An 'Epic' b.o. spoof: No. 1 with $19 mil

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The spoof genre continues to thrive. 20th Century Fox's "Epic Movie" topped the charts at the North American boxoffice for the weekend, taking in an estimated $19.2 million. Universal Pictures' actioner "Smokin' Aces" came in at No. 2 with an estimated $14.3 million, while Oscar-nominated films received a healthy bump in the marketplace. Despite all the activity, the business generated by the top 12 films was still down 11% from the comparable weekend in 2006.

Rounding out this weekend's new releases, Sony Pictures' romantic comedy "Catch and Release" earned the No. 4 spot, bowing to an estimated $8 million as it lured in primarily females. But MGM's horror romance "Blood and Chocolate" took a dive, finishing in 15th place with just $2.1 million.

Fox's "Night at the Museum" continued to perform. The PG family comedy grossed an additional $9.5 million, landing at No. 3. The Ben Stiller starrer has grossed $216.7 million in six weeks.

Sony Pictures holdovers "Stomp the Yard" and "The Pursuit of Happyness" also continued to maintain a strong presence in the marketplace. At No. 5, "Stomp" grossed an additional $7.8 million, dropping a scant 37%, putting its cume in the $50 million range. "Happyness," at No. 7, earned an additional $5 million. Buoyed by an Oscar nomination for Will Smith, the drama fell only 21% to put its estimated gross at $152.9 million.

Other Oscar hopefuls also took advantage of their turn in the awards limelight. Despite being left out of the best picture and director categories at last week's Academy Award nominations, Paramount Pictures' "Dreamgirls," from DreamWorks, grossed an additional $6.6 million, good for No. 6 on the charts. The musical, which earned eight nominations, added 571 theaters to its playdates but still fell 17% from last weekend's total. The Beyonce Knowles starrer has generated an estimated $86.7 million to date.

Picturehouse's "Pan's Labyrinth," which earned six nominations, matched the $4.5 million it took in last weekend with the help of an additional 214 theaters. The Guillermo del Toro-directed film continues to maintain a strong per-theater average. This weekend's number amounted to $5,474 on 823 screens, putting its total cume at an estimated $16.3 million.

Miramax Films added 244 runs to its seemingly evergreen film "The Queen," which walked away Tuesday with a coveted best picture nomination. Grossing an estimated $4 million in 1,830 theaters, the film, which ranked ninth, has generated more than $41 million since it bowed 18 weeks ago.

Warner Bros. Pictures' two best picture nominees fared decently. The studio re-released "The Departed" in 1,453 locations, adding more than 1,300 playdates. The film grossed $3 million for a per-theater average of $2,096. The Martin Scorsese-directed film now has grossed an estimated $124.9 million. Warners hopes to keep the film in theaters until the Oscars on Feb. 25.

Clint Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima" received a theater boost of 55, grossing an estimated $1.7 million in 415 theaters. The R-rated war drama was up 26% with a per-theater average of $4,120. The film's cume now stands at $4.9 million. Next weekend, Warners intends to add about 200 theaters to its run.

Fox Searchlight, with four films nominated for various Academy Awards, expanded two films, "The Last King of Scotland" and "Notes on a Scandal." With an Oscar nom for Forest Whitaker's performance as Idi Amin, Searchlight added six runs to its release of the underperforming "King." The film grossed an estimated $1.65 million in 501 locations, up 2% from last weekend. With a per-screen average of $3,293, the film now has earned $7.7 million. "Notes" expanded to 640 theaters, grossing $2.6 million for a per-screen of $3,978. Starring Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, the film now has earned $9 million in its limited release.

Paramount Vantage added about 200 runs to its Oscar-nominated film "Babel." In 1,090 theaters, the R-rated drama grossed $2.6 million for a per-theater of $2,368. Up 25% from last weekend, the film, which earned seven Academy Award nominations, now has grossed $27 million in the marketplace.

Sony Pictures Classics added 542 screens to its run of Pedro Almodovar's "Volver." The film, which received a best actress nomination for Penelope Cruz, now is on 689 screens, the most ever for an Almodovar film. The Spanish-language drama earned $1.1 million for an average of $1,671 and a total cume of $8.9 million.

New Line Cinema's "Little Children" earned an additional $200,000. The R-rated drama garnered a best actress nomination for Kate Winslet. The film's total cume now stands at $4 million.

In limited release, Samuel Goldwyn Films/Destination bowed the revenge drama "Seraphim Falls" in nine markets this weekend. The Western thriller starring Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson opened on 52 screens to $162,032 for a per-screen average of $3,116. The film will expand into 25 more markets over the next three weekends.

"Epic," from screenwriter-directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, the duo behind last year's "Date Movie," did surprisingly well. The PG-13 film outgrossed "Date Movie's" three-day take on its opening weekend, which fell on a holiday weekend. From Regency Enterprises, the film also showed a 13% bump from Friday to Saturday, indicating that the teenage crowd was coming back for more.

Relativity Media opened two films this weekend. It co-financed Universal's "Aces" from director Joe Carnahan and Sony's "Catch."

"Aces," a Working Title production, featured an ensemble cast topped by Jeremy Piven, Ray Liotta, Ben Affleck and Andy Garcia, among others. Carnahan's follow-up to the well-received "Narc," the film did its job by luring in primarily young males. Its take from Friday to Saturday night rose 8%, which always is a positive sign of the film's playability.

While "Catch" bowed to the single digits, Sony went into the weekend with that number in mind. The film cost $25 million to make, and while the primary audience was female, the film did crossover a bit to the dating crowd.

While the openers bowed in the range most in the industry expected, it wasn't nearly enough to beat last year at this time, when Fox bowed "Big Momma's House 2" to $27 million. That, coupled with the No. 2 opener "Nanny McPhee" from Universal Pictures at $14.5 million, was too much to overcome regardless of the bump the Oscar nominated films received this frame. The top 12 films from this weekend stand at an estimated $88.9 million compared with $100.1 million for the same period last year.

For the full week that ended Thursday, total boxoffice amounted to $132.4 million, down more than 15% from the comparable week last year, which took in $157.1 million.

For the year to date, total boxoffice stands at $486.1 million, down 4% from 2006's $507.9 million. Admissions have fallen 8% from the 2006 level.
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