Blade II strolled into 2,707 theaters on Oscar weekend and promptly cut the competition down to size by earning over $33 million, the second largest March opening ever.  Ice Age, which set the record last weekend with a $45 million bow, came in just behind Blade II at $31million this weekend.  The $33 million opening posted by Blade II was also the largest opening ever for star Wesley Snipes and it almost doubled the $17 million opening for the first Blade film, which went on to earn to over $70 million domestically during its theatrical run. Blade II, which posted the week's best per screen average at $12,228, performed much better than most industry observers had predicted. A third Blade film has already been greenlighted and the director of Blade II, Guillermo del Toro, should be back along with all the prominent cast members (see 'Blade 3 Set Before Blade 2 Hits the Screen').  Blade's strong opening gave New Line Cinema a fourth franchise property to go along with the studio's other gems, which include Austin Powers, The Lord of the Rings, and Rush Hour.


The success of Blade II is also another feather in Marvel's cap, and the publisher has provided retailers with several comic adaptations of the film (see 'Blade Comics Explained') as well as with a new Blade comic series in its Max line, which is targeted at older readers.  Blade is just the first arrow from Marvel's cinematic quiver to hit the target this year.  Still to come is the highly anticipated Spider-Man film, which opens May 3.  As was the case with Blade, the next film in the Spider-Man series is already set before the webslinger even makes his appearance on the silver screen.  Spider-Man director Sam Raimi and all the principals of his cast will return for the second Spidey film, which starts filming next January.  Meanwhile Marvel has three major films set to debut in 2003, Daredevil, X-Men II, and The Incredible Hulk (see 'Marvel's 'Monster' Movies Mash the Screen').