'Stomp,' Oscar hopefuls rule boxoffice

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Since "The Hitcher," the weekend's one new wide release, couldn't convince enough moviegoers to climb aboard, "Stomp the Yard" and "Night at the Museum," the previous weekend's top grossers, maintained their positions at the North American boxoffice. Meanwhile, such awards hopefuls as "Dreamgirls," "Pan's Labyrinth" and "The Queen" also figured in the top 10 for the weekend.

Released by Focus Features' Rogue genre label, "Hitcher," director Dave Meyers' remake of the 1986 road kill movie, grossed an estimated $8.2 million to park itself in fourth place in the rankings. Although the R-rated film -- in which Sean Bean terrorizes two college kids (Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton) -- was produced by Michael Bay, who successfully oversaw a remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," Bay's latest exercise in resurrecting gore didn't take the same bite out of the boxoffice as "Massacre," which bowed to $28.1 million in 1993.

The lack of fresh competition allowed Sony Pictures' "Stomp" to dance away with the top spot for the second weekend in a row as it picked up an estimated $13.3 million. The urban dance movie from the studio's Screen Gems label has grossed an estimated $41.6 million to date.

Racking up a healthy per-theater average of $6,484, the film, directed by Sylvain White, fell just 39% in its second weekend. "It seems to be connecting with everyone," Sony domestic distribution president Rory Bruer said. "It's one of those movies that people just embrace. Having cost $14 million, it's on its way to make $60 million, so it's certainly a big success."

Close behind, 20th Century Fox's visual effects-augmented comedy "Museum" took in an estimated $13 million, as its cumulative gross passed the $200 million mark to hit $205.8 million.

With recent releases failing to gain much traction, the weekend's top 12 films grossed $75.7 million, down more than 20% from the same frame last year, when the top 12 brought in $94.5 million.

Still, several of this season's awards contenders showed signs of life.

Moving from fourth place last weekend to third is Paramount Pictures' "Dreamgirls," the musical from its DreamWorks division, which collected an estimated $8.7 million in 2,214 theaters. With the addition of 307 theaters to its run, the film saw its three-day haul increase by more than 4% compared with the previous weekend, moving its cume to $78.1 million.

Making its bid to cross over to a wider audience, Guillermo del Toro's Spanish-language fantasy "Labyrinth," from Picturehouse, moved into 609 theaters, adding 415. The film, Mexico's entry in the best foreign-language film Oscar race, was rewarded with an estimated $4.7 million, good for a seventh-place ranking. Its per-theater average of $7,758 was the strongest among the top 10.

Miramax Films' "Queen," also positioned itself for a possible coronation when Academy Award nominations are announced Tuesday. It added 1,242 theaters in its 17th weekend to bring its exposure to 1,586 theaters. The film attracted an estimated $3.7 million -- a per-theater average of $2,333 -- which put it in ninth place and brought its overall cume to $35.9 million.

The critically applauded "Children of Men," directed by Alfonso Cuaron, checked in at No. 8, grossing an estimated $3.7 million, to bring its cume to $27.5 million.

Although it didn't crack the top 10, Paramount Vantage's "Babel," another of the films in this season's awards hunt, moved into 889 theaters, up from 173 last weekend. In its 13th weekend of release, it ranked 12th with an estimated $2.3 million, lifting its overall boxoffice to $23.9 million.

Fox Searchlight's "The Last King of Scotland" also got a bit of a bump after Forest Whitaker's victory for best dramatic actor at the Golden Globes. In its 17th weekend, it moved from four theaters to 495 and found an estimated $1.8 million, which brings its total take to an estimated $5.5 million.

Warner Bros. Pictures also expanded Clint Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima" -- named best foreign film at the Globes -- from 35 theaters to 360. It brought home an estimated $1.5 million, bringing its total to an estimated $2.6 million.

Rounding out the top 10, Sony's father-son drama "The Pursuit of Happyness" checked in at fifth place with an estimated $6.7 million. Its cume now stands at a commanding $146.5 million.

Paramount's high school drama "Freedom Writers" placed sixth, down one notch from the previous weekend, as it scored an estimated $5.7 million, bringing its total to $26.9 million.

In 10th place, "Arthur and the Invisibles," the live-action/animated fantasy from the Weinstein Co. and released by MGM, picked up $3.1 million, bringing its cume to $9.3 million.

In its second weekend, Universal's "Alpha Dog," director Nick Cassavetes' look at Southern California's teenage wasteland, fell out of the top 10. The drama, which opened in seventh place the previous weekend, had to settle for $2.9 million from 1,292 theaters, leaving it in 11th place overall. Its weekend take fell about 55%.

Buena Vista's horror show "Primeval," took an even steeper plunge. The movie, which bowed in eighth place last weekend, fell nearly 70%, taking in just $1.8 million.

In limited release, Sony Pictures Classics introduced Andrei Kravchuk's "The Italian," the tale of a Russian orphan, on four screens. The film, Russia's submission for the foreign-language Oscar, attracted $24,302 for a per-screen average of $6,076.

For the week ending Thursday, total domestic boxoffice was $181.3 million, up slightly compared with the $180 million at the same time year ago. For the year to date, total boxoffice stands at $353.8 million, up less than 1% compared with last year's $350.7 million. Admissions are down 3%.
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