Guillermo del Toro's comic-book fantasy sequel won the weekend with $35.9 mil, while ''Journey to the Center of the Earth'' thrived at No. 3 and ''Meet Dave'' crashed and burned
Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Moviegoers went to Hellboy II: The Golden Army in big numbers this weekend, propelling the film to a remarkably easy No. 1 finish during one of the busier stretches of the summer. Meanwhile, Journey to the Center of the Earth was a solid third-place contender, and Meet Dave evaporated in a blaze of fire and brimstone.

As expected, Hellboy II opened strongly, with $35.9 million, according to Sunday’s estimates. That total far exceeds the $23.2 mil that director Guillermo del Toro‘s first Hellboy movie banked in its 2004 debut. It’s also the biggest premiere of del Toro’s relatively brief career (Blade II bowed with $32.5 mil in 2002). Universal in particular deserves props for having seen a franchise where many others didn’t, when it got the rights to the Dark Horse comic from Revolution and Sony, which put out Hellboy II‘s predecessor. This result almost certainly guarantees the continuation of the adventures of Ron Perlman’s big red guy.

For now, however, the film must hold on to its audience, especially while competing against The Dark Knight next weekend, a task that could prove challenging considering Hellboy II‘s merely okay CinemaScore grade of B from a crowd that was 69 percent male and 58 percent older people (i.e. the kind of folks who also populate Batman’s fan base). In other words, the sweet smell of success and sulfur may not last for long.

Will Smith’s Hancock was a solid second-place finisher, earning $33 mil on a decent 47 percent decline from its big July 4th opening weekend. In just 10 days, the movie has $165 mil in the domestic bank.

The 3-D family adventure Journey to the Center of the Earth was next at No. 3, with an impressive $20.6 mil, substantially better than most pundits had predicted…especially me (mea culpa, with a smile). Brendan Fraser’s effects-filled update of the Jules Verne classic got a boost from all those 3-D screenings (many of which have higher ticket prices), and it garnered a stellar A- CinemaScore mark from an audience that skewed slightly older but was evenly divided between men and women. An interesting side note: As the last release from the old incarnation of New Line Cinema, Journey to the Center of the Earth is the studio’s third straight successful release, following Harold and Kumar Go to Guantanamo Bay and Sex and the City. Which, you’ve gotta admit, is a pretty nice way to go out.

WALL-E finished at No. 4 with $18.5 mil on a fine 43 percent decline, and Wanted rounded out the top five with $11.6 mil. In the past week, Angelina Jolie’s shoot-’em-up has crossed the $100 mil mark along with Steve Carell’s Get Smart (No. 6), while Kung Fu Panda (No. 8) now ranks as the year’s — and Paramount’s — third $200 mil release, following Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

And, no, I’m not ignoring Eddie Murphy’s spaceship comedy Meet Dave, which crashed with just $5.3 mil at No. 7. But since you ignored it at the multiplex, I’m not going to waste time writing about this soon-to-be-forgotten film — well, except to say that it will at least earn more than Murphy’s biggest career embarrassment, the $4.4 mil grossing Adventures of Pluto Nash. Bravo.

Overall, the box office was down a steep 15 percent from the post-Independence Day weekend a year ago. Although that stands to reason, because at this time in 2007 the country was swept up in Harry Potter mania. Anyway, now it’s time for me to fly away on my broomstick.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army
  • Movie
  • 120 minutes