Holdovers hold sway but Oscar hopefuls gaining


One weekend after the long, Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, Hollywood chose to coast a bit. Holdovers were allowed to dominate the action because only one new film, the road-roving-killer movie "The Hitcher" from Focus Features' Rogue genre label, bowed as a wide release.

At the same time, Academy Award hopefuls like "Dreamgirls," "Pan's Labyrinth," "The Queen," "Babel" and "The Last King of Scotland" all positioned themselves for a run at the gold by adding theaters as Hollywood prepared for the announcement of Oscar noms today.

"The Hitcher," Dave Meyers' remake of the 1986 movie of the same name, didn't develop much speed, attracting a low-octane $7.8 million in the 2,835 theaters in which it was playing. When the smoke cleared, it was left behind in fourth position.

Topping the North American boxoffice list for the second weekend in a row was the one-two combination of Sony Pictures' "Stomp the Yard" and 20th Century Fox's "Night at the Museum."

"Stomp," the urban dance movie from Sony's Screen Gems division, fell 53% in its second weekend as it pulled in $12.3 million, bringing its cumulative haul to a hardy $40.6 million.

"Museum," the special effects-assisted comedy from 20th Century Fox, proved even more resilient, dropping just 45%. Its weekend take of $12 million drove its domestic gross over the $200 million mark to $204.9 million.

Coming off its Golden Globe win as best comedy or musical, Paramount Pictures' musical "Dreamgirls" rose from fourth place the previous weekend to third place. Adding 307 theaters, which brought its theater count to 2,214, the showbiz saga grabbed another $8 million, bringing its purse to $77.4 million.

Though it has been in release for 13 weeks, Paramount Vantage's "Babel," which took home the Golden Globe as best drama, also moved back out into the multiplex. It added 716 theaters to bring its count to 889 theaters as it collected $2.1 million, which increased its cumulative domestic gross to $23.7 million.

Taking advantage of Helen Mirren's win as best dramatic actress at the Globes, Miramax Films surged into theaters with "The Queen," which added 1,242 theaters so that its reign now extends to 1,586 theaters. Moving up to ninth place as it expanded into wide release, the palace drama took in $3.4 million for a total haul to date of $35.6 million.

On a smaller scale, Fox Searchlight's "The Last King of Scotland" looked to benefit from Forest Whitaker's win as best dramatic actor at the Globes. The film, first released 17 weekends ago, had been playing in just four theaters but upped its count to 495 theaters. That resulted in a weekend gross of $1.6 million, which boosted its modest earnings to $5.3 million.

Riding critical raves, Picturehouse also sought to bring Guillermo del Toro's Spanish-language adult fantasy "Pan's Labyrinth" to a wider audience. It moved into 415 more theaters, bringing its count to 609. Over the weekend, it captured $4.5 million, enough to rise to seventh place in the standings, as its total gross hit $9.9 million.

The sophomore outings of two of the movies released over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday had little to celebrate. Universal Pictures' "Alpha Dog" skidded from seventh place down to 11th as it took in a little less than $3 million. And Buena Vista's horror movie "Primeval" fell from eighth place to 15th as it dropped by more than 70%.

Overall, the total boxoffice for the weekend came to $99.2 million, a fall of nearly 18% from the comparable frame in 2006, when $120.5 million was collected from the turnstiles.