‘Hancock’ a holiday box office hero

Will Smith starrer nabs $107.3 million

The world’s biggest star just got bigger.

Sony’s Will Smith starrer “Hancock” debuted to an estimated $103.9 million from 3,965 runs over 5½ days to become the third-biggest Fourth of July opener of all time after “Transformers” and “Spider-Man 2.” Of “Hancock’s” total tally, an estimated $62.6 million was grossed over the weekend.

Overseas, “Hancock” grossed an estimated $78.5 million as it began rolling out in major markets.

Pic is the eighth Smith film in a row to open at No. 1 domestically, as well as his fifth — and most successful — Fourth of July outing. Film’s performance is widely viewed as a testament to Smith’s box office allure, considering that “Hancock” drew generally dismal reviews. Nor did “Hancock” have the same degree of broad appeal that other Fourth of July tentpoles have enjoyed.

Last year, “Transformers” opened to $155.4 million over 6½ days, including a weekend haul of $70.5 million. “Spider-Man 2” made $152.3 million over 5½ days in 2004, with $88.1 million coming over the weekend itself. “Hancock” scored the fourth best opening for the holiday weekend, behind “Spider-Man,” “Transformers” and “War of the Worlds.”

The record-breaking opening of “Transformers” made year-over-year comparisons tough. Weekend was down 5%-6% over last year, ending a record-breaking sesh at the domestic box office, which saw business surge in June.

It didn’t help that the holiday’s other new wide offering, Picturehouse’s “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl” failed to make much of a dent.

“American Girl,” based on the popular doll, magazine and book line and starring Abigail Breslin, placed No. 8 for the weekend, grossing an estimated $3.6 million from 1,843 runs; cume is $6.1 million in its third weekend. Pic began as a limited release in the hopes of building word of mouth.

After “Hancock,” the other big headline of the holiday was Disney-Pixar’s “Wall-E,” which placed No. 2 for the weekend and jumped the $100 million mark in only its second sesh. “Wall-E,” enjoying strong weekday business, declined 47% to an estimated $33.4 million over the weekend for a hearty cume of $128.1 million in the toon’s first 10 days.

That’s the third-best standing for a Pixar pic after “The Incredibles” and “Finding Nemo.”

On the specialty side, Sony Pictures Classics’ dramedy “The Wackness” scored the best per-location average of the weekend ($24,177), grossing an estimated $145,064 as it opened in six theaters. Directed and written by Jonathan Levine, film toplines Ben Kingsley and Famke Janssen. Cume is $178,843 since pic’s Thursday opening.

French thriller “Tell No One” also did nicely, nabbing a per-location average of $21,250 as it grossed an estimated $170,000 from eight theaters. cume is $222,000 after a Wednesday opening.

Magnolia’s docu “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson” also enjoyed a solid debut, grossing an estimated $190,000 from 25 theaters for a per-location average of $7,600.

Among the big pics, “Hancock” took a bite out of Universal’s actioner “Wanted,” which fell off 60% in its second weekend to an estimated $20.6 million from 3,185 theaters for a cume of $90.8 million in its first 10 days. The Angelina Jolie-James McAvoy-Morgan Freeman still did well enough to come in No. 3 for the weekend.

“Hancock” skewed slightly male at 52%, and slightly younger, with 52% of the audience under age 25.

“The Will Smith business is a great business to be in. It’s not just a matter of audiences loving him, but they love the characters he plays,” said Sony prexy of domestic distribution Rory Bruer.

“Hancock,” about a deadbeat superhero with drinking problem, also stars Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron.

Smith’s other Fourth of July tentpoles include “Independence Day,” which made $96.1 million when opening over five days in 1996. “Men in Black 2” opened to $87.1 million in 2002. In 1997, “Men in Black” opened to $84 million. Both “Men in Black pics” unspooled over five days as well. Smith’s fifth Fourth of July pic was “Wild Wild West,” which also opened at No. 1.

Going by the weekend take alone, “Hancock” — an unusual blend of dark comedy and superhero actioner — is Smith’s second-highest opener ever after “I Am Legend,” which debuted to $77.2 million in December.

“If he isn’t the most bankable guy in our business, I don’t know who is,” a competing studio exec said.

As for comedies, Warner Bros.’ “Get Smart” came in No. 4 for the weekend in its third sesh. Steve Carell-Anne Hathaway laffer declined just 45% to an estimated $11.1 million from 3,574 runs. Cume is $98.1 million.

New Line and Warner Bros.’ “Sex and the City” came in No. 9 in its sixth weekend, declining 38% to an estimated $2.3 million from 1,275 for a cume of $144.9 million. Sony’s “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” placed No. 10 in its fifth sesh, declining 37% to an estimated $2 million from 1,731 for a cume of $94.8 million.

Falling off the top 10 chart, however, was Mike Myers comedy “The Love Guru,” which declined 68% to an estimated $1.7 million in its third weekend for a cume of $29.3 million. Pic placed No. 11 for the weekend.

Among family films, DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s summer toon “Kung Fu Panda” neared the $200 million mark in its fifth weekend, placing No. 5 overall. Pic declined 36% to an estimated $7.5 million from 3,347 runs for a cume of $193.4 million.

Stalwart “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” placed No. 7 for the frame, declining 24% in its seventh outing to an estimated $3.9 million from 2,192. Cume is $306.6 million.

Among male-skewing fare, Universal’s “The Incredible Hulk” was No. 6 over the holiday, declining 48% to an estimated $5 million from 3,043 for a cume of $124.9 million in the film’s fourth weekend.

The marketplace for male-skewing pics is already tough, but it’s going to get even more fierce this coming weekend with the opening of Universal sequel “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” directed by Guillermo del Toro. Meanwhile, the family market will see the entry of Eddie Murphy comedy “Meet Dave,” from 20th Century Fox.