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'Jumper' makes the leap to No. 1
Two potential film franchises, 20th Century Fox's science-fiction thriller "Jumper" and Paramount Pictures' family fantasy "The Spiderwick Chronicles," opened to solid business over the extended holiday weekend, while Walt Disney Co.'s "Step Up 2 the Streets" kept an established series humming.
"Jumper," starring Hayden Christensen as a man who can teleport himself anywhere and Samuel L. Jackson as a mysterious agent on his trail, was headed for a five-day total of close to $40 million, including Thursday's opening for Valentine's Day.
All the major new movies opened early, turning the Presidents Day period into what one studio executive called "a 4 1/2 -day weekend."
"Step Up 2 the Streets," the sequel to summer 2006's sleeper hit "Step Up," was headed for No. 2 in U.S. and Canadian box office sales with about $29 million for five days, based on Sunday's studio estimates.
"Spiderwick" was on track for about $27 million and third place. It was faring slightly better than Disney's dance drama over the official four-day weekend itself, but didn't open as strongly Thursday.
The audience for "Jumper," as expected, skewed male and younger than 25, said Bert Livingston, Fox's senior vice president for domestic distribution.
Fox and New Regency Pictures, which produced the film for about $85 million, may go ahead with one or more sequels, he said. "When you do this kind of business, you always have to think about it."
The case for a sequel was strengthened by the international numbers, as "Jumper" took in $28.2 million overseas and ranked No. 1 in most of its 30 territories.
Industrywide box-office results in the U.S. and Canada were down about 14% from the holiday weekend in 2007, according to data tracker Media by Numbers.
That's because Sony Pictures' action thriller "Ghost Rider" opened a year ago to $52 million, a Presidents Day weekend record.
"Step Up 2," a co-production of Disney's Touchstone Pictures and Summit Entertainment that cost about $22 million to make, skewed young and female. Women and girls made up 60% of the audience, and a similar percentage was ages 13 to 25, according to Disney.
Although teen-oriented movies often fade quickly at the box office, moviegoers surveyed by CinemaScore rated "Step Up 2" an A-minus, said Chuck Viane, Disney's distribution president. Those high scores bode well for the movie's legs, he said, even though "Step Up 2," like "Jumper," earned tepid reviews from most critics.
"Spiderwick," produced for about $92 million, was the only PG-rated movie of the high-profile new offerings; the rest were PG-13.
Rob Moore, Paramount's vice chairman, noted that family films often hold up well during their runs, racking up relatively high "multiples" of their opening weekend totals.
"Spiderwick" -- seen as a potential franchise in the "Harry Potter" or "The Chronicles of Narnia" tradition, but on a smaller scale -- should benefit from word-of-mouth, Moore said, given its strong exit scores and reviews. According to RottenTomatoes.com, 78% of notices have been positive, versus 16% for "Jumper."
A Happy Meal promotion at McDonald's restaurants that started over the weekend could also help the picture's staying power, Moore said.
Paramount and its Nickelodeon Movies division will wait for additional overseas results before deciding whether to go ahead with more "Spiderwick" productions.
"International tends to be as big, if not bigger, for this type of film," Moore said. " 'Spiderwick' has franchise possibility but we've got to see how the worldwide appeal plays out."
The picture opened in only South Korea, taking in $1.2 million, but more meaningful results will be available in mid-March after "Spiderwick" rolls out to more territories, he said.
Universal Pictures' "Definitely, Maybe," a romantic comedy starring Ryan Reynolds as a lovelorn dad, opened more modestly, as expected, with receipts on pace for $14.5 million over five days.
The Working Title Films production, made for a budget of $24 million, drew crowds that were 67% female and 54% over age 30, said Nikki Rocco, Universal's president of domestic distribution. With positive reviews and audience exit scores, it also should hang tough in the marketplace, she said.