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Chills, chuckles and that fellow Oscar

Times Staff Writer

Moviegoers knew exactly where they wanted to look for thrills as well as more sophisticated movies over the weekend, making “Hide and Seek” the No. 1 movie and giving Oscar-nominated films a box office boost during the race for best picture.

“Hide and Seek,” about a girl played by child star Dakota Fanning whose ominous friend may or may not be imaginary, took in $22 million, 20th Century Fox reported. The film skewed feminine and young, the studio said its exit surveys showed, with 57% of the audience female and under age 25.

The movie also gave Robert De Niro, who plays Fanning’s psychologist father, his third consecutive No. 1 opener after “Shark Tale” and “Meet the Fockers,” which with nearly $258 million now ranks as the No. 2 comedy of all time behind “Home Alone’s” $285.8 million.

Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby,” which also earned Eastwood a Directors Guild of America award over the weekend, benefited the most from its seven Oscar nominations as Warner Bros. expanded to 2,010 theaters from 147 and the drama took in $11.8 million, rising to third place in the top 10 and lifting its total to $21.1 million. Studio research indicated that 55% of the audience was female and that the same percentage was 35 and older.

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With 11 nominations, “The Aviator,” director Martin Scorsese’s epic biopic about Howard Hughes, grossed an estimated $7.5 million, with Miramax increasing the number of theaters by 242 to 2,503. Its seven-week total stands at roughly $68.2 million.

“Finding Neverland,” with seven nominations Miramax’s other big contender, added 389 theaters and $2.7 million, increasing its total to about $35.9 million.

Like “Neverland,” multiple nominee (five) “Sideways” more than doubled its box office tally from last weekend, bringing in an estimated $6.3 million at No. 7 as Fox Searchlight booked it into nearly 1,000 additional theaters, its widest release yet at 1,694 venues. In its 15th week, the adult comedy about a pair of losers on an excursion through Santa Barbara wine country has taken in about $40 million.

“Ray,” which will see the least theatrical benefit from its six Oscar nominations, nearly doubled the number of venues in its dwindling run to 527, giving it an extra $559,000 over the weekend and a total gross of about $73.8 million. The movie stands to gain substantially when Universal releases it on DVD and videocassette on Tuesday.

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Sony, meanwhile, reported that Ice Cube’s family comedy “Are We There Yet?” held up impressively, declining only 8% from its opening weekend, slipping to second place with an estimated $17 million. Executives at a couple of rival studios marveled at the staying power of the comedy in a very competitive weekend, which saw the movie’s total rise to $39.1 million.

Business overall was up 19% over last weekend and roughly 22% over the comparable timeframe last year, the period immediately after the Oscar nominations, according to box office tracking firm Nielsen EDI.

That weekend had two of the best picture nominees, “Mystic River” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” in the top 10, while this year has three. The weekend last year also happened to encompass Super Bowl Sunday, however, which always cuts into business.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Box Office

Preliminary results (in millions) based on studio projections.

*--* Movie 3-day gross Total Hide and Seek $22 $22

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Are We There Yet? 17 39.1

Million Dollar Baby 11.8 21.1

Coach Carter 8 53.6

Meet the Fockers 7.6 258

The Aviator 7.5 68.2

Sideways 6.3 40

In Good Company 6.2 36

Racing Stripes 6.1 34.6

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Assault on Precinct 13 4.2 14.7

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Source: Nielsen EDI Inc.

Los Angeles Times


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