'Grudge' sequel tops b.o. with $20.8 mil weekend

'Departed' holds fast with $19 million

Sony Pictures' PG-13 horror film "The Grudge 2" bowed to $20.8 million opening, less then reported Monday, but still handily claimed the top spot for the frame. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. Pictures "The Departed" had a stronger-than-initially-reported hold with a $19 million take and a drop of 29%. Universal Pictures' "Man of the Year" opened to $12.3 million, a little under estimates but still good enough for the third spot.

Overall, the weekend was up an impressive 26% from last year's opening when "The Fog," released by Sony's Screen Gems, was the top grosser with a scant $11.7 million take. Total films grossed $110.9 million this weekend compared to $87.9 million last year at this time.

The other shocker at the boxoffice was Gener8xion Entertainment's "One Night With the King." Bowing in 909 theaters, the film centering on the life of biblical character Queen Esther earned an impressive $4.1 million for a solid per-screen average of $4,518.

With a strong opening, "The Grudge 2" looks as if it will hold well into next weekend, earning most of its boxoffice before Lionsgate bows its horror behemoth "Saw III" on Oct. 27. However, if exit pollster Cinemascore means anything, "Grudge 2" is likely to fall pretty severely next weekend. The film earned a C- from audiences, with even younger audiences rating the film with the average score. Directed by Takashi Shimizu, the Japanese-helmer who directed the original version as well as its Japanese sequels, "Grudge 2" drew in horror fans but that may not continue if negative word-of-mouth spreads.

In contrast, the weak grosser "Man of the Year" scored well with audiences. Exit polls indicated that the Robin Williams starrer received a B+ from audiences, with the over-25 crowd more interested in the film, but the under-25 crowd actually enjoying it more. From director Barry Levinson, "Man of the Year" may hold on for a few weeks, considering no new comedies are set to bow until 20th Century Fox's "Borat" steamrolls its way into the theaters Nov. 3.

Fox released the other new film of the week, World Wrestling Entertainment Films' "The Marine." Bowing on 2,545 screens, the PG-13 actioner starring WWE star John Cena opened to $7.1 million. Directed by John Bonito, the film scored positively with most audiences, earning a Cinemascore grade of B+, with younger audiences enjoying the film most.

In limited release, Warner Independent Pictures had a tough time with the opening of "Infamous." The second Truman Capote biopic in so many years has grossed $452,966 on 179 screens for a paltry per-screen average of $2,530. Not even strong reviews helped "Infamous," as audiences clearly couldn't get past the fact that they'd seen a similar film just a year ago.

Lionsgate's "Deliver Us From Evil" had an equally difficult time. Opening on four screens, the documentary centering on the Catholic Church molestation scandal earned $15,656 for a per-screen average of $3,914.

And the Weinstein Co.'s "Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker" earned $215,177 in 221 theaters. The film starring Ewan McGregor and directed by Geoffrey Sax had been pushed back from an MGM wide release and opened to a $974 per-theater average. The film has grossed $400,083 thanks to some earlier Canadian grosses.

Sony Pictures Classics opened "Driving Lessons" on eight screens to $25,800. The PG-13-rated film starring Rupert Grint, Laura Linney and Julia Walters earned a per-screen average of $3,225.

Miramax was the big winner in limited release with "The Queen." The Helen Mirren starrer that's received overwhelmingly positive reviews reached the 13th spot at the boxoffice in its third weekend. The film earned $1 million on 46 screens for a per-screen average of $22,227. The film's cume stands at $1.8 million.