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‘Two’ is No. 1 with ‘Catch’ closing in

Times Staff Writer

“The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” dominated holiday moviegoing, grossing an estimated $48.9 million over the three-day post-Christmas weekend and crossing the $200-million mark in two weeks. Steven Spielberg’s 1960s caper film “Catch Me If You Can” came in at No. 2 with a solid $30 million estimated gross over the same period, in 3,156 theaters versus 3,622 for “The Two Towers.”

Even though “Catch Me If You Can,” based on the life of a teenage con artist, has failed to garner many critics’ kudos or award nominations so far, the DreamWorks movie’s picaresque attitude seems to be a genuine audience pleaser.

While “The Two Towers” brought in a broad spectrum of moviegoers, “Catch” played mainly to one demographic -- people older than 25.

New Line Cinema enjoyed a golden weekend on two fronts, with sustained business for “The Two Towers” and its quirky drama “About Schmidt.” The Jack Nicholson vehicle, directed by Alexander Payne, grossed an estimated $815,000 over three days in 34 theaters for a total to date of $2.5 million.

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At this point, business for “The Two Towers” is 28% ahead of last year’s “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.” The film’s overseas gross hit $201 million Sunday, bringing its worldwide total to $401 million to date.

Christmas Day launched a strong period for moviegoing, with “The Two Towers” taking in $12.4 million, followed by almost $15.4 million on Thursday. “Catch” brought in $9.9 million and $8.7 million respectively on those two days.

“Catch,” which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the young con artist Frank Abagnale Jr. and Tom Hanks as the FBI agent who pursues him, was made for about $60 million. The lighthearted film has grossed $48.6 million since it opened Christmas Day. Considering that 70% of “Catch’s” audience was over 25, DiCaprio’s role as the 1960s swinging con man did not seem to pull in the hordes of teenage girls that made “Titanic” such a gigantic hit.

“Gangs” brought in $11.9 million Friday through Sunday in 2,190 theaters and has grossed $30 million in 10 days. Martin Scorsese’s dark, violent historical epic about the brutal gangs of 19th century New York City remained at No. 5, behind the two romantic comedies “Two Weeks Notice” and “Maid in Manhattan” respectively. Miramax executives maintain they must make at least $55 million domestically to break even on their share of the investment for the $100-million film.

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Miramax’s glossy musical “Chicago” opened this weekend to a strong $2.1 million on only 77 screens. The highly anticipated film, based on the Bob Fosse Broadway musical, grossed a healthy average of $27,300 per screen. But Miramax’s poorly reviewed “Pinocchio,” directed by Italian comedian Roberto Benigni, averaged a paltry $955 per screen for a total of $1.1 million.

On other fronts, Paramount saw a bright spot in an otherwise bleak year with “The Hours,” a star-studded drama about the parallel lives of three unrelated women in different generations. The film, which stars Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, opened to an estimated $337,000 in 11 theaters for an impressive average of $30,636 per theater. Not surprisingly, it appealed mainly to women over 35.

Considering that many of their films this year, including “Star Trek: Nemesis” and “The Four Feathers,” bombed, Paramount executives breathed a sigh of relief Sunday over “The Hours,” a co-production between Paramount and Miramax.

“It’s nice to have a pleasant conversation about the box office on a Sunday for a change,” said Wayne Lewellen, the studio’s president of distribution.

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Other releases this weekend included Focus Features’ Holocaust drama “The Pianist,” which made $104,051 over three days in six theaters. United Artists’ rendering of Charles Dickens’ “Nicholas Nickelby” grossed $43,000 on five screens for an average of $8,600.

This week’s three-day box office total for all films was an estimated $173 million compared with last year’s $167 million, up 3.5%, according to box-office tracking firm Nielsen EDI.


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