SUNDAY AM: Two pics aimed at interracial teen and twentysomething audiences — both the targets of attempted boycotts, bans and injunctions — opened this Martin Luther King weekend. One of them was a surprise No. 1 at the box office — the pic not starring pretty boy music idol Justin Timberlake in his first major movie role. Screen Gems/Sony’s Stomp The Yard kicked off the holiday weekend with an appeal way beyond African-American youth: it raked in a phenomenal $7.2 million from 2,051 theaters Friday and $8.6 mil Saturday and estimated $6.1 mil Sunday. That’s $22 mil for Fri-Sat-Sun and an estimated $26.5 mil for the 4-day holiday. Exit polls showed the Stomp audience was 59% Female and 41% male, with 62% over 18 and 65% African-American. But not even Justin’s stardom could help Universal’s Alpha Dog written and directed by Nick Cassavetes (the son of the famed film director John Cassavetes). It dropped from 4th ($2.3 mil from 1,286 theaters) to 8th place Saturday ($2.1 mil). Estimated to earn $1.5 mil Sunday, it made $6.0 mil over the three-day weekend and should make $7.7 mil for the four-day holiday. While Timberlake received some decent reviews for his performance, critics generally savaged this true-crime story about 20-year-old James Hollywood, a wannabe marijuana kingpin, who allegedly ordered the kidnapping and murder of a 15-year-old whose half-brother owed a $1,500 dope debt. The New York Times‘ Manohla Dargis was especially scathing: “The cretins rule in Alpha Dog, which has much the same entertainment value you get watching monkeys fling scat at one another in a zoo.” James Hollywood unsuccessfuly sought an injunction to block the film’s January release until his client’s death penalty case was over. (Maybe that would have been merciful, given the reviews) As for Stomp The Yard, one Illinois theater owner initially said he wouldn’t screen the movie because of fear of gang violence — even though the film’s subject is black fraternities and “stepping.” Sony quickly diffused the situation. Before that, the frat depicted in the movie, Alpha Phi Alpha, forcede the filmmakers to digitally remove all symbols and references to the brotherhood and even urged a member boycott. meanwhile, the studio announced today it is contributing a portion of this holiday weekend’s grosses to the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Project Foundation which is developing a monument in Washington to honor the slain civil rights leader.
Fox’s four-quadrant hit Night At the Museum moved down to #2 for the first time since it opened four weeks ago, earning $4.1 mil from 3,612 venues Friday, $7.3 mil Saturday and an estimated $5.5 mil Sunday, for what was a $17 mil weekend and a $23.5 mil long holiday. New cume is $185.7 mil. Another surprise was Will Smith beating Dreamgirls despite the musical’s expanded theater count. Even 5 weeks out, Sony’s The Pursuit of Happyness was 3rd, taking in $2.5 mil Friday from 3,169 playdates, $3.7 mil Saturday and an estimated $$2.8 mil Sunday for a $9.1 mil weekend and a $11.1 mil long holiday. New cume is $136.5 mil. Meanwhile, Pursuit opened its first two international markets, and scored big #1s. A lot of people wondered if this rags to riches story would translate outside the U.S. the answer, clearly is yes. It earned $5 mil in the UK, dislodging Night at the Museum from the top spot, and $1.7 mil in Australia. Dreamworks / Paramount’s Dreamgirls more than doubled its theater count to 1,907 and raked in $2.1 mil Friday, $3.4 mil Saturday and an estimated $2.5 mil Sunday for 4th place and a new cume of $65 mil. The studio believes Jennifer Hudson et al are on their way to make over $100 mil, the first musical to do that since Chicago. It had an $8.2 mil weekend and should have a $10+ mil long holiday. Paramount’s holdover Freedom Writers came in 5th, earning $2.1 mil Friday, $3.9 mil Saturday and an estimated $2.1 mil Sunday for a $7.2 mil weekend. (It should have a $7.7 mil long holiday). New cume is $18.5 mil. No. 6 was Universal’s Children of Men, in its 3rd week of release, earning $1.9 mil Friday and $2.5 mil Saturday and an estimated $2 mil Sunday for a $6.5 mil weekend (and an expected $7.2 mil long holiday). New cume is $21.4 mil. Touchstone/Buena Vista’s horror pic Primeval opened 7th for the weekend. On date night, it took in $2.2 mil from 2,444 theaters, but only $2.1 mil saturday and an estimated $1.6 mil Sunday for a $6.1 mil weekend (and $8 mil for the long holiday). Finding its way into the Top 10 for the first time was #9, Weinstein/MGM’s Arthur And The Invisibles, the only rug rat movie in the bunch. It eked out only $925K Friday from 2,247 theaters but got a decent kiddie bounce Saturday to double to $1.8 mil. With Sunday estimated at $1.5 mil, Arthur had a $4.3 mil weekend (and maybe a $6.7 mil long holiday). Universal’s The Good Shepherd hung onto #10 in its fourth week of release for a new cume of $54.2 mil, earning $1 mil Friday, $1.5 mil Saturday and an estimated $1.1 mil Sunday for a $3.8 mil weekend and predicted $4.3 mil long holiday). However, Paramount said its Charlotte’s Web finished 10th. Playing in 2,513 theaters, its 3-day estimate is $3.7 mil, new cume $72.1 mil.
In other movie news, Sony/MGM’s Casino Royale passed $540 million Friday night and officially passed Die Another Day globally as the biggest Bond ever.