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'Troy' towers over its box-office rivals

LOS ANGELES -- Muscle-bound Brad Pitt fought his way through scrawnier competition to help the Greek epic "Troy" claim the top spot at the box office with $45.6 million.

A handful of movies aimed at teenagers continued to dominate the top 10.

Lindsay Lohan's high school comedy "Mean Girls" continued its strong run with $10.1 million for third place, dropping only 26 percent in its third week. "13 Going on 30" fell only 28 percent to earn $4.2 million for sixth place. Even the Olsen twins bomb "New York Minute" fell by a relatively small 37 percent to earn $3.7 million in seventh place.

Most movies this time of year see earnings drop 50 percent or more each week.

"These are very minimal drops, which shows that the most consistent audience right now is young girls," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations Co. "There are teen guys in the theaters, too. But I'll bet you it's the female in the couple deciding which movie they go to see."

That may also have been a factor with "Troy," which boasted hunky stars Pitt, Orlando Bloom, and Eric Bana.

The film's audience was split equally between male and female viewers, according to Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., which released the movie. "Males liked it because of the action and epic adventure of the movie. The females liked it because of Brad, Orlando, and Eric," he said.

Meanwhile, the Dracula, Wolf Man, and Frankenstein action-adventure "Van Helsing" saw 61 percent of its audience turn to dust in its second week, falling to No. 2 with $20.1 million for a cumulative total of $84.5 million, according to studio estimates yesterday.

Despite the apparently strong earnings for "Troy" and "Van Helsing," their massive budgets and the intensity of the summer movie competition suggest they will have a hard time earning their money back in North American theaters.

"Troy" cost a reported $175 million to $200 million to produce, while "Van Helsing" was in the $160 million range. Add to each about $50 million in marketing costs, and they will likely rely on international ticket sales and home video releases to show a profit.

Warner Bros. expressed satisfaction with "Troy" earnings, saying its debut compared favorably with 2000's R-rated "Gladiator," which earned $34.8 million in its opening weekend and rode strong word-of-mouth praise to a $187.6 million total, even before winning the Oscar for best picture.

The only other new movie to open in wide release was Jamie Foxx's comedy "Breakin' All the Rules," in which he played the author of a manual on how to leave your lover. It ranked in fourth place with $5.3 million. The weekend's total box-office earnings were down 35 percent from last year, coming in at $100.2 million. One movie made up most of the total $154.6 million from the same time in 2003: "The Matrix Reloaded," which was No. 1 with $97.1 million.

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