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‘Hancock’ is Smith’s fifth big debut on the Fourth

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by Scott Bowles, USA Today

Thanks to John Hancock, Mr. Smith goes to the record books.

Hancock, the story of a disillusioned superhero in need of a PR makeover, took in an estimated $66 million over the weekend and put Will Smith atop the ranks of stars with consecutive blockbusters, according to Nielsen EDI.

The movie, which has collected $107.3 million since its release Tuesday night, makes Smith the first actor in Hollywood history to have eight straight movies eclipse $100 million — many of them over the July Fourth holiday.

Despite mixed reviews, there was little question that Hancock would give Smith his 12th No. 1 film. He has propelled Independence Day, Men in Black, Wild Wild West and Bad Boys II to No. 1 debuts on July Fourth weekends, even with middling critical reactions.

“Audiences don’t care what critics say; they’re going to turn out for anything he does,” says Chad Hartigan, analyst for Exhibitor Relations.

Hartigan says that part of Smith’s appeal is his ability to mix it up. “His specialty is science fiction and action. But he has had huge hits with drama, like The Pursuit of Happyness, romantic comedy, like Hitch, and animation. Few actors have that kind of range.”

But if the “consecutive” caveat is dropped, there are still a few actors ahead of Smith. Tom Hanks has 15 movies that have grossed more than $100 million. Tom Cruise has 14, followed by Eddie Murphy’s 13.

Rory Bruer, distribution chief for Sony Pictures, which released Hancock, says the surprising statistic is Smith’s overseas allure. Hancock opened in 50 other countries this weekend; it was No. 1 in 47 of them, raking in another $78 million.

“Certainly, Will Smith has dominated the Fourth of July,” Bruer says. “But, frankly, anytime he opens a movie, you’re in good shape.”

The animated love story WALL·E dropped to No. 2, taking in $33.4 million and bringing its 10-day total to $128.1 million. The Angelina Jolie shoot-’em-up Wanted was third with $20.6 million, raising its haul to $90.8 million.

Despite the strong Hancock debut, ticket sales were down 3% compared with the comparable weekend last year, the first time in seven weeks that ticket sales dipped.

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Written by Symphony

July 11, 2008 at 8:44 am

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