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‘Big Momma,’ ‘Nanny’ rule weekend box office

Moviegoers spend $42 million on family-friendly films
/ Source: The Associated Press

Moviegoers embraced a supersize momma in a wig and a governess who tames an unruly brood as family-friendly films dominated the weekend box office.

“Big Momma’s House 2,” with $28 million in estimated ticket sales, turned in the second-best January opening ever, trailing only the $35.9 million scored by the 1997 release of a special edition of “Star Wars,” according to Exhibitor Relations, which tracks box-office results.

As in the original “Big Momma’s House,” Martin Lawrence layers on the bulges and dons billowy, floral-print dresses, along with a wig. It was followed by another new release, “Nanny McPhee” starring Emma Thompson, with $14.1 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates.

“Audiences are obviously in the mood for some lighthearted films,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations. A week after the vampire thriller “Underworld: Evolution” led the pack, the marketplace is proving “adaptable to all these films.”

Bruce Snyder, president of domestic distribution for Twentieth Century Fox, said the popularity of its “Big Momma” films rests with Lawrence’s comic appeal.

“People like the “Big Momma” character, pure and simple. She’s funny, she’s sassy, but it’s a guy underneath there,” Snyder said.

“Underworld: Evolution” tumbled to the third spot, with $11.1 million in sales, a 59 percent decline from its strong first week.

The fourth spot was claimed by the new release “Annapolis,” one of three Disney films in the top 10. The story of a quick-fisted undergraduate, shot on location at the U.S. Naval Academy, pulled in $7.7 million.

“Hoodwinked,” an animated update of the Little Red Riding Hood story, fell to the fifth spot, off 29 percent from the previous week, with $7.4 million in sales.

Oscar contenders proved resilient, turning in modest drops in attendance weeks after their release. The cowboy romance “Brokeback Mountain,” in its eighth week in theaters, ranked sixth with $6.3 million in sales. The Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line” failed to climb into the top 10, but dropped only 5 percent from the previous week to land at No. 12, with $2.9 million in estimated sales.

“These films are still very robust, but it’s natural filmgoers like to see new films,” Dergarabedian said.

Rounding out the top 10 were Disney’s “Glory Road,” followed by Paramount’s “Last Holiday,” Disney’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” and the Weinstein Co.’s “The Matador.”

Overall, the top 12 films grossed an estimated $99 million, down slightly from the same weekend last year, which had $104 million in sales.