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Women go to ‘Heaven’ a lot more than men do

Times Staff Writer

What do women want? Apparently, just a little bit of heaven -- at least this weekend.

The romantic fantasy “Just Like Heaven,” starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo, took in an estimated $16.5 million, DreamWorks reported Sunday, with about 77% of its audience comprised of female moviegoers.

The somewhat lower-than-expected figure was enough for “Heaven,” which cost roughly $58 million, to take first place for the weekend. But it wasn’t enough to take it into the top 10 openings for September, where another Witherspoon film, “Sweet Home Alabama,” stands as No. 1, with $35.6 million.

It appeared that multiple tweaks to the film’s marketing campaign -- which included pasting the slogan “No one sees her like he does” onto existing billboards and inserting it into other reworked advertising -- did not succeed in attracting men.

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“Clearly we needed more romantically inclined males to show up,” said James Tharp, head of distribution for DreamWorks.

Even without its decidedly mixed reviews, “Heaven,” faced an uphill battle to attract ticket buyers during a traditionally sluggish month when student-age moviegoers are back in school and adults, particularly males, are more interested in football and other distractions.

Last weekend’s top performer, the demonic courtroom drama “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” whose $30.1 million was the third best September opening, dropped about 49% this weekend, typical for genre movies, to bring in an estimated $15.3 million in the No. 2 spot, Sony Pictures reported Sunday. In third place with $9.2 million was Lions Gate’s “Lord of War,” with Nicolas Cage as an arms merchant.

Among movies opening in limited release, “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” conjured an impressive $82,271 per theater -- the best this year for a non-Imax movie -- in five venues for a total of $411,353, according to figures provided by tracking service Exhibitor Relations Inc. “Proof,” which stars Gwyneth Paltrow as a math genius worried about her sanity, took in an estimated $200,868, for a per-theater tally of $25,109. Warner Independent Pictures reported $73,600 for “Everything Is Illuminated,” with Elijah Wood as a young man searching for his roots in Ukraine. The film averaged $12,268 in six locations. “Thumbsucker” averaged $10,398 in nine locations for a total of $93,579. All these films will be adding locations in the weeks to come.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBX)

Box Office

Preliminary results (in millions) based on studio projections.

*--* Movie 3-day gross Total Just Like Heaven $16.5 $16.5

The Exorcism of Emily Rose 15.3 52.0

Lord of War 9.2 9.2

The 40 Year-Old Virgin 5.8 90.6

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Cry Wolf 4.6 4.6

Transporter 2 4.0 36.5

The Constant Gardener 3.7 24.4

Red Eye 2.9 55.3

March of the Penguins 2.6 70.4

Wedding Crashers 2.5 203.6

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Source: Nielsen EDI Inc.

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