B.O. 'Payne' is Fox's gain

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Fox's video game adaptation "Max Payne" had maximum impact on the domestic boxoffice this weekend as the Mark Wahlberg starrer opened at No. 1 with an estimated $18 million.

Fox Searchlight's adaptation of the novel "The Secret Life of Bees" pollinated a sweet $11.1 million in third place, and Oliver Stone's "W." — an examination of the Bush presidency — bowed solidly with $10.6 million in fourth. But Summit Entertainment's R-rated comedy "Sex Drive" stalled in ninth place with just $3.6 million in opening grosses.

Among notable holdovers, Disney's leggy comedy "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" grossed $11.2 million in finishing second over its third frame, moving its cumulative boxoffice to $69.1 million. Ridley Scott's spy thriller "Body of Lies," from Warner Bros., marked a 47% drop from its first-weekend tally to register $6.9 million, good for sixth place over its sophomore session and a $24.5 million cume.

Sony Screen Gems' horror film "Quarantine" fell 56% to $6.3 million in seventh place over its second frame for a $24.7 million cume, and Universal's football drama "The Express" tumbled from the top 10 on a 50% slide from its opening score to $2.3 million and an $8.3 million cume. The Fox-distributed family fantasy "City of Ember" from Walden Media dropped 45% from its first session to $1.7 million and a $5.9 million cume.

The industry's $103 million in collective grosses notched a fourth straight year-over-year weekend uptick, data service Nielsen EDI said.

Seasonal boxoffice is pacing 8% ahead of fall 2007, while year-to-date 2008 is roughly even with the same portion of last year, at $7.67 billion vs. $7.70 billion. There have been a total of 130 wide releases or wide expansions this year, compared with 148 over a similar portion of 2007, EDI noted.

Among the weekend's limited bows, Magnolia unspooled its Robert De Niro-toplined Hollywood send-up "What Just Happened?" in 36 theaters and grossed $216,000, or a solid $6,000 per venue.

Disney debuted its youth-yachting documentary "Morning Light" with 55 playdates and grossed $134,422, or $2,444 per engagement. And IFC Films opened the Madonna-directed comedy "Filth and Wisdom" in a single New York location to gross $5,149.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, IDP/Samuel Goldwyn's Christian-themed firefighting drama "Fireproof" added 30 theaters for a total of 905 and grossed $2.7 million, or $2,956 per venue, as its cume hit $20.7 million.

"The audience is not only entertained by the movie but also changed by it, and they have talked about it," Goldwyn president Meyer Gottlieb said. "So its success has been a matter of a lot of hard work and an appreciative audience."

Sony Pictures Classics expanded its well-reviewed drama "Rachel Getting Married" by 42 locations for a total of 69 and grossed $721,754. That represented an impressive $10,460 per site and brought the film's cume to $1.8 million.

SPC added four theaters for a total of nine for its Mandarin-language adventure "Ashes of Time Redux" and fetched $18,622, or $2,069 per venue, with a cume of $51,066.

Miramax held nine playdates for Mike Leigh's "Happy-Go-Lucky" and grossed $110,000, or a solid $12,118 per engagement, as the cume reached $219, 400.

Lionsgate's Bill Maher documentary "Religulous" shed 28 locations for a total of 540 but registered another $1.5 million to post a year-best documentary cume of $9.1 million. The previous top-grossing doc had been Ben Stein's "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," for which Rocky Mountain Pictures rung up a total of $7.7 million domestically.

"Payne" drew audiences comprised 65% of male moviegoers, with 60% of its male patrons under 25.

"We're thrilled," Fox senior vp distribution Bert Livingston said of the No. 1 bow. "It was better than expected and nice to be on top."

"Bees" — which features an ensemble cast composed primarily of black actresses including Queen Latifah and Jennifer Hudson — played particularly well with urban audiences and skewed heavily to older females. Dakota Fanning also co-stars in the period drama.

"We had a terrific weekend," Searchlight distribution president Steve Gilula said. "It's very gratifying."

"W." drew audiences comprised 52% of males, with 47% of patrons over 40.

"It's a very solid opening, and it's completely within our expectations," Lionsgate distribution president Steve Rothenberg said.

The drama played well "in both the red and the blue states," Rothenberg said, though he noted that urban markets tended to support "W." best.

"Sex Drive" drew audiences comprised 60% of males, with 55% of patrons under 25.

"We had been hoping for a bigger opening weekend," Summit distribution president Richie Fay said.

Fay added the hope that the comedy will do well when it hits DVD release.

Looking ahead, this weekend's three wide openers target a range of audiences. Those include Disney's aptly titled "High School Musical 3," Lionsgate's horror sequel "Saw V" and Warners' police drama "Pride and Glory." Disney also will mount its seasonal re-release of "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" in 3-D. (partialdiff)
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