Box Office: 'Tower Heist' Wins Friday, But 'Puss in Boots' Should Take Weekend

Tower Heist Film Still - H 2011
Universal Studios

The 3D animated family film is showing sharp claws in its second week, while Brett Ratner's action comedy is the latest to underperform at domestic box office; "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" also soft.

In an 11th hour upset, DreamWorks Animation and Paramount's Puss in Boots is now widely expected to pull ahead of Universal's new action comedy Tower Heist on Saturday to win the weekend crown at the domestic box office.

On Friday, Brett Ratner's Tower Heist -- with a cast led by Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy and Matthew Broderick -- took in an estimated $8.1 million. However, Puss in Boots wasn't far behind with $7.8 million -- a narrow 18 percent drop from the previous Friday.

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Box office observers expect Puss in Boots to gross $28 million to $28.8 million for the weekend, compared to $25 million to $26 million for Tower Heist. 

That's a blow for Universal and Imagine producers Brian Grazer and Kim Roth, who wanted the $85 million Tower Heist to hit at least $30 million in its debut. In recent weeks, relatively soft tracking had already forced the filmmakers to lower their hopes for the pic. Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Tea Leoni, Michael Pena and Gabourey Sidibe also star in the film, about a group of non-crooks who set out to rob the man who swindled them out of their pensions.

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Tower Heist received a B CinemaScore, as did the weekend's other new player, Warner Bros. and New Line's stoner comedy A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. The R-rated pic grossed $5.4 million on Friday to come in No. 3 and putting it on course for a lower-than-expected $14 million opening. However, the film only cost $20 million to produce.

Played by John Cho and Kal Penn, Harold and Kumar go on the search for the perfect Christmas tree after Kumar destroys the original. The film, also starring Neil Patrick Harris, is packed with 3D gimmicks (think smoke rings).

Paramount's Paranormal Activity 3 grossed an estimated $2.9 million on Friday to place No. 4. The pic's cume is $89.8 million as it heads into its third weekend.

New Regency and 20th Century Fox's In Time, starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, rounded out the top five on Friday, grossing $2.5 million and falling only 42 percent in its second Friday.

Last weekend, Puss in Boots opened to a subdued $34.1 million after getting hurt by a surprise winter storm on the East Coast. The 3D toon now seems to be making up for lost ground.