'Yuma' OK at b.o. corral

Remake outduels all comers with $14.1 mil

Lionsgate's "3:10 to Yuma," a polished Western gunning to give remakes a good name, staked claim to an estimated $14.1 million in weekend grosses to open atop the domestic boxoffice.

But New Line Cinema's aptly titled "Shoot 'Em Up," targeting a similar male-skewing audience, fired blanks with just $5.5 million in opening grosses, landing the Clive Owen starrer in sixth place for the weekend. Sony's male-oriented comedy "The Brothers Solomon" opened outside the top 10 with an anemic $525,000 from a modestly wide run of 700 theaters.

The Weinstein Co./Dimension horror remake "Halloween" grabbed second place for the weekend, turning in a $10 million performance for distributor MGM despite dropping 62% in its sophomore outing for a $44.2 million cume. Sony Pictures' "Superbad" finished third in its fourth frame with an estimated $8 million and a $103.7 million cume.

So where were all the gals this weekend? Fortunately for "Yuma," more than a few padded audiences of James Mangold's well-reviewed updating of Delmer Daves' 1957 classic.

"The film played equally well to all demographics," Lionsgate Films Releasing president Tom Ortenberg said. "So while the opening weekend skewed a little bit male and a little bit older, we're hoping as the film plays out over the next few weeks we'll get more under-25 moviegoers."

The Russell Crowe-Christian Bale starrer was fully financed by Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media at a cost of about $55 million.

"Yuma" should pull audiences almost evenly split between males and females by the weekend, Ortenberg said. He added the belief that "Yuma" will show sturdy legs over the coming frames.

"It's not the kind of film where its core audiences flock out the first weekend to see it," Ortenberg said. "We feel (the) opening really validates our strategy to choose this week, so we could be the first Western into the marketplace and the first prestige film in the fall."

Indeed, Warner Bros.' Sept. 21 bow of the Brad Pitt starrer "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" will be closely watched for evidence that the recently dormant genre has some kick in it yet.

Meanwhile, though gun battles filled many movie screens over the first post-Labor Day frame, patrons failed to fill many theaters.

Overall, weekend grosses totaled just $79 million, data tracker Nielsen EDI estimated. Yet that was good enough to shape an 11% improvement over an even more lackluster boxoffice marked during the same weekend a year ago, according to Nielsen EDI.

Distributors penciled in softer Sunday estimates for the weekend to account for the start of the NFL season, whose telecasts tend to preoccupy prospective male moviegoers.

As for the disappointing openers, execs remained relatively stoic because of the weekend's modest boxoffice expectations.

"Shoot" failed to attract interest outside of a core fan base of young males, so New Line execs will be hoping the black comedy-laced actioner — produced for an estimated $20 million — does well on DVD. Writer-director Michael Davis ("Monster Man") took Owen and other castmembers to this summer's Comic-Con confab in San Diego, but the pic's fanboy base appears content to catch the topliner and co-star Monica Bellucci on shiny disc.

Similarly, Sony execs suggested that the measly boxoffice for "Brothers Solomon" was nothing to brood about, with the $10 million production always expected to make most of its coin in home-entertainment release.

Among the weekend's limited openers, the Weinstein Co.'s Bosnian drama "The Hunting Party" grossed an estimated $40,000 from four playdates in Los Angeles and New York — a solid $10,000 per location for the MGM-distributed pic. Starring Richard Gere and Terrence Howard, "Hunting Party" expands nationwide Friday.

ThinkFilm's space-exploration documentary "In the Shadow of the Moon" grossed an estimated $41,200 from four Los Angeles and New York locations for an auspicious $10,300 per playdate. Plans call for the critically praised film to expand into Chicago, Boston and Washington on Friday, then into the top 15 markets the following frame for distribution on upwards of 60 screens.

Lionsgate/After Dark Films' Diane Lane starrer "Fierce People" grossed $20,800 from a pair of New York screens for a toothy $10,400 per location.

IFC Films' romantic comedy "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With" grossed an appetizing $13,971 from a single New York location after bowing Wednesday, good for a five-day cume of $17,644. Written and directed by topliner Jeff Garlin ("Curb Your Enthusiasm"), "Cheese" stretches into additional top 10 markets during the next three weekends.

The Leonardo DiCaprio-produced environmental docu "The 11th Hour" sagged a bit, fetching just $80,000 from 95 theaters, or $842 per location, in its fourth weekend. But Warner Independent Pictures plans to broaden distribution further, waiting for college campuses to crank into session before adding playdates in those markets during the coming weeks.

Industrywide, the lull of the past two weeks after a torrid boxoffice summer hasn't significantly deflated encouraging year-to-date gains.

Through Thursday, a total $7.09 billion has been rung up — 8% more than in the same period of 2006. That includes a 13% year-over-year weekly uptick, with $172.8 million flowing into industry coffers last week.

Looking ahead to the weekend, three wide openers might help fuel interest in the early fall theatrical season. Those include New Line's Billy Bob Thornton starrer "Mr. Woodcock," Freestyle Releasing's Korean actioner "Dragon Wars" and Warners' Jodie Foster-toplined thriller "The Brave One."

Several limited releases entering the market also will bear watching as the year's boxoffice race hits the home stretch and award-consideration campaigns start to take hold.

Notable limited openers this weekend include the Paul Haggis-helmed "In the Valley of Elah," a postwar drama starring Tommy Lee Jones and Susan Sarandon, and Julie Taymor's Beatles-inspired musical fantasy "Across the Universe" from Sony. Focus Features unspools "Eastern Promises," starring Naomi Watts and Viggo Mortensen, in select venues, and the Daniel Radcliffe starrer "December Boys" bows in Los Angeles and New York.
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