'Brave One' stands at top of weekend boxoffice

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Jodie Foster braved a distracted marketplace to throttle all domestic boxoffice competition this weekend, as Warner Bros. opened her avenging-woman thriller "The Brave One" at No. 1 with an estimated $14 million.

Directed by Neil Jordan, the R-rated pic – produced by Silver Pictures and co-financed by Warners and Village Roadshow Pictures – fended off a pair of rival wide openers and a couple leggy holdovers.

Lionsgate's Russell Crowe-starring Western "3:10 to Yuma" finished second in its sophomore outing, sliding only 35% from opening grosses to notch another $9.2 million. That yielded a 10-day cume of $28.6 million for Relativity-funded "Yuma."

New Line's Bill Bob Thornton-toplined comedy "Mr. Woodcock" debuted with $9.1 million in third place, while the Freestyle/Younggu-Art action fantasy "Dragon Wars" whipped up $5.4 million to bow in fourth place. And Sony's "Superbad" laugher finished No. 5 in its fifth frame, with $5.2 million and a $111.3 million cume.

Industrywide, distribs rung up an estimated $79 million in collective boxoffice, according to data tracker Nielsen EDI. That represents a 2% uptick from the same weekend a year ago.

Though some will note the frame's underwhelming aggregate, many will see the industry's glass half full, as the marketplace notches a 10th consecutive weekend uptick in boxoffice if the estimates hold up. The latest three-day performance comes despite non-theatrical competition including recently resumed football telecasts, back-to-school activities for kids and parents, and even Sunday's Emmys programming.

Reviews for "Brave One" noted the film's violent content, but its opening audience still skewed heavily female. Some 70% of patrons were over 30, with 55% of those female.

"That's where we were, tracking-wise, going in," Warners distribution president Dan Felman noted. "So what we have is a film that is extremely well done (but) which works a little bit against the core audience."

Still, exit ratings in moviegoer surveys showed strong positive reactions – especially among older females – which bodes well for word of mouth down the road, Fellman said.

Indeed, the strong soph frame for "Yuma" demonstrates once again the solid playability of many older-skewing pics.

Demographic breakdowns weren't immediately available for "Woodcock," rated PG-13.

But New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said the pic's opening performance was just a hair below the distributor's targeted $10 million bow, with fingers crossed for sturdy subsequent frames.

The PG13-rated "Dragon Wars," which unspooled with 2,275 U.S.-only engagements, marked a 33% uptick on Saturday over Friday. Execs cited matinee grosses as helping to bolster the pic's debut in the absence of Canadian playdates.

"We are very pleased with the opening and look forward to a long and healthy run," Freestyle co-president Mark Borde said.

The weekend's limited openings included a stunning $552,767 bow from just 15 screens for David Cronenberg's well-reviewed "Eastern Promises."



Distrib Focus Features will use that buzz-building performance of $36,851 per screen to expand the Russian mob-in-London thriller to at least 1,350 runs starting Friday. Hoping to generate excitement for the auteur helmer's follow-up to last year's "A History of Violence," Focus scheduled exclusive engagements in all opening markets except for Montreal, where it played in one English-language theater and one French venue.

"A lot of the shows sold out," Focus distribution president Jack Foley said. "The evening shows played very, very well. It really indicates the terrific following that David Cronenberg has out there, along with the film, and it bears evidence of what an important filmmaker he is."

Sony saw similarly auspicious opening grosses from its 23 playdates for Julie Taymor's Beatlesque musical fantasy "Across the Universe," which rung up $685,000, or $29,783 per engagement. Plans call for "Universe" to expand to more than 400 runs throughout the U.S. and Canada starting Friday.

"It's a terrific start, no doubt about it," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said.

"Universe" attracted audiences skewing 57% under age 25, with females making up 62% of the patrons.

"It shows the music is still relevant and resonating with a younger, as well as an older, audience," Bruer said.

"In the Valley of Elah," the first of a group of upcoming Iraq War pics to hit theaters, bowed strongly with $150,000 in nine theaters for a per-screen average of $16,666. Warner Independent Pictures – additionally heartened by a weekend-leading 46% uptick in Saturday-over-Friday grosses – plans to expand the Tommy Lee Jones drama to about 250 runs Friday.

WIP also bowed its Daniel Radcliffe lit-adaptation "December Boys," which fetched $18,000 in four locations for a more ho-hum $4,500 per playdate. Co-financed by Village Roadshow Pictures, "Boys" expands to 10 or more runs in six to 10 markets on Friday.

In its second weekend, Thinkfilm docu "In the Shadow of the Moon" added 19 engagements for a total 23 and grossed an estimated $93,400, or an acceptable $4,060 per playdate with a $146,730 cume.

IFC romantic comedy "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With" doubled its opening screen count to eight and turned in $34,296, or a respectable per-screen average of $4,287 and a $52,332 cume.

MGM continued to distribute the Weinstein Co.'s "The Hunting Party" in four locations in New York and L.A., with the Richard Gere-starrer dropping 38% in its second frame at an estimated $25,000 for a still-solid $6,250 per venue and an $82,935 cume. The Bosnian War-themed drama hunts additional playdates in the U.S. and Canada on Friday, with Alliance distributing north of the border.

Looking to next weekend, wide openers include Lionsgate's "Good Luck Chuck," a R-rated date comedy starring Dane Cook and Jessica Alba; Sony's "Resident Evil: Extinction," a R-rated sequel to the vidgame adaptation; and Universal's college comedy "Sydney White," whose youthful ensemble is toplined by Amanda Bynes ("She's the Man").

"Extinction" will be the big favorite to top the weekend boxoffice, making for a strong chance that an R-rated pic will hold the No. 1 position for a sixth consecutive weekend. Boxoffice-watchers would have to go back to 2001 to find a similar string of restricted chart-toppers, Nielsen EDI notes.

Important limited openers next weekend will include Warners' highly anticipated Brad Pitt-starrer "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." Also, Michael Bay's effects-laden blockbuster "Transformers" from Paramount unspools in limited Imax release, toting an 11-week domestic cume of $312 million.
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