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Unheavenly weekend for ‘Angels’

Times Staff Writer

Despite a media-saturation campaign for the slick action flick “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” the sexy girl-power trio of Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore landed with a thud. “Angels,” again directed by McG, arrived at No. 1 one with an estimated gross of $38 million, roughly $2 million less than the original, which opened with $40.1 million in November 2000.

The less-than-stellar showing for “Angels” may be partly attributed to its female-skewing audience, but Universal’s more male-oriented but artsy comic book gamble “The Hulk” crashed by 70% from its debut last weekend, with an estimated $18.4 million and 10-day total of $102 million.

In a completely different genre, Fox Searchlight’s “28 Days Later” scared up an impressive estimate of $9.7 million, nearly the same amount the horror-thriller grossed in its entire United Kingdom run last year.

“Charlie’s Angels,” which cost about $130 million, was released simultaneously in 14 international markets to higher grosses overall than the first movie, said Jeff Blake, president of worldwide marketing and distribution for Sony Pictures Entertainment.

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The film’s audience was 60% women. In general, the top box office openings are led by teenage males. The film’s lackluster opening is worrisome for another female-oriented sequel, Reese Witherspoon’s “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde,” which opens Wednesday.

“This is a unique franchise driven mainly by girls,” Blake said. Female-oriented movies may have less initial muscle than “some of the big male movies, but you tend to hope they will hold,” Blake said. “Should you only make male comic book movies?” But “The Hulk’s” big drop showed not even male comic book movies are always a sure thing.

More pleasantly surprising was “28 Days Later,” which Fox Searchlight produced for about $8 million. The Danny Boyle-directed thriller is set in London, where a raging virus wipes out the city’s population. It was a hit in the U.K., which had been widely affected by mad cow disease. The theme of catastrophic viral outbreaks also resonates beyond Great Britain in a world coping with SARS, AIDS and other contagious diseases.

The film’s strong opening -- it averaged a healthy $7,722 per venue in 1,260 theaters -- was all the more remarkable considering the studio advertised on cable television rather than on major networks in prime time, while conducting an aggressive Internet campaign. Fox Searchlight will add several hundred theaters for the July 4 weekend.

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Meanwhile, the title character’s lucky fin propelled Disney/Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” by another $13.9 million to $253.9 million in its fifth weekend.

Also in its fifth frame, Paramount’s “The Italian Job” continues to coast, with an estimate of $5.4 million and $76.6 million to date.

This weekend’s top 10 films dropped 23% from last weekend, grossing an estimated $106 million, according to box office tracking firm Nielsen EDI Inc. That also represents a 15% drop from the comparable weekend last year.


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