'Wall Street' tops weekend b.o. with $19 mil

'Legend' debuts at No. 2, Ben Affleck's 'Town' drops to third

Greed proved to be simply good enough during the weekend.

Fox's Michael Douglas starrer "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" topped the domestic box office with a good-but-not great $19 million in estimated opening coin. Once scheduled for spring release until postponed to adult-friendly fall, Oliver Stone's sequel to his original 1987 financial thriller may have been a bit hampered by the unavailability of its ailing topliner for promo stumping.

But in the end, the PG-13 pic opened roughly midrange of reined-in prerelease expectations. Produced for an estimated $57 million, "Money" co-stars Shia LeBoeuf, Josh Brolin and Carey Mulligan ("An Education") as the estranged daughter of Douglas' unctuous -- and recently paroled -- Gordon Gekko.

"We're extremely happy with the result," Fox senior vp distribution Chris Aronson said. "What struck me in our exit surveys was the very high percentage of people who said the film was better than they expected it to be."

That should translate into a leggy run of the sort adult-oriented releases often enjoy, Aronson said, despite the pic's overall B-minus CinemaScore rating. Opening audiences for "Money" were split 50-50 between males and females, with 65% of patrons aged 30 or older.

Stone's pics have never staged dramatically big openings. So the "Money" bow represented a personal best for the filmmaker, outpacing his $18.7 million debut with 2006's "World Trade Center."

Elsewhere among a trio of wide openers, Warner Bros.' 3D tentpole "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" represented a more overt disappointment, fetching just $16.3 million in second place. The adventure fantasy's uninspiring debut came despite premium ticket pricing in 2,479 3D locations included among a total 3,575 playdates.

Produced for an estimated $79 million after making use of Australian tax credits, "Guardians" features an inexpensive voice cast of mostly Aussie actors plus Sam Neill and Helen Mirren. But the Zack Snyder-helmed movie -- based on the first three installments in the 15-book "Guardians of Ga'Hoole" literary series -- still could struggle to reach profitability.

"I would have liked to open a little closer to $20 million," Warners distribution boss Dan Fellman acknowledged.

The combination of a PG-rated family pic and a fanboy-fave director -- Snyder helmed "300" and "Watchmen" before "Guardians" -- may not have been ideal, as it turns out. Snyder has suggested Warners execs wanted a lighter mood than he was able to bring to the movie, which drew audiences skewing 54% females with 56% of patrons under age 25.

But all involved will keep fingers crossed for a leggy run by the fine-feathered film. Some 193 high-grossing Imax 3D venues may help in that regard after pitching in $1.9 million, part of an overall 72% contribution by the pic's 3D auditoriums.

"The fact that there will be a lack of family product coming in the next several weeks gives me hope," Fellman added.

Lightening the mood among Warners execs considerably, the studio's Ben Affleck-directed and -toplined heist thriller "The Town" boosted $16 million in third place. That was only 33% less loot than the early awards candidate collected in its chart-topping first frame and made for $49.1 million in cumulative coin through 10 days in release.

Sony's youth comedy "Easy A" fell 40% in its sophomore session to $10.7 million in fourth place and a $32.8 million cume.

The weekend's third wide opener -- Disney's "You Again," starring Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver and Betty White -- unspooled with $8.3 million in fifth. The PG-rated comedy drew audiences comprised 73% of females and an identical 73% of patrons aged 25 and older.

Disney execs took the soft bow in stride.

"It seems like everything gravitated to the lower end of tracking this weekend," Disney distribution topper Chuck Viane mused. "So that was less because of the movies and more about people not planning to go to the theaters this weekend."

Collectively, the weekend top 10 films rung up $89.3 million. That was 13% more than top performers in an even more lackluster corresponding frame last year.

Among the latest session's limited bows, Sony Pictures Classics unspooled Woody Allen's "You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger" -- featuring Brolin, Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas -- in three New York locations and three in L.A. to collect $163,475. The weekend tally amounted to an auspicious $27,245 per engagement and gave the R-rated dramedy cume of $214,815 since hitting theaters midweek.

Lionsgate opened the dramatic thriller "Buried," starring Ryan Reynolds and Samantha Mathis, with 11 playdates in five markets and dug up $104,500, or a solid $9,500 per engagement.

Oscilloscope's Allen Ginsberg biopic "Howl," starring James Franco, sounded off in six locations in New York and San Francisco to fetch $54,000, or a sturdy $9,000 per site.

Education-reform documentary "Waiting for Superman" from Paramount Vantage, Participant and Walden Media debuted in two New York theaters and two in L.A. to ring up $141,000, or an encouraging $35,200 per venue.

IFC Films' dramatic thriller "Enter the Void" used single runs in New York, Chicago and L.A. to gross $42,300 for a solid $14,100 screen average.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Fox Searchlight's dramatic thriller "Never Let Me Go" added 22 playdates for a total 26 and grossed $245,000, or a pleasing $9,423, with cume of $441,592.

Universal's social-networking doc "Catfish" added 45 theaters for a total 57 to hook $470,000, or a tasty $8,254 per venue.

And it appears "The Virginity Hit" is anything but that. Sony expanded the microbudgeted comedy -- whose producers included Adam McKay and Will Ferrell -- from one-performance-a-night limited play in college towns to 700 locations nationwide to register just $300,000. That translated to a woeful $429 per playdate.

Looking ahead, three pics open wide on Friday: Sony's Facebook drama "The Social Network," Paramount Vantage's Renee Zellweger starrer "Case 39" and Overture's horror thriller "Let Me In."
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