SUNDAY AM: It turned out to be a big $100+ million weekend at the movies, up 10% over last year. Brad Pitt’s opener, Oscar contender Babel, had the best per screen average ($21,037 on Saturday, which sounds like people were sitting on laps!). But I hate when this happens: yet another horror movie made No. 1 at the box office this weekend as the studios knew it would (which is why it had no big rivals). I’m told that Lionsgate’s Saw III cut through the competition by opening huge with $14 million Friday and $11.3 million Saturday (down 19% from the previous night) from 3,167 theaters for what was a $33.4 weekend. That massive debut was better than Saw II (which earned $12.1 mil its first day out for a $31.7 mil weekend). Disney’s holdover from last week The Prestige, dropped from #2 Friday ($2.9 mil, -43% from last) to #3 after Saturday ($4.1 mil) for what was a $9.4 mil weekend and a new cume of $28.6 mil. Instead, 2nd best went to Warner Bros. holdover The Departed, stretching its legs for its fourth weekend and increasing its Best Picture/Best Director Oscar chances (because Academy voters always take note of how popular possible contenders are with the public). Down only 33%, the Marty Scorsese-directed drama starring Jack Nicholson /Leo DiCaprio /Matt Damon /Mark Wahlberg, raked in $2.8 million Friday and a powerful $4.8 mil Saturday for what turned out to be $10.5 million weekend added to its cume now at $91.7 mil. (As I said last week, Departed should go $125+ mil domestically.) In 4th place was Paramount /Dreamworks’ holdover Flags Of Our Fathers with $1.9 mil on Friday (down 46%), and $2.8 mil Saturday. Though critically lauded, the Clint Eastwood-directed war movie with no stars continues to be a box office disappointment; it had only a $6.3 mil weekend and a new cume of just $19.9 mil. Even after five weeks out, Sony’s first homegrown animated pic Open Season continues to outperform expectations for No. 5, earning $1.4 mil Friday and $2.3 mil Saturday (that kiddie bounce) for a strong $5.5 mil weekend and a cume around $76.7 mil. Fox’s family friendly holdover Flicka made $1.4 million Friday (down 44%) and $2 mil Saturday for #6. That was a $4.9 mil weekend and cume of about $14 mil. Universal’s Man Of The Year, after three weeks out, expanded its theater count to earn $1.4 mil Friday and $2.2 mil Saturday for 7th place and a $4.7 mil weekend and cume around $28.8 mil — disappointing for a Robin Williams starrer. Coming in #8 was Sony’s The Grudge 2 which, even after three weeks out, made $1.1 mil Friday and $1.3 mil Saturday for a $3.1 mil weekend but a cool cume around $35.8 mil. Sony is heartsick over its No. 9 holdover Marie Antoinette, directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Kirsten Dunst, which eked out $0.89 million Friday and $1.2 mil Saturday from 859 theaters, for what was only a $3 mil weekend and a rough new $9.9 mil cume. Making it into the Top 10 for the first time was Sony’s classy comedy Running With Scissors, starring Annette Bening and cameos from lotsa younger stars. After expanding into 586 theaters its second week out, the pic took in $0.79 mil Friday and $1.1 mil Saturday for what a $2.7 mil weekend and a $3 mil cume. Another movie opening this weekend was Universal/Focus Features’ Catch a Fire, which took in just $.64 mil Friday and $.87 mil Saturday even though it was playing in 1,305 theaters (obviously empty ones), for a disastrous $2 mil weekend. Also new on the big screen was Paramount Vantage’s Babel (platforming in 7 theaters) starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett and directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. It represented a new opening weekend record for the helmer. Touted for an Oscar nod, it earned $0.115 mil Friday with a great per screen average of $16,495, and $0.147 Saturday with an astounding per screen average of $21,037 for a $0.365 mil weekend. Newmarket’s very controversial Death of a President (91 theaters) did only $.06 mil Friday and $.08 Saturday with a pathetic per screen average of $673/$920 for was just a $0.21 weekend. The Weinstein Company’s Dixie Chicks documentary Shut Up & Sing (4 theaters) took in $0.01 mil Friday and $0.02 Saturday but its $2,867/$5365 per screen average was only so-so for a $.04 mil weekend. First it was Fox, CNN and NPR refusing to run ads for Death of a President about the fictional assassination of Dubya. Then it was NBC refusing to air ads for Shut Up & Sing because it “disparaged” the president. This political vetting of movie ads by the Big Media is becoming a trend. (Weekend figures include Sunday estimates.)
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