'Unknown' Tops Sluggish Holiday Weekend Box Office With $25.6 Million

Jay Maidment/Warner Bros. Pictures

Holdover "Gnomeo & Juliet" nabs $24.8 million and trumps third-place newcomer "I Am Number Four" while "Big Mommas" debuts at No. 5 with $19 million.

With many young people continuing to stay away from the multiplex, President's Day weekend failed to reverse the troubling slump at the domestic box office.

Revenues were down as much as 30% from a year ago, when Valentine's Day led with a $63.1 million opening over the four-day holiday weekend.

Top performer this year was Warner Bros. and Dark Castle's Liam Neeson action pic Unknown, which debuted to an estimated $25.6 million in a surprise victory over DreamWorks and Touchstone's teen entry I Am Number Four.

While a big win for Joel Silver's Dark Castle, which fully financed and produced the $30 million film, Unknown posted the lowest gross for the No. 1 President's Day film since 2006.

A resounding 89% of Unknown's audience was over the age of 25 -- and 54% over the age of 50 -- much the same demo who fueled Neeson's Taken.

"I'm happy for Joel to have a breakout film. Dark Castle has struggled at the box office the past couple of years, and this helps turns things around," Warners president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman said.

Number Four opened to an estimated $22.7 million, several million dollars shy of expectations.

Starring Alex Pettyfer, the sci-fi adventure skewed older than expected, with 54% of the audience over the age of 25. Also, the movie drew fewer young females than anticipated, with males making up 57% of the audience.

Number Four came in No. 3 for the four-day weekend, behind Unknown and holdover 3D toon Gnomeo & Juliet -- also from Touchstone.

Gnomeo, benefiting from being the only family film in the market, grossed an estimated $24.8 million for a cume of $55.7 million through Monday, according to Rentrak.

Studios usually don't release animated films in February, but Gnomeo's performance could change that.

Sony's Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy also did well in its second weekend. The movie grossed an estimated $21.7 million from 3,548 theaters for a cume of $64.2 million through Monday.

New Regency and 20th Century Fox's Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son placed No. 5 in its debut, grossing $19 million from 2,821 theaters.

Like holdovers Gnomeo and Just Go With It, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never held well in its second outing to come in sixth for the weekend. Film fell 55% -- far less than expected--for a cume of $51.4 million through Monday.

With less than a week before the Academy Awards, the Weinstein Co.'s The King's Speech and Fox Searchlight's Black Swan made headlines over President's Day in each jumping the $100 million mark domestically.

King's Speech, which has earned $126 million internationally for a worldwide total of more than $230 million, posted a domestic cume of $104.6 million through Sunday.

Swan, which has now grossed just shy of $100 million internationally, ended the holiday weekend with a domestic cume of $101.8 million.

But it's the downturn among more commercial films that's got Hollywood worried. And it doesn't help that various tracking services have been off in their predictions.

President's Day weekend was no different. Going into the holiday, tracking mistakenly showed Number Four in the lead on the strength of younger moviegoers. Film also stars Glee's Dianna Agron and Teresa Palmer.

But that support didn't fully materialize.

DreamWorks knew the film, with no big-name stars, was a tough sell. Plus, Unknown was a recognizable commodity because of the success of Neeson's Taken.

Number Four, directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia), is the first film from a reconstituted DreamWorks, and is the first to be released by Touchstone under DreamWorks' output and marketing deal with Disney. Movie cost $50 million to produce.

"It was an extremely competitive weekend, and we still have two days [Sunday and Monday] to see how all the films play out," said Disney worldwide president of distribution Chuck Viane, noting that Number Four should have good legs going forward.

All three new films -- Unknown, Number Fourand Big Mommas -- received a B+ CinemaScore.

There's another thing the trio share in common. All were released by major studios, but financed and produced by outside companies.

Big Mommas, starring Martin Lawrence and Brandon T. Jackson, played heavily to African-Americans, who made up 66% of the audience. It also did well with Hispanics, who made up 21% of those buying tickets.

"The film is getting everyone -- males, females, young, old and families," Fox exec VP of distribution Bert Livingston said.

On the specialty side, National Geographic documentary The Last Lions scored the top location average of the holiday, grossing an estimated $68,344 as it opened in four theaters for an average $17,086. Documentary was narrated by Jeremy Irons and directed by Dereck and Beverly Joubert.

Searchlight's offbeat comedy Cedar Rapids pleased as it expanded into 102 theaters in its second frame, grossing an estimated $1.1 million for a theater average of $10,717 and cume of $1.5 million.

And Roadside Attractions' Oscar contender Biutiful crossed the $3 million mark, grossing an estimated $643,100 from 157 locations for a cume of $3.1 million in only its fourth weekend.

Sony Pictures Classics' crop of award contenders continued to do solid business, including Inside Job, which ended the holiday weekend with a cume of $4 million. Inside Job is nominated for an Oscar for best documentary.