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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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“Despicable Me”: the bad guy wins big, but it’s a weekend full of winners.

Despicable Me

Complaints about summer box have evaporated with the release of well-marketed movies that people seem to actually like. Weird. Leading the pack is the PG-rated animated family comedy, “Despicable Me,” which starring voice Steve Carell has been madly promoting everywhere. The zany villain-centric tale has also benefited, as per Anthony D’Alessandro, from the usual cross-promotional synergies which are as diabolical yet effective as the words are annoying to write/read.

The 3-D animation nearly doubled the already healthy amounts that I mentioned Friday and scored a weekend estimate of over $60.1 million today according to Box Office Mojo. It’s a much needed break for troubled Universal which is launching a new animation division with the film from two French first-time feature directors.

Coming in at #2 was a quite decent second weekend for Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.” The PG-13 rated female tween-teen-young-adult attracting flick suffered an average drop of about 48% and brought home about $33.4 million worth of estimated bacon.

Adrien Brody and Alice Braga in The blood quotient rises considerably for the third genre flick in this week’s lineup, “Predators.” The action-horror pic, which according Jason Zingale, contains an unlucky character who is literally filleted, is apparently being greeted as a bloody good time for action/horror/creature-feature fans and brought in $25.3 million, just a tad higher than the higher end of expectations. That’s especially good considering the remarkably low budget by current action-film standards, $39 million, thanks to the cost-cutting genius of producer Robert Rodriguez and, one assumes, the efficient work of director Nimrod Antal.

(Some of us geeks will remember the praise Joss Whedon generated from making his space-action flick, “Serenity” for $40 million — and shooting the movie entirely in the greater Los Angeles area — back in 2005. Us “Firefly” fans would have been a whole lot happpier with $25 million  than the very disappointing $10 million it’s first weekend actually generated. Damn you people for thinking the movie had something to do with spas or adult diapers.)

Following close behind is the latest leggy smash from Pixar/Disney. “Toy Story 3” generated $22 million in its fourth week, having already earned $140 million over its admittedly enormous (but no longer unusually large) budget of $200 million. I’m sure a lot of that is largely probably due to one of the highest paid voice casts in entertainment history, considering not only the status of Tom Hanks and, to a vastly lesser extent, Tim Allen, but also the enormous success of the prior films. Also, this level of CGI animation appears to be a pricey proposition, still.

Last week’s very successful #2 film, the critically-loathed and C Cinemascore family-action pic, “The Last Airbender” dropped 57% in its second week to this week’s #5 spot. That is actually a fairly typical, though not great, drop for a genre film. Still, with a $150 million budget, critical nightmares of this TV-animation adaptation becoming a long-running live-action film series may remain the stuff of dreams.

Meanwhile, expectations are also being exceeded in limited release. “The Kids are Alright” got the best per-screen average not only of the week but of the year with a whopping per screen of over $72,000 on seven screens. Also opening this week in a very large for limited 110 theater release was the second film of Steig Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, which is quickly emerging as something of an international Harry Potter phenom for over-educated grown-ups. “The Girl Who Played with Fire” made it to the #11 spot with $965,000 estimated despite muted reviews. “Cyrus” continues to do very well, also.

John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, and Jonah Hill as

There’s more. As usual, the details as compiled by Peter Knegt are over at Indiewire.

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“Shrek Forever After” to live up to its name?

Shrek Forever After Quite possibly, if three weeks constitutes “forever.” The final installment of the CGI animation series was considered a fairly major disappointment in its first week, earning a relatively anemic amount just under $71 million, tens of millions less than prior entries. However,  “Shrek Forever After” has shown decent staying power, indicating that the relatively strong reviews this time around might be reflective of something that actually matters to audiences. If we are to believe jolly Carl DiOrio, it is once again the probable box office champion. Indeed, DiOrio expects the grosses to be between $25 and $30 million, which could easily double almost all of the four, count ‘em, four major new releases coming out this week, assuming his lowish guesses for the other films are right.

To a lesser extent, the second week of the widely hated “Sex and the City 2” is also a contender for third place according to DiOrio — in his video, he doesn’t mention it in writing — but the Numbers see things quite a bit differently. I’d personally expect a bigger than average drop-off from it’s unimpressive debut simply because I get the feeling that hardly anyone liked it much, perhaps not even the franchise’s biggest fans.

