nom “Joyeux Noel” to decent numbers, grossing $50,133 at six locations, for a per-play average of $8,356.

The Weinstein Co. had a solid expansion of “Transamerica,” more than doubling the number of playdates to 656 and getting an 85% jump in B.O. Transgender road drama starring Oscar nominee Felicity Huffman grossed $1.5 million, giving it a per-play average of $2,397 and bringing its cume to $6.7 million.

WB opened “Deep Sea: 3D” at 43 Imax theaters and grossed $713,000, or a solid $16,580 per play.

Fox Searchlight expanded “Nightwatch” to 158 plays from 34, but only got a 76% boost. Russian sci-fi import grossed $365,000 for an average of $2,310. Total take is now $778,125.

In its second frame, South African Oscar nominee “Tsotsi” added one play and grossed $75,000 at seven locations, down only 2%. Per-theater take was $10,714 and cume is $179,000.