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6 February 2005

'Boogeyman' Big at Super Bowl-Affected Box Office


By Dean Goodman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The new low-budget thriller "Boogeyman" haunted the No. 1 slot at the weekend box office in North America on Sunday, a day when movie theaters will be lucky to scare up much business in the face of competition from the Super Bowl.

"Boogeyman" earned an estimated $19.5 million since opening on Friday without press previews, a tactic studios sometimes adopt for films that fans will rush out and see even if the critics are revolted.

The $7 million film set a new record for a film opening on Super Bowl weekend, beating last year's $16.1 million bow of the hip-hop flavored drama "You Got Served."

Both films were released by Screen Gems, the genre arm of Sony Corp.'s Columbia Pictures. The studio said it had hoped "Boogeyman" would open in the mid-teens. Barry Watson (TV's "7th Heaven") stars as a young man tormented by a childhood run-in with the titular monster.

The project was shot in New Zealand by "Spider-Man" director Sam Raimi's Ghost House Pictures, the company behind the recent smash "The Grudge," which opened with $39.1 million last October. "Boogeyman" was able to piggyback on the "Grudge" success since its trailer screened before the main attraction.

With the country focused on the Super Bowl XXXIX match between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, kicking off at 1830 EST (2330 GMT) in Jacksonville, Fla., the top-10 contained just one other new release.

"The Wedding Date," a romantic comedy targeted at female moviegoers looking for an alternative to football, beer and nachos, opened at No. 2 with $11.0 million, exceeding low industry expectations.

The film marks the feature headlining debut of Debra Messing, the Emmy-winning star of "Will & Grace," who plays a woman left weak at the knees by the studly male escort (Dermot Mulroney) she hires to impress her family.

Budgeted at under $15 million, it was produced by Gold Circle Films, one of the companies behind the indie smash "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Gold Circle is backed by Norm Waitt, co-founder of computer maker Gateway Inc. . Universal Pictures, a unit of General Electric Co. -controlled NBC Universal, released the film under a deal with Gold Circle.

The No. 3 slot went to Columbia's Ice Cube comedy "Are We There Yet?," which earned $10.4 million in its third weekend. With $51.1 million in the bag so far, the studio expects it to end up with more than $70 million, marking yet another profitable outing for the star of the hit "Friday" franchise.

Last weekend's champion, the Robert De Niro thriller "Hide and Seek," fell to No. 4 with $8.9 million. Its 10-day total stands at $35.7 million. The film should finish near the $55 million level, said its distributor, Twentieth Century Fox, a unit of News Corp.'s. Fox Entertainment Group Inc. .

"Million Dollar Baby" performed the best of the three best-picture Oscar nominees in the top-10, falling two places to No. 5 with $8.7 million. The total for Clint Eastwood's boxing melodrama rose to $34.7 million. The film was released by Warner Bros. Pictures, a unit of Time Warner Inc. .

Oscar rival "The Aviator" held steady at No. 6 with $5.5 million and a total of $75.9 million. The Howard Hughes biopic was released in the United States by Miramax Films, a unit of Walt Disney Co., and in Canada by Warner Bros.

The oenophile comedy "Sideways" was unchanged at No. 8 with $4.8 million, and a total of $46.8 million, marking the biggest picture ever released by its distributor, Fox Searchlight Pictures. The previous best for News Corp.'s art house arm was 1997's "The Full Monty" with $45 million.

Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.