$22 mil corsage for 'Prom Night'

Horror remake claims top b.o. slot

Sony's "Prom Night" bowed stylishly this weekend, with its estimated $22.7 million topping the domestic boxoffice and putting some bite back into the horror genre.

Fox Searchlight's "Street Kings," a gritty crime drama starring Keanu Reeves as a conflicted L.A. cop, opened with $12 million in second place. Sony's leggy Las Vegas drama "21" took third place over its third weekend with $11 million and a $62.3 million cume, while Fox's family fantasy "Nim's Island" was fourth on a skinny 32% dip from opening grosses to produce a $9 million weekend and a $25.3 million cume.

Universal's George Clooney starrer "Leatherheads" slipped 51% to $6.2 million in fifth place, with a 10-day cume of $21.9 million. Fox's animated feature "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!" fetched $6 million over its fifth frame for a $139.6 million cume.

Miramax's Dennis Quaid starrer "Smart People," which debuted with 1,012 playdates, grossed $4.2 million in seventh. Meanwhile, the horror film "The Ruins" from DreamWorks, Paramount and Spyglass Entertainment fell a big 59% in its sophomore session, ringing up $3.3 million in eighth place to shape a $13.4 million cume.

Overall, the weekend's $95 million in collective grosses represented a 20% decline from the industry total over the same frame last year, according to Nielsen EDI data.

The early spring boxoffice is off a big 19%. That's taken a toll on the year-to-date comparison, with 2008 now off 3% from the same portion of last year at $2.41 billion.

The developments follow a more positive winter boxoffice, which ran from Jan. 2-March 1 and notched a nearly 17% year-over-year improvement at $1.72 billion.

Among the weekend's limited bows, Overture Films debuted its well-reviewed drama "The Visitor" in four locations and grossed $88,383. That represented an auspicious $22,096 per site prior to anticipated expansions over coming frames.

"With the positive word-of-mouth and extraordinary reviews, we hope that even greater numbers of people will discover the film in the coming weeks," Overture exec vp Kyle Davies said.

Searchlight unspooled its singing-seniors documentary "Young@Heart" with four playdates and grossed $52,312, or an upbeat $13,007 per engagement, with a cume of $63,606 since bowing Wednesday. "Young" belts it out in 32 sites on Friday, with plans for incremental expansions up to about 265 runs on May 16.

First Independent Pictures' drama "Dark Matter," starring Meryl Streep, Ye Liu and Aidan Quinn, bowed with $5,000 apiece from single screens in New York and Boston.

Also, Sony Pictures Classics bowed an English-language version of its animated feature "Persepolis" in 136 theaters while continuing its original subtitled version of the Iranian-themed film in 11 venues. The releases' combined $92,822 from 147 engagements represented a limp $631 per playdate but raised the film's cume to $4.3 million.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, the Weinstein Co. expanded its Spanish-language drama "Under the Same Moon" to 450 theaters from 439 to ring up $1 million. That represented a thinning $2,243 per venue with a $10.4 million cume.

IFC Films' French-language drama "The Flight of the Red Balloon" held in two locations to gross $25,152, or $12,576 per engagement, with a cume of $76,363 a week before a scheduled expansion to 10 playdates.

SPC broadened its Holocaust drama "The Counterfeiters" to 147 theaters from 115 and grossed $395,007, or $2,687 per venue with a $3.4 million cume.

ThinkFilm's Italian-language comedy "My Brother Is an Only Child" upped its reach to 12 locations from five and grossed $24,150, or just $2,013, with a cume of $59,845.

Paramount Classics' Rolling Stones docu "Shine a Light" added one playdate for a total of 277 in grossing $982,000, or an acceptable $3,535 per engagement, with a $2.9 million cume.

"Prom" is a remake of the 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis starrer of the same name. Directed by Nelson McCormick, the thriller's opening exceeded pre-release forecasts and may restore industry faith that a well-executed horror film can still succeed, despite recent genre slackness.

"It's a terrific number, no doubt about it," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said.

Sony didn't survey for demographic data on opening-weekend audiences, as the film was certain to skew young and a bit female, Bruer said.

Disney specialty unit Miramax was a co-financing partner on "Prom," which posted the second-best bow ever for an April horror release. MGM/United Artists opened its remake of "The Amityville Horror" to $23.5 million in April 2005.

The original screenplay on "Kings" was written by noir crime novelist James Ellroy, Kurt Wimmer ("The Thomas Crown Affair") and Jamie Moss. The David Ayer-helmed film drew opening audiences skewing 56% male, with 55% of patrons under 25.

Fox collaborated on distribution of the Searchlight-Regency film, whose opening was in line with pre-release expectations according to Fox senior vp distribution Chris Aronson.

"We're happy with it, (as) economically it's right in the wheelhouse," Aronson said. "Kings" cost an estimated $20 million to produce.

Older females dominated audiences on "People," directed by Noam Murro and starring Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church and Ellen Page. Although its opening was on the high side of projections, the still-soft bow means execs will hope positive word-of-mouth sustains the pic over coming frames.

"Given what the industry was predicting going into the weekend, we are pleasantly surprised by our gross," a Miramax spokeswoman said. "We are also encouraged by some great reviews in key outlets and by the word-of-mouth from our target audience."

Looking ahead to coming competition, Friday's wide openers include Universal's R-rated comedy "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," Lionsgate's Jackie Chan-Jet Li action adventure "The Forbidden Kingdom" and Sony's Al Pacino thriller "88 Minutes."
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