'Grudge 2' seeing double

$22 mil puts sequel at No. 1; 'Departed' 2nd

Friday the 13th proved to be an auspicious date to release Sony Pictures' "The Grudge 2" as the horror film earned a solid $22 million at the North American boxoffice to become the studio's 12th No. 1 film of the year. Warner Bros. Pictures' "The Departed" held incredibly strong in its second week, falling only an estimated 31% as it brought in an additional $18.7 million. But Universal Pictures wasn't as lucky with "Man of the Year"; the Robin Williams starrer grossed a weak $12.5 million.

Altogether, though, the boxoffice performed astronomically well compared with last year at this time. The top 12 films grossed an estimated $100.7 million compared with $71.5 million last year when Sony's release of Screen Gems' "The Fog" was No. 1 with an $11.7 million opening. The top 12 were up an estimated 40% compared with last year at this time.

Arguably, the most surprising film performance of the weekend came from indie company Gener8Xion Entertainment, which opened "One Night With the King" on 909 screens nationwide. The biblical story of Queen Esther earned a remarkable $4.3 million for a ninth-place showing and a solid per-theater average of $4,730.

Sony is having quite a year. "Grudge 2," from Sam Raimi's Ghost House Pictures, marks the 12th No. 1 for the studio and brings the company's total domestic gross for the year to an estimated $1.3 billion.

Starring Amber Tamblyn and Sarah Michelle Gellar, the PG-13 film from Japanese director Takashi Shimizu didn't match the original's huge $38 million opening in 2004, which didn't surprise Sony.

"We never considered that opening to happen again," Sony Pictures Releasing president Rory Bruer said. "That was a situation where the stars were all aligned perfectly. This $22 million opening is exactly where our sweet spot was on this film. We've been pretty successful with opening this genre, and it feels really good to capture it again. The marketing on the film was terrific, and having Sam Raimi as a partner is a very positive force."

"Grudge 2," , took a bite out of last weekend's R-rated "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" from New Line Cinema, which fell a steep 58% to fifth place in its second session for a three-day take of an estimated "$7.8 million. Since "Grudge 2" is primarily attracting females under 21, it will be interesting to see how the movie holds up with Lionsgate's "Saw III," set to hit the marketplace the weekend before Halloween.

In second place, "Departed" remained the movie of choice for older adults, and with a drop of only 31%, that reach included the over-18 crowd as well. With a cume of $56.6 million after only 10 days in theaters, "Departed" clearly will be director Martin Scorsese's top grosser . Warners expects the R-rated film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson to be at $65 million by the end of two weeks and is confident it will exceed the grosses of Scorsese's "The Aviator," which earned $103 million after opening in December 2004.

In the third position, "Man of the Year" from Morgan Creek won't be able to reach those kinds of numbers. Attempting to find an adult audience with its political satire, the film from writer-director Barry Levinson was likely hurt by "Departed" and weak reviews.

"We were hoping it would be higher, but I'm happy it's No. 3 in the marketplace," Universal Pictures distribution president Nikki Rocco said. "I'm thrilled that the business is continuing to show strength. It's an up weekend from last year and last week. Hopefully this picture will play to its audience for weeks to come."

Considering the country's disenchantment with President Bush and Williams' broad appeal, "Man," which centers on a late-night political talk show host running for president, was expected to gross in the $15 million range. Rated PG-13, the film had to contend with weak reviews and a visual ad campaign featuring Williams as George Washington that might have left audiences opting for another choice at the boxoffice.

From the Los Angeles-based Gener8Xion Entertainment, the PG-rated "King" stars Tiffany Dupont and Luke Goss and features Omar Sharif and Peter O'Toole. Negative reviews did nothing to hamper the opening of the film, which earned the fourth-highest per-theater average of the wide releases. The film seems to have benefited from its message that "all of life is under God's command."

The other faith-based film in the marketplace is Samuel Goldwyn Films and Destination Films' limited release "Facing the Giants." In its third weekend of release, the film on 347 screens grossed an additional $858,825, putting its cume at $4 million. Made by the Georgia-based Sherwood Baptist Church, the PG-rated film about faith and redemption dropped only 10% from its previous weekend.

New in limited release this weekend was Warner Independent Pictures' "Infamous." From director Douglas McGrath, the second film about Truman Capote in a year didn't resonate with moviegoers. Opening on 179 screens, the film earned a paltry per-screen average of $2,430 for a total cume of $435,000.

"No matter how good the reviews or how good the film is, audiences made the decision that they'd seen a film similar to this in recent time," WIP president of distribution Steve Friedlander said. "We'll stay on the same number of screens next weekend and hope for the best."

ThinkFilm opened Terry Gilliam's "Tideland" on one screen at the IFC Center in New York. The film, made while Gilliam was shooting Dimension Films' "The Brothers Grimm," grossed $8,350. It will expand to Los Angeles and Chicago next weekend.

ThinkFilm also expanded "Shortbus" to eight additional markets while adding theaters in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The film, now on 25 screens, earned $203,560 for a per-screen average of $8,142. Its cume stands at $402,150.

Lionsgate opened the unrated "Deliver Us From Evil" on four screens for a cume of $16,000. The documentary, which centers on the Catholic Church molestation scandal, earned a weak per-screen average of $4,000. Lionsgate intends to expand the film Oct. 27.

Sony Pictures Classics bowed "Driving Lessons" on eight screens. The coming-of-age film starring "Harry Potter's" Rupert Grint, Laura Linney and Julie Walters earned a meager $25,754 for a per-screen average of $3,219.

Miramax's "The Queen" continues to impress. On 46 screens, the film's weekend average was $22,174 for a weekend gross of $1,020,000. Starring Helen Mirren, in what is being called a sure bet for a best actress Oscar, "Queen" has now grossed close to $1.9 million in three weeks.

Overall, the week ending Oct. 12 grossed $150.5 million, up nearly 6% over the comparable week last year, which brought in $142.1 million. For the year-to-date, total boxoffice stands at $7.17 billion, up more than 6% over last year's $6.74 billion. Estimated admissions for the year are running more than 4% above 2005's level.