'Constantine' Smokes in Debut
Constantine's opening weekend was heavenly in size, but hellish in rank, trailing the second frame of Will Smith's romantic comedy juggernaut Hitch.

Starring Keanu Reeves as a chain-smoking paranormal detective between heaven and hell, Constantine exorcised $29.8 million from 3,006 locations, beating the openings of fellow demonic comic book adaptations Hellboy and Spawn, and, in unadjusted gross, the debut of the original Matrix six years ago. According to distributor Warner Bros.' exit polling, the audience was 56 percent male and evenly split between those over and under age 25.

Over the four-day President's Day weekend, Constantine conjured $33.6 million, ranking as the third biggest opening the holiday frame has seen, behind 50 First Dates' $45.1 million last year and Daredevil's $45.0 million in 2003.

Looking like a cross between previous Keanu Reeves and Warner Bros. collaborations. The Matrix and The Devil's Advocate, the nearly $100 million supernatural thriller had the feel of a continuing franchise and captured audiences with its creepy special effects, showing the picture's purported unseen evil in everyday life.

Because of Winn-Dixie lapped up $10.2 million at 3,188 theaters over the three-day weekend ($13.2 million for the four-day holiday), an opening on the higher end of family pictures that don't rely on special effects or animation. Fox's Saturday exit polling showed that 81% of the audience was family—47% under the age of 12 and 34% parents.

While not of interest to fan boys like Constantine was, Because of Winn-Dixie welcomed audiences with a warm, fun trailer, looking like Pollyanna with a dog. The $14 million production was reminiscent of movies like My Dog Skip, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey and Secondhand Lions—the latter was also a super-saturation release, like Winn-Dixie, opening to $12.1 million on its way to $42.1 million.

New Line's Jim Carrey-free family comedy Son of the Mask drew $7.5 million at 2,966 theaters for the three-day weekend ($9.1 million for the four day), well below the $23.1 million opening at 2,360 locations of its Carrey predecessor The Mask in 1994. The sequel performed worse than New Line's last Carrey-less follow-up, the Dumb and Dumber prequel Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, which mustered $10.8 million out of the gate at 2,609 venues in 2003.

The marketing for Son of the Mask acted as if The Mask was an ongoing franchise, fresh in people's minds. However, it's been over 10 years, and audience memory and momentum for a sequel faded long ago. The picture looked like any other frantic, computer-enhanced kids comedy and more like Baby Geniuses than Scooby-Doo. Sequels with no returning cast members tend to make considerably less than their predecessors, including The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas in 2000, which had a 27 percent retention of the 1994 original's gross.

Son of the Mask cost $84 million to make, but distributor New Line says foreign partners covered much of the expense, leaving its North American exposure at $20 million. The studio hopes for better returns in home entertainment, where kids movies often clean up.


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NOTE: This story was updated on on Tuesday, Feb. 22 with actual grosses.