'Watchmen' no match for 'Witch Mountain'

Disney film tops weekend b.o. with $25 million

Warner Bros.' "Watchmen" wilted under the pressure in its second weekend as Disney's family adventure "Race to Witch Mountain" sped to No. 1 with $25 million in estimated opening grosses.

"Watchmen" dropped a big 67% from its opening domestic grosses to register $18.1 million in second place. Universal's Rogue-produced horror pic "The Last House on the Left" bowed in third place with $14.7 million, while Fox Atomic's youth comedy "Miss March" stumbled into theaters with just $2.4 million in 10th place.

Industrywide, the $101 million weekend represented a 16% decline from the same frame last year, according to Nielsen EDI. It was only the second year-over-year weekend decline this year, with industryites citing a tough comparison with a year-ago session topped by the $45 million opening of "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!"

The industry boxoffice is tracking 2% ahead of the same portion of last year, at $1.88 billion. But the year-to-date uptick is deceptively modest due to seasonal fluctuations in the boxoffice calendar.

Among the latest weekend's limited bows, Overture unspooled its Amy Adams-Emily Blunt starrer "Sunshine Cleaning" in four New York and L.A. theaters and grossed $214,000. That represented a mind-bending $53,500 per venue, boding well for a planned expansion into 15 additional markets Friday.

The popularity of the movie's cast -- which also includes Alan Arkin -- helped fuel its outsized opening, and "critics really loved it," Overture exec vp distribution Kyle Davies said.

Samuel Goldwyn/IDP bowed military documentary "Brothers at War" in seven locations in five markets and grossed $35,040, or an acceptable $5,0006 per site. The Jake Rademacher-helmed pic will expand into 15 additional markets March 27.

And Capitol Films debuted romantic drama "Edge of Love" with a single engagement to gross $3,614.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, IFC Films expanded its Italian-language mob drama "Gomorrah" by 14 theaters for a total of 39 and grossed $159,100, or a middling $4,049 per venue, with a cume of $793,723.

IFC added eight playdates for a total of 13 for its Swedish drama "Everlasting Moments" and grossed $62,400, or $4,800 per engagement, as cume reached $119,220.

Sony Pictures Classics added two playdates for a total of seven for its Russian courtroom drama "12" and grossed $12,041, or a thin $1,720 per engagement. Cume hit $30,797.

SPC added 32 locations for a total of 120 for its French drama "The Class" and grossed $365,458, or an acceptable $3,045, with a $2.5 million cume.

The Weinstein Co. added 12 locations for a total of 38 for its Harrison Ford-Ashley Judd starrer "Crossing Over" and grossed $103,024, or just $2,711 per site, with a cume of $273,000.

And Liberation/Vitagraph expanded its Japanese graphic-novel adaptation "Tokyo!" from a single playdate to six in grossing $20,300, or an acceptable $3,383, with a cume of $52,610.

PG-rated "Mountain" is a reworking of 1975's "Escape to Witch Mountain" with Dwayne Johnson in the starring role. Other cast members in the Andy Fickman-helmed family-oriented pic include Carla Gugino, who also co-stars in "Watchmen."

"Headed into the weekend, we thought it was going to be a three-way race, but we're very pleased to be at the top of this heap," Disney distribution topper Chuck Viane said. "It was very competitive."

"Mountain" drew audiences comprised 68% of family patrons. Males accounted for 51% of its opening audiences, with 56% of patrons under age 25.

Warners has estimated production costs on "Watchmen" -- which now totes a $86 million cume -- at $120 million, though some industry estimate set the figure higher. Legendary Pictures and foreign-rights holder Paramount helped defray production costs, and Fox is in line for a cut of receipts following a court-supervised settlement of claims to distribution rights.

Execs took the bigger-than-anticipated decline in sophomore-session grosses in stride.

"The drop is in line with other high-profile openings, and it's within the norm," Warners exec vp distribution Jeff Goldstein said. "'Sex and the City' dropped 63% and went on to gross $153 million."

Produced by Rogue Pictures, R-rated "Last House" stars Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter in a remake of Wes Craven's 1972 horror thriller, with former actor Dennis Iliadis directing. Audiences skewed 57% female, with 60% of patrons under 25.

"This picture will meet its expectations and have good (revenue from distribution) ancillaries," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said. "It was a very inexpensive to make."

Production costs on "Last House" were estimated at $11 million.

R-rated "March" has a young ensemble cast co-directed by TV helmers Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore ("The Whitest Kids U Know"). Fox didn't conduct exit surveys on audience demos, but the pic was expected to skew sharply to younger males.

"It was a very targeted picture and was within our range of expectations," Fox senior vp distribution Chris Aronson said.

Looking ahead, three pics are set to open wide Friday. Those include Universal's spy thriller "Duplicity," starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen; Summit Entertainment's. suspense-thriller "Knowing," starring Nicolas Cage and Rose Byrne ("28 Weeks Later"); and Paramount's R-rated comedy "I Love You, Man," with Paul Rudd ( "Forgetting Sarah Marshall").