'Fantastic Four' scores with $57.4 million debut weekend

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20th Century Fox's "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" rode a commanding wave to the top of the North American boxoffice during the weekend, finding a broad-based audience with the help of a family-friendly PG rating. The original "Fantastic Four," with a PG-13 rating, opened to $56.1 million in 2005, and its sequel didn't lose any momentum and outgrossed its predecessor with an estimated bow of $57.4 million.

Warner Bros. Pictures' "Nancy Drew," on the other hand, settled for niche appeal. The PG detective yarn, the weekend's other new wide opening, attracted mostly younger girls and posted an estimated opening of $7.1 million, good for seventh place overall.

Read "Fantastic Four" review

The female-starring martial arts movie "DOA: Dead or Alive," from the Weinstein Co.'s Dimension Films, opted for a limited release -- though playing nationwide, it was booked into 505 theaters -- and finished well outside of the top 10 with an estimated $232,000, just $460 per theater. Having targeted the video game audience with the title, the company is looking for it to achieve a better showing on DVD.

Despite the strength of "Silver Surfer," the top 10 films were down slightly from the comparable weekend in 2006, the third down weekend in a row according to Nielsen EDI. The top 10 finished 2% below the crop last year, when Paramount Pictures' "Nacho Libre," with a second-place opening of $28.3 million, led four new wide releases into the marketplace.

Warners' all-star Vegas caper film "Ocean's Thirteen," last weekend's boxoffice leader, shifted to second place for the frame. With a respectable 47% decline, it collected an estimated $19.1 million to bring its domestic cume to date to an estimated $69.8 million. After 10 days, the third installment in the Steven Soderbergh-directed franchise finds itself between the 10-day totals of 2001's "Ocean's Eleven" ($72.3 million) and 2004's "Ocean's Twelve" ($68.5 million).

Holding on to third place was Universal Pictures' relationship comedy "Knocked Up," which again posted the best hold among the wide releases. Dropping just 26%, it picked up an estimated $14.5 million to bring its domestic tally to just more than $90 million.

Meanwhile, in its fifth weekend, Paramount's release of DreamWorks Animation's "Shrek the Third" is closing in on the $300 million mark and will become the second film this year to cross that line. In sixth place for the weekend, it drew an estimated $9 million and brought its domestic pot to just more than $297 million.

Fighting off what some in the industry have characterized as sequel fatigue, "Silver Surfer," from Fox in association with Constantin Film and Marvel Studios, made a calculated pitch to the family audience by broadening its appeal. Although the move initially annoyed fanboys, it appeared to pay off: Debuting in 3,959 theaters, the movie scored a per-theater average of $14,499.

"It was split across the board between families and nonfamilies and among every age group," said Chris Aronson, Fox senior vp and general sales manager. "It was a little higher male on Friday, but that evened out Saturday. Most critics said, 'Hey, this is better than the first movie,' and it worked everywhere -- big cities, suburbs, small towns."

Cresting the high end of most of the tracking, "Silver Surfer" could boast scoring the largest Father's Day weekend opening of all time, supplanting the previous record holder, "Scooby-Doo," which bowed to $54.2 million in June 2002.

"Silver Surfer" reunited the principals from the first film -- director Tim Story and actors Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis and Julian McMahon -- while keeping a tighter rein on its multimillion-dollar budget than most of the competing summer behemoths. In addition, the film introduced the intergalactic Silver Surfer, a longtime fan favorite, via movement from actor Doug Jones, voice by Laurence Fishburne and CG work from Weta Digital. It probably didn't hurt that the running time of 91 minutes clocked in well below those of some of the other May blockbusters.

"Drew" -- an update of the long-running detective character that previously had appeared in print, on the big screen and on TV, from director Andrew Fleming and producer Jerry Weintraub -- honed in on younger girls familiar with star Emma Roberts, best known for her work in the Nickelodeon series "Unfabulous."

Although its weekend take of $7.1 million was on the low end of expectations, Warners distribution president Dan Fellman said: "It got excellent exits, an A-minus from cinemaScore, and like most movies of this genre will probably overperform during the week," especially since most schools have released kids for summer vacation.

Eighty-five% of the movie's audience was somewhat predictably female.

Rounding out the top 10, Buena Vista Pictures' "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" ranked fourth with an estimated $12 million to bring its domestic cume to more than $270 million. Buena Vista also used the weekend to sneak Pixar's "Ratatouille," which opens June 29, in about 800 locations Saturday.

Sony Pictures' release of "Surf's Up," from its Sony Animation unit, finished in fifth place overall with an estimated $9.3 million. After two weekends, it has collected an estimated $34.7 million domestically, which suggests that after the success of last year's "Happy Feet," audiences might be beginning to suffer from penguin fatigue.

In its second weekend, Lionsgate's horror tale "Hostel: Part II" registered the biggest drop-off among the top 10, 63%, as it scared up just $3 million for eighth place and a cumulative gross of $14.2 million.

MGM's thriller "Mr. Brooks" finished the weekend in ninth place with an estimated $2.8 million and a cume of $23.4 million.

Sony's "Spider-Man 3," which kicked off the summer, hung on to the 10th spot in its seventh weekend with an estimated $2.5 million and a domestic tally of $330 million.

Among exclusive releases, Miramax Films launched the comedy "Eagle vs. Shark" in three theaters to an estimated $21,000.

Picturehouse expanded its biopic "La Vie en Rose" from eight theaters to 78 in its second weekend; it took in an estimated $669,000, for a per-theater average of $8,577.

For the week ending Thursday, total boxoffice was $203.9 million, down nearly 10% from the $225.4 million collected during the comparable week in 2006. For the year to date, domestic boxoffice is $4.1 billion, up more than 5% over 2006's $3.9 billion. Factor out inflation, though, and 2007 admissions are essentially on par with 2006.
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