Moviegoers Living in 'Sin City'
As news of Pope John Paul II's death dominated the weekend, moviegoers appear to have vindicated recent accusations that America is plagued by what religious radicals call a death culture—a charge lobbed by President George W. Bush in the wake of the Terri Schiavo case—by flocking to the ultra-violent Sin City.

A mostly monochromatic, digitally-rendered noir picture adapted from comic books by Frank Miller (Robocop 2) and co-directed by Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids) and Miller, Sin City gorged on a gluttonous $29.1 million weekend at 3,230 locations. Pre-release industry tracking was comparable to Constantine, another R-rated comic book adaptation, which opened to $29.8 million in February and has made $73.7 million so far.

The $40 million-budgeted Sin City was driven by young males, who, as is often the case, will likely forsake it next weekend to the tune of an over 50 percent drop. The picture's nearly $11.8 million Friday gross accounted for 41 percent of the weekend, an inordinately high figure and suggestive of a front-loaded pattern. Fellow Dark Horse Comics adaptation Hellboy kicked off last April with $23.2 million and was swiftly extinguished at $59.6 million.

Looking like a more gruesome and sexual black-and-white Dick Tracy, Sin City upped the ante in a hardboiled genre. Recent noir-inspired pictures have tended to fizzle at the box office, such as Dark City and True Romance, with L.A. Confidential's $64.6 million total gross being a highlight. What's more, Sin City, with its color scheme and digital photography, was in danger of getting boxed in the style-over-story category. This has been the death knell for the likes of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Final Fantasy, among several others.

Dimension spinned Sin City's negatives, emphasizing the picture's relative uniqueness, which belongs to the nihilistic world of Rodriguez and sometime co-conspirator Quentin Tarantino, who both define a character's coolness by how they kill and get killed. The marketing wore the movie's dark comic origins as a badge of honor and relentlessly pursued fans, especially on the Internet. A large cast, including Clive Owen, Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke as the anti-heroes and with Jessica Alba, Brittany Murphy and Rosario Dawson among the broads, raised the picture's profile, providing eye-catching, character-specific posters, especially of Alba's writhing stripper. Dimension's parent, Miramax, worked a similar routine with Tarantino's Kill Bill movies, and Tarantino's name was invoked on Sin City with a nebulous guest director credit.

Audiences were less interested in what the girls had to say as Barbershop spin-off and Queen Latifah vehicle Beauty Shop managed $12.8 million at 2,659 sites for $16.6 million in four days. The first Barbershop opened to $20.6 million at 1,605 theaters on its way to $75.8 million, while sequel Barbershop 2: Back in Business grabbed $24.2 million out of the gate at 2,711 sites on course to $65.1 million. Spin-off movies often make less than their predecessors do as was the case with Mummy spawn The Scorpion King and Daredevil-inspired Elektra, which tanked earlier this year.

The Upside of Anger expanded into national release and delivered a modest $4.0 million at 1,111 theaters. The dramatic comedy starring Joan Allen and Kevin Costner has earned $8.6 million in 24 days.

Among holdovers, Robots mustered the smallest drop among wide releases—thanks in part to distributor 20th Century Fox's 555 sneak previews of Fever Pitch being attached to it (and added to its grosses) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The computer-animated Robots leaked just 24 percent to $9.8 million, bringing its 24-day haul to $104.4 million. According to studio exit polling, Fever Pitch, a romantic comedy where Drew Barrymore vies with the Boston Red Sox for Jimmy Fallon's attention, played evenly among major demographics, except for lagging in males under 25. It opens on April 8.


Weekend Box Office Chart

• Spotlight: After Ten Years, Problematic 'Apollo 13' Remains Compelling as Docudrama

Feb. 18, 2003 - 'Daredevil' Hits Box Office Bullseye

Jan. 18, 2005 - 'Elektra' Tragic, 'Company' Profits

Jan. 30, 2005 - 'Passion of the Christ,' 'Fahrenheit 9/11' Tops in 2004

Feb. 22, 2005 - 'Constantine' Smokes in Debut

Review: The Upside of Anger

Review: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Review: Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Review: Bringing Down the House

NOTE: This report was originally published on Sunday, April 3 and was updated on Monday, April 4 with actual grosses.