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Awards give movies bump at box office

Golden Globe results are giving 'Dreamgirls' and others a boost. 'Stomp' stays at No. 1.

January 22, 2007|Josh Friedman | Times Staff Writer

Hollywood studios are going for the gold -- and starting to get it -- as awards season heats up, boosting "Dreamgirls" and other high-profile films at the box office.

Holdover hits "Stomp the Yard" and "Night at the Museum" were No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in ticket sales with grosses of about $13 million apiece in the U.S. and Canada, according to Sunday's studio estimates.

But recent Golden Globe winners including "Dreamgirls," "The Queen" and "Babel" all expanded to solid business, riding marketing campaigns built around this year's wide-open awards season.

With Oscar nominations coming out Tuesday, those films and other Academy Award contenders are getting their biggest pushes yet in hopes of translating kudos to cash.

"The Globes were almost like a sneak preview for our movie in the middle market," said Rob Moore, marketing and distribution chief at Paramount Pictures, whose "Dreamgirls" won three Golden Globe awards last week, including best musical or comedy. "The combination of word-of-mouth and awards acclaim is helping us gain momentum outside of the largest markets."

The Motown-inspired musical grossed an estimated $8.7 million to finish No. 3 in its sixth weekend, up slightly from the three-day portion of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

The studio also was encouraged by the film's opening in three overseas markets, including Australia and New Zealand, where it grossed a combined $1.1 million. "Dreamgirls" will be rolled out slowly in foreign territories during February.

For the second straight week, Sony Pictures' dance drama "Stomp the Yard" was the top movie domestically, if weekend estimates hold up when final figures are released today.

"Stomp the Yard" grossed about $13.3 million in the U.S. and Canada, averaging almost $6,500 per theater. The low-budget film, which is headed for a domestic total of more than $60 million in its full run, has yet to open abroad.

Twentieth Century Fox's comic fantasy "Night at the Museum" took in an estimated $13 million in the U.S. and Canada to apparently finish a close second for the weekend.

The Ben Stiller vehicle becomes the first holiday season release to exceed $200 million, and it stayed on top overseas for a fourth straight week, lifting its worldwide total to $379 million.

"Dreamgirls" is headed for a domestic total above $100 million. It could become a bigger blockbuster if it cleans up during Oscar season.

Some of its chief competitors, such as Fox Searchlight's quirky comedy "Little Miss Sunshine" and Warner Bros.' crime saga "The Departed," came out earlier last year and could see their biggest award-related bumps in the DVD market.

But "The Departed," an early October release that has raked in more than $250 million worldwide, will go back into wide release next weekend, likely riding multiple Oscar nominations.

"The Hitcher," a horror remake from Universal's Focus Features arm, opened to $8.2 million domestically, ranking No. 4. No horror movie has become a major hit since "Saw III" at Halloween.

Sony's father-son drama "The Pursuit of Happyness" showed its consistency, staying in the top five for the sixth straight weekend. The Will Smith vehicle is heading for a domestic gross above $160 million.

Overseas, it has taken in $20.5 million, with openings still to come in several markets.

The studio's "Casino Royale," the top-grossing film in the James Bond series, remained potent abroad. Worldwide it has generated $564 million.

Several films on the art house circuit drew robust business.

Picturehouse's "Pan's Labyrinth" expanded to about 600 theaters and averaged more than $7,000 per location, the best among major releases. It lost the Golden Globe for best foreign-language film to Clint Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima" but could be an Oscar contender in the same category.

"The Queen," from Miramax Films, climbed back into the top 10 after expanding wide in its 17th weekend. The political drama stars Golden Globe winner and Oscar front-runner Helen Mirren.

The multicultural thriller "Babel," from Paramount Vantage, finished outside the top 10 but got a jump in ticket sales after expanding nationally in the wake of its Golden Globe victory for best drama.

Fox Searchlight's "The Last King of Scotland," starring Golden Globe best-actor winner Forest Whitaker, pulled in a solid per-theater average of about $3,500 after widening to almost 500 locations.

Warner's "Letters From Iwo Jima" averaged about $4,200 per theater after expanding to 360 locations in its gradual rollout in the U.S. and Canada. In Japan, the war drama has grossed $36 million through seven weeks.

Industrywide, domestic grosses fell sharply from the same weekend in 2006, when "Underworld: Evolution" opened. Year-to-date, however, attendance and revenue are up slightly.

Four films open next weekend, including the pulpy crime saga "Smokin' Aces" from Universal and the romance "Catch and Release" from Sony. MGM's "Blood and Chocolate" and Fox's "Epic Movie" also are getting wide releases.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Box office

Preliminary results (in millions) in the U.S. and Canada, based on studio projections:

*--* Movie 3-daygross Total Stomp the Yard $13.3 $41.6

Night at the Museum 13.0 205.8

Dreamgirls 8.7 78.1

The Hitcher 8.2 8.2

The Pursuit of Happyness 6.7 146.5

Freedom Writers 5.6 26.9

Pan's Labyrinth 4.7 10.2

Children of Men 3.7 27.5

The Queen 3.7 35.9

Arthur and the Invisibles 3.1 9.3

*--*

Industry totals

*--* 3-day gross Change (in millions) from 2006 $99.0 -18.1%

Year-to-date gross Change (in billions) from 2006 $0.61 +4.3%

*--*

Source: Media by Numbers

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