Joshua Rich's online-report: Sony's family comedy starring Robin Williams had an okay opening, bringing in $16.4 million
Credit: RV: Joe Lederer

All eyes in box office prediction land may have been on United 93, but in theaters all eyes were on the Robin Williams comedy RV, which opened in first place with $16.4 million, according to Sunday’s estimates. (We’ll get to United 93 — which did well enough — in a moment.) For the second straight week, kudos go to the smarties at Sony, who can now boast of having two different sets of back-to-back opening-week winners in 2006: Last weekend, Silent Hill bowed at No. 1; in February, the studio’s Pink Panther and When a Stranger Calls debuted on top. Oh, but there’s more. RV is Sony’s fifth No. 1 movie of the year — impressive given that the company enjoyed just six weekend winners in the whole of its gawdawful 2005. So I say it’s time for Sony?s frowns to be officially turned upside down. (My good friend John at box office tracking firm Nielsen EDI does note, however, that RV‘s $16.4 mil gross is the lowest for a No. 1 premiere since Doom made $15.5 mil last October. Man, and here I was trying to give Sony props. John is such a cynic.)

Now, back to the 9/11 drama United 93, which debuted at No. 2 with $11.6 mil. Given its critical raves and A- CinemaScore review from audiences (54 percent of whom were men and 72 percent of whom were over the age of 25), I’m a little surprised its gross wasn’t a few bucks higher. Still, United 93 enjoyed the best per-screen average among the weekend’s wide openers (a decent $6,465), it’s already set to recoup its low $15 mil negative cost, and it’s going to have a long life on video down the road. So the folks at Universal should be pleased with their risky experiment.

Rounding out the top five, the gymnastics laugh-a-thon Stick It opened at No. 3 with $11.3 mil — the cinematic equivalent of staying on the balance beam but not really wowing the crowd. Silent Hill dropped an expected 54 percent to earn $9.3 mil, good enough for fourth place. And Scary Movie 4 also dropped 54 percent to finish with $7.8 mil in fifth. (Cynic John mentions that SM4 is on path to break Alien vs. Predator‘s inglorious record for the movie that had the biggest opening without ultimately reaching $100 mil. The spoof took in $40.2 mil its first week and now stands at $78.2 mil. Previously, AVP bowed at $38.3 mil and had a cumulative gross of just $80.3 mil.)

A few more movies of note. Despite having Starbucks’ marketing muscle behind it, Akeelah and the Bee disappointed a bit, with a $6.3 mil opening in eighth place — the cinematic equivalent of ordering a tasty Venti Double Skim Latte and then finding out that it’s cold. Fox Searchlight’s Indian drama Water had the weeks most impressive small-release bow, averaging $12,080 on five screens. And by putting another $7.1 mil in its freezer, Ice Age: The Meltdown has now earned $177.7 mil total. That sum is more than what the first Ice Age flick made ($176.4) and, according, it places IA: TM at No. 91 on the all-time domestic chart. That should keep Cynic John quiet for a while.

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