'Simpsons' draws a crowd as weekend's top film

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Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie Simpson joined Hollywood's list of power families this past weekend as 20th Century Fox's "The Simpsons Movie" conquered the North American boxoffice with a final tally of $74 million. Debuting in 3,922 theaters nationwide, the traditionally animated film posted a per-theater average of $18,877.

Despite -- or maybe because of -- an 18-year run as a TV series on the Fox network, the Simpson clan, originally created by cartoonist Matt Groening, drew upon a solid fan base. CinemaScore's sampling of the opening-weekend audience found that the movie attracted an audience that tilted male (63%) and younger than 25 (59%). Directed by series vet David Silverman, the PG-13 film earned an overall grade of A-.

The Simpsons easily dominated the frame. The romantic comedy "No Reservations," from Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow and Castle Rock, made a bid for older, female filmgoers. The PG-rated "Reservations," an adaptation of Sandra Nettelbeck's German film "Mostly Martha," checked in in the weekend's fifth slot. Directed by Scott Hicks and starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart, the film grossed $11.7 million in 2,425 theaters. Its audience (63% female, 74% over 25) judged the movie a solid B+, according to CinemaScore.

"I Know Who Killed Me," an R-rated thriller, didn't pick up any traction from the fact that it was frequently mentioned in press reports last week when its star, Lindsay Lohan, was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence and cocaine possession. A TriStar Pictures title released by Sony Pictures, the movie, directed by Chris Sivertson, grossed just $3.5 million as it bowed in ninth place. Even more damning, the audience polled by CinemaScore -- which favored females and those under 25 -- gave the movie an F rating.

MGM's release of the culture clash comedy "Who's Your Caddy?" the weekend's final new wide release, squeezed into the 10th slot. The PG-13 "Caddy," the first release from Our Stories Films, a joint venture between BET founder Robert Johnson and the Weinstein Co., scored $2.8 million in 1,019 theaters.

Powered by "The Simpsons," the frame saw a boxoffice surge over the comparable weekend last year, when "Miami Vice" launched to the tune of $25.7 million to take the top slot away from holdover "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." The 108 films tracked this weekend by The Hollywood Reporter grossed a collective $184.7 million, up more than 40% over last year's $131.3 million.

In their second weekend, both Universal Pictures' comedy "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" and New Line Cinema's musical "Hairspray" held in strong. In the second slot, "Chuck," dropping by just 44%, grossed $19.1 million, bringing its domestic cume to $71.7 million. In the fourth position, "Hairspray" fell by only 42%, grossing $15.9 million, bringing its domestic cume to $59.7 million.

In its third weekend, Warners' "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" collected an additional $17.7 million as its domestic purse grew to $242.4 million.

On the limited-release scene, MGM moved the military survival tale "Rescue Dawn," directed by Werner Herzog, into 500 theaters, where it pulled in $1.7 million, bringing its tally to nearly $3 million.

Fox Searchlight sent its "Sunshine," director Danny Boyle's yarn about a space craft sent to save the dying sun, into 461 theaters, where it captured $1.3 million, raising its total gross to $1.6 million.

Michael Moore's documentary "Sicko," which the Weinstein Co. is releasing through Lionsgate, found an additional $1.2 million. Its domestic gross to date stood at just a shade under $21.5 million as the film stands on the verge of surpassing Moore's own "Bowling for Columbine."
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