"Hellboy II" heavenly at box office

Sun Jul 13, 2008 1:57pm EDT
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By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The "Hellboy" sequel sizzled at the weekend box office in North America, while Eddie Murphy bombed with his latest comedy, "Meet Dave," according to studio estimates issued on Sunday.

"Hellboy II: The Golden Army," starring Ron Perlman as a cigar-chomping demon who fights evil, opened at No. 1 after selling about $35.9 million worth of tickets.

The Universal Pictures release, which cost about $85 million to make, exceeded industry expectations, as well as the $23.2 million start for its 2004 predecessor, "Hellboy."

Both films were directed by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who in the interim enjoyed huge success with his 2006 fantasy thriller "Pan's Labyrinth."

The sequel becomes the third comic-book property to lead the field this summer, following "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk." But its reign will be brief, as the highly anticipated Batman sequel "The Dark Knight" opens on Friday.

Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said the studio's marketing efforts emphasized the fantasy and emotional elements to differentiate the film from the other comic-book movies.

The first "Hellboy" film went on to make about $60 million domestically -- evidently not enough to dissuade its distributor, Columbia, from letting the franchise move to Universal.

Universal, a unit of General Electric Co, hopes there will be a third film, but Del Toro's availability is unclear since he will be tied up with the "Hobbit" movie for the next few years.   Continued...