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SUNDAY AM: Universal’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army heated up the North American box office with a fiery $13.7 million Friday and $11.7 million Saturday from 3,204 theaters. It made $35.8M total over the weekend for No. 1 as well as in four foreign countries that raised $4.6M. With big support from African-Americans and Latinos, the audience skewed male with slightly more than half of moviegoers age 25 years or older, and the majority had seen the first film in theaters or on DVD. Obviously, the studio’s uber-marketing attempt to humanize the Guillermo del Toro pic’s bizarro collection of characters from the Dark Horse comic book worked nicely. That’s why Ron Perlman as Hellboy did promos on every NBC Uni media outlet imaginable. (Even on cable’s Oxygen channel with Bravo’s James Lipton interviewing him…) “We wanted to make him as audience friendly and accessible as possible,” one Uni exec explained to me. The fact that Hellboy II made 50% more than the 2004 first movie’s $23.1M opening FSS is a real triumph for Universal Pictures, whose bosses Marc Shmuger, David Linde and Donna Langley swooped in and scooped up the sequel from Sony/Revolution Studios which did the original Hellboy I. (And the trio wanted it before del Toro’s Oscar-nominated Pan’s Labyrinth ever opened.) As one Uni exec exulted, “We took somebody’s reject pile and made it into a franchise for us.”

At No. 2, Sony Pictures’ first-placer finisher over July 4th, Hancock, kept one of the summer’s best holds — -47% — on the box office, earning $10.3M Friday and $13 million Saturday from its 3,965 runs. It had a $33M weekend and a $165M cume. So far, foreign is $180M and its worldwide total is $345M in just under 2 weeks. Its total domestic take is heading to $225M, internationally to $350M, so Hancock is on track to earn maybe as much as $600M worldwide. Attribute it to Will Smith’s star power and the strong word of mouth for the film, which received a B+ Cinemascore and an A- among its core of young men. Audiences (more than the critics) seem to like that unexpected third act plot twist in the pic.

In 3rd place, New Line / Warner Bros’ Journey To The Center Of The Earth 3D took the freeway to a $6.7 million debut Friday and $7.9 million Saturday from 2,811 venues for #3 and a $20.5M weekend. The studio thinks that’s a strong opening for a film costing just $54M (and, frankly, looks it). The 3D screens outperformed the 2D screens by 3 to 1. “I think anytime dinosaurs exist in a movie, don’t bet against it,” one Hollywood marketing guru told me. (Talk about date-swapping: the Brendan Fraser starrer was supposed to debut in August when the actor’s other summer movie The Mummy 3 was slated for July. Then Universal moved The Mummy to August, so Warner Bros moved Journey forward to July. Got that?)

Pixar/Disney’s lonely droid Wall-E was No. 4 since it keeps going and going like the Energizer bunny, racking up another $5.6M Friday and $7.4M Saturday from 3,849 plays for a $18.5M weekend and $162M cume. Universal’s Angelina Jolie-James McAvoy starrer Wanted was No. 5 with $3.6M Friday and $4.5M Saturday for an $11.5M weekend and new cume of $112M. In the 6th spot was Warner Bros’ Get Smart with $2.2M Friday and $2.9M Saturday for another $7.1M weekend and new cume of $111M.

And all the way back at No. 7 was 20th Century Fox’s Meet Dave which even the studio didn’t bother to hide was going to bomb big-time. The Eddie Murphy starrer opened to an embarrassing $1.7M Friday and $2M Saturday despite playing in 3,011 theaters for only a $5.3M weekend. It’s not like this is the first moronic movie Eddie has starred in — remember Norbit and Daddy Day Care which did big business? — but this was “an incredibly difficult one to market,” an insider explained to me. So was that other sci-fi Eddie pic, The Adventures Of Pluto Nash, which tanked as well. The general concensus is that Meet Dave should have been aimed “at young kids from the get-go”. Or just never made. Fox will spread the loss with two financing partners New Regency and Dune.

The rest of the Top 10 were holdovers. No. 8 went to DreamWorks Animation/Paramount’s Kung Fu Panda which took in $1.2M Friday and $1.7M for a $4.3M weekend and new cume of $202M. No. 9 is Picturehouse’s Kit Kittredge: An American Girl on 1,849 theaters struggled for $758K on Friday and $878K Saturday for a $2.3M weekend and an $11M cume. In 10th place, Paramount’s Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull which eked out another $602K on Friday and $951K Saturday for a $2.2M weekend and a fat cume of $310.4M.

It was a big moviegoing weekend overall with $150+M box office but still down 12% from last year’s record-breaker.