‘Whole Nine Yards’ Goes the Distance

Moviegoers split their Presidents Day weekend box-office votes almost equally between the mob comedy “The Whole Nine Yards” and the chick flick “Hanging Up.”

“The Whole Nine Yards” While reports show both films tied for No. 1 with about $16.1 million for the four-day Friday through Monday holiday period, “The Whole Nine Yards,” starring Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry, is really ahead by about $35,000 in estimated grosses. (That could change when final numbers are released Tuesday.)

Rounding out the Top Five were the family comedy “Snow Day,” the new sci-fi thriller “Pitch Black” and Disney’s “The Tigger Movie.” Notably missing in action: Leonardo DiCaprio’s “The Beach.”

“The Whole Nine Yards” laughed all the way to the bank with an estimated $16.135 million at 2,910 theaters ($5,545 per theater).

“I’m thrilled,” Warner Bros. Distribution President Dan Fellman said today. “It’s a big number, and we’re glad to be there. We probably lost almost a million dollars of business on Friday night. The East Coast was all socked in [with snow and related bad weather]. The grosses were horrendous on Friday. We bounced back on Saturday. Saturday we were up close to 80 percent over Friday, and ‘Hanging Up’ was up only 50 percent. So when that happened, we knew we had the weekend.”

The Diane Keaton-directed “Hanging Up,” featuring its helmer alongside Meg Ryan and Lisa Kudrow (Perry’s “Friends” friend), also connected well with moviegoers, opening to a perky (and estimated) $16.1 million at 2,618 theaters ($6,150 per theater).

“A $16 million-plus performance on the picture is really a terrific opening,” Sony Pictures Releasing President Jeff Blake said today. “Obviously, we relied on the female vote. It ran about 60-40 female. Certainly, the exit polls from females are very strong. A little more neutral on males.”

Blake said the film’s strong launch could be attributed to several factors: “Meg Ryan, really to her credit, gets movies [to] open. You could name a lot of female-theme pictures that are very good quality-wise but can’t generate a $16 million opening. So, I think, certainly the cast deserves a lot of credit for [the big opening]. And, then, I think the theme of the comic interplay between sisters is something a lot of people can relate to.”

Cast of “Hanging Up”s “Hanging Up” cost about $40 million to make, according to Blake — a figure that the studio certainly hopes it can top at the box office. “With this kind of opening, you’d like to think you can get to the $50 million range,” Blake said.

The PG-rated comedy “Snow Day,” a Paramount/Nickelodeon venture, held on to third place in its second weekend with an estimated $14.8 million at 2,702 theaters ($5,477 per theater). To date, it’s taken in about $31.5 million. (It only cost about $15 million to make.)

“It’s fantastic,” Paramount Distribution President Wayne Lewellen said Monday morning. “The picture’s going to end up, we think, with between $50-60 million, which will be the most successful Nickelodeon film other than ‘Rugrats.'”

Ironically, real-live snow storms in the Midwest cut into “Snow Day’s” grosses Friday, Lewellen said. But by Saturday, he added, the film got a “tremendous bump” in Chicago and Kansas City, Mo., and the rest of the Midwest marketplace.

Newbie “Pitch Black,” meanwhile, landed in fourth place with an out-of-this-world (and estimated) $14.02 million at 1,832 theaters ($7,651 per theater). Its per-theater average was the highest for any film in wide release last weekend.

“It’s a wonderful number for us,” USA Films Distribution President Jack Foley said today.

“It is definitely the greatest that we’ve had in our brief history. It’s the widest we’ve ever gone with a picture, and it’s the biggest gross we’ve got for a picture on a weekend in eight months of being USA Films. It’s extraordinary. You add [the success of the critically acclaimed] ‘Being John Malkovich’ and ‘Topsy-Turvy,’ and it’s like we’re doing the whole thing.”

Foley said the “Pitch Black” opening gross was an unexpected (pleasant) surprise. “I wish I had 500 more prints out there. We would have probably taken first place. It performed beautifully right across the board — small towns, big towns, metropolitan centers, suburbs, malls, the whole works.

“The Tigger Movie” finished fifth in its second weekend, down one slot from No. 4, with an estimated $10.5 million at 2,755 theaters ($3,811 per theater). Its overall take is approximately $22.3 million.

