Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Black News: Will Smith Dominates the Box Office

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Will Smith, the closest thing to a sure bet in Hollywood these days, flew to the top of the worldwide box office with his critically mauled superhero saga "Hancock," distributor Columbia Pictures said on Sunday.

The comedy-drama, in which Smith plays a drunken crime-fighter with an image problem, sold an estimated $185 million worth of tickets, the Sony Corp-owned studio said.

Moviegoers in the United States and Canada contributed $107.3 million in the six days since the film opened on Tuesday evening, and the film racked up an additional $78 million in 50 territories. Columbia said the film opened at No. 1 in 47 of those 50 markets, including Britain, Germany, Australia, Brazil and South Korea.

The North American tally includes sales of $66 million for the U.S. Independence Day holiday weekend, beginning Friday. "Hancock" ranks as Smith's eighth-consecutive chart-topper, and his 12th overall, Columbia said.

"Audiences love Will Smith and the characters he plays," said Rory Bruer, Columbia's president of domestic theatrical distribution. "People want to share in the things he's doing."

Smith, 39, a one-time rapper famed for his gung-ho performances, ventures into darker territory with "Hancock." His slovenly character's messy crime-busting efforts cause more problems than they solve, and he enlists a public relations man, played by Jason Bateman, to help restore his reputation among the displeased citizenry of Los Angeles.

Critics were intrigued by the basic premise, but were vexed by a dramatic sub-plot involving Charlize Theron, who plays Bateman's wife. Peter Berg ("The Kingdom") directed the $150 million film, which was notably brief at just over 90 minutes.

Smith has ruled the July 4 holiday weekend five times, beginning with 1996's "Independence Day," the biggest movie of his career. Adjusted for ticket-price inflation, the "Hancock" opening ranks at No. 3 among those offerings, according to tracking firm Box Office Mojo.

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