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Weekend box office: “Iron Man 2″ holds on in U.S., but “Robin Hood” makes out like a bandit abroad

Seeing as we have two action movies in contention this week, I’ll cut to the chase. Marvel and Paramount’s “Iron Man 2,” as was universally expected back before the weekend started, easily held on to its #1 spot at the box office. Ir scored a weekend estimate of $53 million that nevertheless included a somewhat higher than average drop of over 58%, indicating that the movie, as I imagined, isn’t quite wowing filmgoers the way the first movie in the franchise did.

This week’s big debut, “Robin Hood” has generally received a decidedly mixed reaction from, as far as I can tell, everyone who sees. It came in slightly below expectations at an estimate of roughly $37.1 million for Universal. (Earlier, the box office gurus were talking about figures in the range of $40-50 million.) Nevertheless, though the reaction be “meh,” not all the news for brave Sir Robin is mediocre. Indeed, THR this morning trumpeted a take of $74 million from just under 6,944 screens across the globe, making it the world’s #1 movie.

Russell Crowe is, I guess, It’s been a long, long time since my stint in an International Sales wing of a smallish film company, but it appears that, then as now, the combination of a really well-known star like Russell Crowe, action, and a strong (at least in theory) storyline remains the formula for success in non-English-speaking territories. I’m sure this news is music to the ears of the suits of recently bad luck/bad decision prone Universal.

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No surprise: “Alice in Wonderland” earns all the mad teaparty crumpets

Alice in Wonderland

There really isn’t that much to add to the news that, as reported by Box Office’s Mojo’s weekly chart, “Alice in Wonderland” suffered only a reasonably modest fall-off of 46.6% from its mega-boffo opening weekend, which meant that the latest from the Disney, Tim Burton, and Johnny Depp marketing triumvirate earned a stellar estimated $62 million this weekend. Anne Thompson and her recently added resident box office guru, Anthony D’Alesandro, report that this is a record for a non-summertime second weekend for a film. It’s certainly not that different from the expectations I discussed on Thursday.

As for the newer releases, it was something of a rout. I  like D’Alessandro’s elegant description:

Four distribs attempted to counterprogram against the Disney title this weekend based on the misguided notion that Alice was strictly family fare.  However, rather than nipping away at Alice’s audience, Alice sliced off theirs.

“This is the quintessential four quadrant movie, playing to adults at one time of day, families at matinees as well as couples,” gloated Disney distribution president Chuck Viane.

In other words, it didn’t matter what age or gender you were this weekend, most likely your first choice was “Alice.” It also performed the rare feat of scoring both the biggest gross and, with the aid of those inflated 3-D ticket prices, the best per-screen average of $16,631.

Still, people did see other movies. The marketing for “Green Zonefooled persuaded enough viewers that it was similar to the wildly successful “Bourne” pairings of star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass to earn an estimate of roughly $14.5 million. That might not have been so bad if “Green Zone” hadn’t cost an exorbitant reported $100 million. Conservatives, who have roundly bashed the film as anti-American, will no doubt be claiming victory over the terrorist-loving communists of Universal.

I didn’t quite have the guts to come right out and say it, but I sort of suspected that the raunchy-but-romantic comedy, “She’s Out of My League” was being overly downplayed in some of the prognostication last week and I was right, sort of. The film failed to break into double digits, but its estimated $9.6 million take was enough to put it in the #3 spot for the weekend anyway. Considering that’s just under half the film’s budget, newcomer star Jay Baruchel may not be the year’s break-out comedy star, but he will live to be the girl-friendly geek, a funnier David Schwimmer, if you will, for another day. Indeed, the film seemed to do best with younger women.

I did come right out and wonder why anyone would want to see “Our Family Wedding,” a film which THR‘s Jolly Carl DiOrio seemed to think would do significantly better than “League” — despite being in significantly fewer theaters and, if most critics are to be listened to at all, sucking. My antennae were apparently a bit better than usual and “Wedding,” did, in fact, come in below the other new releases, and the fourth week of “Shutter Island,” to hit the #6 spot with a lackluster $7.6 million estimate for Fox Searchlight. Hopefully, the budget was nice and low.  The good news is that that Rotten Tomatoes rating I linked to above has actually climbed dramatically since Thursday, from an embarrassing 4% to a merely bad 18%.

Doing a bit better, though still no doubt disappointing Summit Entertainment, was the romantic drama “Remember Me” from director Allen Coulter of “The Sopranos” and “Hollywoodland.” Just enough young girls remembered that Robert Pattinson was the “Twilight” heart-throb to make the weepy with the widely derided ending an estimated $8.3 million in the #4 spot. Considering the armies of teen-and-tween-aged girls in love with Pattinson, it’s a result that seems almost as pale as the dreamy young Brit’s vampire make-up.

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