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Hollywood maniuplates statistics to make any film a record-breaker

from latimes.com:

JULY 3, 2006

It wasn't enough that the comedy "Scary Movie 4" premiered to a healthy $41 million at the box office in April, setting an Easter weekend record.

Distributor Weinstein Co. further boasted that it was the biggest movie opening in the company's history — all six months of it.

fter 20th Century Fox opened its horror remake "The Omen" on the Satanic-sounding "6/6/06" date, the studio dashed off a news release proclaiming the $12.6-million take was "The Biggest Tuesday Opening in Motion Picture History."

Then again, studios almost never launch films on Tuesday because it's one of the lightest moviegoing days of the week.

When it comes to claiming bragging rights in Hollywood, no milestone is too obscure to exploit. Eager to find any marketing hook, studios each weekend put the box-office numbers through a Veg-O-Matic-style analysis, slicing and dicing figures to suit their needs. As a result, records are being set at, well, a record clip.

"It's all gone crazy," said Bob Weinstein, co-chairman of Weinstein Co. "Everybody is creating records, including us, to tout the fact that we're No. 1. The significance is not much, but we cop to being part of it."

Hollywood has long featured carnival barker-like promotion seeking to lure people into theaters. But the weekly drumbeat highlighting the thinnest of achievements has gotten so out of hand, said veteran movie distributor Tom Sherak, that he expects someone to soon claim: "The best opening without somebody in it who was born on a Tuesday morning."

Movie grosses are often subjected to mind-numbing analysis. Last week's premiere of "Superman Returns" was touted as the eighth-biggest Wednesday opening, but it slips to 11th if you exclude Tuesday night advance showings.

It's no longer enough to be among the weekend's top-grossing movies. With the TV, print, radio and online media obsessed with the weekly box-office derby, studios each Sunday scramble to come up with any statistics that set their films apart from the competitive pack, even if those boasts come with asterisks.

The animated "Cars" won its opening weekend in early June with a strong $60.1 million but still fell shy of the $70-million estimates from some analysts. Nonetheless, Walt Disney Co. pointed to a batch of records, including the highest-grossing debuts of Paul Newman, Owen Wilson and Bonnie Hunt, who were voice actors in the movie.

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