'Spartans' conquer 'Rambo'

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UPDATED 3:50 p.m. PT Jan. 27

Lionsgate's "Rambo" proved neither dynamite nor dud during the weekend with an estimated $18.2 million opening, yet the Sylvester Stallone starrer lost the battle for the domestic boxoffice in an $18.7 million sneak attack by the Fox comedy "Meet the Spartans."

"Rambo," in which the Weinstein Co. holds 50% equity, performed roughly as expected. But "Spartans," a New Regency co-production that spoofed last year's "300," took advantage of an eleventh-hour surge in young male interest to capture the frame.

Fox's Katherine Heigl starrer "27 Dresses" fell a modest 41% in its second frame to ring up $13.6 million and finish in third place. Paramount's monster film "Cloverfield," which topped the domestic chart last weekend, fell a big 68% in its sophomore session to $12.7 million in fourth place with a $64.3 million cume.

Sony's serial-killer thriller "Untraceable," starring Diane Lane, debuted fifth with $11.2 million, while Paramount Vantage's urban step-dancing film "How She Move" debuted outside the top 10 with $4.2 million.

The Overture comedy "Mad Money" fell a modest 40% in its second weekend to ring up $4.6 million in 10th place, pushing its 10-day cume to $15.3 million.

Industry boxoffice marked a sixth consecutive improvement compared with the same session a year earlier, Nielsen EDI said. Year-to-date, 2008 is up 15% over the same portion of last year.

Oscar best-film nominees dominated the weekend's specialty action.

Fox Searchlight's comedy "Juno" rung up another $10.3 million in sixth place to take its cume to a distributor-record $100.2 million.



Paramount Vantage's Daniel Day-Lewis starrer "There Will Be Blood," a Miramax co-production, added 496 theaters for a total of 885 and grossed $4.9 million in eighth place. That represented a sturdy $5,522 per venue, with "Blood" now boasting a $14.8 million cume ahead of an anticipated expansion Friday to more than 1,400 theaters.

The Miramax-distributed "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," a Par Vantage co-production, added 16 playdates for a total of 123 and grossed $402,000, or $3,268 per engagement, with a $3.1 million cume.

Focus' Keira Knightley-James McAvoy starrer "Atonement," produced by Working Title, added 109 locations for a total of 1,400 and grossed $4 million, or $2,833 per site, with a $37.9 million cume.

Miramax's Coen brothers thriller "No Country for Old Men" -- a Paramount Vantage co-production that won its directing team a DGA Award on Saturday -- grossed $2.5 million to bring its 12-week cume to $52 million.

Sony Pictures Classics' Iranian-themed animated feature "Persepolis," one of Oscar's animated film nominees, added 27 theaters for a total of 58 and grossed $350,011, or a solid $6,035 per site, with a $1.4 million cume.

In a limited bow, the IFC drama "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" grossed $48,176 from two screens for an impressive $24,088 per venue. The 2007 Palme d'Or winner at the Festival de Cannes is set to hit the top 15 markets during the next two weeks.

ThinkFilm's drama "The Air I Breathe" opened with $21,500 from seven New York and Los Angeles theaters, representing an acceptable $3,071 per venue. The distributor expanded its Academy-nominated documentary "Taxi to the Dark Side" to three theaters from a previous two and grossed $6,111, or $2,503math says $2,037 per site, with a $23,756 cume. Meanwhile, its docu "Nanking" added two locations for a total of six in grossing $15,016, or $2,503 per venue, with as $97,482 cume.

Fox Searchlight's dark comedy "The Savages" shed nine theaters for a total of 166 and grossed $445,000, or $2,730 per venue. "Savages" totes a $4.2 million cume ahead of a scheduled re-expansion Friday to about 200 runs.

The Weinstein Co.'s Woody Allen-helmed "Cassandra's Dream" held in 107 locations and grossed $190,834, a thin $1,783 per site, with a $710,052 cume.

The Kevin Sorbo starrer "Spartans" drew audiences comprised more than 75% of patrons under 25, with the fanboy base for "300" also targeted in the spoof's marketing campaign.

"There was a plan, and it was executed," Fox senior vp distribution Bert Livingston said. "We knew it would be for young people, and it worked."



Among all openings by comedy spoofs, "Spartans" was outpaced only by 2006's "Date Movie," which debuted with $21.8 million en route to a $48.5 million domestic cume, according to Nielsen data. Last year's "Epic Movie" bowed with $18.6 million and represents the third-best start among such films if the "Spartans" estimate holds true.

A reported $50 million production, "Rambo" was a negative pickup from Avi Lerner's Nu Image/Millennium.

The latest and mostly simply titled installment in Stallone's series about hard-bitten mercenary John Rambo -- which the topliner also directed -- drew audiences evenly split between patrons under 25 and those older. About 67% of the film's patrons were males.

"In addition to getting the older 'Rambo' fans, we were also able to attract a whole new generation of new 'Rambo' fans," Lionsgate distribution president Steve Rothenberg said.

Weinstein Co. co-topper Harvey Weinstein said the opening grosses for "Rambo" were solid enough to make him want to back another franchise entry.

"Whatever the domestic gross is -- let's say it's $50 million -- foreign (cume) will be $150 million," Weinstein said. "That's reason enough to show the demand is out there."

The best opening in the "Rambo" franchise was marked by 1985's "Rambo: First Blood Part II," which unspooled with $25.5 million on the way to a $150.4 million domestic tally.

"Untraceable" skewed 51% female, with patrons evenly split between those under 25 and those older. Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said studio executives were happy with the bow, which he said was roughly in line with expectations.

A Sundance pickup, "How She Move" played to younger females.

"There was a lot going on," Paramount Vantage distribution topper Rob Schulze said of the relatively light opening grosses. "It was a function of the market."

Looking ahead, this weekend will be something of a two-day frame because of Sunday's Super Bowl. Wide openers include Lionsgate's Jessica Alba horror film "The Eye," New Line's paranormal comedy "Over Her Dead Body," Paramount's Steve Zahn laugher "Strange Wilderness" and Disney's 3-D presentation of "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour."
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