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SUNDAY AM: It was a bloodbath at the U.S. box office this weekend because of 2007’s first bonafide blockbuster. Warner Bros. told me this morning its ‘R’-rated 300 about the epic Battle of Thermopylae shattered the record for the biggest March opening ever, and scored the 3rd biggest ‘R’-rated movie debut ever, with its $70+ million. (Or, $70.025 mil to be exact, though the studio didn’t provide a breakdown.) 300_posterbig.jpgOther studios say this ‘Gladiator Gore-Fest’ raked in $27.7 mil to $28 mil Friday and $24.3 mil to $24.8 mil Saturday and an estimated $16 mil to $17.2 mil Sunday from its 3,103 theaters. Toldja so… I said back on Tuesday that 300 was tracking huge — even though most of its target audience fell asleep during that history lesson in school. But rival studios were complaining to me this weekend that the much-buzzed pic was pitched heavily to the youth market despite the ‘R’ rating. (This is what gets Hollywood in trouble with Congress. In 2000, entertainment moguls had to explain to the Senate Commerce Committee, led by John McCain, why Tinseltown targets its sex and violence fare to kids.) But Warner’s maintains “we were very careful to market to 17 and above, in accordance with the R rating.” Helped by omnipresent advertising on the Internet and video game sites and comic book conventions and MySpace, this CGI extravaganza was sold out even for Thursday midnight sneaks, including all 57 IMAX theaters. This pic from the creator of Sin City was cheap to make and shot in only 60 days and cast with no stars, so it ends up one of Warner’s most profitable pics. So who was seeing 300? I’m told that the audience was about 60/40 male-female and about evenly split younger/older, with playability exceeding the norms on all quadrants in terms of both ‘definite recommends’ and the top two recommend boxes. Warner Bros. moguls were thrilled after enduring expensive disappointment after disappointment in 2006 (Poseidon, Superman Returns, The Lake House, The Ant Bully, Lady In The Water, etc.) with the notable exceptions of Oscar winner Happy Feet from director George Miller and The Departed from Martin Scorsese. Especially with a per screen average of $9,045 Friday and $7,965 Saturday, 300 easily overtook the current record-holder for March: 2002’s Ice Age and its $46.3 mil take. That was accomplished Saturday! (FYI: Since 2006 sequel Ice Age: The Meltdown opened March 31-April 2 with $68 mil, it can’t be considered a March weekend record-holder. But 300 surged past that, too.) Though 300‘s haul is amazing considering its ‘R’ rating: it placed behind only Matrix Reloaded at $91.7 mil in May 2003 and The Passion of the Christ at $83.8 mil in February 2004 but bested Hannibal at $51 mil in February 2001.

wildhogs_posterbig.jpgAs for the other Top 10 movies, audiences are still hog wild for Disney’s Wild Hogs at the start of its 2nd week out: the PG-13 motorcycle ride came in #2, making $7.8 mil Friday and $12.6 mil Saturday and est $7.8 mil Sunday from 3,296 theaters for what was a $28.2 mil weekend. (Its cume is now a healthy $77.6 mil.) Paramount’s #3 holdover Zodiac, in 2,379 venues, continues to disappoint along with star Jake Gyllenhaal: it earned just $2 mil Friday and $2.9 mil Saturday and an estimated $1.8 mil Sunday for a meager $6.7 mil weekend (and new cume of only $23.7 mil). Meanwhile, 4th place went to Marvel/Sony’s Ghost Rider which passed the magic $100 million mark the first pic to do that in 2007. (And continuing Sony’s 2006 hot streak at the box office…) From 3,347 venues, the Nicolas Cage starrer added $1.9 mil Friday, $3 mil Saturday and an estimated $1.9 mil Sunday for a $6.8 mil weekend. (Its cume is now $104.1 mil.)

The only kiddie fare to make the Top 10, Walden/Disney’s The Bridge To Terabithia, #5 from 3,210 theaters, took in $1.7 mil Friday, $3 mil Saturday and an estimated $2 mil Sunday for a $6.8 mil weekend because of the Saturday matinee bounce. (Its cume starting four weeks out is now $66.9 mil.) Jumping from 8th to 6th place this weekend, DreamWorks’ Norbit with Eddie Murphy slowed after 5 weeks out: it earned $1.1 mil Friday and $2 mil Saturday and an estimated $1.1 mil Sunday from 2,505 theaters for a $4.3 mil weekend (and a new cume of $88.3 mil.) Starting its 3rd week, New Line’s thriller The Number 23, starring Jim Carrey, collapsed to 6th place: playing in 2,489 theaters, it eked out $1.2 mil Friday, $1.8 mil Saturday and an estimated $1.1 mil Sunday for a $4.2 mil weekend. (Its cume is now only $30.3 mil.) Warner Bros.’ Hugh Grant-Drew Barrymore chick flick Music And Lyrics is still hanging in at #8 after four weeks out: It made $1.2 mil Friday and $1.7 mil Saturday and an estimated $925K Sunday for a $3.8 mil weekend. (New cume is $43.8 mil.) Ninth place went to Universal’s spy thriller Breach which, playing in just 1,505 venues, took in $745K Friday, $1.1 mil saturday and an estimated $660K Sunday for a $2.6 mil weekend. (New cume of $29.1 mil.) Finally, #10 was IDP’s Amazing Grace, in 1,000 theaters, which made $735K Friday, $1 mil Saturday and an estimated $685K Sunday for a $2.5 mil weekend. (New cume of $11.4 mil.) As for this weekend’s other openers: Bigger Picture’s The Ultimate Gift had a $1.2 mil weekend from 800 playdates, IFC’s Believe In Me a $87K weekend from 54 venues, Fox Searchlight’s The Namesake a $233K weekend from 6 theaters, Magnolia’s The Host a $301K weekend from 71 playdates, and Magnolia’s Maxed Out a $20K weekend from 6 venues.