“I can’t tell you how pleased everyone here is. The filmmakers are smiling,” Buena Vista Buena Vista Distribution President Chuck Viane said today. “This picture’s just working out great. It’s a wonderful market for families because ‘Snow Day’s’ doing business and ‘Tigger’s’ doing business. I think that’s just great. I just love it when the general audience movies do so well.”

The rest of the Top 10 shaped up as follows:

— “Scream 3” (No. 6) continued to slide in its third weekend, down five pegs with an estimated $9.8 million at 3,368 theatres ($2,909 per theater). To date, it’s grossed about $71.4 million.

— Leo’s “The Beach” (No. 7) sank five places in its second weekend, with an estimated $8 million at 2,581 theaters ($3,100 per theater). Its cumulative take stands at approximately $28.5 million.

— The Generation Y “Wall Street” flick “Boiler Room” (No. 8) opened with a hot (and estimated) $7.1 million at 1,335 theaters ($5,318 per theater).

David Tuckerman, New Line executive vice president of distribution, called the film’s per-theater average “pretty damn good.”

“We were only on 1,335 screens, so we’re feeling pretty good,” Tuckerman said today.

— Best Picture hopeful “American Beauty” (No. 9) was looking perky in its 23rd week of release. Thanks to an expanded Academy run, the film earned an estimated $6.4 million at 1,287 theaters ($4,973 per theater). Its overall take is approximately $81.2 million.

— There was a close race for the No. 10 spot between two other Best Picture Oscar contenders — “The Cider House Rules” and “The Green Mile.” Each scored an OK gross of about $3.3 million.

Overall, key films — those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend — took in approximately $126.58 million. The Top Five distributors were:

1. Warner Bros., grossing an estimated $19.26 million (with “The Green Mile” and “The Whole Nine Yards”), for 15.3 percent of the market.

2. Sony Pictures Entertainment (Columbia, Tristar), grossing an estimated $18.8 million (with “Hanging Up,” “Stuart Little” and “Girl, Interrupted”), for 14.8 percent of the market.

3. Buena Vista (Touchstone, Disney), grossing an estimated $16.18 million (with (“The Tigger Movie,” “Toy Story 2,” “The Sixth Sense” and “Fantasia 2000”), for 12.8 percent of the market.

4. Paramount, grossing an estimated $16.56 million (with “Snow Day,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Angela’s Ashes”), for 13.1 percent of the market.

5. USA Films, grossing an estimated $14.02 million (with “Pitch Black”), for 11.1 percent of the market.

On the expansions front, last weekend saw six-time Oscar nominee “The Sixth Sense” scare up another (estimated) $1.9 million at 894 theaters ($2,125 per theater). That was good for 16th place. So far, the film has taken in approximately $282 million.

USA Films’ reissue of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” widened slightly in its fifth week, placing No. 28 with an estimated $200,000 at 18 theaters ($11,090 per theater).

Here’s a complete look at the way the rest of the weekend’s Top 30 grossers stacked up, according to estimates:

12. “Fantasia 2000” ($2.86 million — worldwide; $38,133 per theater) 13. “The Hurricane” ($2.73 million; $1,598 per theater) 14. “Stuar Little” ($2.2 million; $1,284 per theater) 15. “Next Friday” ($2 million; $1,696 per theater) 16. “The Sixth Sense” ($1.9 million; $2,125 per theater) 17. “Galaxy Quest” ($1.63 million; $1,375 per theater) 18. “The Talented Mr. Ripley” ($1 million; $1,048 per theater) 19. “Toy Story 2” ($920,000; $1,204 per theater) 20. “Angela’s Ashes” ($760,000; $1,238 per theater) 21. “Topsy-Turvy” ($650,000; $2,880 per theater) 22. “Girl, Interrupted” ($500,000; $817 per theater) 23. “Down To You” ($470,000; $550 per theater) 24. “Magnolia” ($460,000; $1,600 per theater) 25. “Eye of the Beholder” ($440,000; $490 per theater) 26. “The End Of the Affair” ($380,000, $1,203 per theater) 27. “Being John Malkovich” ($240,000; $1,435 per theater) 28. “The Bone Collector” ($200,000; $715 per theater) 29. “Snow Falling On Cedars” ($174,000; $605 per theater) 30. “End of Days” ($170,000; $715 per theater)