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‘Hellboy’ goes straightto the top of box office

Comic book tale opens with $23.5 million, beats ‘Walking Tall’
/ Source: The Associated Press

A wisecracking demon from hell took down The Rock for the weekend’s box-office title.

“Hellboy,” starring Ron Perlman as the comic-book superhero with red skin, horns and a tail, debuted as the top flick with $23.5 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The Rock’s “Walking Tall,” a remake of the 1973 vigilante-justice tale, opened in second place with $15.3 million.

The previous weekend’s top movie, “Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed,” fell to No. 3 with $15.1 million, lifting its 10-day total to $50 million.

The weekend’s other new wide releases followed: Disney’s animated cow tale “Home on the Range” at No. 4 with $14 million and Julia Stiles’ love story “The Prince and Me” at No. 5 with $10 million.

Wide variety of moviesHaving five movies pull in $10 million or more is a rarity for early April, typically a slower time at theaters. The range of movies left something for all audiences, from G-rated family adventures to teen romance to violent shoot-’em-ups.

“This weekend was like the classic movie-goers’ weekend. You had all these different genres represented,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. “If you wanted lots of choices, they certainly were there for you.”

The overall box office rose for the sixth-straight weekend. The top 12 movies took in $114.5 million, up 40 percent from the same weekend last year.

That string of up weekends began with the blockbuster debut of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ, which continued to hold strongly. “The Passion” came in sixth with $9.9 million, raising its total to $330.1 million.

Distributor Newmarket Films expanded “The Passion” to 3,408 theaters, up about 200, in anticipation of a solid run through Easter next Sunday.

Hollywood’s domestic revenues for 2004 are just over $2 billion, about 6 percent ahead of last year’s.

That’s a solid springboard for the busy summer season, whose May releases include the animated sequel “Shrek 2,” Brad Pitt’s epic “Troy,” the vampire yarn “Van Helsing” and the end-of-the-world tale “The Day After Tomorrow.” Following in June are “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” and “Spider-Man 2.”

‘Hellboy’ draws broad audienceA cult attraction compared to better-known comic books such as “Spider-Man” and “X-Men,” “Hellboy” managed to draw a broad audience with its mix of dark humor and nonstop action.

Perlman plays a demon raised by a loving adopted father (John Hurt), who grooms the hero to work for a government paranormal bureau disguised as a waste-management operation.

The movie presents a working-class hero fighting for good despite his demonic pedigree and wistful longing for the affection of a beautiful colleague (Selma Blair).

“He’s a plumber. He rides around in a garbage truck. How’s he supposed to get the girl?” said Tom Sherak, a partner in Revolution Studios, which produced the movie for distributor Sony. “You think of the title ‘Hellboy,’ you think of the end of the world, but it turns out to be a fun movie.”