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'Sex and City' beats 'Indy' for top box-office draw

Russ Britt
MarketWatch (MCT)

LOS ANGELES - Never underestimate the power of women - and a good strong Cosmopolitan.

"Sex and the City" fans turned out in droves over the weekend to propel the movie adaptation of the popular HBO series past the $55 million mark in domestic box-office sales over the weekend, and past last weekend's blockbuster "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," preliminary figures show.

"Sex and the City," a release from Time Warner Inc.'s New Line unit, not only prompted thousands of Cosmopolitan-fueled cocktail parties focused on its Friday debut, it also made nearly $27 million in its first day in theaters, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers.

It went on to rake in more than $17 million on Saturday and was expected to make more than $11 million on Sunday, Dergarabedian said. That's a surprise, considering the movie was expected to make somewhere around $35 million to $40 million for the entire weekend. "Sex and the City" went off the air in 2004.

"We should never underestimate the clout of the female audience and the power of `Sex and the City,'" Dergarabedian said. "This is the first real surprise of the summer."

"Sex and the City" became the top-grossing female-oriented film of all time for an opening weekend, soaring well past "The Break Up," which made $39.2 million in domestic receipts. Released by General Electric Co.'s Universal Studios unit, "Break Up" also was released in the first post-Memorial Day weekend in 2006.

Online ticket seller Fandango reported that it sold more than 1 million advance tickets for the film, making it the top-selling romantic comedy of all time for the service. The company said it sold 16 percent of tickets for the film, the highest proportion that Fandango has sold.

It also accounted for 90 percent of Fandango's ticket sales as of Sunday morning, and helped account for more than 1,000 weekend showings of the film, Fandango said. Prior to Friday, Fandango reported that a survey of "Sex and the City" ticket buyers showed that 80 percent of all purchasers planned to attend a party devoted to the movie, and two-thirds planned to have Cosmopolitans, the signature drink of the television series' characters.

"Internet ticket sales for `Sex and the City' have been nothing short of extraordinary for a female-driven picture," Rick Butler, Fandango's chief operating officer, said in a press release.

"Indiana Jones," from Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures unit, made roughly $151 million during the five-day Memorial Day weekend, but ended up with $46 million during this past weekend, Dergarabedian said. That represents a 54 percent drop from last week's Friday-to-Sunday period, which came in at $101 million.

Dergarabedian said the drop wasn't terribly large, considering the film had massive numbers for its first weekend. But the power of "Sex and the City" just seemed to overwhelm it. "Indiana Jones" has made $216.9 million in domestic receipts thus far.

Preliminary figures for the rest of the top five finishers in domestic receipts showed new release "The Strangers" with $20.7 million. The film is distributed by New York-based Rogue Pictures.

Fourth and continuing strong was Paramount's "Iron Man" with $14 million. The film's legs, or staying power, propelled it past fifth-place finisher "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," which had an estimated $13 million.

"Narnia" from Walt Disney Co. was released two weeks after "Iron Man" and had outperformed it until this past weekend. Produced for $200 million, "Narnia" has made $115.7 million in the U.S. thus far.

Fox's "What Happens in Vegas" turned in $6.9 million for sixth place. Next was "Baby Mama" from Universal at $2.2 million.

Rounding out the top 10 was "Speed Racer" from Time Warner's Warner Bros. studios at $2.1 million, Sony Corp.'s "Made of Honor" at $2 million and Universal's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" at $1 million.

"Sex and the City" helped propel domestic receipts well past last year's mark, Dergarabedian said. The industry's top 12 films made $164.8 million over the weekend, up nearly 28 percent from last year's $129 million.

Dergarabedian said the weekend was the first up period after two down weekends. The gain from last year is notable in that this year's lineup of films beat last year's array, which included three big releases: "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," "Shrek the Third" and "Spider-Man 3."

In fact, this year's second-place finisher "Indiana Jones" came out ahead of last year's first-place finisher, "Pirates," which was in its second weekend in theaters at the time. "Pirates" made $44.2 million a year ago and stood at $217.5 million in cumulative receipts.

Year-to-date, revenue is down 2.8 percent and attendance is off 5.5 percent.

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