'Bruno' tops boxoffice

'Ice Age' takes No. 2; 'Transformers' slips to third

Assuming size matters, "Bruno" is the man.

The latest R-rated send-up from Sacha Baron Cohen opened on top of the domestic boxoffice, with its estimated $30.4 million in weekend booty nailing the consensus prerelease forecast. It handily beat the debut of the comedy provocateur's "Borat," which unspooled with $26.5 million in November 2006 en route to a $129 million domestic run.

But the big "Bruno" bow was unusually front-loaded, with almost half its weekend boxoffice rung up Friday. Saturday's $8.8 million tally represented a 39% decline from first-day grosses, and "Bruno" will be closely watched for market stamina during coming frames.

Still, the pic's fashionable debut was instant gratification for Universal after its gutsy gambit to climb aboard as distributor soon after "Borat" opened. In "Bruno," Baron Cohen portrays a fictional and flamboyantly gay Austrian fashion-celeb wannabe.

Also during the weekend, Fox debuted the high school comedy "I Love You Beth Cooper" in 1,858 locations, grossing $5 million in seventh place.

Fox's 3D-animated comedy "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" fell a skimpy 32% from its first-weekend tally to finish second with $28.5 million and shape a 12-day cume of $120.6 million. Paramount's "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" was third with $24.2 million and a $339.2 million cume after three weekends.

Universal's Johnny Depp starrer "Public Enemies" slid a modest 44% in its sophomore session to register $14.1 million in fourth place, with a $66.5 million cume.

The weekend top 10's $133.1 million in collective grosses represented a 5% decline from the performance of top films during the same frame last year, according to Nielsen EDI.

In a limited bow this session, Sony Pictures Classics unspooled the African-concert documentary "Soul Power" in six locations in New York and Los Angeles, grossing $25,094, or a sturdy $4,182 per site.

Samuel Goldwyn/Destination debuted the horror film "Blood, The Last Vampire" in 20 theaters in 12 markets to gross $103,000, or a solid $5,150 per venue.

SPC expanded its sci-fi thriller "Moon" by 200 playdates for a total of 247 and grossed $721,340, or $2,920 per engagement, with a $1.8 million cume.

Summit Entertainment added 50 theaters for a total of 59 for its Kathryn Bigelow-helmed Iraq War drama "The Hurt Locker" and grossed $603,000, or $10,220 per venue. Its cume hit $1.1 million, including a three-day contribution of $20,000 from a single Canadian venue handled by Maple Distribution.

And Miramax added 33 locations for a total of 173 for Stephen Frears' Michelle Pfeiffer starrer "Cheri" to gross $361,000, or a so-so $2,087 per site, with a $1.6 million cume.

Universal paid film financier Media Rights Capital $42.5 million for the right to distribute "Bruno" domestically and in eight foreign territories.

Terms of the deal will allow the studio to recoup its acquisition and marketing costs immediately. Universal then gets what amounts to a 25% distribution fee before splitting any remaining profit with MRC and Baron Cohen.

"Borat" distributor Fox passed on handling "Bruno" because of price concerns.

"Bruno" opened in 2,757 North American venues, a relatively low theater count for a major wide release that reflected Universal's limited expectations of how the pic would play in the Bible Belt and smaller markets generally. Still, it was more than three times the number of playdates lined up for the opening weekend of "Borat."

"Bruno" wooed audiences that were 56% male, with 54% of patrons 25 or older.

"It's great to be No. 1 in the marketplace," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said. "And the company is extremely excited about its global performance."

"Bruno" fetched $25 million internationally during the weekend, including $20 million from Universal's portion of the foreign rollout. Mandate and Sony are handling "Bruno" distribution in other territories.

MRC co-chairman Modi Wiczyk said he isn't sure whether "Bruno" will prove as leggy as "Borat."

"I don't know, but it's got a rabid fan base and is starting off terrifically," Wiczyk said.

Produced by recently shut genre unit Fox Atomic, "Beth Cooper" drew largely negative reviews from critics. Its opening audiences were 68% female, with 82% of patrons under 25.

"The number was within our expectations," Fox senior vp distribution Bert Livingston said of the pic's modest bow.

Looking ahead, Wednesday brings the coming frame's only wide opener, but it's a biggie: Warner Bros. sends out "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" for a massive global bow of the sixth installment in the mega-lucrative, book-based film franchise.

Online ticketers Fandango and MovieTickets said hundreds of "Potter" performances already have sold out via advance ticket purchases. The launch kicks off with about 3,000 midnight performances.
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