Another sparkler for Smith

'Hancock' ignites b.o. fireworks with $107 mil July 4 holiday

"Hancock" parked itself atop the domestic boxoffice for the Fourth of July weekend as Sony's Will Smith-starring superhero film registered an impressive $66 million in estimated Friday-Sunday grosses and $107.3 million since bowing Tuesday night.

"Hancock" is Smith's fifth movie to open at No. 1 during the Independence Day frame. The others were "Men in Black" and its sequel, "Independence Day" and "Wild Wild West."

"Kit Kittredge: An American Girl," the penultimate release from soon-to-shut Picturehouse, expanded to 1,843 theaters during the weekend after two frames in limited release but fetched a disappointing $3.6 million. That put the Abigail Breslin-toplined family film in eighth place on the session and yielded a $6.1 million cume.

Disney/Pixar's feature animation "WALL-E" finished in second place during its sophomore session, with a skimpy 47% drop from first-weekend grosses producing a $33.4 million frame and a 10-day cume of $128.1 million.

Universal's action film "Wanted" took the weekend's bronze-medal position, with the Angelina Jolie-James McAvoy starrer falling a big 60% from its week-earlier opening grosses to $20.6 million. Its cume is $90.8 million.

Industrywide, the weekend was off 7% from the comparable frame a year earlier at $162 million, data service Nielsen EDI estimated.

The year-over-year downtick came despite the Independence Day holiday's falling on a Friday, compared with a Wednesday last year, and halted the theatrical marketplace's recent hot streak.

The seasonal boxoffice is now tracking roughly even with summer 2007. But year-to-date 2008 is off 1% from the same portion of last year, at $4.75 billion.

With "Hancock" and "WALL-E," nine openers have grossed more than $100 million domestically this year, compared with 14 crossing that benchmark by this time in 2007, EDI said.

In a limited bow on the weekend, Sony Pictures Classics' Ben Kingsley starrer "The Wackness" grossed $145,064 from six theaters, or an impressive $24,177 per venue, with a cume of $178,843 since unspooling Thursday.

IFC Films' drama "Diminished Capacity" opened in four locations and grossed $12,472, or an acceptable $3,118 per site.

IFC also upped runs on its period drama "The Last Mistress" by 17 to a total of 19 and grossed $124,694, or a solid $6,562 per venue, with a cume of $209,388.

SPC's literary adaptation "Brick Lane" expanded from 18 engagements to 31 and grossed $106,534, or a sturdy $3,437 per playdate, with a cume of $279,196.

"Trumbo," a Samuel Goldwyn/IDP documentary about blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, added three theaters for a total of six and grossed $25,440, or a sturdy $4,240 per venue, with a cume of $68,988.

And ThinkFilm/Image's "Encounter at the End of the World," a Werner Herzog-helmed Antarctica documentary, added eight playdates for a total of 19 and grossed $80,550, or $4,240 per engagement, with a cume of $242,042.

Rated PG-13, "Hancock" co-stars Charlize Theron in a well-received performance amid mixed reviews for the film. Its Monday-Friday haul compares with the $70.5 million rung up last year by the DreamWorks/ Paramount actioner "Transformers" during the post-July 4 weekend.

For Smith, the opening is his second-best inaugural weekend, after the $77.2 million registered by December's "I Am Legend."

"It doesn't get any better than having Will Smith," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said. "People just love him and everything he does."

Based on a graphic-novel series and directed by Peter Berg, "Hancock" centers on a superhero whose human frailties compete with his super-human attributes. Sony has been eyeing the material as a possible film franchise, but there was no immediate confirmation of a sequel.

"I don't think any decision has been made on that, but there would seem to be an opportunity," Bruer said. "The character of Hancock was just something very fresh, and audiences responded to it."

Opening-weekend audiences for "Hancock" were well-balanced demographically, with 52% male and 52% under age 25.

Inspired by the American Girl chain of doll stores, "Kittredge" drew audiences comprising 65% girls aged 7-9. Among kids attending with a parent, 70% of the time it was their mother, according to exit surveys.

Picturehouse expanded the G-rated film to 1,753 theaters Wednesday from a previous five venues and added 90 more playdates Friday. In a bit of intrafamily film rivalry, the "Kittredge" cast included Willow Smith, the daughter of Will Smith.

"Word-of-mouth is going to take awhile," Picturehouse president Bob Berney said after the soft weekend.

The last release for Warner Bros.-owned Picturehouse will be "The Women," a remake of the classic comedy that's set to open Sept. 12 in about 2,000 theaters.

Looking ahead, this weekend looks like a busy boxoffice frame as three wide openers enter a robust marketplace. Those include Universal's "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," a comic book-spawned action sequel that will preoccupy many young males; Fox's Eddie Murphy starrer "Meet Dave," a comedy targeting the date-night crowd and broader demos; and "Journey to the Center of the Earth," a 3-D family film that New Line produced and Warners will distribute. (partialdiff)
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