‘Blades’ holds its edge at the box office

Times Staff Writer

Will Ferrell’s ice skating parody remained at the top of the box office Easter weekend as a much-anticipated film by acclaimed directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino finished in fourth place.

For the second week in a row, “Blades of Glory” led the charts, grossing an estimated $23 million over the weekend in the U.S. and Canada. It was followed by the holdover animated film “Meet the Robinsons” with $17 million and the comedy sequel “Are We Done Yet?”

But “Grindhouse,” a three-hour double feature that pays homage to the B-movie exploitation genre of the 1970s, raked in a disappointing $11.6 million for its studio, Weinstein Co., in its opening weekend.

“Although the overall opening weekend box office was disappointing, the film played to big, cheering crowds in New York, Los Angeles, and other large cities,” said Bob Weinstein, who co-chairs the company and its distribution label, Dimension Films, with brother Harvey. “We hope the strong word of mouth will overcome any initial resistance in smaller markets to its three-hour running time.”


The studio wouldn’t say how much it spent promoting the movie, which cost $53 million to make, but television commercials were widespread leading up to the opening.

“The expectations were high for ‘Grindhouse’ because of its pedigree,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media by Numbers, a box-office tracking firm, referring to the movie’s directors.

Studios usually reserve Easter weekends for light-hearted films, he said, on the assumption that people will be gathered with family and relatives and may have less of an appetite for adult themes. But that also leaves the door open for movies such as “Grindhouse” to provide options beyond talking animals and animated characters.

“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” said Dergarabedian, who nonetheless thinks the R-rated “Grindhouse” can overcome its poor opening. “It’s still a very unique movie,” he said.

DreamWorks Pictures and MTV Films’ “Blades of Glory,” starring Ferrell and Jon Heder, was down 30% from its opening weekend gross. But it continued to draw big crowds, averaging the highest per-screen numbers among the top 10 movies. The movie, which was playing in 3,410 screens, has grossed a total of $68.4 million to date.

“We are gliding along nicely,” quipped DreamWorks Pictures spokesman Marvin Levy.

The G-rated “Meet the Robinsons,” an animated feature from Walt Disney Co.'s Buena Vista Pictures, remained in the No. 2 spot for its second straight weekend and brought its total to $52.3 million. The movie is being watched closely by studios and exhibitors who want to see how well its 3-D technology plays with theater audiences.

“Are We Done Yet?,” a sequel to the hit family comedy “Are We There Yet?,” that stars Ice Cube, had the weekend’s best start. The Sony Pictures’ movie about the travails of a family adapting to its new suburban home grossed $15 million for the weekend and $19.1 million since its Wednesday launch.

Also opening over the weekend was Warner Bros.’ “The Reaping,” starring Hilary Swank as a former Christian missionary facing off against biblical plagues. The film finished at No. 5 with $10 million.

“Grindhouse” was expected to be a big draw, the latest from Tarantino and Rodriguez, an icon of iconoclastic filmmaking.

The double-feature, complete with fake trailers, brought together the mutually admiring pair of directors who also collaborated in 2005’s financial and critical hit “Sin City.”

In “Grindhouse,” each director crafted his own feature. Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” features zombies and a one-legged stripper (Rose McGowan) who uses a machine gun for a prosthetic. It is followed by Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” which features Kurt Russell as a psychotic stunt driver who uses his car as a weapon.

When the movie is released abroad it will play as two separate features in most territories, the studio said.

With “Blades” retaining its first place, there was no blockbuster Easter weekend opener like last year when genre spoofing “Scary Movie 4,” another Weinstein Co. film, broke the record for the biggest Easter weekend opener with $40.2 million.

Warner Bros.’ “300" continued its strong performance, grossing $8.8 million domestically in 2,674 theaters, good for sixth place in its fifth week of release.

But another Warner Bros. movie, “TMNT,” in partnership with Weinstein Co., continued its sharp decline, dropping 47% over the weekend to $4.9 million to finish ninth in its third week.

Miramax Films’ “The Hoax,” starring Richard Gere as a writer who peddles a fake autobiography of Howard Hughes, had a limited release in 235 theaters nationwide but grossed a respectable $1.5 million, or $6,387 per screen. It will have a wider release this week.

Overall, this year’s Easter weekend box office did slightly better than last year, when Easter fell a week later in April. Ticket sales year to date ticket revenues are up 6.8% and attendance is up 5.04%.




Box office

Preliminary results (in millions) in the U.S. and Canada, based on studio projections:

*--* Movie 3-day gross Total Blades of Glory $23.0 $68.4

Meet the Robinsons 17.0 52.3

Are We Done Yet? 15.0 19.1

Grindhouse 11.6 11.6

The Reaping 10.1 12.0

300 8.8 193.9

Wild Hogs 6.8 145.5

Shooter 5.8 36.7

TMNT 4.9 46.7

Firehouse Dog 4.0 5.3


Industry totals

*--* 3-day gross Change (in millions) from 2006 $126.0 10.1%

Year-to-date gross Change (in billions) from 2006 $2.3 6.8%


Source: Media by Numbers