B.O. gets shellshocked

'TMNT' redo tops busy field with $25.5 mil bow

Cowabunga! With six wide releases bowing at the North American boxoffice, the surprising topper for the frame was Warner Bros. Pictures' "TMNT," the revitalization of the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" franchise that the Weinstein Co. co-produced. Bowing to an estimated $25.5 million, the CG-animated film lured in "Turtles" fans of all ages to the franchise whose last film was 14 years ago.

Paramount Pictures' "Shooter" was the second-highest-grossing new release, debuting to an estimated $14.5 million to finish third in the weekend rankings, just behind Warners' juggernaut "300."

The opening frames for the other four wide bows weren't nearly as auspicious.

New Line Cinema's "The Last Mimzy," directed by the company's co-chairman and co-CEO, Robert Shaye, opened in fifth place to an estimated $10.2 million, while 20th Century Fox launched Fox Atomic's horror sequel "The Hills Have Eyes 2" to an estimated $10 million. Sony Pictures' adult drama "Reign Over Me" lured in an estimated $8 million for the well-reviewed film starring Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle, and Lionsgate's urban drama "Pride" faltered, grossing an estimated $4 million in more than 1,500 theaters.

The collective gross for the weekend's top 12 films was more than $125 million, up nearly 28% compared with the comparable frame last year, when Universal Pictures' "Inside Man" and Buena Vista Pictures' "Stay Alive" launched.

Still, it took four extra wide releases to help push the boxoffice nearly $30 million above last year's level. It's likely that if some of the wide releases had more room to breathe during the weekend, their opening grosses could have been significantly higher.

The frame also received a boost from another staggering performance from "300." The R-rated battle epic from Zack Snyder continues to capture the imagination of young moviegoers, dropping just 38% for its third weekend. Ranking second overall, the film earned an additional $20.5 million for the three-day period, putting its three-week gross at an estimated $162.4 million.

Sony's Sandra Bullock starrer "Premonition" also held nicely despite scathing reviews. The PG-13 thriller dropped 42% for its second weekend, pulling in an estimated $10.1 million; it has grossed $32.2 million in 10 days of release.

Universal's "Dead Silence" and Fox Searchlight's "I Think I Love My Wife" had a much more difficult time holding audiences. "Silence" fell an estimated 58% to $3.5 million; the R-rated horror film was pushed into the 10th spot overall at the boxoffice primarily because of the competition from "Hills 2."

Chris Rock's "Wife" has had little impact at the boxoffice. Despite an aggressive marketing push, the remake of the French film "Chloe in the Afternoon" fell 51%, grossing $2.7 million in its second week. After 10 days in theaters, the R-rated comedy has grossed just $10 million.

As for "TMNT," from writer-director Kevin Munroe, the re-imagined adolescent turtles attracted new fans. But what lifted the movie's grosses to such surprising numbers were the young adults who came to see their favorite childhood characters re-done in computer animation. According to Warners domestic distribution president Dan Fellman, the audience was made up of 28% children, 28% parents, 22% teens and 22% adults over 17.

"It was the last group that put our grosses in the $20 million range. There were all these kids who grew up with the Turtles and wanted to see it in CG," Fellman said. He added that the three-week rolling spring break holiday should give the film strong midweek numbers through Easter.

"Shooter," from director Antoine Fuqua and star Mark Wahlberg, debuted solidly with an estimated $14.5 million. "We would have been happier if there were fewer movies in the marketplace," said Don Harris, Paramount executive vp domestic distribution. "Even though we tend to compartmentalize movies into their specific genres, when you get a bunch of extra movies, they spill into each other. In a less crowded market, everyone's movies would have done a little better."

"Mimzy," starring Joely Richardson, Timothy Hutton and Rainn Wilson, received strong audience response, which the studio is hopeful will turn into grosses during spring break. Luring primarily families with young girls, the studio is looking for strong midweek numbers during the upcoming frames. "We're going to make a profit on the movie," New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said.

Fox said it was encouraged by the results for "Hills 2." From director Martin Weisz and written by Wes Craven and his son Jonathan, the film bowed significantly lower than last year's original remake, which opened to $15 million. But unveiled by Fox's young-adult division, the film lured in the targeted teen audience.

"Fox Atomic has hit its stride as it delivered to its core audience of the 18- to 24-year-old crowd," Fox senior vp distribution Chris Aronson said. "You always want as much as you can get, but Atomic hit the demo they were looking for. They did well."

It seems everyone is trying to put a positive spin on the crowded marketplace. Sony domestic distribution president Rory Bruer was happy with "Reign's" $8 million start. From writer-director Mike Binder, it lured an audience primarily made up of females over 25, though Sony is hoping to widen its appeal in the coming weeks.

"This movie has a tremendous humanity to it, and I think it will play for many weeks to come," Bruer said. "It's an adult picture that as more and more people discover it, it will become a strong word-of-mouth film."

"Pride" was the disappointment of the frame. Starring Terrence Howard and Bernie Mac, the film brought in women, but men didn't show. Whether it was because of the multitude of tight Speedos or the lack of interest in the life story of swim coach Jim Ellis, "Pride" lacked the audience appeal Lionsgate was seeking.

"Our exit polls showed that two-thirds of our audience were female. Without the support of the males, the results were obviously less then we had hoped for," Lionsgate distribution president Steve Rothenberg said.

"Pride" did score high in exit polls, with 89% of the audience giving the film a "definite recommend."

In limited release, Sony Pictures Classics bowed "Offside" to $19,051 on five screens. Yari Film Group opened "First Snow" on three screens to $15,456.

Fox Searchlight scored again with Mira Nair's "The Namesake." In its third weekend of release, the family drama grossed $1.3 million at 117 theaters for a $11,581 per-screen average. The PG-13 film starring Kal Penn has grossed $2.7 million.

For the week ending Thursday, total boxoffice was $162 million, up more than 12% from the $144.1 million collected during the comparable week a year ago. Year-to-date, the boxoffice stands at $1.83 billion, up more than 5% compared with last year's $1.74 billion. Admissions are running about 1% above last year's pace.
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