'Epic' b.o. enough to take top spot in weekend derby

Except for 'Aces,' new releases not in on the deal

The spoof business is still thriving at the North American boxoffice. At least that was the verdict this past weekend as 20th Century Fox's "Epic Movie" won the first-place title with an $18.6 million take. Universal Pictures' R-rated "Smokin' Aces" came in second with $14.6 million.

The other two wide releases didn't fare as well. Sony Pictures' bow of "Catch and Release" garnered a fifth spot in the derby, opening to $7.6 million, below the sixth week of Fox's "Night at the Museum" and the third week of Sony's Screen Gem release "Stomp the Yard." MGM's release of the Lakeshore production "Blood and Chocolate" didn't even crack the top 10. The horror movie, bowing in 1,200 locations, opened in 16th place to $2 million.

While the Oscar-nominated films received a big boost at the boxoffice, it wasn't enough to buoy the boxoffice over last year's numbers for the comparable frame. For all films, the boxoffice was down 6% compared with last year at this time when Fox's "Big Momma's House" opened to $27 million and Universal's "Nanny McPhee" grossed $14.5 million.

While "Dreamgirls" earned eight Oscar noms — but not the coveted best picture or director — it earned another $6.7 million at the boxoffice. The Bill Condon-directed musical added 571 theaters but dropped 15.8% in boxoffice grosses from the previous week. The film has now grossed $86.7 million since it bowed Christmas Day.

Picturehouse's "Pan's Labyrinth," which racked up six Oscar noms last week, grossed an additional $4.7 million to put its cume to date at $16.5 million.

Miramax's "The Queen," which received a best picture nomination along with a practical lock on the best actress win for Helen Mirren, grossed $4 million on 244 additional screens.

Warner Bros. Pictures re-expanded best picture nominee "The Departed" to 1,453 theaters, adding $3.3 million to its total cume, which now stands at $125.2 million.

Clint Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima," also a Warners release, added 55 theaters and $1.8 million to its gross. The film has generated $5 million since it bowed five weeks ago.

Paramount Vantage saw "Babel" gain $2.5 million over the three-day frame, putting its total cume at $27.2 million.

Of all the new releases bowing this past weekend, "Smokin' Aces" and "Catch and Release" scored the highest with audiences. According to exit pollster CinemaScore, both films earned a B grade from audiences. As expected, "Catch and Release," starring Jennifer Garner, lured in women primarily. The film from writer-director Susannah Grant ("Erin Brockovich") received its best grade from younger women, though more of the audience was made up of women over 25.

Universal's "Aces," from writer-director Joe Carnahan, was attended primarily by men. The R-rated action film starring Jeremy Piven, Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Ray Liotta and Ryan Reynolds also scored best with younger men but older men made up more of the audience.

The highest-grossing movie of the frame scored the lowest with audiences, earning a C- from moviegoers. From writer-directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer ("Date Movie"), "Epic" was attended by more men than women, with the ratio in the 56/44 range. Luckily, the under-25 crowd dominated the audience as they gave the film a C+ while the older audience rated it an F.

In limited release, IDP bowed Samuel Goldwyn/Destination's "Seraphim Falls" on 52 screens. The Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson starrer grossed $155,560 for a per-screen average of $2,991. The Weinstein Co. opened Anthony Minghella's "Breaking and Entering" on two screens. The R-rated drama starring Jude Law, Juliette Binoche, Robin Wright Penn and Vera Fermiga grossed $21,160 for a per-screen average of $10,580.
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