'Town' tops weekend b.o. with $23.8 million

'Easy A,' 'Devil' round out top 3, 'Afterlife' drops to fourth spot

Adults stole the show at the weekend box office.

Older moviegoers rallied to fall's first star-driven movie drama, as Warner Bros.' Ben Affleck-helmed heist thriller "The Town" copped $23.8 million in U.S. and Canadian coin for a surprise No. 1 bow.

"Town" stars Affleck, Jon Hamm of TV's "Mad Men" fame and Jeremy Renner, a hot casting commodity since last year's "The Hurt Locker." The trio stumped tirelessly to promote the Boston-set pic, which was produced for under $35 million and was 50% co-financed by Legendary Pictures.

Affleck marked a new helming high by topping his $5.5 million debut with 2007's "Gone Baby Gone." But the bow by "Town" -- the first pic Affleck both directed and toplined -- was never going to approach his personal best as an actor, a $59.1 million opening with 2001's "Pearl Harbor."

The chart-topping performance by "Town" -- which also marked a record September bow for Warners -- had execs exchanging high fives after a summer in which the studio took a box-office bruising. The domestic market-share champ two years running, Warners aims to close the year strongly, with a Harry Potter pic and other tentpoles set to bow down the home stretch.

"This is a big surprise for us," Warners distribution president Dan Fellman said. "Everything just came together at the right moment, and we're thrilled with the opening."

Rated R, "Town" drew audiences skewing 55% male, with 75% of patrons age 25 or older.

Elsewhere among a quartet of wide openers, the weekend delivered adequate, if unspectacular, results.

Sony's youth comedy "Easy A" -- which had been expected to easily top the weekend rankings -- settled for $18.2 million in second place on support from teen and tween females. Helmed by Will Gluck ("Fired Up!"), the PG-13 pic stars Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes and Penn Badgley in a story about high school rumor-mongering run amuck.

Opening audiences skewed 67% female, with 49% of patrons under age 18.

"It's a terrific opening," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said. "You got so much movie for what it cost, and it was a great result."

"Easy" cost an estimated $8 million to produce.

Universal's horror pic "Devil" rang up $12.6 million in third place. Uni paid MRC $27 million for distribution rights in North America and seven foreign territories, with Relativity its partner on the film.

Directed by John Erick Dowdle, "Devil" has Chris Messina leading an ensemble cast of younger actors in a yarn about Satan hopping on a crowded elevator. The PG-13 pic played to audiences comprised 50% of males, with 52% of patrons under age 25.

"It came in on the lower end of our prerelease projections," Uni distribution maven Nikki Rocco said. "But we're going to recoup our investment."

Lionsgate's 3D animated family comedy "Alpha and Omega" collected $9.2 million in fifth place. "Alpha" was produced by Crest Animation of Mumbai and Burbank and was co-directed by Ben Gluck ("Brother Bear 2") and Anthony Bell.

Mixing 1,623 3D locations among 2,625 total theaters, the PG-rated picture drew mostly parents with kids and skewed 63% female. Its 3D venues contributed almost 70% of opening grosses.

"The opening weekend validated our focused campaign and met our expectations," Lionsgate exec vp distribution David Spitz said. " 'Alpha and Omega' is a win for the company."

Last weekend's chart-topper -- Screen Gems' "Resident Evil: Afterlife" -- fell a big 62% in its sophomore session to $10.1 million in fourth place, with $44 million in cumulative box office.

Also this frame, Summit Entertainment staged a limited re-release of vampire-romance threequel "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" in a bid to eclipse $300 million in domestic coin: It did just that, as $205,000 in weekend grosses yielded a new cume of $300.1 million.

The weekend marked a year-over-year uptick for the industry, as the frame's top 10 movies rung up $85 million, or 3% more than top performers in a comparable session last year, Rentrak said.

Looking ahead, three pics bow wide Friday: Fox's Michael Douglas starrer "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," Warner Bros.' 3D animated adventure-fantasy "Legend of the Guardians: Owls of Ga'Hoole" and Disney's PG-rated youth comedy "You Again."
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