Sony, Uni got game on Super Bowl weekend

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Sony Pictures and Universal Pictures have nailed the art of counterprogramming on Super Bowl weekend. They successfully lured in audiences not interested in the big game. But with grosses of $14.7 million for Sony's "The Messengers" and $13.1 million for Universal's "Because I Said So," the weekend was not enough to surpass last year at this time, leaving the frame as down as Chicago Bears fans after their team lost to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday afternoon.

In fact, compared with last year at this time, when Sony opened "When a Stranger Calls" to $21 million, the boxoffice was down 13%.

Contributing to the drop were some strong fall-offs from last weekend's openings. 20th Century Fox's "Epic Movie" -- which bowed to the top spot last weekend -- fell 54.8% in its second frame to $8.4 million. Universal's "Smokin' Aces," which spent the middle of the week at the top of the heap, took a 58.2% tumble in its sophomore session to $6 million. Both were hurt by the strong opening of "The Messengers" and the near-empty theaters on game day.

"Messengers" received a C- from audiences. The film, primarily attended by women, generated its best score from audiences under 25.

Sony's romantic comedy "Catch and Release" also plummeted, dropping 66% to $2.5 million. The Jennifer Garner starrer couldn't stand up to Universal's Diane Keaton starrer "Because." The PG-13-rated film generated a B- from CinemaScore. The majority of the audience was older women, though younger women liked the film better.

MGM's release of Lakeshore's "Blood and Chocolate," which opened in the 15th spot at the boxoffice, fell a staggering 70.8% in its second session to $605,157. The horror flick has earned a dismal $3 million in 10 days of release.

The true winners of the weekend were Fox's "Night at the Museum" and Picturehouse's "Pan's Labyrinth." "Night," which has graced the top 10 for seven consecutive weeks, only dropped 33% this weekend for a fourth spot in the derby. The Ben Stiller starrer has now grossed $225 million since it bowed over the Christmas holiday.

Guillermo del Toro's "Pan" fell 23% in 259 more theaters. The R-rated adult-fantasy tale grossed $3.7 million for an eighth spot in the top 10. With a cume of $21.7 million, the film has surpassed "Like Water for Chocolate" as the highest-grossing Spanish-language film in the U.S.

Of the best picture nominees, "Letters From Iwo Jima" held on the best, though Warner Bros. Pictures added 305 screens to its run. The Clint Eastwood-directed film grossed $1.6 million, for a per-screen average of $2,356. The film's gross stands at $7.4 million.

Warners' second week of "The Departed" rerelease held up strong. The Martin Scorsese-directed film fell about 33% last weekend, grossing an additional $2.2 million.

Miramax's "The Queen" earned $2.6 million, bringing its 19-week cume to $45 million.

Paramount Vantage's "Babel" scored an additional $1.7 million, putting its cume at $29.7 million.

Paramount's release of DreamWorks' "Dreamgirls" seems to be stymied by the lack of awards for best picture and best director. The film, in its eighth week, dropped 40% to $4 million. In 2,797 theaters, the film generated a per-screen average of $1,430, putting its total cume at $92.7 million.

In limited release, MGM released the Weinstein Co.'s "Factory Girl" on three screens to $87,477. The George Hickenlooper-directed film starring Sienna Miller as Edie Sedgwick generated a per-screen average of $29,159.

IFC bowed the documentary "An Unreasonable Man" on one screen in New York. The chronicling of Ralph Nader's career and his involvement in the 2000 U.S. presidential election opened to $9,813 but also bowed on basic cable.
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