AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant While “Eight” took top honors, the romantic comedy spoof “Date Movie” opened close behind at the box office with estimated ticket sales of $22.3 million over the four days. The 20th Century Fox release succeeded in connecting with its target audience, with 79 percent of the ticket buyers under the age of 25. “Our marketing people knew who the audience was and executed a terrific campaign,” said Chris Aronson, Fox Distribution’s senior vice president and general sales manager. “It shows that two movies with different audiences can both open successfully and not cannibalize each other.” Sony Pictures Entertainment experienced mixed results over the weekend: Popular holdover “The Pink Panther” was in a strong third place, but the new drama “Freedomland” bowed in a disappointing seventh place. “Panther,” starring Steve Martin, stayed strong in its second weekend with estimated ticket sales of $21 million and an impressive overall gross of $46.7 million to date. “`Pink Panther’ had an amazing hold by anybody’s standards,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s president of domestic distribution. “For us to come in and be right at the top with ‘Eight Below’ and ‘Date Movie’ I think bodes well for the movie and how it will perform in the weeks to come.” The Walt Disney Pictures adventure film “Eight Below” froze out the competition during the four-day Presidents Day weekend with a $25.3 million opening, far beyond predictions and the biggest February bow in the studio’s long history, according to box office estimates released Monday. The PG-rated film, which stars Paul Walker as an expedition team member in Antarctica who must rescue his dogs after an accident, drew well beyond the expected crowd of parents and children with 40 percent of the audience being nonfamily. “I’m frozen with delight,” joked Chuck Viane, president of Disney’s Buena Vista Distribution. “It’s one of those fantastic weekends where so many things had to come together, and they all did.” “Eight” was the second Disney film in 2006 to open in first place – following last month’s basketball drama “Glory Road.” Viane said well-attended sneak previews of “Eight” helped to generate positive word of mouth. He also credited stars Walker and Jason Biggs for promoting the film hard on the talk-show circuit and “doing what movie stars used to do; you don’t always get that anymore.” But “Freedomland,” starring Samuel L. Jackson and Julianne Moore, was another story, taking in just $7 million over the four days. “It’s tough,” Bruer said. “It’s a movie that everyone worked really hard on and we’re very proud of the film, but we would have liked to have done more.” Universal Pictures’ animated hit “Curious George” remained popular and added an estimated $15.3 million in ticket sales for a fourth-place finish and a two-week total of $33.5 million. Rounding out the top five was New Line Cinema’s fright flick “Final Destination 3,” which took in an estimated $12.5 million and has grossed $38.2 million so far. While the combined grosses of the top 12 movies in the marketplace were down slightly – less than 1 percent – from 2005’s Presidents Day weekend, revenues for the year are up by 6 percent so far, according to the box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co. “I think it’s a testament to the diversity of films that are out there right now,” said Exhibitor Relations President Paul Dergarabedian. “There’s a lot of programming and counterprogramming going on and a lot of choices.” Of those films opening in limited release, Fox Searchlight’s “Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor)” performed best. The Russian-language film, a major hit overseas, bowed in just three theaters and took in an estimated $110,000. It’s per-theater average of $36,666 was by far the highest of any film in release. “It far exceeded our expectations, and we’ll be opening in nine more theaters this Friday,” said Fox Searchlight Chief Operating Officer Steve Gilula. Final weekend box office numbers will be released today. Greg Hernandez, (818) 713-3758 firstname.lastname@example.org TOP MOVIES Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Monday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Tuesday. 1. “Eight Below,” $25 million. 2. “Date Movie,” $22.3 million. 3. “The Pink Panther,” $21 million. 4. “Curious George,” $15.3 million. 5. “Final Destination 3,” $12.5 million. 6. “Firewall,” $10.3 million. 7. “Freedomland,” $7 million. 8. “Big Momma’s House 2,” $5.85 million. 9. “When a Stranger Calls,” $5.8 million. 10. “Nanny McPhee,” $5.1 million. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!