'Game' puts 'Kid' on weekend boxoffice bench

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Positive buzz was definitely in "The Game Plan" for Disney during the weekend, but the frame ended in tears for chief contender "The Heartbreak Kid" from DreamWorks/Paramount.

"Game Plan," starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, dipped a teensy 29% off its opening grosses to ring up an estimated $16.3 million and top the domestic boxoffice for a second consecutive session. The Ben Stiller vehicle "Heartbreak" didn't so much drive off the boxoffice cliff as get stuck in neutral, with the romancer remake debuting well under expectations at $14 million.

"Game Plan" broadened its base of patrons after a family-focused opening as it toted up a nifty 10-day cume of $42.8 million. In another sophomore success, Universal's Middle East thriller "The Kingdom" was off a relatively modest 45% from its opening grosses to land in third place overall with $9.3 million, pushing its cume to $31.4 million.

Fox's kids book adaptation "The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising" bowed with an estimated $3.7 million in fifth place, and Sony's teen-targeted musical drama "Feel the Noise" debuted in 1,015 playdates and fetched $3.4 million to place seventh.

Among the other top rankers, Sony/Screen Gems' "Resident Evil: Extinction" finished fourth in its third outing with $4.3 million and a $43.5 million cume. Lionsgate's "Good Luck Chuck" found sixth place in its third frame with $3.5 million and a $29.1 million cume.

Elsewhere, Warner Bros. posted a bodacious limited bow for "Michael Clayton" a weekend before the George Clooney starrer goes wide, fetching $704,000 from 15 theaters for a cool $46,903 per venue. And Warners' rerelease of the remastered sci-fi classic "Blade Runner" rung up $94,522 from Los Angeles and New York exclusives for a fab $47,261 per-screen average.

Sony Pictures Classics expanded its female drama "The Jane Austen Book Club" to 1,232 locations to gross $1.5 million, or $1,246 per location, and move its cume to $2 million. SPC also bowed the documentary "My Kid Could Paint That" with seven playdates to gross an estimated $28,285, or an acceptable $4,041 per engagement.

Focus Features' recent platformer "Eastern Promises" continued in 1,212 locations and grossed another $2 million for a $14.3 cume. But David Cronenberg's thriller about the Russian mob in London might be running out of bullets as its per-theater average hit a limp $1,623.

More auspiciously, Focus expanded Ang Lee's NC-17 "Lust, Caution" to 17 venues after the previous weekend's New York exclusive and grossed an estimated $368,831. That was good for a steamy $21,696 per location and a $477,181 cume.

Execs were particularly stoked at the robust grosses in light of the film's two-hour, 48-minute running time, which cuts into the number of daily showtimes. "Lust" expands Friday to about 45 runs in 21 markets.

The Sean Penn-helmed drama "Into the Wild" continued to platform successfully as Paramount Vantage added 102 theaters for a total of 135 and grossed $1.3 million -- a solid $9,593 per engagement. "Wild" extended its cume to $2.5 million.

Fox Searchlight's Wes Anderson comedy "The Darjeeling Limited" sought out another 17 locations for a total of 19 runs, ringing up an estimated $552,876, a rousing $29,100 per location. "Darjeeling" brews up in 90-plus venues starting Friday and is set to expand wide Oct. 26.

The Morgan Freeman starrer "Feast of Love," from Lakeshore/MGM, added three engagements to increase its total to 1,203 and grossed $731,000, or just $608 per playdate, with a $3 million cume.

Warner Independent's Iraq War-themed "In the Valley of Elah" added 216 theaters for a total of 978 engagements and grossed $1.4 million, or a sagging $1,395 per venue, with a $5.4 million cume.

Tony Kaye's "Lake of Fire" from ThinkFilm lit up $3,000 from a single New York screen, with a five-day cume of $4,220 after unspooling Wednesday.

Industrywide, the weekend was a soft one, with data service Nielsen EDI tabulating just $61.9 million from the frame's top 10 grossers. That's 37% less than the same number of top rankers a year earlier.

The weak performance came despite that fact that distributors penciled in Sunday estimates a bit stronger than usual. That was to acknowledge some benefit from Americans marking Columbus Day todayMonday, while Canadians will celebrate Thanksgiving.

Studios will release official data Tuesday for what's considered a four-day boxoffice frame.

Through Friday, overall boxoffice was running 7% ahead of last year at $7.35 billion.

Meanwhile, "Game Plan" appears well on its way to a domestic run north of $80 million -- not too shabby for a film produced for just under $40 million.

"Obviously, the audience switched from a strong, strong family component last weekend to just everybody this weekend," Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said.

The audience demos for "Game Plan" broadened as positive word-of-mouth spread after the film's winning bow, Viane said.

"Heartbreak" might have suffered because TV spots promoting the film couldn't show many of its funnier -- but also raunchier -- scenes, DreamWorks spokesman Chip Sullivan said. He added that it didn't help that most critics panned the R-rated film, produced and directed by the Farrelly brothers.

"We have seen the movie play great, so we were very surprised the critics didn't embrace us," Sullivan said.

Audiences were evenly split between male and females, with 60% of "Heartbreak" patrons over 25.

The PG-rated "Seeker" drew audiences comprised mostly of teens and tweens.

Fox execs had hoped "Seeker" could be a franchise-starter for the studio, but the soft opening could prompt a rethink. Production costs were relatively modest at less than $40 million.

The "Noise" debut was deemed "very respectable" by Sony distribution head Rory Bruer. The TriStar produced film drew audiences comprised of 64% young females, with 31% of those patrons under 18.

Looking to the weekend, a busy session for wide openers will include Sony's cop thriller "We Own the Night," with Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg; Uni/Working Title's period sequel "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"; Yari Film Group's high school baseball film "The Final Season"; Freestyle's thriller "Postal"; and "Tyler Perry's "Why Did I Get Married?" from Lionsgate. Also, Warners will expand "Clayton" into wide release.
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