In a summer dominated by wacky pirates, talking cars and other light fare, moviegoers over the weekend turned to something different: director Michael Mann's gritty big-screen version of "Miami Vice."
The stylish, R-rated adaptation of the 1980s cop show sank "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" from its perch atop the box office after three straight weeks. It grossed an estimated $25.2 million in the U.S. and Canada.
Boosted by generally favorable reviews, the Universal Pictures release drew a crowd of which 62% was over age 30.
"Mann's films have a following that's more adult than you usually find," said Nikki Rocco, Universal's president of domestic distribution.
"We were very clear in sending the message that this was not the same old treatment of a classic TV series," Rocco said, referring to the campy, comic style of such adaptations as "Starsky & Hutch."
"Miami Vice," starring Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell as undercover cops Tubbs and Crockett, averaged $8,342 per theater at 3,021 locations.
If Sunday's estimate holds up, "Vice" will be Mann's biggest opening, topping 2004's "Collateral." That picture opened at $24.7 million and ended up grossing $100.2 million in the U.S. and Canada and $217.7 million worldwide.
"Vice" was costly to make, with a budget of about $140 million. If it posts final grosses similar to those of "Collateral," however, it will be profitable, Rocco said, noting that Mann's films tend to do well on DVD and in ancillary markets such as pay television.
Walt Disney Co.'s "Pirates" slipped to No. 2, grossing an estimated $20.5 million to bring its total to $358.4 million in the U.S. and Canada. That made it the studio's biggest success ever, beating "Finding Nemo," and kept it on pace to exceed $400 million, a level reached by only six movies.
Vastly different results greeted the weekend's two other wide releases.
The teen comedy "John Tucker Must Die" finished third with $14.1 million, at the high end of expectations for 20th Century Fox. But "The Ant Bully" raised questions about whether animated movies might be hitting a glut.
"The Ant Bully" -- released a week after the animated "Monster House" and a week before the animated "Barnyard" -- came in No. 5 at $8.1 million, far below Warner Bros.' expectations.
A MySpace.com marketing campaign aimed at female teenagers helped make sure "John Tucker Must Die" didn't die at the box office, said Chris Aronson, general sales manager at 20th Century Fox.
"We went after our target audience and we got 'em," he said. The opening crowd was 75% female and 68% under 25.
Made for less than $20 million, "John Tucker" will be highly profitable, he said.
"The Ant Bully" was directed by John Davis, who scored a hit in 2001 with "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius." Like many animated movies aimed at families, it featured a star-filled voice cast. But the picture suffered from a crowded market, said Jeff Goldstein, general sales manager at Warner Bros.
"There's a little too much out there for family audiences," he said.
Warner Bros. has endured a brutal summer, with "Poseidon," "Lady in the Water" and now "The Ant Bully." Even "Superman Returns," which has grossed $185.8 million, has been labeled a disappointment by some, although the studio has said the movie would turn a profit.
The weekend's most favorably reviewed new release, "Little Miss Sunshine," opened in seven theaters in New York and Los Angeles, grossing an estimated $356,683, or a robust $50,955 per location.
Hoping to capitalize on word of mouth, Fox Searchlight is slowly rolling out the comedy about a dysfunctional family: Next weekend it will expand to 10 more cities and a total of about 60 theaters.
Woody Allen's "Scoop," starring Scarlett Johansson, opened at $3 million at 537 theaters. The Focus Features comedy will be hard pressed to equal the success of the previous teaming of the director and actress: December's mystery "Match Point," which grossed $23.2 million during its run in the U.S. and Canada and $78.3 million worldwide.
Although it's no longer in the top 10, Disney's "Cars" added $2.5 million to its total. At $234.7 million in the U.S. and Canada, it has passed "X-Men: The Last Stand" as the year's No. 2-grossing movie.
Overall weekend ticket sales of $127 million topped those of the same period last year, and summer and year-to-date revenue stayed ahead of 2005's.
Whereas "Pirates" was the first picture to win three straight weekends in almost a year, the reign of "Vice" may be short.
Next weekend features four major releases: "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," the NASCAR comedy starring Will Ferrell; the horror picture "The Descent"; the drama "The Night Listener"; and the family film "Barnyard."
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Preliminary results (in millions) in the U.S. and Canada, based on studio projections
*--* Movie 3-day gross Total Miami Vice $25.2 $25.2
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest 20.5 358.4
John Tucker Must Die 14.1 14.1
Monster House 11.5 43.9
The Ant Bully 8.1 8.1
Lady in the Water 7.0 32.1
You, Me and Dupree 7.0 59.0
Little Man 5.1 50.2
The Devil Wears Prada 4.8 106.7
Clerks II 3.9 18.5
*--* 3-day gross Change (in millions) from 2005 $127.0 +3.4%
Year-to-date gross Change (in billions) from 2005 $5.67 +6.3%
*--* Source: Exhibitor Relations Co. Los Angeles Times