Weekend boxoffice: Ben Affleck steals the weekend, but “Easy A” hangs onto to its virtue

A surprise this week. A film that seemed to skew towards an older and more male audience actually grabbed more box office lucre than a high-concept comedy aimed largely — albeit on a weekend where no one made anything close to a cinematic mint.

Ben Affleck and Rebecca Miller in

He might look down in the pic above, but Ben Affleck — whose taken his share of sometimes deserved and sometimes not so deserved lumps as an actor over the years — has something to celebrate today. To be specific, the cowriter-director-star’s heist drama, “The Town,” swiped an estimated $23.8 million for Warner Brothers according to Box Office Mojo’s weekend chart. I’m guessing that the film got a boost from pent up demand for a the kind of plot-centric thriller we adult males seem to crave, as well as the budding  potential superstar presences of Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, and Blake Lively, not to mention female lead Rebecca Miller. Since older people usually pay a bit more attention to critics, it’s actually possible that the unusually good reviews helped here.

If Cinemascore means anything — and I’m not all that sure that it means all that much — “The Town” might have also gotten a boost from word of mouth, since Anne Thompson tell us it got a better than average B+ all around. Thompson also quotes Warner’s distribution chief Dan Fellman, saying that the studio is looking ahead to award season for the thriller. Moreover, Fellman also reminds us that the film is the largest September opening in Warner’s history (that is to say, September kind of sucks for box office). Though it’s not the kind of movie that usually wins Oscars, the loosened up Best Picture category certainly helps a well-reviewed and reasonably popular film’s chances.

Emma Stone in The PG-13 not-having-sex high school comedy with promising youngster Emma Stone,Easy A,” which was supposed to be #1 as of Thursday night, didn’t quite get there. However, seeing as its budget is reportedly $31 million less than the actually rather modestly budgeted “The Town,” it is by far the most profitable film of this frame with  respectable estimated receipts of $18.2  and an extremely respectable $8 million budget. It’s another fiscal win for Sony/Screen Gems, which has been on a sort of hot streak of late.

The M. Night Shymalan-produced “Devil” took the hindmost of the top 3 with a less than spectacular $12.58 million for Universal, which by now is used to disappointments. Though not directed by Shymalan, the PG-13 film was promoted as if it was and Uni and the man they call “Night” may finally be paying the price for all the almost universally disliked but oddly successful films that bore the once hugely promising filmmaker’s name. Anne Thompson wonders if the two other scheduled films drawn from stories by Shymalan to be directed by up-and-comers on low budgets, “The Night Chronicles,” will happen now. Mr. S., I grew up watching Rod Serling productions, I know Rod Serling’s work. You’re no Rod Serling.

The weekend’s other new release proved that audiences can spot a cheaply made 3D animated family film rather easily for something that is likely a far, far cry from Pixar or Dreamworks Animation. “Alpha and Omega” came in below the predictably sinking-like-a-stone-in-week #2 “Resident Evil: Afterlife” with an anemic $9.2 million.

A number of new films came out in limited release this week. The most impressive per-screen average of the week was $30,000 for the Kazuo Ishiguro adaptation, “Never Let Me Go.” The British science-fiction romantic drama earned $120,000 on four screens for Fox Searchlight, though it’s muted reviews may dim its Oscar hopes, which is really the only root to major success for a film like this at present. The highly buzzed, probable documentary (there are doubters, though everyone agrees it’s no “I’m Still Here“), “Catfish,” may have better Oscar hopes if it reassures the Academy that it really and truly is a documentary. It did well this weekend for Rogue with a $255,000 in only 12 theaters.

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Sometimes feel like the deck is stacked against you? The “Never Let Me Go” trailer might put that into perspective for you

Think you’re in a pointless, no-win situation? Did you feel at school like you were just being prepared to put into the human meatgrinder we call the rat race? Well, you’ve got it easy, kid, compared to the strangely acquiescent students and alumni of Hailsham. I’d tell you more but I understand via Cinemablend’s Katey Rich and the novel’s very spoilery wikipedia entry that the arguably science-fictional premise of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker Prize short-listed 2005 novel is kept somewhat hidden for a significant portion of the book. (It was revealed to me years ago, however, via book reviews and author interviews.)

That premise will also be revealed to you if you watch the intriguing trailer so, if you plan to read the book (which I think I might try to do myself, anyhow) you might want to hold off. I will say that the Japanese-English Ishiguro wrote the very non-genre “The Remains of the Day” and history and frustrated love seems to his favorite topics. This time, though, the history hasn’t been written yet.

Even aside from Ishiguro, this one has an intriguing pedigree. The adaptation is by novelist Alex Garland, who recently has turned to screenplays with “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine,” both directed by Danny Boyle, and the director is Mark Romanek. For some reason, I felt compelled to avoid his highly divisive 2002 thriller “One Hour Photo,” but he’s made some of the best videos of all time as far as I’m concerned, including the amazing and ultra-creepy “Closer” for Nine Inch Nails, the memorable “Criminal” for Fiona Apple, and “Hurt,” Johnny Cash’s moving cover of a song by Trent Reznor. And, oh yeah, Carey Mulligan is in it. Does anyone not like Carey Mulligan?

  

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