'300' slashes March records


LAS VEGAS -- Once all the dust settled, the battling warriors of Warner Bros. Pictures' "300" claimed a major victory at the North American boxoffice, planting their flag on a record-setting $70.9 million. Playing 3,103 theaters, the visually arresting action movie from director Zack Snyder conquered a formidable per-theater average of $22,844.

It laid waste to other recent openings for sword-and-sandal movies like "Troy" and "Gladiator." It set a new record for a March opening, outdistancing the $68 million that 20th Century Fox's "Ice Age: The Meltdown" took in last year. And it notched the third-biggest opening ever for an R-rated movie, behind only "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Passion of the Christ."

According to CinemaScore, its audience was heavily male -- 71%. The men in the audience, many of whom were also under 25, rewarded it with an A- rating, which guarantees it should continue to exert its muscle at the boxoffice for the next few weeks. The only demographic that gave the film anything less than an A was the 50-and-older crowd, which deemed it a B+.

Somewhat amazingly, given how large an audience rushed to "300," Buena Vista's mid-life comedy "Wild Hogs," which was No. 1 at the boxoffice last weekend, didn't really take a hit. The movie, starring Tim Allen and John Travolta, fell by just 30% as it collected an additional $27.6 million, bringing its domestic cume to date to $77 million.

Overall, the weekend boxoffice for the 104 films tracked hit $152.4 million, a dramatic 38% increase over the comparable weekend last year when Paramount Pictures' "Failure to Launch" led the list with an opening tally of $24.4 million.

Simultaneously, in fourth position, Sony Pictures' "Ghost Rider," another biker movie of sorts, crossed the $100 million mark. The Marvel Comics adaptation starring Nicolas Cage attracted $6.7 million in its fourth weekend, bringing its cume to $104 million.

The one film that appears to have suffered from the "300" juggernaut is Paramount's serial killer investigation "Zodiac." The film fell more than 50% in its second weekend, as it moved from second place to fifth while pulling in a three-day haul of $6.6 million to bring its total cume to $23.6 million.

One family film in the midst of all the R-rated bloodshed, Buena Vista's "Bridge to Terabithia," more than held its own. In its fourth weekend, it ranked third, grossing an additional $6.8 million, which brings its purse to $66.9 million.

In sixth place, the Eddie Murphy comedy "Norbit" grabbed another $4.3 million, which brought its cume to $88.3 million.

Meanwhile, IDP's release of Roadside Attractions/Samuel Goldwyn Films' historical drama "Amazing Grace" actually moved up a notch from 11th place the previous weekend to 10th place this round. Adding 209 theaters to bring its theater count to 1,000, it grossed $2.5 million as its total domestic take edged up to $11.4 million.

By contrast, Paramount Vantage's Southern melodrama fell out of the top 10. In its second weekend, "Black Snake Moan" moved from eighth to 11th place with a gross of $1.9 million, which brought its account to $7.3 million.

Among other new releases this past weekend, the Bigger Pictures' "The Ultimate Gift," which bowed in 816 theaters, ranked 13th with an opening-weekend take of $1.2 million.

Magnolia launched the Korean horror film "The Host" in 71 theaters to the tune of $314,488 for a per-theater average of $4,429.

Fox Searchlight scored a much more potent per-screen average with its introduction of Mira Nair's "The Namesake" in just six theaters, where it pulled in $248,552 for a per-screen average of $41,425.