Vampires' kiss: $16 mil

'30 Days of Night' tops slew of wide openers

Sony's vampire film "30 Days of Night" sunk its teeth into moviegoers during the weekend, with the R-rated comic book adaptation grossing an estimated $16 million to open atop the domestic heap.

But the busy frame's other wide openers fell like so many autumn leaves as the seasonal boxoffice continued to wilt. Collectively, industry grosses notched a fifth consecutive downtick compared with year-earlier weekends.

"Gone Baby Gone," Ben Affleck's directing-and-writing project from Miramax, bowed with $6 million in fifth place, while Fox Atomic's "The Comebacks," a PG-13 pigskin comedy, grossed $5.9 million to finish sixth overall.

New Line's CIA-themed "Rendition," starring Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal, rung up just $4.2 million in ninth place. And DreamWorks/Paramount's "Things We Lost in the Fire," with Benicio Del Toro and Halle Berry, scratched out $1.6 million in bowing outside the weekend top 10. Finding even less boxoffice spark were Freestyle's "Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour," barely registering with $560,000 from 1,121 playdates, and Rocky Mountain's "The Ten Commandments," with $474,760 from 830 engagements.

Also debuting in 564 theaters was "Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas 3D," Disney's 3-D version of the 1993 animated feature, which grossed $5.1 million in eighth place.

Industrywide grosses totaled an estimated $98 million, 7% less than during the same weekend last year, according to data tracker Nielsen EDI. Yet there was some good news for a couple of holdovers in the frame.

Tyler Perry's "Why Did I Get Married?" from Lionsgate finished No. 2 in its second session, grossing $12.1 million, good for a $38.9 million cume. And Disney's family comedy "The Game Plan," starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, grossed $8.1 million to finish third and move its four-week cume to $69.2 million.

In another positive development, Warner Bros.' George Clooney starrer "Michael Clayton" dropped just 32% from its first frame in wide release to finish with $7.1 million in fourth place with a $22 million cume. Despite the soft launch for the well-reviewed legal drama, execs remain hopeful that the slow starter will build toward an awards-season peak.

Elsewhere among the latest frame's sophomore class, Sony's struggling cop thriller "We Own the Night" fell 49% to $5.5 million in seventh place with a 10-day cume of $19.8 million. And Universal's historic sequel "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" slipped from the top 10 on a 48% drop to $3.1 million, with an $11.2 million cume.

The bloodless session seemed to suck the life even from the recently flush art film market.

"Reservation Road," a Mark Ruffalo-Joaquin Phoenix starrer from Focus Features, opened in 14 locations to gross an estimated $36,821, or a disappointing $2,630 per venue. The distributor's "Lust, Caution," an espionage thriller from director Ang Lee, played in 125 theaters to gross $585,900, or a just-acceptable $4,687 per playdate, with a $2.1 million cume.

Warner Independent's one-time awards-consideration candidate "In the Valley of Elah" grossed $82,000 on 125 theaters for a lamentable $656 per venue, with a cume of $6.6 million.

Sony Pictures Classics' Michael Caine-Jude Law starrer "Sleuth" added 12 playdates for a total 21 but saw just $39,518, or $1,882 per playdate, with a $104,700 cume.

Paramount Vantage boosted its Sean Penn-directed drama "Into the Wild" to 658 locations from a previous 153 to fetch $864,450, or a tame $1,314 per venue.

Fox Searchlight saw firmer footing with its Wes Anderson comedy "The Darjeeling Limited," adding 107 theaters for a total of 202 to ring up $1.3 million, or a solid $6,535 per venue, with a $3.9 million cume.

MGM's Ryan Gosling starrer "Lars and the Real Girl" added 14 playdates for a total 21 in grossing $185,000, or $8,810 per engagement, with a $312,161 cume a week before spreading to 1,200 locations.

The Weinstein Co.'s biopic "Control" grossed $36,500 from Los Angeles, New York and exclusives to bring its cume to $91,000, with plans for a top 10 expansion Friday.

Meanwhile, "30 Days" — toplined by Josh Hartnett and Melissa George — built its frame-winning bow on support from youthful audiences.

"The picture played very well into the night," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said. "So I think it was like this young, hip crowd that wanted to enjoy an in-your-face visceral ride."

"Gone Baby Gone" got mostly positive reviews, so Miramax president Daniel Battsek said he hoped the film would show sturdy legs.

"In a crowded marketplace … I'm actually pleased that we have something to build on," he said.

"Gone" played to audiences skewing 56% female, with a similar majority of its patrons over age 25.

"The Comebacks" pulled in mostly young males.

"It was the only new comedy this weekend, so we're hopeful it will stick around," Fox senior vp distribution Chris Aronson said.

"Rendition" was produced for an estimated $30 million. Audience demos for the film's debut weren't immediately available.

"Things We Lost" attracted audiences of which 65% were older females, and execs said they hoped moviegoers would turn out for the well-reviewed drama over coming frames. They also noted that the film's production costs were relatively low at about $16 million.

"Nightmare 3D" drew a mix of "couples, families and teens," a Disney spokeswoman said.

Disney also offered 397 sneak previews of the Steve Carell-Juliette Binoche comedy "Dan In Real Life," which is set to unspool Friday, and drew 90% "very good" and "excellent" ratings, the spokeswoman said.

Also this weekend, Lionsgate unspools "Saw IV," with industryites hoping that the latest entry in the distributor's successful horror franchise can pump some blood into the recently lifeless marketplace.

Disney's "Dan" amounts to a counterprogramming ploy to that likely dominant opener. The scheduling of just two wide openers for the coming frame comes as some relief to those running into a buzzsaw of competition over the past two weekends.

"It's been just crazy," a distribution exec lamented. "There are some good pictures out there that have just gotten crushed."

The weekend marked the first time eight films opened in or expanded into wide release, EDI said. Through Friday, the fall season was off 5% from a year ago at $709.9 million.

Meanwhile, Lionsgate — jazzed by the success of "Why Did I Get Married?" in its sophomore session — has scheduled "Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns" for Easter weekend. The film will unspool on Good Friday, March 21.
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