Sunday, June 1, 2008

Women flock to "Sex" at box office

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Women flocked to "Sex and the City," the long-awaited romantic comedy based on the HBO series of the same name, sending it to the top spot at the North American box office with better-than-expected weekend sales, distributor Warner Bros. Pictures said on Sunday.

Its $55.7 million opening easily beat expectations of the Time Warner Inc unit had hoped the big-screen version of the series would launch in the $25 million to $35 million range.
Industry observers had assumed that "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" would whip up a second weekend in first place. Instead, the Paramount Pictures adventure was No. 2 with $46 million.

The Rogue Pictures horror film "The Strangers" kicked off at No. 3 with $20.7 million, also surpassing predictions.

If the streets seemed unusually devoid of women, that's because they were likely lining up for "Sex," the big-screen adaptation of the popular television series about the romantic and fashion dilemmas confronted by four Manhattanites.
Coming to theaters four years after they ended their six-season run on HBO, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her gal pals unleashed a frenzy among the show's fans, who organized large gatherings to catch up with their heroines' exploits.

Warner Bros. said women comprised 85 percent of the audience on Friday night.
"Women are great planners and they definitely wanted a girls' night out," said Dan Fellman, president of distribution at Warner Bros. He added that some women bought out an entire theater in Los Angeles' Century City district for all their friends.
But anecdotal evidence indicated that Saturday's screenings played more like date movies, with patient husbands and boyfriends perhaps making up a quarter of the crowd, he said.
The three-day haul ranks as the biggest R-rated comedy opening of all time, beating the $45.1 million bow of "American Pie" in 1999. Among all R-rated films, it ranks at No. 5 behind largely male-driven films like "The Matrix" and "300." In the United States, viewers under 17 cannot watch an R-rated film unless they are accompanied by an adult.

"Sex and the City" creator Darren Star, who served as a producer on the $60 million movie, said it was too early to talk about a possible sequel. But he noted that "women of all ages are following the journeys of these characters."
While the HBO series was an award-winning smash, he said the show has received a "a big second life" in syndication.

Parker, who also produced, reunited with co-stars Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon. The film was written and directed by series veteran Michael Patrick King. Reviews were mixed.
The film represents a resounding last hurrah for its producer, New Line Cinema. The struggling studio was recently downsized to a division of Warner Bros. by their Time Warner parent after years of losses. It also represents a face-saving release for Warner Bros., which has a spectacular flop on its hands with "Speed Racer," a $160 million film that has earned $40 million after four weeks.

Elsewhere, "Indiana Jones" has earned $216.9 million after opening on May 22. The fourth film in the adventure franchise becomes the second movie of the year to surpass $200 million. The superhero saga "Iron Man" was first, and has earned $276.6 million to date. Both films were distributed by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc.

"The Strangers," a $9 million home-invasion horror starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, was released as a counter-programming alternative to "Sex and the City." Its $20.7 million opening is a record for Rogue, a Universal Pictures division that specializes in low-budget movies. The old record of $11.4 million was held by the 2007 ping-pong comedy "Balls of Fury." Universal is a unit of General Electric Co's NBC Universal.