'Smart' bombs limp 'Guru'

Spy spoof tops b.o. in $39 million bow

"Get Smart," the resurrected spy spoof from Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow, defeated the forces of boxoffice K.A.O.S., emerging as the top gun in the North American marketplace with an estimated $39.2 million during the weekend.

It also easily prevailed in the comedy showdown with "The Love Guru." Mike Myers' first live-action comedy in five years, from Paramount and Spyglass, wasn't feeling the love. Its weekend haul of just $14 million relegated it to fourth place.

That left plenty of room for holdovers to prosper. In its third weekend, "Kung Fu Panda," the DreamWorks Animation production released by Paramount, fell just 35%, collecting an additional $21.7 million in the second place slot to bring its domestic tally to $155.6 million.

On its heels in third place was the second weekend of Universal and Marvel's "The Incredible Hulk" with $21.6 million, raising its domestic take to $96.5 million. The re-engineered "Hulk" fell by 61% in its second weekend, but that was better than the 70% drop that Uni's 2003 "Hulk" took in its second frame. While the new "Hulk's" cumulative number is running slightly behind that of the old "Hulk," which had scored $101 million by the end of its first 10 days, Uni confidently expects the new film to outgross its predecessor over the course of its run.

Marvel also notched a milestone as Paramount's release of "Iron Man" crossed the $300 million mark on Wednesday, bringing in an additional $4 million as its cume approaches $305 million.

Meanwhile, among the limited openings, Picturehouse's "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl" signaled it's a potential powerhouse. Debuting in just five theaters, it grabbed $222,697 for a whopping per-screen average of $44,539.

Overall, ticket sales continued to outperform last summer for the fourth weekend in a row. The weekend's estimated $139 million was up 6% from the comparable weekend last year, when "Evan Almighty" led the list with an opening take of $31.2 million, according to Nielsen EDI. As a result, summer boxoffice is now running 3% ahead of last summer.

For the year to date, 2008 has finally caught up with 2007. This year's estimated $4.36 billion to date is on par with the same period last year.

On the specialty film front, Warners' decommissioned Picturehouse may be staging a sort of going-out-of-business sale, but it's going out with a bang rather than a whimper.

This weekend, it opened "Kittredge," Patricia Rozema's G-rated feature about a Depression-era girl played by Abigail Breslin, on a single screen each in five cities to establish the movie, based on a character in the American Girl toy line. From the first Friday morning showings, it knew it was on to something. "We've got a loyal audience," Picturehouse president Bob Berney said. "We also got reports of grandparents showing up with their grandkids, so it all bodes really well."

Strategically, Berney plans to keep "Kittredge" in its limited holding pattern over the coming weekend, when Disney and Pixar's "Wall-E" will be making a broad play for the family audience. Then, on July 2, he plans to widen "Kittredge." The original plan called for an 1,800-theater run, but now that number could bump up to 2,100-2,500 theaters.

So why go the limited route in the first place, given the popularity of the doll line? "We had to let audiences know it is a real film," Berney said. "It almost reminds me of 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding,' where you had to first make it an event and let the word-of-mouth spread out."

Picturehouse also is cultivating an audience for the foreign-language "Mongol." Adding 89 theaters to bring its count to 94, the film took in $744,368 in its third weekend as its cume climbed to just over $1.1 million. The film looks to add another 100 runs this Friday as it proves itself a canny summer counter-programmer.

Sony Pictures Classics bowed "Brick Lane," Sarah Gavron's drama about a Bangladeshi woman facing an arranged marriage in London, in seven theaters, attracting $50,470 for a solid per-theater average of $7,210.

Truly Indie launched Cecilia Miniucchi's L.A.-set love story "Expired" in just one theater, where he collected $5,700.

Turning a '60s TV series, no matter how fondly remembered, into a hit movie is no sure thing, but the PG-13 "Get Smart," directed by Peter Segal, beat both the odds and expectations. The comedy with Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway portraying Agents 86 and 99, respectively, checked in with $39.2 million.

Warners domestic theatrical distribution president Dan Fellman credited the filmmakers with rounding up "the perfect cast, which all stepped up." Adding support were the Oscar-wining Alan Arkin and action star Dwayne Johnson, who contributed to the movie's demographic appeal, which tilted somewhat older. The studio reported that 60% of the audience was 25 or up. And even though Warners and Paramount were second-guessed for going head-to-head with competing comedies, Fellman said, for Warners, "it was a tough choice, but the right one," given the release schedule for the surrounding weekends.

While "Get Smart" skewed older, the PG-13 "Guru," in which Myers introduces a new character, self-help Guru Pitka, flipped that equation: 55% of its audience was under 25. But the comedy also ran into a buzzsaw of negative reviews, which appeared to take their toll.

At least it won't have to face any new comedies this weekend, as "Wall-E" aims for family audiences and animation buffs while Universal's "Wanted," starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy, makes a bid for the action crowd. (partialdiff)
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