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Early showings for "300" film draw sell-out crowds

Category: 300 News
Article Date: March 9, 2007 | Publication: TV Guide (Reuters) | Author: Steve Gorman

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The ultra-bloody warrior film "300," about a legendary battle between the Spartans and Persians, seemed headed for U.S. box-office glory on Friday with sell-out crowds flocking to early showings.

Imax, the giant-screen movie chain, reported that all 57 of its 12:01 a.m. Friday screenings of the Warner Bros. film had sold out as its advance ticket sales for the weekend hit a new record for the month of March.

"We had the most amazing night," said Greg Foster, chairman and president of Imax Filmed Entertainment, adding that many Imax theaters arranged 2:30 a.m. shows at the last minute to accommodate fans who failed to get into the midnight showings.

Many of the rest of the nation's 600 theaters with early morning shows also played to capacity crowds, said Dan Fellman, domestic distribution president for the Time Warner Inc.-owned studio.

"They were flocking everywhere, not just to Imax," he told Reuters.

While overnight business accounted for a fraction of the more than 3,100 North American theaters where "300" was opening on Friday, the early surge at the multiplex was a strong indicator that the film was poised for a robust first weekend.

Some box-office analysts predicted "300" could finish the weekend in the $50 million range, an impressive achievement for a March opening given the film's "R" rating and lack of stars.

Seeking to squelch inflated expectations, Fellman said a weekend gross in the mid-$30 million range was "a more accurate estimate of where things are going to go."


Still, leading online ticket seller Fandango reported "300" was selling at twice the rate of a previously unexpected box-office hit, "Ghost Rider," which opened three weekends ago with $45.4 million in its first three days.

With no other major film releases this weekend, Fandango said 94 percent of its business was going to "300" with hundreds of screenings selling out. "Exhibitors are continually adding show times," Fandango spokesman Harry Medved said.

The record sum for a March opening is currently held by the computer-animated family film "Ice Age: The Meltdown," which grossed $68 million in its first weekend last year. The original "Ice Age" is No. 2 with $46 million in 2002.

"300" has received mixed reviews -- New York Times critic A.O. Scott called it "about as violent as 'Apocalypto' and twice as stupid" -- but has benefited from an aggressive Internet-based promotional campaign appealing to a younger, tech-focused crowd.

The hyper-stylized film, based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller about the ancient battle at Thermopylae in 480 B.C., was shot using actors staging combat scenes against blue screens on which the background and special effects are superimposed via computer graphics.

Amid the spectacle of severed limbs, decapitations and copious amounts of blood, the movie reenacts the story of 300 Spartans under King Leonidas who held out against the advancing Persian hordes led by Xerxes in one of the most famous last stands in history.

Warner Bros. is hoping to surpass the box-office success of another Miller adaptation, "Sin City," which grossed $160 million worldwide from a $40 million budget, according to movie Web site


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